Category Archives: Economy

Remembering Shirley Mellor

Shirley Mellor — the beloved former owner of the almost-as-beloved Max’s Art Supplies — died yesterday. She was 92 years old.

Three years ago in March, over 100 people — from across town and across the country, and from Westport’s artistic present and past — paid tribute, on her 90th birthday.

Shirley Mellor (Photo/Lynn U. Miller)

Though she closed Max’s 7 years ago, she still did yoga 3 times a week, nearly until her death. She told wonderful stories, and dispensed excellent advice.

Among the attendees at her birthday celebration were longtime Max’s employees Nina Royce, Rita Engelbardt and Jay Cimbak. Miggs Burroughs called Max’s — one of the anchors of Post Road East, next to the former Restoration Hardware — “Westport’s town square for artists.” Much of that was because of Shirley’s care and concern for our town’s artists. Professional or amateur, she loved — and helped — them all.

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In May of 2014, I wrote about Max’s closing. It’s a fitting epitaph for a remarkable, much-admired woman.

In mid-September the Westport Y leaves downtown, for new digs at Mahackeno.

A few days earlier, another longtime Post Road anchor will also go.

Max’s — a legendary art supply store (and, just as important, social hub for painters, illustrators and cartoonists) — closes on September 1.

Max's Art Supplies -- a long and familiar Post Road store.

Max’s Art Supplies — a long and familiar Post Road store.

For 59 years Max’s has occupied prime real estate, directly opposite the Y. But the end of Westport as an “artists’ colony,” coupled with the increasing role of technology in both art and commerce, spelled the end.

Owner Shirley Mellor has held on longer than any other merchant would. It’s been years since she’s made any money. But — as much as she loves her employees, her town and her dwindling customer base — she can’t lose money forever.

Max’s dates back to 1956, when Max Kaplan bought Fine Arts Stationers. He replaced paper and candy with pens, sketch pads, paints, brushes and canvases.

Part of a shelf at Max's, last Friday.

Part of a shelf at Max’s, last Friday.

Shirley was Max’s wife. He died in 1983. The next year she married artist Gordon Mellor, a widower. He died in 2001.

“We played a huge role in the art life of Westport,” Shirley says proudly. “All the artists knew us. And they were a sizable number.”

They came to Max’s for supplies, and stayed to socialize. Whitney Darrow Jr., Stevan Dohanos, Bernie Fuchs, Mel Casson, Dik Browne, Mort Walker, Stan Drake, Leonard Starr, Eric von Schmidt, Constance Kiermaier, Tom Funk, Gill Fox, Naiad and Walter Einsel, Ward Brackett, Neil Hardy, Miggs Burroughs — the names roll off Shirley’s tongue, like the old friends they were.

She points to a photo from 1981. It was Max’s 25th anniversary. A hundred artists posed on the sidewalk outside.

The famous 1981 photo. Another was taken in 2006, for Max's 50th anniversary.

The famous 1981 photo. Another was taken in 2006, for Max’s 50th anniversary.

Today, at least half are dead. That’s one reason Max’s is closing.

Another is the new nature of the art industry. The advent of computers changed the way illustrators worked. The rise of e-commerce changed the way they bought supplies.

Through the 1980s too, Westport was known as a marketing mecca. Industrial designers and marketing corporations were steady customers. When they moved out, Max lost more business.

For longer than she cares to recount, the store has not made money. At age 70 — well over a decade ago — Shirley took herself off the payroll.

Shirley Mellor at her desk, surrounded by original art from grateful customers.

Shirley Mellor at her desk, surrounded by original art from grateful customers.

Then she started subsidizing Max’s, out of her own pocket. She’s lucky, she says — she owns half of the building, as well as those that house neighboring Fig (formerly Schaefer’s Sporting Goods) and Dovecote (the old smoke shop, Quick Copy and beauty salon). “It was a good investment,” she says.

But it does not make up for the money that Max’s has been losing for so long.

Things were different, back in the day. The Fine Arts Theaters (now Restoration Hardware and Matsu Sushi) brought people downtown. So did the popular Ships Restaurant (now Tiffany).

“People were around. Now they’re not,” says Nina Royce.

Nina Royce, with plenty of "stuff" still left at Max's.

Nina Royce, with plenty of “stuff” still left at Max’s.

Nina has worked at Max’s since 1969. In 1975, she created the first window display of Westport artists. Since then — every month — Nina has made that spot an ever-changing, always-intriguing exhibition of local creativity.

New York Times art critic Hilton Kramer — a former Westporter — once wrote of a New York City gallery, “I’ve seen better shows at Max’s than this one.”

Nina — whose husband David died last month — does not know what she’ll do now. Neither does 10-year employee Rita Ross Englebardt (whose husband died just a few days before Nina’s).

Talented framer Jay Cimbak is lucky. He will work on his own, once he finds a spot.

“We just can’t do it any more,” Shirley says wistfully. “We absolutely can’t make a living here. It’s a whole different world. We hung on as long as possible. Every day I lose money. Kids still come in with school projects. But we can’t make money on crayons.”

When the Fine Arts Theaters closed in 1999, Max's next door felt the effects. (Photo/ Miggs Burroughs)

When the Fine Arts Theaters closed in 1999, Max’s next door felt the effects. (Photo/ Miggs Burroughs)

So there is no longer a place for an art supply store in downtown Westport. But what does that mean?

“You’ll lose the personal touch, the interactions,” Nina says. “Our customers are familiar to us. We’ve watched them grow. You don’t get that in a chain store, or on the internet.”

“It’s a different Main Street now,” Shirley adds. “There’s no hardware store, drugstore, grocery store or gas station. That’s where you get the personal attention.”

She says — trying to smile — “We’re heartbroken. We’ve been so happy to be here. We want to thank our customers. We will sure miss them. Hopefully, they’ll miss us.”

Shirley looks at the wall full of art — gifts from grateful cartoonists and illustrators — hanging above her desk. She hopes to donate it to the Westport Historical Society.

It’s a history of Westport art, over the past 6 decades. It’s great, and all original.

But nowhere near as great, or original, as Shirley, Nina and Max’s Art Supplies have been to us.

If your browser does not take you directly to the Westport Historical Society’s oral history interview of Shirley Mellor, click here. Hat tips: Betsy Pollak and Miggs Burroughs.

Westporter Leads Bridgeport’s LifeBridge

For 171 years — from tough times during the Civil War, through its heydays under Mayor P.T. Barnum and as a major manufacturing city, and into its decline as opportunities and resources moved elsewhere — LifeBridge has been an anchor for Bridgeport’s most vulnerable residents.

Over more than a century and a half, the agency has evolved. It began as a Ladies Relief Society, was renamed the Bridgeport Orphan Asylum, became Woodfield Children’s Village and then Family Services of Woodfield. In 2015, it was renamed LifeBridge Community Services.

During more than 25 years in Westport, Howard Greene has seen the disparity between his neighbors here, and those less than 10 miles away.

One in every 3 Bridgeport children lives in poverty. The largest city in the state is the 5th poorest; its unemployment rate of almost 12% is twice that of the rest of Connecticut. Over 11% of youth ages 18-24 do not graduate from high school.

Greene’s involvement with LifeBridge spans many years. Now board chair, he hopes to spread the word about the many programs and resources the organization offers.

Before the pandemic, he hosted a reception at Wakeman Town Farm with CEO Alan Mathis.

Howard Greene, LifeBridge board chair.

They described LifeBridge’s efforts to help disadvantaged youth ages 11-14. For example, their Urban Scholars Program offers art, music, martial arts, robotics, dance, science and math instruction and projects led by professionals in their fields. There is personal tutoring too.

The free programs run for 3 hours after school. LifeBridge also sponsors a 2-month full-day summer camp.

Funding comes from private donations, as well as local foundations like Newman’s Own, the Westport Weston Family YMCA’s Bedford Social Responsibility Fund, and Near & Far Aid.

Robotics is one of Lifebridge Urban Scholars Program’s many opportunities.

LifeBridge also provides behavioral health services, with nurses, counselors, social workers, therapists and addiction specialists working in areas like domestic violence, adolescent wellness, substance abuse and family therapy.

A community closet provides clothing and personal care items, while the WorkSkills programs prepares people 18 years and older for jobs in today’s economy.

Many Westporters have not heard of LifeBridge. Thanks to the work of Howard Greene and others, many Bridgeporters have. For them, it is a true bridge toward a better life.

(To learn more about LifeBridge, including how to volunteer and donate, click here.)

Roundup: Community Gathering, Authors Way, Car Heist, More


In response to yesterday’s assault on the US Capitol by a mob, Temple Israel Senior Rabbi Michael Friedman writes:

“Where the rule of law reigns, Jews have flourished. Where lawlessness spreads, we have suffered.

“Similarly, the ancient sage Rabbi Joshua ben Levi taught: ‘Great is peace… if the Holy One had not given peace to the world, sword and beast would devour up the whole world.’

“The Jewish community of Fairfield County will gather tonight (Thursday, January 7, 7 to 7:30 p.m.) online to find comfort in the strength of our community, and to offer prayers for our nation and prayers for peace.”

Click here to register for the webinar.


“Authors Way” is the name of a new subdivision of 4 homes, planned at #14 Hillandale Road.

That’s a nod to Westport’s many famous writers — including A.E. Hotchner. The novelist/playwright/biographer — known for his books about friends like Ernest Hemingway and Paul Newman (with whom he founded the Newman’s Own philanthropy) — died last February. He was 102, and had lived more than half his life — 67 years — here.

His property included a large house. Built in 1928, it was originally part of a 40-acre estate, including a long allée.

Plans call for the homes to be built on 1-acre plots, between Wakeman Road and Ellery Lane. Hotchner’s home — with high ceilings and large rooms — may be torn down as early as Monday (January 11). An application for demolition was made before the Historic District Commission on July 15. They upheld a 180-day delay.

14 Hillandale Road


Police report that at 9:04 a.m. yesterday, the driver of a BMW was pumping gas at the Post Road Exxon station by South Maple Avenue.

A male jumped in and drove off, at a high rate of speed.

GPS tracked the vehicle. West Haven officers tried to pull the driver over. After striking several vehicles in heavy traffic, he finally stopped.

As one of the 2 occupants was taken into custody, the other entered a patrol car. He slammed it into reverse, striking several officer.

The cruiser became disabled after being driven through a nearby cemetery. The second suspect — like the first, a juvenile — was apprehended without further incident.

Westport police remind all motorists to secure their vehicles, even when stepping out for a moment.

For a video of the apprehension of the suspects, click here.


Congressman Jim Himes says:

As part of the recent COVID relief package, qualifying individuals will receive an Economic Impact Payment of up to $600, and up to $600 per dependent child under the age of 17. You can check the status of your EIP by clicking here.

Individuals who make an annual income of $75,000 for an individual and $150,000 for a household will receive the full $600. EIPs will be reduced by $5 for every $100 of annual income above $75,000 for individual and $150,000 for household. To receive an EIP, you must have a work-eligible Social Security Number. Click here for additional information, including information on new provisions on eligibility for U.S. citizens who file their taxes jointly with a non-citizen.

Some eligible individuals and families did not receive their initial Economic Impact Payment. The IRS is instructing these Americans to claim their payment when they file their 2020 taxes in 2021. Eligible individuals can claim the so-called “Recovery Rebate Credit” on their 2020 Form 1040 or 1040-SR.

Many people, including recent college graduates, may be eligible to do so. Taxpayers whose incomes fell in 2020 from 2019 can also claim a credit on their 2020 federal income tax return for the difference between the amount they are entitled to under the law and the amount they received as an advanced payment.

For more information, click here.


Beginning Monday (January 11), the yard waste site at 180 Bayberry Lane will begin reduced winter hours: Tuesdays and Thursdays, 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.; Saturdays from 7 a.m. to noon.

Regular hours resume March 8.

Christmas trees will continue to be accepted from Westport residents during winter hours.

Yard waste at 180 Bayberry Lane.

The Parks & Recreation Department has introduced a “Winter Wonderland Walking Challenge.”

Residents are invited to walk, jog or run a distance of their choice, and track their progress.

It runs now through March 31. To register, click here.

Go for it! (Photo/Rowene Weems)


And finally … on this day of outrage, mourning and reflection, we can also be uplifted by Phil Ochs’ stirring anthem.

Here is a land full of power and glory
Beauty that words cannot recall
Oh her power shall rest on the strength of her freedom
Her glory shall rest on us all (on us all).

Sean Gallagher Supports Small Businesses — With A Marine Corps Twist

US Naval Academy and 2011 Staples High School grad Sean Gallagher transitioned out of the Marine Corps in May, after 5 years as an infantry officer.

The Marines taught him how to handle adversity — and the importance of leaning on teammates in tough times.

These are tough times for small businesses, he says. All across the country, COVID means they need help.

Gallagher and his wife Emma are helping. To draw attention — and raise funds — he’ll run a marathon. It’s set for February 6, around Central Park’s outer loop (4+ full laps).

But that’s too easy for the former Staples soccer and track star. So he’ll do it wearing a 35-pound Marine Corps “ruck” (backpack).

Sean Gallagher, leading his troops.

“Rucks teach Marines how to handle adversity with grit and determination — the same qualities necessary for small businesses to survive,” Gallagher says.

He’s set up a GoFundMe page. All funds will go to small businesses through the Barstool Sports Fund. Click here to donate.

Now fill a backpack with 35 pounds of rocks (or anything else). Then imagine running a marathon with it strapped to your back.

You’ll probably donate a lot more.

Filling In The Blanks To Fight Local Hunger

We’ve heard a lot about the importance of helping local restaurants during the pandemic. And of course we know that now, in these very tough times, many area residents are hungry.

Here is a brilliant way to help both.

Westport-based CK Business Solutions and Stamford’s CC VIP have teamed up with Filling in the Blanks. The non-profit delivers weekend meals to low-income children in Fairfield and Westchester Counties.

The astonishingly simple idea:

Buy a gift card from a restaurant anywhere in Westport — or Norwalk, New Canaan, Stamford or Greenwich.

Leave it at the restaurant and email fundandfeedlocal@gmail.com, letting them know you bought it. A Filling in the Blanks volunteer will pick it up.

If you prefer, you can mail the gift card to CK Business Solutions, PO Box 2031, Westport, CT 06880.

Filling in the Blanks will put the card in the hands of a family in need.

You help your favorite restaurant. They feed a hungry family.

We got this! Let’s go to town — figuratively and literally. It could be the greatest gift you give this holiday season.

(For more information about this project, click here.)

 

Roundup: Kelli O’Hara, Tax Deferment, Santa Claus, More


Tony Award winner —  and Westporter — Kelli O’Hara joins Richard Thomas and the Tabernacle Choir, Orchestra at Temple Square, and Bells at Temple Square in a holiday special.

It premiered last week, and runs through January 11 on PBS stations. But you don’t have to wait — just click here to see. (Hat tip: Gloria Gouveia)

Kelli O’Hara, on the PBS special.


Westport is offering another tax relief deferment program for eligible taxpayers for the January installment period.

It is an extended grace period on tax payments to assist taxpayers suffering financial hardship due to COVID-19. Eligible taxpayers can utilize the program for January tax bills on real estate, personal property, motor vehicles and sewer assessments. Payments made any time within 3 months from each bill’s due date will not incur interest charges or penalties.

Applications for deferment must account for one of the following hardships:

  1. Household has suffered a reduction in income of at least 20 percent due to COVID-19.
  2. Business or nonprofit revenue from October 2020 to January 2021 is expected to be reduced by at least 30 percent compared to the same time last year.
  3. For landlords: Income is significantly reduced. Landlords can also provide proof of forbearance programs offered to their own tenants to be eligible.

Applicants must submit documentation. Click here for the application form and additional information.

Those who were eligible for tax deferment last April or July must apply again for the January payment deferral.


Santa — aka Josh Philip — has been a busy boy.

He personally visited 89 Westport homes over the past few weeks. Kids of all ages were thrilled to see him.

Just a warm-up for tomorrow night, of course. But — like all those Westport  Country Playhouse shows that move on to Broadway — there’s no pbetter place than here to warm up for the Big Time.

Ho ho ho! Santa visits one of dozens of Westport homes. (Photo/Rose Phllip)


If you clicked on the link to today’s lead story listing scores of worthy local charities to consider donating to this holiday season — check it again. Readers have suggested more than a dozen more, in areas ranging from domestic violence and child advocacy to the Farmers’ Market and Susan Fund.

Click here for the updated list. And give generously!


And finally … I’ve always liked Eric Clapton. And I’ve loved Van Morrison.

But their latest release — a collaboration — makes me wonder if they’ve spent too many years too close to their amps.

“Stand and Deliver” is a 4 1/2-minute rant against government-imposed lockdowns. It was released on Friday, in the midst of Britain’s battle against rapidly rising COVID cases, and news of a new strain that threatens to wreak more havoc.

At last proceeds go to Morrison’s Lockdown Financial Hardship Fund, which helps musicians facing difficulties as a result of the virus and lockdowns.

Roundup: Celestial Convergence, Barnes & Noble, Downtown Employees, More


It was a bit too cloudy and foggy yesterday to really see the convergence of Saturn and Jupiter. It’s been nearly 400 years since the planets passed so close to each other, and nearly 800 years since their alignment — seeming to form one “Christmas star” — occurred at night.

But that didn’t stop a number of Westporters from heading to Compo Beach to look.

Jo Shields reports, “I heard someone say there was a lot of applause and cheering on South Beach. But then someone said it might have just been a plane.”

Here’s what she saw, on the jetty:

(Photo/Jo Shields)


It’s official!

Barnes & Noble signed its new lease yesterday, for the former Restoration Hardware site. “06880” reported that the deal was imminent last week. The opening is slated for February. David Adam Realty was the realtor.

Restoration Hardware moved out in June. Soon, Barnes & Noble will move in.(Photo/Chip Stephens)


Last summer, as the pandemic (first) raged, the Westport Downtown Merchants Association partnered with ASF, on a fundraiser to support local businesses. The community helped raise over $2,700.

Last month, the WDMA asked retailers to nominate employees who have gone “above and beyond.”

There were many stories about heroes who put in extra hours, offered creative ideas to keep businesses afloat, provided extraordinary customer service, or remained strong in uncertain times.

Now the WDMA has awarded 26 of those very deserving employees $100 Downtown Dollar eGift Cards. Congratulations and thanks go to:

Karyl Scott (Massage Envy)
Kimberly Lavigne (Sorelle Gallery)
Francisco Moreno (Winfield Street Deli)
Henry Potter (Athleta)
Ellyn Weitzman (Franny’s Farmacy)
Stephanie Soares (Don Memo)
Alba Antun (Don Memo)
Zach Hinman (Don Memo)
Owen Wiseman (Kawa Ni)
Kelly Clement (Kawa Ni)
Marco Almanza (Kawa Ni)
Lux Bond & Green Team
Paulino Garcia (The Whelk)
Lupita Cristostomo (The Whelk)
Matt Balga (The Whelk)
Julie Cook (Savannah Bee)
Will Newman (New England Hemp Farm)
John Vaast (Walrus Alley)
Patricia Andrade (Splash of Pink)
Isabelle Johansen (Cotelac)
Jinkuk Hong (Manna Toast)
Victor Mejia (Manna Toast)
Jessica Zito (Manna Toast)
Karen Martella (Catherine H)


The ink is barely dry on the new federal COVID relief package.

But this afternoon (Tuesday, December 22, 2:30 p.m.), Congressman Jim Himes and officials of the Small Business Administration join a live Zoom discussion to explain it. Click here for the link; the passcode is 509950.

Congressman Jim Himes


Jewish Senior Services is located in Bridgeport, but its Westport roots are strong and deep.

Ken Wirfel and Alan Phillips are the 2 most recent board chairs. Dozens of Westporters are board members and/or supporters, including the Nevas, Kassen and Magidas families.

Scores of Westport relatives are in long-term care there, have gone through short-term rehabilitation, or utilize JSS’ home care or community services.

Yesterday, the first doses of Pfizer’s COVID vaccine were administered there, to nearly 300 people. CEO Andrew Banoff called it “a day we will never forget.”

Although JSS’s mission is grounded in Jewish traditions, well over half of the residents and clients are not Jewish. They are “the largest faith-based not-for- profit senior care community in Connecticut.”


Amy Schneider captured the winter solstice sunset — the first one of the season — last night.

Here’s the “bright” side to winter: For the next 6 months, every day there’s a little more light.

(Photo/Amy Schneider)


The Saugatuck River Dancers keep dancing — and keep raising funds for suicide prevention.

Suzanne Harvey’s latest choreography is Meghan Trainor’s “Holidays.” She created it to share the joy of dance and the holidays with others. Tomorrow (December 23) is the 28th anniversary of her brother Michael‘s death. He was just 15 when he took his life.

Hilary Solder, Jill Alcott, Deb Montner, Michael Chait and Eva Rawiszer joined Suzanne in dance. The video is below. Click here for a link to donate to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.


And finally … on this day in 1984, subway vigilante Bernhard Goetz shot 4 would-be muggers on a Manhattan subway. Five years later, he was part of a Billy Joel song.

 

Homes With Hope’s Holiday Message

It’s been a hard year for Homes with Hope. The Westport non-profit dedicated to ending homelessness in Fairfield County has seen demand for its services rise during COVID. Meanwhile, supporters are stretched thin.

Many Westporters know of the Gillespie Center men’s shelter, and Project Return for young women. But Homes with Hope runs many programs, and does much more.

They’ve just released a compelling video. Produced by Westporter Livio Sanchez, it shows how they act — even in a pandemic — to keep the most vulnerable community members safe. Click below to see:

During 2019-20, Homes with Hope served 1,234 individuals.

  • The Gillespie Center emergency homeless shelter operated at full capacity to host 126 guests
  • Permanent supportive housing served 75 individuals
  • ASAP (After School Academic Program) provided academic support for housing program children and community neighbors
  • HEAL and Mentoring Initiative programs provided support to young people in our schools and community
  • The community kitchen and food pantry provided over 21,000 meals and 1,400 bags of groceries.

In March, Homes with Hope pivoted. They implemented new policies and procedures to follow DC and Health Department guidelines. Staff members became front-line heroes.

Client numbers increased. But no one was turned away. Everyone was served safely, and with dignity.

 

Like many civic organizations, Homes with Hope canceled annual fundraising events, which provide more than a quarter of its operational support.

Yet, says president and CEO Helen McAlinden, “despite the many unknowns that lie ahead, there is one thing of which we are absolutely certain: With the generous support of our community, Homes with Hope will keep sheltering the homeless and feeding the hungry as we always have.

“On behalf of Homes with Hope’s staff, clients, board of directors and volunteers, I extend our best wishes to you and your loved ones during this holiday season and the coming year. We thank you for helping us serve Fairfield County’s most vulnerable members of our community.”

(To donate to Homes with Hope, click here.)

The Gillespie Center and Hoskins Place women’s shelter. They’re located in downtown Westport, directly across from the police station.

Roundup: Dead Bunker, Deer, Tyler Hicks, More


Some Westporters have been alarmed at the number of dead bunker washing up on the shores of the Saugatuck River, Compo and Old Mill Beaches and Sherwood Mill Pond.

Other Westporters say, “no big deal. Happens every year.”

Longtime Old Mill resident Don Bergmann sends along info — passed to him by town conservation director Alicia Mozian and compliance officer Gillian Carroll — that explains a lot about the phenomenon.

Bottom line: “This year, higher than usual numbers of the fish congregated in the Sound, and they missed their cue to start heading south because the water in the sound stayed warm into the fall. As the water temperature dropped in October and November, the supply of algae and plankton for bunker to eat diminished, leaving the fish hungry and cold and causing a small percentage to die and wash ashore.”

The good news: There are plenty of healthy, live bunker in our waters.

Click here to read the full report, in the CT Examiner. It’s fascinating!

Sherwood Mill Pond yesterday (Photo/Kendall Gardiner)


On Sunday, the New York Times published its annual “Year in Pictures” section.

It’s not complete without a contribution from a Westport photographer.

This one comes from Tyler Hicks. The Pulitzer Prize-winning 1988 Staples High School graduate captured the COVID pandemic in Manaus, Brazil, with a poignantly colorful shot, from high above, of newly dug graves. Up to 100 people died each day in the Amazon’s biggest city.

“Trees and brush were cleared to create more space for caskets as the death toll rose,” Hicks wrote.

“Private grave sites gave way to long trenches dug with earth-moving equipment.”

May 25, 2020, Manaus, Brazil (Tyler Hicks, for the New York Times)

No one likes deer in their yard. Except for these 2 on Soundview. They’re okay.

(Photo/Susan Ford)


Need help with heating bills? Connecticut’s Energy Assistance Program assists low-income home owners and renters 

To qualify you must make below 60% of the median income ($72,394 for a family of 4). 

Westport residents can call 203-384-6904 to apply. Residents in other Connecticut towns should call 1-800-842-1132.


For a month or so now, night after night, people all over town have heard tremendous BOOMS!

From Old Hill to Greens Farms, they awaken Westporters. They come in waves. They’re annoying — and very, very loud.

According to the best guesses on social media, they’re the result of some guy (it can’t be a woman) in a souped-up car engineered to piss people off. If that’s true, he’s succeeding.

And if not — well, what are those sonic blasts, anyway?


And finally … there’s lots o’ Christmas music in the air. But this song seems to have dropped out of the rotation.

What a shame. It’s a classic. It’s fun. And the message is timeless.

 

Spa Owner: “Save Local,” Or Lose Our Town

For many businesses, the holiday season makes the entire year.

But as Westport staggers through an ominous wave of COVID infections, many merchants and restaurant owners fear they’ll be broken.

And not just for the month or year.

Permanently.

Lori Dodd is one of those small business owners. For 20 years, her Dream Spa & Salon has provided clients with relaxing treatments. Her customers love her, and the feeling is mutual.

But love is trumped by a more powerful force: fear.

Lori Dodd

A small PPP payout helped in the spring. Summer brought a bit of hope, and returning clients. But the long-expected second wave of infections has been brutal.

Right now, Lori is operating at 30% of her usual business. That has nothing to do with capacity restrictions. It’s clients staying away.

Stress is everywhere. Masked employees worry about exposure to unmasked women during facials. Some clients snap at employees for little things. Others balk at or refuse to pay a 5% surcharge Lori instituted to pay for PPE and related costs.

Little kindnesses help. Lori’s sign maker, Marty Rogers — a small businessman himself — offered his services gratis as Lori prepared for a grand reopening. A few clients have been very understanding when Lori rescheduled them, because it wasn’t worth opening the doors one day recently and playing desk staff, electricity and housekeeping.

Where the holiday season means merchandise to many stores, Dream Spa sells gift certificates. With widespread uncertainty about the coming months, those sales have been slow.

Dream Spa,, on Post Road East near Greens Farms Elementary School.

Lori knows she’s not suffering alone. When she picks up takeout from local restaurants, they’re empty. Sometimes, if COVID strikes the kitchen, they close.

Often, Lori says, she’s wanted to cry.

Instead she hatched a plan.

“Buy local” is not enough, she says. “The public is numb to that phrase.”

The byword should be “Save local.”

“More impactful action is needed,” Lori explains. “If we are to survive — if we don’t want to lose restaurants, retailers, salons, spas, fitness centers — we don’t have the luxury of idly sitting by, waiting for more PPP and a holiday season that is not going to cut it.

“We need community support. And we need it now.”

She created an Instagram: @SaveLocalWestport. She’s asking small businesses to DM her for details. She’ll organize a Zoom meeting with interested owners.

Lori envisions signage to be placed around town, and a GoFundMe page. Donations will be divided among members, based on need (assessed by a CPA, hopefully a donated service).

Visitors to the Instagram page will be encouraged to buy gift certificates at their favorite stores and restaurants.

In a perfect world, Lori says, if every household in Westport and Weston gave $100, all the members of @SaveLocalWestport could survive.

“People need to help,” she says with emotion. “If they don’t, this will not the town I’ve lived in for 25 years. It won’t be the town you moved to, or the one you thought you knew.”