Category Archives: Downtown

Friday Flashback #143

Years ago, the Bridge Street Bridge was renamed to honor William F. Cribari.

“Crobar” spent many years as the ever-smiling, often-dancing, always-vigilant traffic cop at the intersection of Bridge Street and Riverside Avenue.

But that was not his only post.

He was equally effective — though with less choreography — at the heavily trafficked Post Road/Main Street crossing.

This was a typical scene around 1985. Ships restaurant (now Tiffany) drew a steady crowd. So did the rest of downtown.

But Crobar was clearly in charge.

(Photo/Al Bravin)

Bookcycle’s Remarkable Journey

The Remarkable Bookcycle sure gets around.

The mobile free library — a fun, funky collaboration between writer Jane Green, her husband Ian Warburg, artist/longtime Remarkable Book Shop enthusiast Miggs Burroughs and former Staples High School student Ryan Peterson — made its way from the Green/Warburgs’ Owenoke home to Bedford Square last fall.

EJ Zebro — owner of TAP StrengthLab — pedaled it over to Main Street recently, where it greeted visitors to the 1st Outdoor Market behind Savvy + Grace.

But Jane — a client and friend of EJ’s — told him the Bookcycle had to be back at the beach for the summer.

He and his TAP staff jumped at the chance to help. When the weather was right, Lauren Leppla hopped on, and made her move.

Local director Amelia Arnold chronicled the trip. If you didn’t see her (and it) riding by, here you go:

Well, It Sure Didn’t Take Long For The Duck To Face Plant Itself This Year

“Sunny” — the enormous yellow duck that serves as great PR for the Sunrise Rotary Club’s annual Great Duck Race — was inflated yesterday on Jesup Green.

Usually it takes a few days — after it’s been moved to the Saugatuck River — for it to topple over.

This year: less than 24 hours.

(Photo/Richard Hyman)

(Photo/Aya Camp)

If you’re wondering: This year’s race is Saturday, June 1 (11 a.m., Parker Harding Plaza). Click here for tickets, and more information.

Alabama Vote Sparks Westport Protest

More than 50 women — and men — gathered yesterday on the Ruth Steinkraus Cohen Memorial Bridge.

Bearing signs ranging from simple (“My body, my choice”) and sharp (“Regulate your dick, not my pussy”) to caustic (“If you ban abortion before you ban military assault rifles that massacre children in schools, you have lost the right to call yourself ‘pro-life'”), they protested the passage in Alabama 2 days earlier of a far-reaching anti-abortion law.

(Photo/Lynn Untermeyer Miller)

The group included all 3 selectmen: Jim Marpe, Jen Tooker and Melissa Kane.

Also on the bridge: Firouz Saghri, 22 of Westport, and Hunter Rempe, 21 from Fairfield.

They were headed to happy hour when they saw the protest. They asked for paper and markers, made a sign — and stayed the entire time.

When co-organizer Darcy Hicks thanked them, Firouz said, “This is so much more important than happy hour. I couldn’t think of a better way to spend the time.”

Hunter added, “Hey, we have moms and sisters and female friends. This is important!”

(Photo/Lynn Untermeyer Miller)

Photo Challenge #228

I’ve been worried there hasn’t been a lot of foot traffic inside Bedford Square. Are people cutting from one part of downtown to another, bringing life to the businesses ringing the courtyard?

At least 23 people do.

Pat Saviano, Matt Murray, Ben Sturmer, Molly Alger, Stephanie Mastocciolo, Fred Rubin, Tulika Chandra, Patti Brill, Karen Como, Jonathan McClure, John F. Suggs, Andrew Colabella, Cindy Zuckerbrod, June Whittaker, Karen Kim, Marlen Paolini, JoAnn Flaum, Martin Gitlin, Seth Braunstein, Mandy Germishuys, Joelle Malec, Sandra Rosen and Debra Zager all knew that last week’s Photo Challenge — Katherine Bruan’s image of a big, handsome covered table and seats — was located right there in the courtyard. (Click here to see.)

But readers were divided as to whose restaurant it belongs to. Some said Amis; others, Wafu.

I don’t know the answer. But I do know this: Judging by the photo (and the comments), it’s a great spot for a meal.

This week’s Photo Challenge has been suggested several times before, by different photographers. This shot comes from Daniel Martino.

If you know where in Westport you would see this, click “Comments” below.

(Photo/Daniel Martino)

 

Pic Of The Day #754

Flocking to the Saugatuck River (Photo/Lynn Untermeyer Miller)

Pic Of The Day #752

Lazy day by the Levitt Pavilion bridge (Photo/Doris Ghitelman)

Elm Street Update

Downtown drivers and pedestrians wonder: What’s up with the sidewalk by the Elm Street construction project?

That’s the new building rising in the Baldwin parking lot, behind Brooks Corner. It’s part of a land swap, in which Villa del Sol was torn down, to create a larger, more manageable parking lot next to Bedford Square.

It will include stores (and perhaps a restaurant), with 4 apartments above.

Elm Street, looking toward Main Street …

Westporters worry about the narrow sidewalk.

David Waldman — developer of the new project — admits it does look close to the edge of the road.

However, he says, when work is done, “proper sidewalks” will be installed on both sides of Elm Street (similar to Main Street), all the way to Church Lane.

Entrances to buildings will be stepped in, providing additional space for pedestrians.

If a restaurant is a tenant, windows and doors would open up like a Nanawall, creating an inside/outside feel.

… and to Church Lane. (Photos/Jen Berniker)

Upon completion, power lines and poles will be removed, and brick sidewalks and street lights installed.

Waldman has been told the sidewalks should be finished by the end of summer or early fall. The project should be ready for occupancy by next spring.

“Downtown Future” Forum Set

It’s a hot Westport topic, right alongside the future of Coleytown Middle School, bathrooms at South Beach, and ospreys.

“What’s up with downtown?” we ask.

We jabber about Main Street vacancies, online shopping, high rents and the new Norwalk mall.

We pine for the old mom-and-pop shops — or snort that those days are long gone.

Those were the days. Right?

The Coalition for Westport discusses that too. Members talk about attracting retailers like grocery and hardware stores, book shops and pharmacies; about 2nd-floor apartments; about a movie theater, cafes and other attractions that draw nighttime crowds.

To get a discussion going, the Coalition is sponsoring a forum. “Let’s Talk About Downtown and the  Future of Main Street” is set for next Monday (May 13, 7 p.m., 24 Elm Street — in Bedford Square, next to HSBC Bank 56 Church Lane, the Visual Brand office).

Panelists include Joseph McGee, Business Council of Fairfield County vice president for public policy and programs; David Kooris, deputy commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development, and a representative of the downtown business community.

All Westporters — and stakeholders — are invited.

The event is free.

So is the parking.

Arete: The Post Road/Madagascar Connection

Madagascar is one of the poorest countries on earth.

The main economic resources of the beautiful Indian Ocean island, 250 miles off the coast of Africa, are tourism, agriculture, textiles and mining.

Textiles are the most important when it comes to creating much needed jobs quickly. That’s Eugene Havemann’s business. And — from his new base in Westport — the South Africa native is doing all he can to give the nation a boost.

Eugene Havemann inside Arete, his new store at 123 Post Road East.

Years ago at university in Pietermaritzburg, Havemann made money by selling t-shirts on campus. That led to a career in the garment industry. He started a company, and has helped build one of the largest factories in Madagascar.

Three years ago, he focused on the US market. As that business grew, he realized he needed a physical presence here.

He and his wife Debby researched the best places to live. They looked at the West Coast, Colorado, Texas and Georgia.

But Havemann realized it was important to be near New York. With 4 kids though, they did not want to live in the city.

The Princeton area was beautiful. Realtor Janice McGrath took them all over New York state and Connecticut.

When they came to Westport, Eugene and Debby knew they’d found the right spot.

Compo Beach, Longshore and the Saugatuck River were all attractive. But the schools really amazed them. They were particularly intrigued that Staples High sponsors teams in rugby, water polo and field hockey — all sports their children were familiar with from South Africa.

“This is the place,” the couple decided.

In addition to the core business (www.madagarments.com) and his online www.arete-retail.com, the Havemanns opened a brick-and-mortar shop here. Westport, they believe, complements their brand identities.

Inside Arete.

Arete — the Greek word means “excellence of any kind” — just popped up at 123 Post Road East, across from Bank of America. It’s filled with intriguing baskets, bags, smock dresses and hats. Towels, home decor and leather belts will be added soon. Most bags and hats are made of raffia, a strong, malleable and high-end palm tree leaf indigenous to Madagascar.

In that country of 26 millions, Havemann says, only 550,000 people are formally employed. Arete provides a platform for women artisans to market their goods in the US.

Every basket sold provides enough money for a woman to feed a family of 6 for a week.

Response to the Westport store has been excellent. At least half of the people who walk in buy something. Most don’t even know that their purchase supports people halfway around the globe.

The Havemanns have only been here a few months. But they’re building a business. The schools are wonderful. The family has met other South Africans in town, and people from all over the world.

Plus, Havemann — who has lived in two gorgeous countries — says of his new home town, “Westport is one of the most beautiful places on earth.”