Category Archives: Economy

Roundup: IRS, MLK, WCP, More

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Congressman Jim Himes reminds residents of free tax filing resource,

The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program offers federal and state tax help to people earning under $56,000 a year. VITA is largely virtual this year, but there are also some drop-off locations. Click here to learn more.

The Connecticut Department of Revenue Services provides free tax help over by phone. Call 860-297-5770 to schedule an online appointment.

The University of Connecticut School of Law offers federal and state tax assistance for low-income Connecticut residence by phone. Call 860-570-5165 to learn more or book an appointment.

Click here for links to more tax assistance.

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“King in the Wilderness” is an Emmy-winning HBO documentary about the last 3 days of Martin Luther King’s life. At the end of the 1960s, the Black Power movement saw the civil rights leader’s focus on nonviolence as a weakness, while President Lyndon Johnson believe his antiwar activism was dangerous. King himself was tormented by doubts about his philosophy and future.

The executive producer was Westporter Trey Ellis. He’s an award-winning novelist, Emmy and Peabody-winning filmmaker, playwright, professor of screenwriting in the Graduate School of Film at Columbia University, and contributor to The New Yorker, New York TimesWashington Post and NPR.

On Thursday, February 25 (7 p.m.), the Westport Library hosts a conversation between Ellis and TEAM Westport chair Harold Bailey. Registrants can view the film for one week prior to the event. There is no charge; click here to register.

The program is part of Westport READS. This year’s them is “Towards a More Perfect Union: Confronting Racism.”

Trey Ellis

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The popular Westport Country Playhouse “Script in Hand” play-reading series returns Monday, February 22 (7 p.m.).

This time, audiences can hear the scripts in their own homes. The virtual performance is also available on demand any time, from noon February 23 through February 28.

This reading — “A Sherlock Carol” — should be particularly fun. It’s about a grown-up Tiny Tim, who asks Sherlock Holmes to investigate the death of Ebenezer Scrooge. Six actors take on the famed characters of Arthur Conan Doyle and Charles Dickens. Click here for more information, and tickets.

In addition, the Playhouse presents a free virtual conversation about Thornton Wilder’s timeless “Our Town” — particularly as it applies to the 21st century.

It’s this Sunday (February 14, 3 p.m.), on the Playhouse website and YouTube channel (Westport Playhouse).

Participants include Howard Sherman, author of a new book about “Our Town”; Anne Keefe, associate artistic director with Joanne Woodward for the Playhouse’s 2002 production of “Our Town,” and Jake Robards, who appeared in that show. The host is Playhouse artistic director Mark Lamos.

In other WCP news, the Playhouse has announced the 13 members of its inaugural Youth Council. They include Staples High School students Henry Carson, Kate Davitt and Sophia Vellotti, plus Cessa Lewis, a Westporter who attends St. Luke’s School.

“A Sherlock Carol”

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Suzuki Music Schools’ Connecticut Guitar Festival returns for a 4th year on March 5 to 7 — virtually, of course. It’s all part of the Westport-based organization’s mission to make international artists accessible to everyone — for free.

For a list of events, click here. For an overview of the entire festival and artists, click here.

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And finally … pioneering jazz pianist Chick Corea died Tuesday in Florida, of cancer. He was 79.

 

 

Roundup: Sidewalks, Masks, Climate Change, More

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It’s been 3 days since Sunday’s beautiful — but big — snowfall. Have you shoveled yet?

It’s the law!

The Department of Public Works reminds all commercial property owners that they are responsible for all snow and ice removal from the sidewalk within the town and/or state rights-of-way — for the total frontage of your property, and the entire width of the sidewalk.

You can be fined up to $90 — a day — for non-compliance.

And, reader Kristin Schneeman notes, homeowners are also responsible for clearing sidewalks in front of their properties.

Many are still inaccessible. So stop reading, and start shoveling.

Or get your kid to do it.

From 2016. Although you wouldn’t have know if I hadn’t told you (Photos/Tracy Yost)

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Looking for a family activity that is both fun (s’mores!), healthy (take a hike!) and educational (what kind of animal makes which kind of tracks?).

Earthplace’s “Family Campfire” on Sunday, February 21 (1 to 2:30 p.m.) sounds great. Each family is assigned its own picnic table (bring your own roasting sticks).

The cost is $25 for member families, $30 for non-members. To register, call 203-557-4400 weekdays, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

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Westport Masks is scaling back. But — because everyone still needs to wear them (!!!!!!!!!) — volunteers will still be making them.

They’re no longer selling masks. But with plenty of supplies on hand, they’ll be donating them to people who cannot afford masks.

If you know of a community or charity desperate for masks — or if you can donate unused, good quality, pre-washed 100% cotton fabric — email westportmasksgiving@icloud.com. (Hat tip: Virginia Jaffe)

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Climate change is here. It’s real. So what can you do?

First, read David Pogue’s new book: “How to Prepare for Climate Change.”

Then, register for his virtual Westport Library on the topic (February 23, 7 p.m.).

Pogue — a local resident — will discuss all the basics: what to grow and eat, how to build and insure, where to invest, even where to consider relocating.

Pogue will also provide tips on managing your anxiety, and riding out the inevitable superstorms, wildfires, epidemics and tick bites.

Click here to register.

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Each year, Staples Tuition Grants awards over 100 need-based scholarships — worth up to $6,000 each — to high school seniors, and graduates already in college. Students can apply even if they did not apply or receive a grant in previous years.

It’s one of the best opportunities for college funding anywhere. But the deadline is near: March 7. Click here for more information, and to apply.

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And finally … Mary Wilson — a founding member of the Supremes and who sang on 10 of their 12 Number One hits — died on Monday in Nevada. She was 76.

Two days ago, she announced she’d be releasing new material soon. We’ll always remember her for songs like these:

Roundup: Christopher Plummer, Staples Players, Avi Kaner, More

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In 1987 — its bicentennial — Weston produced a history of the town.

Lots of communities do something similar.

But not many get to have theirs produced and narrated by one the most famous actors in the world.

This video — courtesy of Cristina Negrin — says all you need to know about the deep feeling Christopher Plummer had for his adopted hometown.

And Weston loved him right back.

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Due to snow, Staples Players’ 1st radio play of 2nd semester — the thriller “Sorry, Wrong Number,” broadcast live from the Black Box Theater — has been postponed. The new date is Wednesday, February 10 (7 p.m.).

The production will be streamed live (and free) at wwwptfm.org.

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Westporters know Avi Kaner as our former 2nd selectman and Board of Finance chair.

But he also co-owns Morton Williams, the noted New York City supermarket chain. It’s a 75-year-old family company, but it’s never faced a challenge like today’s pandemic and its many side effects.

The other day, Kaner spoke to NTD Business about the state of his business, and New York — including the flight to the suburbs. Click below for the fascinating interview.

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“06880 readers” can’t get enough of the “new” view of I-95 and the Beachside Avenue overpass, now that it’s been removed for reconstruction. Here’s one more shot:

(Photo/John Richers)

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This guy hung out at the Lansdowne condos yesterday. No telling what he’ll look like today.

(Photo/Lauri Weiser)

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Westport Town Clerk Patty Strauss retired in December. Last month, she and her husband Ed moved to North Carolina.

Yesterday, their Juniper Road was torn down. Real estate moves fast around here.

(Photo/Mark Mathias)

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Numerous fire trucks raced to Bayberry Lane this morning, to put out a fire at Belta’s farm.

The blaze was confined to an outbuilding, rented to tenants.

Belta’s farm, with fire apparatus on hand.

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And finally … Jim Weatherly died Wednesday near Nashville, of natural causes. He was 77.

He wrote hit songs for Ray Price, Glen Campbell, Kenny Rogers and many others. His biggest was originally called “Midnight Plane to Houston.” Gladys Knight and the Pips turned it into the much more memorable “Midnight Train to Georgia.”

 

Eversource: Source Of Taxes

The other day, “06880” listed our town’s top 10 taxpayers.

At the top of the list — by a wide margin — was Connecticut Light & Power (now called Eversource).

The utility’s personal property assessment is $140,509,070. That’s nearly double the #2 taxpayer, 60 Nyala Farms Road LLC (the office complex owner near I-95 Exit 18 owns real estate assessed at $83,338,970).

So what exactly does Eversource own?

A longtime Westport resident and retired utility director explains that it all starts with substations.

Eversource substation on South Compo Road between I-95 and the Metro-North tracks, as seen from Narrow Rocks Road.

The Sherwood substation, for example, sits on about 1.5 acres of land, bought in 2004. There’s also a transmission line that runs under state (Route 1) or town roads (Imperial Avenue from the old State Cleaners to the Westport Woman’s Club overflow parking lot, then under the Saugatuck River to the Assumption Church parking lot, under Lincoln Street and back to the Post Road).

So Eversource either had rights to locate within state and town roadways as a public utility, or when splice vaults had to locate off the roadway, they bought easement rights or “ownership” of the eased area on private property (for example, Assumption Church’s parking lot, the parking lot of the former Saab dealership on Post Road West, the parking lot between Balducci’s and Ulta, and Vautrin Auto’s parking lot).

Those easements were bought for an average of $250,000 each from the property owners.

Other substations include the one behind Coffee An’, built in the 1930’s; Compo Road South, between I-95 and the Metro-North train tracks — plus all overhead and underground wires, poles, transformer vaults, etc.

The Main Street substation, behind Coffee An’.

Big ticket items also include the existing double 115 kV overhead transmission lines on either side of the railroad right-of-way, from Fairfield to Norwalk.

Eversource has been taxpayer #1, ever since the transmission underground project went into service around 2008. They’ll be way ahead of Nyala for years to come.

Grand List: Grand Facts

Town assessor Paul Friia has released some facts about the Grand List. That’s the sum of the net assessed value of all taxable property – real estate, motor vehicles, and personal property.

The net 2020 Grand List of $10,830,370,714 represents a decrease of approximately 5.4 percent from the net 2019 Grand List of $11,445,273,580. The primary reason is the revaluation of October 1, 2020.

Despite the overall real estate grand list decline from the 2015 assessments, the actual change without the revaluation influence was an increase of just under 1.0 percent.

This is a result of continued new residential and commercial construction, plus renovation activity within the last assessment year.

The new Residence at Westport is a new addition to Westport’s Grand List.

For example, work was completed on The Residence assisted living facility at 1141 Post Road East, and the Mercury gas station at 1830 Post Road East. Work continues on the Daybreak condominium development, and residential units at 41 Richmondville Avenue.

While real estate is updated based on the market values determined every 5 years, motor vehicles and personal property is valued annually.

The increase in the motor vehicle Grand List was approximately 3.9%. The personal property Grand List remained largely unchanged from last year, due to both the closure of businesses and a slowdown of new business openings during the pandemic.

The current 2020 Grand List totals are:

Assessment 2020 % of List
Real Estate $10,148,497,205 93.70
Motor Vehicle 364,441,700 3.37
Personal Property 317,431,809 2.93
TOTAL 10,830,370,714 100%

New Maseratis help raise the Grand List.

The Grand List will be used for fiscal year 2021-2022 town budget calculations. The figures above are subject to change based on Board of Assessment appeal hearings in March, and further changes due to corrections or pending lawsuits.

Friia also announced the the top 10 taxpayers in Westport, with their 2020 Grand List assessments:

Connecticut Light & Power Inc          Pers. Property                         $140,509,070

60 Nyala Farms Road LLC                Real Estate                                83,338,970

Bedford Square Assoc LLC               Real Estate                                53,321,200

Equity One Westport Vill. Center      Real Estate                                33,126,100

Byelas LLC                                        Real Estate                                24,856,700

Aquarion                                             Real/Pers. Prop.                        24,148,760

LCB Westport LLC                            Real/Pers. Prop.                        22,302,600

1735 Ashley LLC                               Real Estate                                20,310,860

285 & 325 Riverside LLC                  Real Estate                                19,470,500

Ronnie F Heyman Trustee                 Real Estate                                18,214,400

The Nyala Farms office complex: Westport’s 2nd highest taxpayer.

 

Board Of Ed Meeting: Masks, Money And More

C. Chien covered last night’s Board of Education meeting for “06880.” She writes:

Last night’s Board of Education meeting primarily addressed the upcoming budget and COVID-19-related issues.

Superintendent of Schools Tom Scarice began the virtual session by emphasizing that there is no shortage of masks in the schools, thus no need for donations from parents and community members. However, donations will be taken at the central office only, to increase the stockpile.

Scarice then emphasized that the flexible Absent In-Person Present Online (APO) attendance option the schools implemented in response to the pandemic — initially intended to limit the spread of COVID-19 if any student experienced symptoms — is being abused. There are reports of students going on vacation, and that attendance on assessment (test) days drops significantly.

“Absent In-Person Online” attendance — designed for students who feel sick, and are encouraged to study online for the day — is being abused, school officials say. 

This leads to “material disruption” in the school environment. Scarice noted there may be changes to the policy.

After updates on the Youth Arts Collaborative program in the elementary schools, and on statewide COVID-positivity rates, the bulk of the meeting focused on items being considered for budget cuts in the 2021-22 school year.

Budget discussion focused on the potential implementation of a pay-to-play fee policy for sports. That model is used in towns including Weston, Wilton, Darien, Ridgefield, Trumbull, Avon and Simsbury, but not in New Canaan, Fairfield or Greenwich.

There was discussion too of eliminating the grade K-2 world language program. Board members questioned what would replace it, and whether that would be of benefit to the students.

Much of the public comment on the budget focused on the elimination of certain administrators in the schools.

On the slate for potential cuts are grade level assistants at Staples High School, the reduction of 1 full-time paraprofessional per school at the elementary level, and the reduction of one full-time assistant principal at Kings Highway and Saugatuck Elementary Schools, to match the numbers at Coleytown and Greensn Farms Elementary Schools. Public comment emphasized the impact this cut may have on students with special needs.

The board made no final decisions. Budget discussions will continue at further meetings.

Roundup: Income Tax Help, Teachers Return, More

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Need help with taxes? (Besides having more money, that is.)

Westport’s Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program — free state and federal preparation — runs from now through April 15. IRS-certified preparers assist seniors and low- to moderate-income households, virtually or through a limited in-person scanning option. 

The national program is run locally by the Department of Human Services.

The virtual option provides uploading of  information via a secure encrypted site A specialist reviews and follows up for additional information as needed. Click here to participate.

The limited, on-site scanning capabilities at the Senior Center is offered Tuesdays (1 to 4 p.m.) and Thursdays (9 a.m. to noon). Participants complete a phone call to confirm what documentation is required to participate. Call 203-341-1071 for an appointment.

More than 700 returns were prepared and filed last year in Westport, with total refunds exceeding $350,000.

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Elementary school students have returned to full-time, in-person learning for the first time in 10 months.

Yesterday, the Kings Highway PTA welcomed teachers and staff with this sign:

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Last night’s full wolf moon was beautiful even with the naked eye.

If you were lucky enough to view it through the Westport Astronomical Society’s telescope at the Rolnick Observatory, it looked even more spectacular:

(Photo/Franco Fellah)

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Westporter Joshua Aronson — who teaches applied psychology at New York University — heads a panel on “The Anti-Racist Policy Agenda: Education” (February 4, 7:30 p.m., Zoom).

Along with educators and politicians, he’ll discuss racial disparities in the educational system, their political impact, and the future of educational equity in Connecticut.

Sponsors are the Democratic Women of Westport and the Staples Young Democrats. Click here to register. For more information, email dww06880@gmail.com.

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Work continues on the Beachside Avenue I-95 overpass. The bridge is now down to its skeleton. Renovation will continue for several months.

(Photo/Seth Schachter)

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And finally … on this day in 1861, Kansas was admitted as the 34th state in the union.

Peter’s Weston Market Closes Sunday

Food shopping in Weston gets a bit tougher next week.

Peter’s Market — the only place in town for groceries both practical and gourmet, plus prepared, gluten-free and organic foods, and a salad bar — is closing. The last day of operation is Sunday (January 31).

Peter’s has been part of Weston Center since 1972. Previous markets occupied the site decades before that.

A few moments ago, owner Jim Magee posted this message on his website and social media:

We are saddened to announce to the public that Peter’s Weston Market will be closing its doors permanently at the end of the year. [NOTE: That should read “month.”]

Retailers, especially small businesses, have been struggling for the last 15 years and ours is no exception. Over the past 5 years our sales have declined 10% annually though expenses have increased. In addition, the complexities and declining in-store sales due to COVID-19 have dramatically hurt us. Because of all of this, remaining in business is no longer sustainable.

Peter’s Weston Market

After being in business for nearly 50 years, we want everyone to know we explored and exhausted every potential option to prevent this from happening. As a last-ditch effort we launched a GoFundMe page, appealing directly to our customers. Your loyalty and support was generous and overwhelming, allowing us to keep employees employed and continue to serve the community we love, including our regular donations to the Weston Food Pantry. We will be forever and eternally grateful for the support of the town and surrounding communities, especially of late. We simply cannot thank you enough.

In closing, please know the town of Weston and the people who live here have meant everything to us during the nearly 50 years we have been in business. We will miss our loyal customers, the energy in the store, the incredible number of young Westonites who have worked with us, and of course, our favorite Peter’s sandwiches. We hope that you will remember us kindly and be respectful of the impossibly difficult circumstances leading to our closing.

It’s been a great run! While we shed tears of pain right now, we also shed tears of joy for both all the friends we’ve made over the years and for the relief of the future. Thank you again for all of your support. We pray that you and your loved ones remain safe and healthy.

Warmest regards,
Jim Magee and the rest of your Peter’s Market family

PS: Come on in to get your favorite Peter’s sandwiches, rotisserie chickens, etc. through the weekend!

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.)