Category Archives: Local business

[OPINION] Frontline Worker Deals With Baggage

An “06880” reader who works locally writes:

Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont’s executive order to suspend the 10-cent surcharge for paper and/or plastic bags expired on June 30. That took some residents by surprise.

Surprise! We frontline workers don’t like having our heads taken off by rude, ignorant customers.

Some retailers are charging the 10-cent fee. Others are not. So frontline workers like me are stuck in the middle. Customers don’t know who’s doing what, or what the law is. We get the brunt of their anger.

(Photo/Bob Weingarten)

Some customers were disgruntled before COVID. Some were angry  even before the present White House administration. Some have been upset for the past 30 years.

They complain about anything that doesn’t fit their own personal narrative.

We have enough to juggle and deal with: stocking shelves. Following all the new rules and regulations. Wearing masks and gloves. Answering questions. Handling our own lives and uncertainties.

We would appreciate some manners, etiquette and courtesy.

It’s bad enough people don’t wear their masks correctly, when they come into our business. If they don’t get their acts together, we will be right back where we started, with this spread of infection.

Little kids actually wear them very well. They’re fine. It’s the adults who don’t. Not all of them — but enough to make a worrisome difference.

I have wear a mask for 8 to 9 hours a day. So do hospital staff, doctors and first responders.

So don’t tell me you are having issues breathing or having anxiety attacks. Deal with it! Wear your mask for a 30-minute shopping trip!

PS: Yes, you can bring your own bags. You probably will be asked to bag your own groceries, because frontline workers don’t feel comfortable bagging with reusable bags at this time. It’s for our safety.

Pic Of The Day #1180

A different view of Arezzo and Stephen Kempson (Photo/Amy Schneider)

Roundup: Outdoor Dining And Fitness; Downtown Flowers and Barber; More


Last night, the Planning & Zoning Commission took steps to hear 2 COVID-related text amendments. Both respond to the changing business environment in town, and will be voted on July 23.

One amendment would extend temporary outdoor dining permits through the end of March 2021. Commissioners spoke of their desire to support local restaurants during an uncertain time, and reassure owners that investments they make for outdoor dining will be worthwhile beyond summer.

The second proposed text amendment would extend similar restaurant flexibility to fitness studios and gyms hoping to temporarily locate equipment outdoors. This applies to facilities like JoyRide, nearly all of which are locally owned.

Drafts of both text amendments will be posted Monday for review by the public. Comments may be emailed (pandzcomments@westportct.gov). To request a Zoom link to participate with “in-person” testimony at the July 23 meeting, email maryyoung@westportct.gov.

Romanacci’s Xpress is one of 3 Railroad Place restaurants with outdoor dining.


The pots and flower barrels lining Main Street, and hanging from poles throughout downtown, look gorgeous.

But they don’t water themselves.

The Westport Downtown Merchants Association needs volunteers. Watering takes about an hour a day. To learn more about the sign-up system — and how to choose your time — email events1@westportdma.com.

Main Street planters


Speaking of downtown: There will be one less barber next month.

Ron Provenzano — owner of the shop named for himself at 190 Main Street, in the old Sally’s Place space — is closing around August 7. He, his wife and their children are moving to Wilmington, North Carolina.

It’s not COVID-related, he says. His wife’s business is booming, and she loves that area.

Ron has been in his present shop, above Le Rouge Aaartisan Chocolates, for 6 years. That follows more than a dozen on Railroad Place.

With the closing the other day of Compo Barbers, 2 old-school men’s hair cutters are gone. Westporters will miss them both.

Ron Provenzano


Scott Smith writes:

“In all my years enjoying Old Mill Beach and Compo Beach (this social-distanced season, more than ever), I’ve never seen such a large boat working the waters so close to shore.

“I took photos from near the jetty at Soundview Avenue as this sturdy boat churned in a tight loop up and back, just off the far rocks at Compo Cove. No nets or traps; near as I can tell, it looked like it was sluicing a mound of dirt-like material piled amidships over the gunwales with a water jet.

“After an hour or so, the big black boat was off, headed for deep water and turning west.

“Anybody know if the boat was indeed offloading material into the Sound, and if so, where it came from and what it is?” If you have a clue, click “Comments” below.

(Photo/Scott Smith)


Westport Library Book Sale donations are back!

Beginning next week, materials will be accepted every Thursday, Friday and Saturday, during any hours the library is open.

Donors should come to the gray brick shed in the upper parking lot. Donations will be quarantined there for 3 days, before being handled by sale volunteers.

You can bring used books, audiobooks, CDs, DVDs, vinyl records, vintage magazines and other ephemera. Please: no water-damaged or mildewed materials, VHS tapes, audiocassettes, or self-recorded CDs and DVDs.  For more information, click here.

New book sale volunteers are always welcome. Help is needed all year to sort, research and price donated materials; provide merchandising and customer support at book sale events, and supervise and train employees with disabilities.  To learn more, email  info@westportbooksales.org


As noted in yesterday’s Roundup, MoCA Westport’s Helmut Lang exhibition is now open. There’s plenty of room to enjoy the show — just be like these visitors, and wear a mask!


And finally … yesterday’s “06880” story on the Paycheck Protection Program noted the 137 Westport businesses that got loans of at least $150,000, helping them meet payrolls and keep folks employed.

Another Paycheck — Johnny — had a different view of work. Back in 1977, he sang:

PPP: Lifeline Loans For Westport Businesses, Organizations

COVID-19 wreaked havoc on nearly every segment of the economy.

Without the Paycheck Protection Program, it would have been far worse.

The PPP provided a lifeline for companies, non-profits and other employers. Loans offered an incentive to keep workers on the payroll. The Small Business Administration will forgive loans if certain employee retention criteria are met, and the funds are used for eligible expenses.

Newly released information shows 137 recipients in Westport, of loans of $150,000 or more.

They cover a broad range: construction firms, healthcare providers, attorneys, restaurants, retail stores, a tutoring service, fitness and sports centers, architects, public relations firms, dry cleaners, car dealers, childcare services and more.

Three religious institutions are on the list. So is the Pierrepont School, and non-profits like Earthplace, the Westport Weston Family YMCA, Westport Country Playhouse and Westport Library.

BioSig Technologies got a PPP loan. As “06880” reported in April, the Wilton Road firm is working on oral treatments for the coronavirus.

Click here to see the full Westport list.

On Monday, the PPP is once again accepting loan applications. The deadline is August 8. Click here for information.

(Hat tip: Paul Delano)

Sakura is one of 137 local businesses helped by the Paycheck Protection Program.

COVID Update: Longshore Sailing School

Longshore Sailing School adds this information about their temporary closure, after an employee tested positive for COVID-19:

This employee is not an instructor nor do they work inside our office. We notified all current families as soon, as we were informed. We are also reaching out to all students that have been at our facility over the last three weeks.

ServPro will be at our facility today doing a full sanitization of our facility and equipment. After speaking with the Westport-Weston Health District, it was concluded that we are going above the requirements of the State of Connecticut OEC Coronavirus Memo #18 regarding Youth Camp Guidance.  We will do our very best to continue to provide updates as they come.

Longshore Sailing School (Photo/Carolyn Doan)

COVID Creeps Back Into Town

A reader writes:

I woke up this morning to an email from Longshore Sailing School. They said they will be closed today, because one of their employees tested positive for the coronavirus. All staff will get tested today.

I am freaking out, because my son was there Monday and Tuesday. I’m not sure if he was exposed or not.

More importantly, this is how the spread happens again. This was the first week we sent my son out to an organized activity since March (we quarantined until last weekend). I will be so upset if he turns out to be positive from this.

I am very worried because my elderly parents live with us.

Many people were partying and not being safe over the July 4th weekend. Now the virus may spike again in our town.

Of course our family will get tested this morning to be safe.

The reader followed up an hour later with this:

I talked to my son’s doctor this morning. She said the problem is if someone got exposed, it may not show up as positive for a week. So if he tests today he could get a false negative.

She said this will be a problem with kids going back to school in the fall. Norwalk summer school opened this week. Then a teacher tested positive, and they have now shut down for the remainder of the week.

If this happens when school opens, what will they do? Will they shut down every time?

This should be a really good discussion. I don’t think anyone has a clear decision at this point about what to do.

Roundup: Farmers’ Market; Inspirational Swimmer; Compo Barber Shop; More


Another big step on the road to return:

Starting this Thursday (July 9), the Westport Farmers’ Market is open for regular shopping.

The decision — made “after careful consideration and due diligence through state and local officials” — means that every week from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., the Imperial Avenue lot will be will fill once again with “your beloved farmers, bakers, cheese mongers and more.”

A number of adaptations will ensure safety for customers and vendors. Masks must be worn at all times. There is single-direction traffic while shopping (one way in, one way out). There will be hand sanitizer stations, social distancing and “lots of fresh air.”

Just like old times, musicians will play.

Executive director Lori Cochran realizes that not everyone will come. So pre-order, touch-free, selected-time-slot pickups continue.

“We realize that healthy food is one of the best ways to heal your body and keep your immune system strong,” Lori says. “Our immune-compromised shoppers need safe access to our product. We are committed to bringing it to them while allowing others to participate in the day-of model.”

A select number of slots are available for Thursday pickups, from 9 to 10 a.m. For details, click here.


With the goal of opening dialogue and expanding awareness of the realities of racial challenges, the Westport Weston Family YMCA is sponsoring an intriguing conversation.

The guest is Trevor Freeland. A member of the first all-Black team to reach the top ranks of American youth swimming (chronicled in the 2007 movie “Pride”), he went on to a stellar career at the University of Virginia. As the first Black swimmer to compete in the ACC, he helped the Cavaliers win the 1st of 16 league titles.

One of the few Black executives to run a major Wall Street trading desk, he has committed his life to challenging and breaking down barriers. He attributes his success to the work ethic and life skills he learned in the pool.

The event is this Saturday (July 11, Camp Mahackeno outdoor amphitheater). There are 2 sessions: 9: 15 a.m. and 10:45 a.m. A limited number of spots are open to Y members who are not non-Water Rat swimmers, and their families; Y members can click here to register.

Trevor Freeland


Doug Fierro spotted this yesterday, in a dumpster behind Compo Shopping Center.

“Another victim of COVID,” he writes. “A sad day for Westport.”


This morning at the Gillespie Center, Sunrise Rotary donated $5,000 to Homes With Hope.

The funds will purchase farm-to-table meals for homeless shelter residents, from caterer Alison Milwe-Grace. The donation is particularly important now, because Gillespie’s regular volunteers are unable to help personally. (Sunrise Rotary members are some of those regulars: they serve meals on the first Saturday of every month.)


Savannah Bee has added items to its curbside delivery.

Along with their line of immune boosters (saw palmetto and local new England honey, bee pollen, royal jelly and healing anti-bacterial propolis spray), they now offer an elderberry elixir hand-crafted in Atlanta with their famed honey. It’s filled with adaptogenic jerbs and immune-boosting botanicals.

Click here, then call Julie (203-856-5149) or email julie@savannahbee.com.


Yesterday, a reader reported that Panera Bread’s “customer care” team told her the Westport location would reopen today.

#fakenews.

A reader who drove by there today reports, “they remain quite closed. The sign in their window still says ‘Location Temporarily Closed.” The location does not pop up on their website when you search 06880 either.”

If anyone knows what’s cooking, let us know!

The Panera Bread near the Southport line.


And finally … I have no idea who comes up with these things, but supposedly on this date in 1550, chocolate was “thought to have been introduced to Europe.” Today also marks a year and a day since the tribute concert to Westport’s favorite blues/rocker, Charlie Karp.

To celebrate, here’s a link to Charlie Karp’s 1973 album, named after his band at the time: White Chocolate.

After Devastating Accident, Westporters Help

Last Sunday, a crew from Norwalk’s JS Landscaping removed a very large and quite dead tree near Maple Avenue South.

Allison Wiedman, her husband and 3 kids — summer renters — watched the action. The trunk snapped. They heard an enormous bang.

The tree had fallen onto the JS truck. Ronny Salazar — owner Jose’s brother — tried to get away. But he was pinned underneath.

His 3 brothers and Allison’s husband Bill managed to push the enormous trunk off Ronny’s leg.

Allison — a physical therapist — saw that Ronny had a massive wound to his right elbow: a severed brachial artery, multiple compound fractures, missing tissue, and massive bleeding.

After calling 911 she told the men to compress near Ronny’s underarm, then ran into the house to find something to use as a tourniquet. She remembered seeing thick exercise band in the guest room.

When she got back, a police officer was on the scene and applying a tourniquet. EMS arrived quickly, and took him to Yale New Haven Hospital.

Over the next few days he underwent multiple surgeries. Doctors made the difficult decision to amputate his leg below the knee.

Ronny Salazar

Thankfully, he will still have use of his right arm and hand, though after reconstruction it will never be the same.

Allison has helped Juan try to navigate the healthcare system. A neighbor, Rachel Gordon, set up a GoFundMe account to help with medical bills, lost wages, the expense of a prostheses and more.

She wrote:

Juan and Ronny came from Costa Rica. Juan moved here when he was 18 years old, nearly 20 years ago.

He worked as a busboy, line cook and in a nursery until about 10 years ago, when he earned enough money to start a landscaping company.

They started with 16 clients and now have 130. Juan has seen the United States be a land of opportunity for those willing to work for it.

From the hospital, Ronny is hoping he will recover enough to follow in his brother’s footsteps, and play with his nieces.

We know times are difficult for everyone right now, but we hope you will consider donating to the Salazar Family Accident Fund. Juan and Ronny are some of the kindest, hardest-working people you will ever meet. They have successfully pursued the American dream until this point/ We don’t want to let a random accident beyond their control derail them, but the unfortunate reality is that our system is set up in a way that it can.

All money raised will be given directly to Juan and Ronny. Every little bit will help as they begin their journey forward from this terrible accident.

(Click here for the GoFundMe page for Juan and Ronny Salazar.)

Westport’s Newest Gig

For over 50 years the Westport Music Center was the place to go for lessons, instrument rentals, repairs, musical books and accessories. Then they added  the Gig Center, a space for kids (and adults) to learn music history, recording and songwriting skills — and play live. The only thing missing was groupies.

The Westport Music Center closed a year ago. But the Gig Center’s Jim Reilly found new space — in the old Kidville store — and reopened there. With the same great instructors (including former Music Center owner Steve Sasloe), it was a hoppin’ place.

A few months later though, COVID-91 struck. For weeks, Westport shut down. Like so many others, the Gig Center’s instructors headed online.

But when Connecticut began reopening, Reilly realized his facility was big enough to accommodate (properly distanced) rock musicians. Plexiglas dividers separate the singers, saxophonists and trumpeters (they’re most at risk for spreading droplets).

These days, Reilly says, the Gig Center is the only place around where people can play music together safely.

The Gig Center

Of course, not everyone is comfortable coming in. So the Center created a system for people to play live online. Their music is broadcast into the Gig Center, so everyone jams together — without the delay that bedevils Zoom conferences.

At the end of a normal “semester,” the band plays at a local bar. This time, they’ll gig at an outdoor venue, in August.

For more information, click here or call 203-292-8934.

Roundup: Kids’ Mural; Harvey Brooks’ Book; Playhouse Video; More


Ever since youngsters in Homes with Hope’s after-school program turned Hal and Betsy Kravitz’s 77-foot-long South Compo wall into a “hopeful” mural, it’s earned honks and thumbs-ups from passing drivers, bicyclists and walkers.

It also caught the eye of a producer for WABC-TV news.

Which is why — barring breaking news — they’ll run a story on it tomorrow (Sunday, July 5) on the 11 p.m. news.

Channel 7 may include some footage from the video below. Stay tuned!


Harvey Brooks has played with and for Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix, Richie Havens, Stephen Stills, John Sebastian, Seals & Crofts, Boz Scaggs, Judy Collins, Loudon Wainright III, Phoebe Snow, Phil Ochs, the Fabulous Rhinestones and Fontella Bass.

The bassist laid down some of the most famous lines in music history, including “Like a Rolling Stone” and the hook on the Doors’ “Touch Me.” He’s featured on Miles Davis’ “Bitches Brew,” the best-selling jazz album of all time.

And for many years Harvey Brooks lived on North Compo Road, right here in Westport.

A few years ago he and his wife Bonnie Behar moved to Israel. But a good story is universal.

Today — which is also his birthday  — his memoir, “View From the Bottom: 50 Years of Bass Playing with Bob Dylan, the Doors, Miles Davis and Everybody Else,” was published. There are tons of musical anecdotes — and lots about his life in Westport too. To order, click here.

Congratulations, Harvey. And Happy Birthday too!


This summer would have marked the Westport Country Playhouse’s 90th season.

The coronavirus brought down the curtain on this year. But the theater — one of the country’s most historic — is not letting the anniversary go unnoticed.

They posed one question to WCP aficionados: “What does the Playhouse mean to you?”

Click below, for some very heartfelt responses.


Happy Birthday, America!

And huge props to the Westport Downtown Merchants Association. They made sure our Ruth Steinkraus Cohen Bridge is decorated appropriately — with, red, white and blue lights.

The photo below does not do it justice. Go see for yourself (after dark!).

 


Hugh Downs died Wednesday. He was 99.

The Westport connection? Scott Williams says that decades ago, the longtime TV newsmagazine and entertainment show host rented 121 Sturges Highway house Scott later grew up in.

Hugh Downs, on the “Today” set in 1966. (Photo/Jack Kanthal for Associated Press)


You’ve heard it everywhere. Don’t have a cow. Just wear your mask!

(Photo/Les Dinkin)


And finally … to celebrate America’s birthday, here’s the song that’s been called “our other national anthem.” It’s easier to sing — and the words sure are powerful.