Category Archives: Local business

Downtown Gears Up For The Holidays

Valet parking, horse and carriage rides, and a Nutcracker Festival.

Those are some upcoming holiday offerings, thanks to the Westport Downtown Merchants Association.

For the 2nd year in a row, valets are available on Black Friday, then every Saturday at the Main Street and Elm intersection, from noon to 6 p.m. It’s $5 car (plus a tip!).

Horse and carriage rides return — thanks in part to the Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce — on Saturday, December 16 (11 a.m. to 3 p.m.). Boarding is at Bedford Square. There’s a stop for warm beverages across from Serena & Lily, courtesy of the Westport Historical Society.

The only thing missing is snow.

December 16 is also the date for the Connecticut Theater’s Nutcracker Festival (9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.). Christ & Holy Trinity Church’s Branson Hall will be filled with Nutcracker Tea seatings, a Sugar Plum Fairy, and a Snowflake Boutique with local businesses and artisans. There are 2 child-friendly performances of “Land of the Sweets” at the Seabury Center next door. Santa arrives (on a fire truck) at 9 a.m. to kick off the festivities. Click here for tickets.

Meanwhile, merchants are vying for WDMA “Best Holiday Window” prizes in 3 categories: national chains, independent retailers, and restaurants and cafes. (For inspiration, just look across the river at the west bank windows.)

Meanwhile, all of Westport wants to know: What about the lights?

The WDMA planned to buy new ones this year. Unfortunately, bad weather at another holiday event — the Labor Day Blues, Views & BBQ Festival — cut into proceeds. Lights are now in next year’s budget.

But here’s another light story — with a dark side.

A couple of days ago WDMA representatives went out to measure the Ruth Steinkraus Cohen Bridge. They left a big box of 48-foot lights on the south side, near the railing.

When they came back, they were gone. It took about 7 minutes for someone to steal Westport’s holiday lights.

Bah, Humbug!

Holiday lights, 2015.

No Way!

Part of the granite tombstone — er, sign — at the entrance to Trader Joe’s has met an ignoble end.

The part that said “One Way” is gone.

I’m amazed someone slammed into it. It was pretty hard to miss.

(Photos/Seth Schachter)

On the other hand, perhaps this was deliberate. It was not the most welcoming sign around.

Besides, making that contorted turn from in front of Jersey Mike’s — to exit via the worst traffic light in the galaxy — is enough to drive someone to pick up a sledgehammer.

Of course, this might have been a wayward truck driver, trying a turn he’s not supposed to make.

I’m just sayin’….

West Side Of Westport Welcomes The Holidays

Over the years, downtown holiday decorations have ranged from dazzling to meh.

But that still beats across the river. The west bank of the Saugatuck has had no Christmas presence whatsoever.

The potential — with locally owned small shops, boutiques, restaurants, a high-end tailor, art gallery, the only toy store left in town, plus all that waterfront — is there. The execution has been missing.

For the past 2 years, Natalie Toraty — owner of Noya Fine Jewelry — has been discouraged by the lack of holiday festivities just a few steps over the bridge from Main Street.

This year, she and her neighboring businesses are doing something about it.

They’re collaborating to bring holiday joy — and customers — to what Natalie calls “this amazing part of town.”

Noya’s holiday window.

Businesses have organized a “Shop and Stroll” event every Wednesday and Saturday, through Christmas. Shops will be open until 8 p.m., with special promotions, food, drinks and entertainment. The first one is today — and Natalie is offering a designer trunk show.

The west side of the river has long played 2nd fiddle — or 3rd? — to downtown and Saugatuck. It doesn’t even have an official name.

But this holiday season, the folks who have invested their dreams — and money — there will bring lights, fun — and joy — to the area.

It’s their gift to all of us.

A few lights go a long way.

Image

Only 41 Shopping Days Till Christmas

Westporters Chill Out. And Restore.

Andy Udell stood in a tall tank-like chamber. He wore just a robe, socks and gloves. Only his head was visible.

Super-chilled air — minus 220 degrees Fahrenheit — swirled around him.

His body went into vasoconstriction, reacting to ancient cues to protect itself. His heart raced. Adrenaline surged.

Blood rushed to Andy’s core, protecting vital organs. Toxins were drawn out, making his blood nutrient-dense and oxygen-rich. Endorphins and anti-inflammatory proteins also coursed through his body.

Andy stayed inside — shivering and laughing. That was his reaction to both the seeming absurdity of his situation — volunteering to stand inside a ridiculously cold chamber — and the fantastic way he felt.

Andy had just undergone 3 minutes of cryotherapy. Now the rest of us can too.

Andy Udell, midway through his 3 minutes of cryotherapy.

Restore has come to the former Radio Shack store, on the Post Road across from the Sherwood Island Connector. The grand opening is tomorrow (Tuesday, November 14).

Owned by a group of local investors — including Andy — the new business is a franchise of an Austin, Texas-based company. The nearest location is Virginia.

Restore has taken over a large space. (I guess Radio Shack stored a ton of batteries and fax machines in the back.) And Restore offers a lot more than calorie-burning, skin care, pain-reducing, endurance-enhancing cryotherapy (in whole body, localized and facial versions).

There’s drip therapy. A personalized cocktail of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants helps burn fat, relieve inflammation and dehydration, and provide energy.

Two signs, in the drip therapy room.

And an infrared sauna makes you feel good by — pardon the analogy — cooking you from the inside out, like a microwave.

And a hyperbaric chamber delivers highly concentrated oxygen, while compression therapy offers leg, hip and arm sleeves. Both promote healing, particularly after races, games and workouts (for high-level athletes as well as weekend warriors).

The hyperbaric chamber.

But it’s the cryotherapy that will draw most people to Restore.

“I feel like I can do handsprings,” Andy — who back in the day was a Staples High School soccer star and is still very fit but, like many of us, now stands on the sidelines — says, emerging from his probably-felt-a-lot-longer-than-3-minutes cryo session.

“The energy boost is great. It helps my mental focus. It lasts all day, and I sleep better too.”

That sounds like quite an endorsement. Of course, you’d expect that from an investor.

So try it yourself. It sounds really cool.

I mean, freezing.

The Restore team includes Lauren Winchester, director of operations; Donna Toth, Westport manager, and lead investor David Kass.

It’s A Meat Market Down There

Once upon a time, you could buy meat on Main Street.

Gristede’s is long gone. But M.EAT — a high-quality purveyor of beef and lamb — opened today in Bedford Square.

The butcher shop’s primary source is Uruguay. Meat is also imported from Argentina, Brazil, New Zealand and Australia.

It’s a welcome addition to downtown.

Even if the M.EAT name is a bit too cute for my taste.

M.EAT, in Bedford Square

 

Mystic Market Ends Saugatuck Blight

For too long, the building at 60 Charles Street — most recently the Blu Parrot, before that Jasmine, and for decades the beloved Arrow restaurant — has sat empty.

The vacant building and overgrown lot have served as a shabby welcome to everyone coming into Westport off I-95 Exit 17.

Also for too long — ever since Peter’s Bridge Market closed — Saugatuck residents have lacked a moderately-priced place to pick up food.

Both issues are now solved. The building — owned by Felix Charney and Jake Grossman — has been leased to Mystic Market.

(Photo/Russell Sherman)

This will be the 4th location. Three others — 2 in Mystic, 1 in Old Saybrook — tout “gourmet quality products, at marketplace prices.”

Mystic Market will offer groceries, soups, salads, wraps, sandwiches, grinders, a coffee bar, and a bakery serving breakfast goods, breads and desserts. Catering is also available.

“It’s moderately priced — sort of a contemporary Peter’s Bridge,” says Tommy Febbraio, the Coldwell Banker Commercial realtor who brokered the deal.

A spring opening is planned.

 

 

It’s November 4. Turn Back Your Clocks. And Buy Your Christmas Ornaments.

Alert “06880” reader — and dumbfounded shopper — JP Vellotti spotted this yesterday at Michaels, the crafts and hobby store:

A couple of things come to mind:

  • Aren’t big sales supposed to happen after the holiday?
  • And speaking of holidays, it’s not yet Thanksgiving. Or Veterans Day. It’s not even Election Day. In fact, there are still a few hours left of Daylight Savings Time.

Ho ho ho!

Friday Flashback #64

Last weekend, when I reported that Calypso St. Barth was closing, current Westporters thought of the “luxury lifestyle brand” store’s massive concrete steps, on the very visible Post Road East/Main Street corner.

When I referred to it as “the original library building,” that helped “06880” readers who once lived here, yet no longer do, visualize the location.

But it was the photo caption that really brought back memories, for anyone of a certain age. Referring to Calypso’s entrance kitty-corner from Tiffany (the old Ships restaurant, and before that Colgan’s and Thompson’s drug store), I wrote:

“Years ago, the plaza was a public park, outside the original Westport Library.”

“Needle Park,” circa 1970.

Ah, yes: Needle Park.

That was the nickname given to what was — in the 1960s and ’70s — a very funky place.

Teenagers hung out there. They strummed guitars, held anti-Vietnam War protests, and made out.

They smoked cigarettes. They smoked weed. They bought and sold drugs too — though there was not much heroin around then. “Needle Park” was a name meant to scare people away.

But — like most attempts to tell teenagers what to do — calling it “Needle Park” just made it more attractive.

The park is gone now — victim of the corporatization of downtown (and, perhaps, no one paying attention to the fact that there was supposed to be a park “in perpetuity”).

Teenagers don’t spend time downtown anymore. Even if they did, they’d never think of hanging out on the cold concrete steps. Too intimidating.

Not welcoming at all. Nothing like the joyful image that “calypso” conveys.

Needle Park today.

The Tailored Home: New And Old Designs Spur Personal Growth

Over the years Westport has been known for its onions, illustrators, marketing firms and hedge funds.

Now it’s filled with home design studios. And — rather than seeing them as competition — that’s one reason Scott Falciglia and Jhon Ortiz opened The Tailored Home in Westport.

Scott Falciglia (standing) and Jhon Ortiz.

“This town feels like home,” Scott says. “There’s a lot of good design here. The shops are well supported. They bring people here from all around.”

“Here,” in his case, is the corner of Post Road East and Turkey Hill South. In a surprisingly large space, he and his partner — in work and life — have created a studio, showroom and full-service custom workroom. They say it represents “the future of furniture shopping.”

Every piece is made to order, by hand, in Westport and Norwalk. Scott and Jhon support local artisans, and are drawing young workers into the area.

Scott talks about his business as a micro-economy. “Food isn’t the only thing that’s better local,” he notes.

The Tailored Home does not specialize in one specific style. It touts “old and new, together always.” Each vignette in the store features both trendy and reimagined vintage pieces — chairs, tables, even candles and window treatments. “A lot of people try to do this on their own, at home,” he says. “It’s hard. But it works.”

Scott Falciglia says the candles on the left are traditional — including the scent. Those on the right are more trendy, with a charcoal scent.

The items he sells can be repurposed, too. They’re an antidote to today’s “throwaway culture.”

Scott believes in design as “a means to positive change. Your spaces are the stages on which the next version of yourself rehearses.” He enjoys helping clients “set the stage for the person they’re growing into.”

He has changed versions of his own self. A finance major at Fairfield University — with interests in sociology, anthropology and design — he met Jhon 5 years ago. Venezuela-born, Colombia-raised, Jhon had a well-regarded workroom.

“He’s a perfectionist,” Scott says admiringly. “His hands are on every piece. And it shows.”

But even though The Tailored Home is 2 years old, Scott did not leave his job in finance until last May.

He revels in his company’s family feel. Eric Louison — a Weston High graduate, now a sophomore at Champlain College — created a great video in which Scott and Jhon tell their story.

Liz Lanspery — a student at Central Connecticut State University — started as a summer intern. Now she’s in charge of creating The Tailored Home’s cohesive image.

And Kathy Leverty — a Fairfield mother of 2 — is a welcome presence in the front of the store.

In his spare time, Scott runs a blog. RiddleMeThis is his way of describing the relationship of design to today’s world. He tackles topics like post-industrial cities. Why, he asks, do people suddenly find beauty in old warehouses?

“It’s a fun playground for me to talk about things I’ve always been interested in,” Scott says.

Although — as The Tailored Home settles into its Westport niche — it’s clear he’s left finance far behind.

Jhon Ortiz designed and built this unique table.