Category Archives: Local business

Friday Flashback #18

For over 60 years the Tri-Town Teachers Federal Credit Union has served educators in Westport, Weston and Wilton, plus many other Westport town employees.

Most recently, the credit union has been housed in the historic Godillot Carriage House. It’s on Jesup Road near Imperial Avenue — catty-corner from the police station.

The credit union is proud of their home — and the entire neighborhood. So they recently commissioned a painting of it circa 1882, when it was built.

Artist Jack Conti did plenty of research, to make sure he got the details right.

godillot-house-credit-union

Alexis Godillot was an importer of French foods. He and his wife Julia expanded and improved his property, making it a showplace of the community.

Conti’s painting shows the property looking north across Deadman’s Brook, from Imperial Avenue.

The main house (yellow) sat on a knoll. Originally built in 1804 in Victorian stick style, by 1882 it had an attached greenhouse. The building is now occupied by the Smith Richardson Foundation.

The credit union is now housed in the carriage house — the red building next to the main house. It once included a stable.

The white cottage housed servants. It too had a greenhouse. The building — once the offices of the Westport Board of Education — is now occupied by the Sherwood & Garlick law firm.

The boathouse (red structure on the brook) served as a place to store small recreational boats. It was relocated elsewhere in Westport in the 1950s.

The Jesup Road neighborhood is now on the National Register of Historic Places. It looks much the same today.

godillot-house-and-credit-union-john-coniglio

Still, the credit union — the building in the center, in the photo above — is not stuck in the past.

On its roof now are solar panels.

And gone are the stables. They’ve been replaced by free charging stations, for drivers with electric vehicles.

(Hat tip: John Coniglio)

Tina’s Cat: The Sequel

In the aftermath of the death of Tina Wessel — the homeless woman known to many Westporters, who died last month — “06880” readers have wondered about the fate of her beloved cat.

Julie Loparo — president of Westport Animal Shelter Advocates — reports:

Tina’s cat — now named Elsie — is a delight. She is approximately 4 years old, healthy…just wonderful.

Elsie

Elsie

She is temporarily being boarded at Schulhof Animal Hospital, receiving excellent care and attention from staff and WASA volunteers. Now, WASA is searching for a local forever home for Elsie. She will need to be kept indoors for her safety.

Potential adopters should email wasa1@optonline.net, or call 203-557-0361.

Tina’s funeral will be held today (2 p.m., Friday, December 9), at Christ & Holy Trinity Episcopal Church in downtown Westport.

Help Needed For Bone Marrow Transplant

This is late news. But it’s important.

You might even say: life-saving.

Tomorrow (Wednesday, December 7, 12 noon to 2 p.m.), New Beauty Wellness in Westport (1137 Post Road East) is hosting a bone marrow drive.

Staples High School graduate Rachel Sanfilippo needs a bone marrow transplant. Her sister Neva can donate — but she’s only a half match. Hopefully, a better match can be found.

The test is free, painless, and takes only 30 seconds for a mouth swab. Anyone between the ages of 18 and 60 can be tested.

Because of the late notice, you may not be able to get there. If you’d like, click here for a free swabbing kit. Shipping and a return label are included.

Neva and Rachel Sanfilippo

Neva and Rachel Sanfilippo

Friday Flashback #17

Today’s Friday Flashback is different from most. There’s a reason.

(Photo courtesy of Ray and Patricia Donovan)

(Photo courtesy of Ray and Patricia Donovan)

The 1969 photo shows Jean Donovan on her horse Apple, at Fiddle Horse Farm. The farm was located the west side of Bayberry Lane, midway between Long Lots Road and Cross Highway.

Sam and Bernice Friedson owned it, as well as the Tack Room — a horseback riding supply store on the Post Road, opposite the old post office.

So why is this today’s Friday Flashback? It’s the 36th anniversary of the beating, rape and murder of 4 lay missionaries, by Salvadoran military men. Donovan — a 1971 Staples High School graduate — was one of those women.

Growing up in Westport, there was little evidence she’d become an internationally known martyr. She had a fairly secular upbringing here. She was introduced to horseback riding when she was young, and spent some of her teenage years riding and working at Fiddle Horse Farm. It was one of several working horse farms in Westport.

To share memories of those farms — or of Jean Donovan — click “Comments” below.

(Hat tip: John Suggs)

Save Cockenoe: Then And Now

Last month, “06880” previewed Walter and Naiad Einsel’s estate sale. I don’t usually promote that stuff — but the longtime local artists’ Victorian farmhouse was filled with thousands of pieces of folk art, antiques, paintings, prints and advertising items. It seemed like a great Westport tale.

Andrew Bentley was one of the many art lovers who was there. He says it was “more like a folk art museum than a house.”

Andrew wandered past mechanical toys, kinetic sculptures and books of illustrations, on into Naiad’s studio. Magic markers, colored pencils and scissors were all in place, as if she had gone downstairs for coffee.

Thumbing through a stack of posters, he spotted a large envelope. Inside was a shimmer of gold and bronze. Removing it, he discovered a beautiful metallic silk-screened “Save Cockenoe Now” poster.

save-cockenoe-now-poster

Bentley knew it was from the late 1960s, when Westporters opposed a plan to build a nuclear power plant on the island just a mile off Compo Beach. (Click here for that full, crazy story.)

But he’d only seen a black-and-white thumbnail-sized image of the poster, in Woody Klein’s book on the history of Westport.

Suddenly, he held an original. After nearly 50 years, he says, “the colors were still electric.”

Andrew turned to the stranger beside him. He explained that the poster represented a perfect confluence of Westport’s artistic heritage, revolutionary spirit and environmental priorities.

Then, in another Westport tradition, he gathered up as many posters as he could find, negotiated a bulk discount, and made a list of friends in town who deserved a gift.

In 1967, Westporters saved Cockenoe.

In 2016, Andrew saved its posters.

Both stories are worth telling.

(PS: Andrew Bentley designed the logo for The Flat — the new Railroad Place spot that mixes design, art and objects with contemporary lighting, accessories and jewelry. Owner Becky Goss has a few framed Save Cockenoe Now posters there, ready for sale.)

 

Too Much Trash?

We won’t say there’s a direct correlation between “06880”‘s recent posts about the garbage, parking and staffing problems at the new Westport Starbucks, and Howard Schultz’s decision today to step down as CEO.

starbucks-garbage

Then again, we won’t say there isn’t.

howard-schultz

As If Parking At The New Starbucks Isn’t Bad Enough…

…this was the scene around 7:30 this morning:

starbucks-garbage

Perhaps the trash collection service has not figured out the new location.

Perhaps the baristas have not thought to notify them that garbage is piling up.

One thing is sure: This is not the sight our town — or the company — want to present to customers as they line up for their very expensive morning joe.

(Hat tip: Allison Adler)

Downtown Merchants Kick It Up A Notch

You may have noticed the signage downtown. Perhaps you saw the hanging baskets, the holiday snowflakes or the Christmas tree near Starbucks.

westport-dmaAll are part of recent initiatives by the Westport Downtown Merchants Association. Since welcoming new president Randy Herbertson this summer — and installing a fresh team including a marketing manager and events coordinator — the sometimes active, occasionally moribund, often ill-defined group has worked hard to make its mark on Main Street and nearby.

“We’re here to be the merchants’ advocate,” Herbertson — whose fulltime gig is running a Church Street multimidia design and promotion firm, The Visual Brand — says.

“We’re taking ourselves up a notch.”

The WDMA has addressed nagging issues like the Parker Harding dumpster — long a pig sty — with new enclosures and daily maintenance.

The organization has spoken with the Public Works and Parks & Recreation departments to ensure clear lines of responsibility for downtown upkeep.

Merchants are responsible for keeping their sidewalks clean. The WMDA is making sure they do it well.

Merchants are responsible for keeping their sidewalks clean. The WMDA is making sure they do it well.

Some of that sounds mundane. But small stuff pays off big time, in areas like public perception.

The WDMA has vowed to protect the new sidewalks. Each merchant is in charge of keeping them clean, but “everyone has different standards,” Herbertson notes. His group is working on a collaborative plan.

The Downtown Merchants Association may be best known for event sponsorship. Moving forward, Herbertson says, “We’ll try to focus on what matters most to merchants.”

The popular carriage rides, Santa visits and singing groups will continue this holiday season, for example. But the WMDA will offer gift wrapping and craft activities for children.

Plus this: valet parking.

It began on Friday, and continues every Saturday and Sunday through Christmas (plus Friday, December 23). The valet station is at the corner of Main and Elm Streets. Cost is $5 per car (plus optional tip).

Last year, horse-drawn carriages clomped throughout downtown.

Last year, horse-drawn carriages clomped throughout downtown.

The Fine Arts Festival may be relocated. The Blues, Views & BBQ Fest will be “better than ever,” Herbertson says.

A Fashion and Beauty Week is in the works. 80% of downtown merchants are involved in those fields, he explains.

The WMDA has just launched a new website. It offers more information on stores promotions and hours, along with a robust calendar.

Meanwhile, the merchants’ group is already looking ahead to next year. In 2017, Herbertson promises, the new trees on and around Main Street will be mature enough to decorate.

David Pogue Helps Us $ave Money, Basically

David Pogue can’t believe that Westporters still pay to get flat tires repaired. Town Fair and other chains fix flats for free — it generates goodwill.

Westport’s leading tech guru/TV personality/author also is surprised at how few folks know that E-Z Pass offers a carpool rate — a big one. If you’ve got at least 3 people in your car, it costs $6.50 — not $12.50 — each time you drive to or from New York. (You do have to go through a manned gate and say “Carpool.” And you need to sign up in advance.)

Pogue notes too that our new Starbucks — like the other squintillion of them — offers unlimited 50-cent refills of coffee or tea (hot or iced).

Also worth noting: The smallest Starbucks serving is called the Tall. But an even smaller one does not appear on the menu: the Short. It’s less expensive, of course — and perfect for a little zap of something. It even contains the same amount of espresso as a Tall.

David Pogue, thinking of ways to save money.

David Pogue, thinking of ways to save money.

Pogue is astonished that Americans leave money on the table every day. And we do it every time we use cash machines, book flights, buy insurance or shop for clothes.

Because Pogue is such a good guy — as well as a clever person, and excellent writer — he’s sharing 150 tips for saving money. They’re collected in his latest book: Pogue’s Basics: Money.

Here are a few:

  • You can get 5 percent off anything you ever buy on Amazon. Just sign up for the Amazon Prime Store Card, a virtual credit card good only for Amazon shopping. There’s no fee — and no downside.
  • If you have a gift card for a store you’ll never visit, sell it to Cardcash.com or Raise.com. They pay cash for gift cards — maybe 75% of face value.
  • Why rent your cable box for $235 a year? You can buy one for $100.
  • That sticker on your windshield says to change your oil every 3,000 miles. Modern cars require oil changes only every 7500 to 10,000 miles. The manual even says so.

Everyone knows that time is money. But time is limited. Pogue says, “Fortunately, information is money too. If you know certain things, you can get more money without spending time.”

david-pogues-basics-moneyHis Basic Money book saves time and money, handing you 150 secrets all in one place. If you use all 150 of them, he says, you’ll save $61,195 a year!

You’d think Pogue has given away enough. But here’s a special “06880” offer: free autographs.

Our neighbor will personally inscribe any copy of the book. It’s at Barnes & Noble (or you can get 5% off by using the Amazon Prime Store  Card online).

Email pogue@me.com to arrange an autograph session.

Thanks, David! Here’s to a merry — and frugal — holiday for us all!

Meet The New Starbucks. Same As The Old Starbucks?

If you were like most “06880” readers, you spent yesterday giving thanks for all your blessings. It was a day for feeling fortunate, happy and grateful.

Today we’re back to Starbucks-bashing.

Sure, fitting too many cars into a parking lots with too few spaces is a First World problem. Yes, there are far more important things in the world to worry about. I know, “06880” seems to have a fixation with entitled entitled drivers.

But come on, people. Seriously?

starbucks

The new Starbucks (old Arby’s/even older Burger King/much older Carrols) has struck a nerve. Every day, someone emails me with a photo/gripe/horror story.

Among them:

I’m sitting in the new Starbucks for the first time as I write. I overhear several people saying how much they hate it — how it’s so cold, how stressed the staff is, compared to “warm” and “friendly” old place … Parking lot is scary for people on foot.

It’s comical and painful that a company supposedly committed to Paris climate agreement and sustainability puts in a drive-thru inviting 12 idling cars at a time. Sad, short-sighted, stupid.

To repeat: I know there are many more important issues in Westport — and the world — than Starbucks’ newest store.

But forgive me. I’m wired.

I just had my coffee.