Category Archives: Local business

Roundup: Downtown Tree, Dead Fish, More


The Main Street Christmas tree is starting to look a lot more Christmas-y.

Annette Norton — the owner of Savvy + Grace, whose front door is just steps away — is personalizing ornaments for the handsome tree. (Knowing Annette, I guarantee: They’re beautiful.)

But there’s more to this story than ornaments on a tree. Annette is working with the Ralphola Taylor Charity, a YMCA community center that serves low-income Bridgeport children. They earn points for good behavior during after-school activities — and then redeem those points at the center’s Holiday Store by buying presents for their families.

In return for purchasing a gift for the Ralphola Taylor Charity, Annette will personalize a white dove ornament with the donor’s name, and hang it on the tree.

Gifts can be bought 3 ways:

  • At Savvy + Grace (next to the former Tavern on Main restaurant)
  • Online (at checkout, just choose free delivery to the charity)
  • Purchase something from any other local store, then drop it off at Savvy + Grace. What a great way to support all Westport merchants, and kids in Bridgeport.

Donations are accepted now through December 7. Let’s fill that tree — and the Ralphola Taylor Charity Holiday Shop! shelves!

Main Street Christmas tree.


It’s a common — and natural — occurrence, though not often so late in the season.

When bunker form large schools they deprive themselves of oxygen, and suffocate.

Dozens of dead fish have been spotted recently, at Compo Beach and Grace Salmon Park. Here was the scene yesterday, at Parker Harding Plaza:

(Photo/Arlene Yolles)


And finally … the Grand Ole Opry debuted on this date in 1925, as a “barn dance” broadcast on WSM. 95 years later, it’s the longest running radio broadcast in American history. 

Uncle Jimmy Thompson was the first performer on that first show. He was 77 years old — so the recording below shows someone born 13 years before the Civil War began. Talk about American Roots music!

It’s Black Friday. Shop Local!

Today marks the much-anticipated, endlessly reported and bizarrely grim start of the holiday shopping season.

Americans leave Thanksgiving dinners to stand outside superstores. They bop each other over the head and ram strangers with shopping carts, frenziedly buying wide-screen TVs and must-have dolls. It is a sick spectacle, and it sets the tone for the entire month that follows.

If COVID-19 has done anything good, it’s put the brakes on this explosion of materialism. Unlike (cough, cough) some places, people here understand the virus is not a hoax. We won’t see hordes of humans pushed into glass doors like Walmart’s version of a Who concert.

Every year, merchants, town officials — and “06880” — urge local folks to buy local.

This year, it’s important more important than ever.

In fact, it’s crucial.

Main Street (Photo/Jillian Elder)

But saying it is one thing. How do we put our Christmas and Hanukkah money where our civic mouth is?

Jillian Elder can help.

The founder of Finding Westport — a website that for over 2 years has linked business owners and customers — created a special page for today and tomorrow. (Black Friday is followed immediately by Small Business Saturday — who knew?)

“When we need retail therapy, our friends on Main Street and the Post Road are there for us,” Jillian says. (Don’t forget Saugatuck!)

“Now is the time to return the favor, and let our friends know we are there for them.”

Jillian spent days asking stores about their Black Friday and Small Business Saturday plans.

Say it with chocolate!

“Finding Westport” includes hours of operations, special offers and sales, links to stores’ websites and gift cards, and pickup and delivery options.

Toys, apparel, jewelry, chocolates, honey, liquor, CBD — and just about anything else you’d give as a gift — is included. Click here for Jillian’s Black Friday and Small Business Saturday page.

You can find everything here for your honey.

That’s not all. Jillian compiled similar lists for Darien, Fairfield, Greenwich, New Canaan, Norwalk, Ridgefield, Stamford and Wilton. Click here for that page.

Sure, you could have spent last night wrapped in a blanket outside Best Buy. But — thanks to Jillian Elder — you know the best buys are right around the corner.

(PS: Jillian is still adding stores to the list. To be included, email submissions@findingwestport.com)

Roundup: Bathrooms, Cribari Bridge, Suzuki, More


The other day, Mary-Lou Weisman emailed the Parks & Recreation Department.

She and her husband had been upset to find the Compo Beach bathrooms locked. They were replaced by porta potties “filled nearly to the brim” (and lacking toilet paper).

Mary-Lou noted that medical experts have warned against using such small, secured enclosures during COVID.

A Parks & Rec employee replied. She noted that bathrooms are seasonal facilities only, and the water has been shut off for the winter. (Year-round bathrooms are available at the Ned Dimes Marina.) The department is following up with the service company that maintains the porta-johns.

Mary-Lou responded: “Are the 2 proper restrooms at Compo closed because of financial concerns. or because the water pipes would burst in cold weather? If the concerns are financial, I would hope the town would provide the necessary funds to keep them open. I would further suggest that if frozen pipes are a concern, that problem might be mitigated by being wrapped, and probably by other means.

“If Westport can afford to build pickleball courts and skateboard ramps, the town should be able to keep the bathrooms open all year.”

Bathroom facilities at Compo Beach are closed. (Photo/Matt Murray)


On Friday, the William F. Cribari Bridge will glow again. It’s a holiday tradition that makes Saugatuck special.

Yesterday, “06880” reported that a crew of Al’s Angels and friends worked for hours, restringing lights and replacing broken bulbs.

They don’t want a lot of publicity. But here’s the gang to thank. They bring a bit of joy, at a time we all desperately need it.

(Photo/Al DiGuido)


COVID has canceled some of Suzuki Music Schools’ traditional  performances.

So the Westport students are going online. Among the highlights: a mid-month “Ode to Joy.” The virtual orchestra project features students and faculty from the Westport and Orange campuses and KEYS Bridgeport, celebrating Beethoven’s 250th birthday.

Suzuki adds: “As a non-profit music school, we keep the community culturally connected by providing free concerts, scholarships, and international events to the public directly due to the generosity of others, so it is inherent that we help those around us grow as well. In that spirit, we encourage the public to not only donate to Suzuki Schools at www.suzukischools.org this Giving Tuesday, but also to the organizations they appreciate and that affect them most.


And finally … whenever I think of Suzuki musicians, I think of “M*A*S*H.” In the unforgettable final episode, Major Charles Emerson Winchester III is aggravated that a group of Chinese North Korean POWs are musicians. He tries to teach them his beloved Mozart Clarinet Quintet in A, with moderate success.

With the war’s end imminent, the prisoners ship out from the 4077th. Gamely, they play the piece in the back of the truck.

Casualties continue to arrive — including one of the just-released POWs. The entire group had been killed, minutes after leaving camp.

“He wasn’t even a soldier,” the distraught doctor says. “He was a musician.”

Winchester returns to his tent. He puts on a record of the Clarinet Quintet, then smashes it in rage.

 

Roundup: Splatz, Immigration, Turkey Dogs, More …


Kids don’t have a lot to laugh about these days. And — let’s face it — Harvard and MIT scientists are not usual much for giggles.

But Westport mom Alli DiVincenzo — an accomplished entrepreneurial designer — has joined forced with those university researchers. They’ve created playful personal care products for kids, turning “ordinary tasks into extraordinary experiences.”

The first product from One Fun Company is a hand soap called Splatz. A gentle squeeze makes a “splat.” Each Splatz soap bubble “turns this essential, often tedious task into good clean fun,” Alli says.

She should know. Her son did not like washing his hands. But he enjoyed playing with slime, and anything else tactile.

She tracked down those scientists, and pitched them the idea for a popping hand soap. They loved it. For a couple of years they all tinkered in their kitchens.

When Alli dropped off 100 samples with friends, kids used up the entire test bottles in a day. She and the scientists knew they were on to something.

For the holidays, One Fun has teamed up with WestportMoms’ Local Love initiative, and Westport elementary schools’ Pay It Forward campaign. And in conjunction with the upcoming Small Business Saturday, One Fun offers 10% off Splatz all weekend long. Just click here, and use the code WOOG10.

PS: Keeping it local, Splatz’s packaging and distribution comes courtesy of Randy Herbertson’s The Visual Brand.


How’s this for a provocative title: The Guarded Gate: Bigotry, Eugenics, and the Law That Kept Two Generations of Jews, Italians, and Other European Immigrants Out of America.

 That’s Daniel Okrent’s latest book. The insightful observer of American politics and history — and the first New York Times public editor — will be featured in a virtual talk December 2 (7 p.m.).

He’ll discuss his new work. It’s a chilling tale of how anti-immigration activists of the early 20th century — most of them well-born, many of them progressives –used the bogus science of eugenics to justify closing the immigration door in 1924.

Okrent’s appearance is sponsored by the Westport Library and Silvermine Arts Center. The center’s current exhibit, “The Golden Door” — an exploration of the complex histories and cultural identities that define and enrich contemporary America — runs through January 16.

Click here to register for Okrent’s free virtual talk.

Daniel Okrent

In other Library news:

The Westport Book Sale is temporarily suspending book donations effective today, until further notice. The decision is a result of rising COVID cases, and concern for volunteers who stand in the cold for hours accepting donations.

They invite everyone — in Westport and beyond — to shop the Online Holiday and Winter Book Sale.


I don’t know if Winslow Park Animal Hospital treats turkeys, as well as dogs.

But the Post Road East veterinary clinic always manages to mark holidays well.

(Photo/Rowene Weems)

And finally … on this day in 1859, Charles Darwin published On the Origin of Species.

 

Michele Sinacore Makes Arrangements For Winter

We’ll miss a lot this holiday season: Family. Friends. Fun.

But we can still have flowers.

Brightly colored, lovingly arranged and fresh smelling, bouquets lift the lowest spirits. Michele Sinacore makes sure we all enjoy those ephemeral joys.

Michele Sinacore (Photo/Tamira Wilcox)

The Westport mom (and former Ironman triathlete) spent many years as a New York event producer, for clients like ESPN, Yahoo and the NBA. Four years ago — after her 2nd child was born — she pivoted, and went to floral school.

A year ago, Michele started Blossom + Stem Floral Design at home. Working on weddings, events and corporate projects, and offering custom arrangements, classes and consulting, she was looking for studio space when the pandemic hit.

For 8 weeks, Michele was frozen. She could not find fresh flowers anywhere.

But floral designers around the world formed an online community. They shared sources. advice and encouragement.

Michele took classes. She learned new skills, networked, and gained confidence.

She branched out into staging and personal bouquets. Her flowers brightened an otherwise dark time.

It’s the nature of the business to have extra flowers. One day Michele took a bouquet to Joey’s by the Shore, not far from her home. Did they want fresh flowers? she asked.

Did they ever!

Soon, Michele was delivering bouquets — free — all over town. Manna Toast, Kneads, Shearwater Coffee, Restore Cryotherapy, the Fire Department after Tropical Storm Isaias — all received her gifts.

Arrangement by Michele Sinacore. (Photo/Melani Lust)

Last week she partnered with a new group, Design Port, and awarded a very appreciative mom a bouquet as part of “Fresh Flower Friday.”

Michele continues to seek out recipients for her extra flowers. She’s busy now with holiday bouquets, Thanksgiving tablescape decor, and virtual make-your-own wreath and arranging classes. Customers get a box of fresh florals and supplies delivered to their door, then learn techniques.

“Flowers make people happy,” Michele says. “As a mom, I have a lot of empathy for what people are going through. I’m grateful to be doing what I love, and be part of the community. It’s so important now to feel good.”

Westporters know: This will be a long, dark winter. In its midst, Michele Sinacore will bring color and light to our lives.

(To learn more, click here or email hello@blossomstem.com.)

Roundup: Christmas Tunes, Food, Tree And More


The Senior Center is filled with fascinating people.

High on the list: pianist Irwin Lebish. A veterinarian since 1954, he is still — in his 90s —  a general practitioner at Schulhof Animal Hospital.

That’s not all. He also plays piano with the hands of 20-year-old.

The other day, Dr. Lebish recorded a Holiday Piano Recital — jazz, standards and more — for the Senior Center. He was joined by a young whippersnapper: his son Scott, on bass.

Jim Honeycutt and Nick Pisarro videotaped it all. Click below to enjoy!


Everyone knows about stress eating. But what about stress cooking?

If the thought of making another — or any — holiday meal fills you with dread, click here.

The WestportMoms’ Food Delivery & Catering Guide is filled with businesses that have pivoted during the pandemic to provide — in addition to their usual delicious fare — catering, weekly meal plans, delivery and curbside pickup.

No cooking? No problem! Click here.


MoCA Westport invites all high school students to submit works of art for a student exhibit. “Hindsight is 2020” will run open January 23, and run through March 6.

This is the first student in-person show at MoCA’s Newtown Turnpike space. The museum presented an online student exhibition in July.

“Hindsight is 2020” will feature submissions created this challenging, unique year.

All high school students may submit 1 work, of any kind. The deadline is January 8. Cash prizes of $500, $300 and $100 will be awarded by judges. Click here for details, or email liz@mocawestport.org.


Downtown’s newest Christmas tree stands outside Savvy + Grace, near the steps to the old Tavern on Main.

Check it out — and don’t worry. It will be trimmed soon!


And finally … happy 55th birthday to Björk! Now — can anyone name another Icelandic singer-songwriter?!

Roundup: Michael J. Fox, Big Bucks, Downtown Dollars, More



Two days after the high school sports governing body pushed the start of interscholastic winter sports back to January 19, Governor Lamont did the same for youth teams.

His order — effective Monday — ends club team practices, games and tournaments, indoors and outdoors, for the next 2 months. Several COVID outbreaks have been traced back to youth sports.

Youth basketball has been played in Westport since the early 1900s. This was an early YMCA team. It — and all other kids’ sports — have been canceled through January 19.


The other night, Ian O’Malley’s Ring app notified him there was a visitor at his Greens Farms-area door.

The Westport realtor and New York radio personality was not expecting anyone.

“He was a lot bigger than he looks” (below), Ian reports:

He was not the only buck hanging around. James Chantler Brown has seen this handsome animal several times in the past few days, off Whitney Street:


Speaking of big bucks: The Westport Downtown Merchants Association has just launched “Downtown Dollars.”

The goal of the digital gift card is to encourage local shopping. Purchasers can write a personal message on the card, and send it to family, friends and colleagues by email, text, even physically (!).  

Click here to purchase; then scroll down for a list of participating merchants.


David Krasne has created a Google spreadsheet that tracks daily coronavirus updates in Connecticut. Each tab reflects a different town in southern Fairfield County.

David also tracks the rolling 7-day and 14-day average new case rates, per 100,000 population. Click here to see Westport; click other tabs at the bottom of the page.


Two years ago, Westporter Andrew Goldman launched an independent podcast, “The Originals.”

In April — with his interview with “The Nanny” Fran Drescher — it became the Los Angeles Times‘ only official podcast. Since then he’s chatted with Danny DeVito, Joan Collins, Barry Sonnenfeld and many others.

Goldman’s most recent guest is Michael J. Fox.

The episode is “different and more personal than any I’ve done,” he says. Goldman begins by talking about his “almost inconceivable privilege” — but admits he is still not particularly happy.

Fox, of course, has many more reasons to despair. His Parkinson’s is increasing; a recent accident took away his ability to walk, and send him into depression.

Yet the actor found a way to rekindle his optimism. His message is inspiring — and particularly meaningful at this unlike-any-other-holiday time.

Click here to listen.

 

Michael J. Fox’s book was released this week.


Gabriel Marous is a Westporter teenager, Pierrepont School student and Saugatuck Rowing Club racer.

He’s also seen the effects the coronavirus has had on area residents. So, with 2 friends, he formed the North Stamford Youth Action Group.

Their first initiative — a drive-through food pantry — helped them feed 33 families. A second one is set for this Sunday (November 22). With the holidays coming, the need is even greater.

To help, email digital gift cards from a local grocery story to contact.NSYAG@gmail.com. You can also search for Cash App under the name “NSYAG.” To volunteer, use the email address above or call 203-744-9796.

Gabriel Marous


Fourteen Staples High School seniors have been named National Merit Scholarship semifinalists. They are among more than 1.5 million students who took the PSAT exam. Congratulations to:

Back row (from left): Alexander Toglia, Simon Rubin, Sebastian Montoulieu, Rishabh Mandayam. Front: Charoltte Zhang, Mira Mahendru, Gary Lu, Lucas Lieberman, Frederick Linn.

(From left): Elana Atlas, Reed Caney, Mohit Gupta, Hannah Even. Missing: Max Montoya.


And finally … 35 years ago today, Microsoft unleashed Windows 1.0 on the world.

New Medical Office Proposed For Julian’s Plaza

The sign says that Saugatuck Grain & Grape is moving to 1460 Post Road. A few doors down in the same shopping plaza, Julian’s is a popular restaurant

But beer, wine, pizza and pasta may not be on the menu for long. Plans are afoot to redevelop nearly all of what is officially (but never called by anyone) “Greens Farms Plaza.”

The entire 3,654-square foot building — with the exception of the Bluepoint Wellness medical marijuana dispensary — would be converted to medical offices. That use is permitted in the existing General Business District location.

1460 Post Road East. Rio Bravo restaurant closed this summer.

The applicant — Chicago-based ROA Investments LLC — also proposes “a substantial and attractive upgrade” to the exterior. Along with a glass-enclosed entrance and enhanced landscaping, the front drive would be reconfigured.

The Architectural Review Board has voted unanimously to recommend
approval of the building design to the Planning & Zoning Commission.

Roundup: Stores, Staples Players, Sustainable Westport, Sports, More


In yesterday’s story on a new movie shot in Westport, I casually mentioned that Barnes & Noble is moving.

I did not mention where.

Its new home will be the former Restoration Hardware (and before that, Fine Arts I and II theater). Looks like the bookstore-and-more will be downsizing — after enlarging from its first Westport location (the old Pier One, just east of its current Post Road site — soon to be the new Saugatuck Grain & Grape).

So what will replace the current Barnes & Noble?

Word on the street is it’s a grocery store — possibly Amazon Go.

That would be fascinating — and not just because Westport is ripe for advanced shopping technology.

The other reason: The previous tenant, before Barnes & Noble, was Waldbaum’s.

Changes coming soon


There’s not much wonderful about 2020. But “It’s a Wonderful Life” was a wonderful 1946 film. And this Sunday (November 22, 6 p.m.) it will be a wonderful radio show, courtesy of Staples Players.

Though the high school is closed, dozens of students — actors, the tech crew, sound effects people — have been working remotely.

Which is exactly how audiences around the globe will experience the old-time, very cool show on Sunday. They’ll gather around their radios — and devices — to enjoy a wonderful experience.

In true “show must go on” fashion, directors David Roth and Kerry Long are devising ways for actors to multi-task, and come up with sound effects on their own. At the same time, they’re solving complicated technical problems.

“As always, they’re rising to the occasion,” Long reports.

To join the (free!) livestream fun, click  on www.wwwptfm.org. Westport-area residents can tune in to WWPT, 90.3 FM.

Colin Konstanty rehearses his George Bailey role, in “It’s a Wonderful Life,” before Staples High School went to full remote learning. (Photo/Kerry Long)


Sustainable Westport Advisory Team — a town body — will become simply Sustainable Westport. The new non-profit organization becomes a partner with Earthplace.

The group — which educates Westport residents and businesses to become a Net Zero community by 2050 — will continue to work with town officials.

Public Works director Peter Ratkiewich and operations director Sara Harris will be “sustainability coordinators” (aka “liaisons”).

If you think Net Zero by 2050 is far off — it’s not. It’s just as near to us as 1990.


COVID knocked out last spring’s high school sports season. Fall athletes played modified schedules. Now the virus has taken a toll on winter sports.

This morning, the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference postponed the start date for tryouts and conditioning to January 19. Hundreds of  Staples students had been slated to start basketball, gymnastics, ice hockey, indoor track, skiing, squash, swimming, wrestling and cheerleading around Thanksgiving.

Earlier this month, the state issued new rules for youth sports — those run by outside (non-high school) organizations.

High-risk sports — wrestling, tackle football, boys lacrosse, competitive cheer, dance, boxing, rugby and martial arts — were halted through the end of the calendar year.

Participants in medium-risk sports like basketball, gymnastics and ice — hockey — are required to wear face coverings.

In addition, youth teams can no longer travel out of state. Regional tournaments and competitions in high- or medium-risk sports cannot be hosted in Connecticut. Venues were urged to limit spectators, and devise contact tracing protocols for players and fans.

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And finally … did you know this is International Drum Month?

Community Thanksgiving Feast Continues — With Changes

All over town, Westport families are reimagining Thanksgiving. Tables will be smaller; celebrations, more subdued.

Saugatuck Congregational Church has made changes too. The Community Thanksgiving Day Feast — a 40-year interfaith tradition — will not bring hundreds of folks together there, to share turkey, trimmings and fellowship.

But older and needy Westporters will not be forgotten. Organizers are working with OnTheMarc Events to provide meals through the Gillespie Center and Senior Center. Support comes from the Interfaith Council of Westport and Weston, Westport Rotary Club, Westport Sunrise Rotary and Temple Israel.

Saugatuck Church has also organized a Thanksgiving hotline. Residents in need can confidentially request food assistance. Click here to fill out the form, or call 203-227-1261.

Donations are needed to help support the assistance program. Click here to help.

For 20 years, Coleytown Elementary School students have created holiday cards as Community Feast decorations. They’ll do the same, to accompany food at the shelter and Senior Center.

Saugatuck Church’s Thanksgiving may look different this year. But some traditions never change.

This year’s Community Thanksgiving Feast will look different from years past (above). ’
But the willingness of Westporters to support one another continues — this year virtually.