Category Archives: Local business

Friday Flashback #12

A recent “06880” story about Leopold and Frankie Godowsky’s Easton Road home — he helped develop Kodachrome; she was George and Ira Gershwin’s younger sister — moved commenters to note that in later years, that same house was owned by Arnie Kaye.

A larger-than-life figure — and he was pretty large to begin with — Arnie was known for many things. He killed an intruder on his property. He paid his taxes in pennies. He owned a delicatessen and ice cream parlor.

He was best known, however, for his Arnie’s Place video arcade. Located where Balducci’s Anthropologie is now, and one of the first of its kind in an American suburb like Westport, it became a home-away-from-home for countless kids in the late 1970s and early ’80s.

Despite plenty of opposition at the start — lots of adults thought a video arcade heralded The End of the World — he ran an operation that parents soon happily dumped their kids at. Arnie looked out for them, providing a safe place to play (and spend mom and dad’s money).

Pretty soon, every child in Westport had his birthday party at Arnie’s.

Las Vegas? Foxwoods? Nope -- Arnie's Place.

Las Vegas? Foxwoods? Nope — Arnie’s Place.

Most of our Friday Flashbacks flash back many decades. This one will be remembered fondly by folks who wish their own children today — the same age they were then — could have their own video arcade to go to, with other kids.

Instead of playing those damn games all alone, on a stupid cellphone.

Attempted Break-Ins Jolt Town

An alert — and concerned — “06880” reader writes:

Your “feel-good” story about Minute Men Cleaner’s return of money contrasted with the not-so-feel-good story of an attempted break in at my residence last Friday — which apparently is not an isolated incident. I share with you the story, hoping that readers will be careful to observe any suspicious activity and contact the police with any information.

Last Friday early afternoon, I left my house for 2 hours, then returned to Greens Farms.  All seemed normal.

I let my dog out, and noticed wood on the ground. Then I saw fresh wood on the door molding. My first inclination was that an animal did this.

I quickly realized though that someone (or a group of people) had tried breaking into our house while I was gone. I called the police. When they came, they said a number of other houses were hit around the same time.

They took photos, info, etc., and mentioned we were lucky to have a deadbolt on our door.  They said the crow bar that was apparently used was no match for the deadbolt.

A deadbolt helped deter the burglars. Here's what the door frame looked like afterward.

A deadbolt helped deter the burglars. Here’s what the door frame looked like afterward.

Hopefully our dog also started to bark. We do have a house alarm. It was activated but not triggered, since the intruders failed to enter.

This whole experience is very unsettling. My family has lived in 3 houses in Westport for 6 years. I have been married for almost 20 years, and have never had anyone attempt to break in to any of our homes.

We know we are fortunate not to deal with a break-in during the middle of the night, or even during the day. However, this left us feeling very violated and frustrated.

Westport PoliceNeedless to say, my children were surprised to see police when they got home from elementary school. I explained what happened. My son was more excited than scared, and couldn’t wait to bring this to “share” come Monday.

My 7 year old reacted very differently. She said, “I feel sick and scared.” I did everything to reassure her she is safe, and that the police will work on capturing the criminals.

When I told friends in the area what had happened, a woman told this story:

One morning last week, 2 youths rang my doorbell. I thought they were selling magazines. My dog was going crazy, so I didn’t open it wide or talk long.

They said they were looking for an address. I tried to help, but they hustled off.  For some reason it felt ‘off’ to me all weekend. It was weird that they didn’t say ‘thanks,’ and one of the guys was really smiley, like he knew he was being deceptive.

I closed the door and thought, which is unlike me, that these guys were casing the house, that I was grateful to have been home, and also to have my dog going crazy at them.

As I finished typing this, I just found out that a number of police cars were out in my neighborhood today, near the Post Road. Was it another attempted break-in?

Sad that we have to say and do this — but please be alert and lock your doors. Set your alarms if you have them.  Please call the police if you see anything.  Hopefully whoever is doing this will be caught.

P.S. A shout-out to local company Jake the Locksmith. They came to our house  the same day to see if the integrity of the door was compromised. Great service!

Click here for “06880+”: The easy way to publicize upcoming events, sell items, find or advertise your service, ask questions, etc. It’s the “06880” community bulletin board!

Minute Men To The Rescue!

An alert — and relieved — “06880” reader writes:

Last week, I hosted over 30 people for Rosh Hashanah dinner at my house.

I’d taken out several hundred dollars from the bank, to pay for various expenses. By the end of the night I was exhausted. When I looked for the money, I couldn’t find it.

I was distraught. But it was the New Year, and such a nice night that I put the loss aside.

minute-men-cleanersA couple of days ago, my husband received a call from Minute Men Cleaners. They found my money in the pocket of pants I’d sent to be cleaned — and put it in their vault for safekeeping, until we could pick it up.

I want to let you know about this really great experience. With so much bad going on, it’s nice to share good news!

Crew Blue

Have you noticed J. Crew’s new look?


According to the Westport Downtown Merchants Association:

The temporary color change is in honor of J. Crew’s October catalogue, which was shot in the beautiful city of Amsterdam. The trip was so inspiring that they named one of the colors in their collection “Dutch Sky.”

Good thing they weren’t inspired by the statue of a certain little boy in Brussels.

Sandy Hook Teacher Chooses Hope

Barnes & Noble’s Educator Appreciation Week begins tomorrow.

The Westport store kicks off the discounts-and-more celebration with a special event. Kaitlin Roig-DeBellis — the Sandy Hook Elementary School teacher who led 15 students into a tiny bathroom, saving them all while a killer stalked the halls outside — will discuss and sign copies of her book, Choosing Hope: Moving Forward from Life’s Darkest Hours.

It’s a compelling read. (Readers can skip the chapter about that horrific day nearly 4 years ago, yet still understand her important, uplifting message about purpose, perspective and the power of choice in overcoming adversity.)

Kaitlyn Roig-DeBellis and her former 1st grade students get together a couple of times a year. Their bonds are strong, following the Sandy Hook tragedy.

Kaitlin Roig-DeBellis and her former 1st grade students get together a couple of times a year. Their bonds are strong, following the Sandy Hook tragedy.

Many of Kaitlin’s friends and relatives will be in the audience. That’s to be expected: She grew up in Danbury, and has spent her life in Fairfield County.

But there’s an even stronger Westport connection than that.

Kaitlin — who knew when she was 3 years old that she wanted to teach — got her 1st job at Greens Farms Elementary School. During the 2006-07 school year, she was a long-term sub for the reading specialist.

“I loved every second of it,” she says of that time, a decade ago.

Kaitlin Roig

Kaitlin Roig-DeBellis

There’s another local tie-in too. When Kaitlin was 23, she learned that both her birth mother and father had grown up in Westport. Her birth mother graduated from Staples High School. Kaitlin also discovered she had a sister 9 years younger, from Westport.

Kaitlin has developed a relationship with her birth family. “I’m blessed to have them in my life,” she says. A chapter in her book describes her first meeting with her birth mother.

And — in another coincidence — Kaitlin’s adoptive mother grew up in Wilton. But she spent a year at Staples, after a fire at that school.

Kaitlin’s Barnes & Noble appearance celebrates both Educator Appreciation Week and publication of the paperback edition of Kaitlin’s book.

kaitlin-roig-debellis-choosing-hopeWhen the hardcover copy appeared last year, her book tour took her all across the country.

On Saturday, she looks forward to being here. Westport, after all, is the town where her birth parents still live.

And where Barnes & Noble sits just a few yards from Greens Farms El, where Kaitlin’s life as a teacher began.

(Kaitlin Roig-De Bellis speaks at the Westport Barnes & Noble tomorrow — Saturday, October 8 — at 3 p.m. A portion of the proceeds from sales of Choosing Hope go to Classes4Classes, Kaitlin’s non-profit foundation dedicated to eradicating hate, one classroom at a time.)

Party Harty Battles Pop-Up

For 28 years, Party Harty has been a Westport favorite. They’re the go-to place for birthday supplies, graduation balloons, decorations for the holiday du jour: Thanksgiving, New Year’s, Memorial Day — you name it.

The next holiday is Halloween. And Party Harty is worried.

Before Halloween last year, a Party Harty customer posed with the Haunted Tree Man.

Before Halloween last year, a Party Harty customer posed with the Haunted Tree Man.

A temporary pop-up shop has opened not far away on the Post Road, at the site of a former furniture consignment store. It’s big; it’s bright orange — and it’s temporary.

“We give our heart and soul to the community to help celebrate Halloween,” Party Harty’s owner Susan Marshall — who admits it’s important to her bottom line — says.

She’s concerned about the precedent: that insta-stores will come and go, drawing customers while not contributing to the community in the long run.

Party Harty is part of Westport. They offer discounts to schools, town organizations, the library, non-profits and religious groups. They — like their next door neighbor Mitchells — are always ready to give a donation or buy a program book ad.

“Give us a chance,” Marshall says. “Don’t assume that a ‘Halloween Store’ will offer anything more than we do. We’ll be here year-round — and hope to continue in a community-minded way.”

Friday Flashback #9

Wednesday’s fatal accident between I-95 exits 18 and 17 closed the southbound highway for nearly 12 hours.

From 7 p.m. until 7 a.m. Thursday, vehicles crawled through Westport. It took almost an hour to get from the Sherwood Island Connector, down the Post Road and out Riverside Avenue.

Fortunately, it was nighttime. But that meant there were tons of trucks. Traffic was stop-and-go — mostly stop — all night long.

That was the scene nearly every day in the 1950s, until I-95 — then called the Connecticut Turnpike — opened. The Post Road was the only way for trucks to get from New York to Boston.

Newcomers have no idea how bad the traffic was. Oldtimers barely remember.

This week’s Friday Flashback shows a typical scene. It doesn’t look too bad — but it was.


Today the Fairfield Furniture Store is National Hall, with its 1st-floor Vespa restaurant. The Food Mart and Calise’s Wine & Liquors are gone. So — truly unfortunately — is Ye Olde Bridge Grille, one of Westport’s best dive bars.

The intersection of the Post Road, Wilton Road and Riverside Avenue is still bad. But can you imagine what it would be like without I-95, the highway we love to hate?

Welcome To Westport!

The Weston Road/Easton Road/Main Street rotary — the first real bit of Westport people see as they get off Merritt Parkway exit 42 — has been spruced up nicely.

Thanks, Tony Palmer, Dan and Maureen Aron, and an anonymous helper!

But — as an alert “06880” reader points out — the view a few yards south is not exactly welcoming.


The reader asks:

Do you know when when the Daybreak Nursery lot will be improved? The buildings are falling down, the weeds are overgrown, there is garbage in the driveway. It’s been this way for almost 2 years. What an eyesore. Do the owners have to at least maintain it in any way?


Meanwhile, drivers who get past that sight — and want a pumpkin latte at Starbucks, quinoa salad at Freshii or a new outfit at one of our 27,284 Main Street women’s clothing stores — are grossed out by this view of the Parker Harding dumpster:


That’s been an eyesore a lot longer than the Daybreak property.

It’s time — the “06880” reader says — for Westport to clean up its act.

Who wants to take charge?

New York Sports Club Lives On

When the Westport branch of New York Sports Club closed in July, they left behind a number of disappointed clients.

They also did something wonderful for a 16-year-old boy.

new-york-sports-clubMorgaine Pauker was one of those customers. Her husband Mark works with a man from Easton whose son Zach had just been paralyzed from the waist down, in a car accident.

Mark and Morgaine wondered if NYSC would donate some upper body strength equipment.

The club usually distributes excess machines to other NYSC locations. But they considered the request, and said they were happy to help

Then they went the extra mile. The other day, a machine was delivered to Zach’s house — and installed.

New York Sports Club is gone from Westport. But in one nearby home, it will never be forgotten.

(Click here to contribute to Zach’s medical fund.) 

Delivering the strength machine to Zach's home.

Delivering the strength machine to Zach’s home.

Friday Flashback #7

Earlier this week, I wrote about the exciting transformation plan for the Westport Library. If all goes well, the newest iteration of the library will be finished in 2019.

The Jesup Green building opened in 1986 (on the site of the former town landfill). A bit more than a decade later, it underwent its first renovation.

Westporters of a certain age think they remember the original library. Most of the stacks — and the famous art collection, and children’s section — were housed in the sterile Parker Harder building that now includes Starbucks, Freshii and HSBC Bank:


But the real first library — built in 1908, called the Jesup Library in honor of its benefactor Morris Jesup, and then in the 1950s incorporated as part of the “new” library — was located just east of that building. It sat on the corner of the Post Road and Main Street:


But our Friday Flashback digs even deeper than that.

Here’s what that 1908 “Jesup Library” replaced:

(Photo/Seth Schachter)

(Photo/Seth Schachter via Bill Scheffler)

This view looks west, at the corner of the Post Road (left) and Main Street (right). You can see the outlines of the buildings that are there today, lining the left side of Main Street.

If you’ve got any Westport Library memories, we’d love to hear them. Click “Comments” below.