Category Archives: Downtown

Restaurants Take Drastic Steps; Savvy + Grace Closes Temporarily

First it was schools. Then the library, Town Hall and Y. Last night, it was the beaches and Compo playground.

Now, COVID-19 is rippling through our restaurants.

Yesterday, Bill Taibe closed his 3 restaurants — The Whelk, Kawa Ni and Jesup Hall — for in-house dining.

Takeout meals are available through curbside pick-up. If you can’t leave the house — or don’t want to — they’ll deliver. It may take some time how to do it, Taube says, “but we’ll figure it out. Everybody’s got to eat!

“We feel this is necessary in order to do our part to help stop the spread of this virus,” says the owner of 3 of Westport’s most popular dining spots.

“If there’s ever a time to tip, this is it,” he adds.

For the time being, the doors to The Whelk will be closed. (Photo courtesy of Our Town Crier)

While not closing, other restaurants are taking their own measures during the pandemic.

Pearl at Longshore — which recently hired a new chef, reworked the menu and remodeled the interior — has removed some tables, creating more distance between diners. They offer 10% off on takeout orders, and will bring it outside for pickup.

Pearl at Longshore has made changes….

In addition to also removing tables, offering curbside pick-up and delivery (within 3 miles), Rizzuto’s has removed items like flowers and salt and pepper shakers from all tables. They’re printing menus on lightweight paper for single use. too.

… and so has Rizzuto’s …

The Boathouse has added curbside pick-up, and will soon offer delivery.

… and the Boathouse, at the Saugatuck Rowing Club.

They — and every other restaurant in town — have strengthened existing health policies, and implemented new ones, such as washing hands upon arrival at work; before and after serving or removing food and beverages; before resetting tables, and after every customer interaction, including credit card processing. They’ve also expanded and enhanced their cleaning and disinfecting protocols.

Restaurants also encourage patrons to buy gift cards. They provide much-needed cash now — particularly for small, great places like Jeera Thai — and can be used whenever you feel comfortable going inside.

PS: It’s not just restaurants. Customers can call Calise’s Market (203-227-3257). They’ll put together hot foods, soups, sandwiches, cold cuts, homemade pizzas, drinks, snacks, milk, water, bread, eggs, butter, dry goods — whatever you want  — all for curbside service or delivery.

Sandra Calise-Cenatiempo reports they just stocked up on pasta, sauces and many canned goods. Tomorrow (Monday) they’ll start making dishes that can be frozen.

If you own a restaurant — or store — and would like “06880” readers to know what you’re doing, click “Comments” below.


But restaurants are not the only small businesses reeling from COVID-19.

Savvy + Grace — the great, locally own downtown unique gifts-and-more store — will close for a while. But only the doors.

Owner Annette Norton — Main Street’s biggest booster — says:

As a small business owner I have been grappling with how to handle this.

I am responsible for the rent, vendor bills, expenses, yet with all of the information I am collection, it pales in comparison with our community’s health. Therefore, I have decided to close until further notice.

I will be inside, alone, processing all of our new merchandise for spring. Which, by the way, allows me to offer curbside delivery and call-ins, or direct message me on Instagram for shipping: @savvyandgracewestport. You can also call the store: 203-221-0077.

My store has always been, and always will be, about putting my customers first. This too shall pass.

I just want to do what is responsible, given the information available. It has been my pleasure to serve this community, and I am committed to seeing this through.

See you soon. Stay healthy!

Savvy + Grace, a jewel on Main Street. (Photo/Lynn Untermeyer Miller)

Chamber Of Commerce: Support Local Stores — And Order Takeout!

In normal times, the Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce supports local businesses in a variety of ways: networking opportunities, marketing help, community-building events.

These are not normal times.

As COVID-19 attacks the country, some of the first casualties are small businesses.

When the first line of defense is social distancing — with isolation close on its heels — the last things on people’s minds are shopping for anything beyond necessities, or dining out.

When “wash your hands!” is the new mantra, no one is in the mood to handle merchandise in a store, or be served a meal in close proximity to others.

But small businesses need customers to survive. Even a small drop in patronage can spell the difference between paying the rent, paying employees, and going under.

Savvy + Grace on Main Street, one of many locally owned stores throughout town. (Photo/Lynn Untermeyer Miller)

The Chamber is marshaling its resources to help.

They encourage Westporters to continue to shop locally. In addition, they recommend buying gift cards, to use later.  You can do this not just for stores, but nail salons, yoga studios — you name it.

“This small act, if done by many, will help infuse capital to help them hold over until next month,” the Chamber says.

For residents hesitant about eating out, Chamber executive director Matthew Mandell suggests takeout orders. Most restaurants offer that option; some deliver. And there’s always Uber Eats.

Oh, yeah: Mandell reminds everyone that the Great Westport Soup Contest continues all month. There are some things the coronavirus just can’t conquer.

State Senator Will Haskell (left) and Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce director Matthew Mandell pick up takeout at Arezzo. Of course, the meal includes soup.

The Chamber also says: “If you have ideas on how to help our businesses, let us know. It takes a community to support a community.”

It’s easy. Click here for their website contact form. Email info@westportwestonchamber.com. Or call 203-227-9234.

PS: It’s not only small stores that are affected by COVID-19. Patagonia announced yesterday that it is closing all 37 stores — and its online operations — indefinitely.

PPS: The US Small Business Administration offers low-interest disaster loans to small businesses suffering substantial economic injury from the coronavirus. It must be requested by governors. It is unclear how far along in the process Connecticut’s request is. For more information, click here or email disastercustomerservice@sba.gov.

Friday Flashback #184

The debate over tolls on Connecticut highways is far from over.

If we ever get them — for all vehicles, trucks only, whatever — they will be the modern, E-ZPass transponder type.

They won’t look anything like the old toll booths that jammed up traffic every few miles on I-95. There was one on the Westport-Norwalk line, just west of Exit 17.

The West Haven tolls, near Exit 43.

They certainly won’t look anything like the rustic toll booths on the Merritt Parkway.

The Greenwich tollbooth, on the Merritt Parkway.

And they definitely will look nothing like the tollbooth that once stood on the east side of the Post Road bridge, in downtown Westport.

Yes, that really was a thing. The tollbooth was no longer operative, in this 1930s postcard from the collection of Jack Whittle. But at one point — decades (centuries?) earlier — people ponied up to cross the bridge.

Pic Of The Day #1060

Downtown at dusk (Photo/Katherine Bruan)

Main Street At An Inflection Point: An “06880” Call To Action

A recent “06880” post on the future of Main Street got readers thinking.

65 people commented. Thoughtfully, insightfully and civilly, they offered suggestions.

Your flood of reactions got me thinking.

As a native Westporter — someone who remembers the Remarkable Book Shop, Klein’s department store, the African Room, World Affairs Center, movie theaters, Mark’s Place music club, Oscar’s, Dorain’s Drug Store — I know the kind of life that can pulse on Main Street.

A classic 1960s Main Street photo.

But I also realize that we can’t simply wish for that kind of street again. The world is far different today.

For a long time, I thought a few tweaks would bring downtown back to life. I nodded as stakeholders assured me that once the flood-proofing and renovation projects were done, and empty storefronts filled up again, all would be well again.

After reading the comments, and talking to a broad array of sharp, committed Westporters, I no longer believe that’s true.

Main Street is no longer — and perhaps never again will be — our “main street.” It’s simply a short stretch off the Post Road near the Saugatuck River. It’s lined with commercial buildings, connecting one side of town with another.

To think of it as our “main street” is to live in the 20th century — or even the 19th.

Main Street — particularly the business district — is not very long. You can barely see it here, in Larry Untermeyer’s aerial shot.

But boy, does it have potential.

The problem is, “potential” implies re-imagining the future. And re-designing the present.

We can’t simply tweak the Post Road. We need to (almost) blow it up, and start again.

The possibilities are endless.

Main Street could be a car-less, pedestrian-friendly piazza/promenade lined with trees, tables and benches; upscale and family restaurants and cafes, including outside dining (with space heaters for winter); food carts and artists’ kiosks; independent businesses like a general store, bookstore and ice cream shop (joining the special Savvy + Grace-type places already there).

It could be filled with cultural and arts events; food festivals, and something at Christmas; music on weekends, plus waterfront access, with paddleboat and kayak rentals. In the winter, we could flood part of it for a skating rink.

And more: The Farmers’ Market could relocate there. We could add offices for non-profits, and co-working spaces. Apartments could be build on 2nd and 3rd floors.

This was Main Street, during the 2014 Art About Town festival.

Downtown is at an inflection point.

The decisions we make now are as important as the ones we made 70 years ago. That’s when town officials decided — and citizens agreed — to fill in the Saugatuck River, behind the stores on the west side of Main Street.

The result — a parking lot named for selectman Emerson Parker and Daybreak Nursery owner Evan Harding — may have been the right idea then.

But today we need a new downtown. And the change can’t be incremental. It must be big, bright and bold.

Bigger, brighter and bolder, even, than Parker Harding Plaza was then.

The time for consultants is past. They, and the Downtown Plan Implementation  Committee, have generated some good ideas. Now we must seize the initiative.

Who is “we”?

All of us. Everyone in Westport. We all have a stake in a vibrant, exciting, innovative, walkable, livable, enjoyable downtown. A downtown that will draw us all in again — and many others, from around the area.

Our town already offers so much: excellent schools, the transformed library, beaches, Longshore, Levitt Pavilion, Senior Center, Playhouse, Wakeman Town Farm, YMCA, Earthplace and tons more.

We often take these jewels for granted. For too long, we’ve taken the idea that Main Street “must” be a shopping-only street for granted too.

Look at the river. Look at Church Lane. Look at Main Street. Imagine the possibilities. (Drone photo by John Videler/Videler Photography)

I said it before: Downtown is at an inflection point. We have the opportunity to create something truly dynamic and visionary.

How do we do it?

Let’s start with a town meeting (of course, in the Library Forum). Let’s talk about the most exciting new Main Street we can imagine. Then let’s figure out how to make it happen.

Emerson Parker and Evan Harding were great civic volunteers. But look at their sorry legacy.

This is our chance to leave a legacy, for at least the next 70 years.

Who wants to step up and lead us forward?

Pic Of The Day #1046

Man with a mannequin (Photo/Lynn Untermeyer Miller)

Pics Of The Day #1044

Downtown Westport, courtesy of Brandon Malin’s drone:

National Hall, and the west bank of the Saugatuck River

Downtown

Bedford Square

Westport Library

Town Hall (Drone photos/Brandon Malin)

Pic Of The Day #1043

Levitt Pavilion: closed for winter (Photo/Larry Untermeyer)

Goodbye, Garelick & Herbs. Hello, GG & Joe’s.

After 6 years in Saugatuck Center, Garelick and Herbs is leaving.

Owner Jason Garelick told the Westport News, “I had a 5-year lease on our Saugatuck store and the past several months, we were going month-to-month, since our lease ended in 2019. It wasn’t drawing as many customers as it was in the past.

“Parking is tight in the area. You couldn’t get into the lot because of the train traffic. We were mostly only drawing customers from one section of Westport. In Saugatuck, you rely more on customers coming from the train station.

“Also, we were busier during the summer time. Closing a store is always a difficult decision and the area is great, but it just wasn’t worth it for us.”

The final day is Saturday, February 29. The flagship store in Southport, and the Greenwich location, will remain open.

Meanwhile, a new place is getting ready to open on Parker Harding Plaza. It’s near the rear door of Rye Ridge Deli, closer to TD Bank.

GG and Joe’s will feature acai bowls, coffee and toast. Yes, toast.

The sign in the window says they’ll open this winter.

They better hurry. Spring arrives in 24 days.

Saving Main Street

Everyone talks about the empty storefronts on Main Street.

Evan Chevrier documented them.

The other day the 9-year Westport resident — a New York-based TV producer — went up and down the fabled artery, with a camera.

This is what he found:

“Most are quick to blame greedy landlords and their unsustainable rents,” he says. “And they may be right.

“But our only chance at saving Main Street is to take our fight to the people who can do something about it.

“Most building owners have no vested interest in the preservation of our downtown area. They only care about their bottom line. And for them an empty lot in Westport is barely a blip on the radar.

“It’s up to our town leadership to step up, and stop waiting around for things to get better on their own. And they need to do it before it’s too late, and Main Street becomes a ghost town.”

Thoughts? Is this a local government issue? Can town officials affect or impact landlords? Is there a citizen-oriented, out-of-the-box solution? Click “Comments” below.