Category Archives: Local business

Sandra Long Is Totally LinkedIn

Sandra Long did not like my LinkedIn profile.

At first, I didn’t care.

In my social media life, the networking website ranked far below Instagram and Facebook (not to mention “06880”). It hovered just above Google Plus — but not by much.

Yet when Sandra — a longtime Westporter who offers LinkedIn training for businesses and individuals, as well as profile makeovers for executives, consultants, attorneys and other professionals — offered to spruce mine up, I said, “why not?”

Yet I was about as enthusiastic as when I had a root canal.

Sandra Long offers LinkedIn training to individuals and organizations.

Sandra Long offers LinkedIn training to individuals and organizations.

But then I met Sandra. And once she went to work — drilling down through my profile, into my life, work, passions and dreams — I was all in.

All LinkedIn, I should say.

I had been agnostic about LinkedIn’s potential. But Sandra is a true believer. “You’re missing lots of opportunities,” she said.

I considered myself a freelance writer. I didn’t see how LinkedIn could help. Yet Sandra had already stalked me — I mean, done her homework — and thought that tying together everything I do would help my overall “brand.”

“You write. You coach soccer. You’re an expert on Westport. You’re an LGBT activist and mentor,” she noted. A stronger LinkedIn presence — including keywords, which I sorely lacked — could help people find me, leading to paths I never expected.

And, she pointed out, my entire internet presence was a mess. My LinkedIn profile was not, um, linked to my Amazon author page (which, she added with a sympathetic smile, was pretty weak itself). My YouTube channel did not even showcase my speeches.

There was some good news. My name is unique enough that I could really capitalize on it. Sandra would have a fairly easy time finding my scattered web life, then tying it together.

My LinkedIn main page before Sandra Long got to work. Sure, it says 500+ connections. But I hadn't really "connected" with many of them in years.

My LinkedIn main page before Sandra Long got to work. Sure, it says 500+ connections. But I hadn’t really “connected” with many of them in years. Plus, my photo was from before LinkedIn was even born.

Quickly, we got to work.

Talking about myself was sort of like going to a therapist — without the anxiety.

Sandra is a master at asking the right questions, analyzing the answers, and organizing it all in a coherent, presentable fashion.

I am not (for example) an “independent writing professional.” That was my old headline. My new one is much more inclusive.

Turns out I’m a “community builder.” My writing, coaching, LGBT and Westport work — all of it develops community. Who knew?

Part of my new banner. Ta da!

Part of my new banner. Ta da!

I should note here that Sandra drew from me that 2 sidelines are teaching writing, and consulting on writing projects. Somehow I had forgotten to include that on LinkedIn. Oops!

Also, my photo sucked. Thanks to Sandra: not anymore!

On we plowed. She rewrote my (very important) personal summary; added “Experience” sections with new titles, descriptions and images, as well as more publications, organizations and awards; rejiggered my “Skills” section; gave me a way-cool background banner of Westport scenes; threw in my contact info and a customized URL — and linked to “06880.”

All that was just for LinkedIn. Soon, she worked similar magic on my Amazon and YouTube pages. For the latter, she discovered videos about me in cyberspace I never knew existed. Fortunately, they’re good ones.

My Amazon author page before Sandra Long went to work. Only 2 of my books were listed -- and I had no author bio.

My Amazon author page before Sandra Long went to work. Only 2 of my books were listed — and I had no author bio.

The process took just over a month. It was empowering. It was also painless. (At least for me. I was the duck you see on the surface. Underneath the water, Sandra paddled furiously.)

My new Amazon page. It has many more of the books I've written -- and every "06880" story appears as soon as it's posted. Crazy!

My new Amazon page. It has many more of the books I’ve written — and every “06880” story appears as soon as it’s posted. Crazy!

The results were impressive — and not just to look at.

Throughout the process, Sandra kept telling me that I underestimated the power of LinkedIn. I was missing opportunities, she preached (always, thankfully, with a smile).

The day after my fresh, comprehensive, tied-together profile went live, I got a “notification.” I clicked it. (Sorry, Sandra, but yeah — the first time I’ve ever done that).

A woman developing a new website about sports had searched for “soccer,” “writing” and “community building.” My name popped up.

She liked my “interesting bio,” and wondered if I’d be interested in working for her.

Instantly, I felt linked in.

(Sandra Long’s Post Road Consulting has offices in Westport and Stamford. Click here for more information. To learn more about Sandra’s book, “LinkedIn for Personal Branding: The Ultimate Guide,” click here.)

Bonus feature: My new YouTube channel.

Bonus feature: My new YouTube channel.

 

Fleishers Craft Kitchen Closes; Butcher Shop Still Cuts It

Fleishers Craft Butchery co-founder and co-owner Ryan Fibiger posted this note on his website:

“I’m truly saddened to be closing Craft Kitchen. It’s been my place of worship for more than 3 years, and my kids have been raised on Chef Emily’s food. We have the most amazing staff in the business who have showcased how to prepare and serve REAL food for our loyal and generous patrons and friends. The restaurant and staff have been integral to teaching people how to prepare Meat Raised Right.

“However, we’ve always been a butcher shop first. We think that it’s time to get back to our roots and refocus on providing a truly remarkable customer experience.

“In the coming months you can expect to see us double down on the quality and customer service you’ve come to expect from Fleishers, with an added focus on convenience for busy families. We want to be the trusted advisor for anyone who chooses to eat meat, and it’s absolutely imperative that we teach people why they should care and to make it available (and convenient) for everyone.”

Ryan Fibiger, at work.

Fibiger said that with over 10 wholesale restaurant clients in Fairfield County, Fleishers Craft Butchery offers abundant options of ground beef, sausage, bones, offal and more. He adds:

“The culinary scene has come a long way in just a few years. We used to be one of a handful of restaurants that would even consider serving chicharonnes, beef fat fries or oxtail stew. We had to be our own outlet. Now we’re joined by a community of restaurateurs who recognize that buying well-raised meat isn’t just the right thing to do — it tastes better, too.

“We’re proud to call Chef Emily Mingrone a true friend, who demonstrates the passion and creativity necessary to design a menu celebrating our whole animal philosophy. Working alongside Emily over the years has been nothing short of an inspiration. From themed dinners to killer brunches, it was truly our pleasure to have her at the helm. Expect big things from Emily as she starts her own venture later this year.”

Chef Emily Mingrone

(Hat tip: Marcy Sansolo)

Historic Building Few Westporters Know About Is Saved

It’s ironic: Though no one in Westport stops at stop signs, they were invented by a Westporter.

So were pedestrian crosswalks, traffic circles, 1-way streets, taxi stands and pedestrian safety islands.

All were the brainchild of William Phelps Eno. And for many years, his worldwide traffic institute was headquartered on Saugatuck Avenue.

We pass by the handsome, 11,000-square foot brick and stone 1938 building near the Norwalk line without knowing its history.

That history came quite close to being obliterated — much like pedestrians were, before Eno came along.

The Eno Foundation building on Saugatuck Avenue.

The building and land were on the market. LandTech — Pete Romano’s engineering and design firm situated 2 minutes away (without traffic) on Riverside Avenue — designed a standard suburban use of the land. Their plan knocked down the Eno building, and subdivided the 4+ acres of land into 4 contorted 1-acre lots, with less than half an acre of open space.

But then they applied the open space subdivision regulations. That gave them 3 lots of 1/2 acre each — perfect for homes of 3,000 square feet, designed for empty nesters.

Using a section of the Planning & Zoning regulations for historic structures — offering relief from coverage, setbacks and non-conformities — LandTech preserved the Eno building on a full acre lot, with nearly 1.5 acres of open space.

On Thursday night, the P&Z considered the plan. After hearing comments from commissioners, approval seems likely.

Let’s hope they give it the green light.

LandTech’s plans for the Eno property. The foundation building is on the right, with a circular driveway in front. Click on or hover over to enlarge.

 

Time To Make The Donuts

Crazy about donuts?

Donut Crazy is here!

The 4th store in the small chain — replacing Steam on the eastbound side of the train station — was expected to open October 1. Finally, the big day has arrived.

Ribbon-cutting is set for 11 a.m. tomorrow. Right now, there’s a soft opening.

As in glazed, powdered, coconut, Bavarian creme…

A young customer is one of the first to enjoy Donut Crazy. (Photo/John Karrel)

 

Selma’s Bloodroot Turns 40

In January, hundreds of local women protested the new president. Earlier this month, some skipped work to demonstrate the impact of “A Day Without a Woman.”

If they wanted a place to organize, strategize — and eat a delicious, healthful meal — they could have headed to Bloodroot.

For 40 years, the Bridgeport restaurant/bookstore has been a feminist hangout and outpost. It was there at the start of the women’s movement. It nurtured the hearts, minds and stomachs of generations of activists.

It’s still there. But how many people know of Bloodroot’s Westport roots?

In 1961, Selma Miriam was a self-described “mama with 2 kids.” A landscape designer working with the famed Eloise Ray, her one requirement for a house was that it have a garden.

She found a perfect spot on Hiawatha Lane. Nearly 60 years later, it’s still home.

During her first decade in Westport, Selma got involved in the burgeoning women’s movement. She was president of Westport’s NOW chapter. So was Noel Furie.

It was the 1970s. Women’s bookstores were opening around the country. Selma and Noel liked the idea.

They also liked to cook. The idea of a vegetarian restaurant/bookstore was born.

She and Noel looked at locations along the Post Road, and in Wilton. Everything was ugly.

Then they heard about a plot of land in Black Rock, right on Burr Creek. There was room for a garden. Birds flitted. The light was natural.

Bloodroot is tucked away, off a residential street in Black Rock.

Selma went to nearly every bank in Fairfield County. None would give a woman a mortgage — though they never said it quite that way.

Finally, Harvey Koizim — the founder of Westport’s County Federal Bank — agreed to a 10-year balloon mortgage.

Bloodroot opened in 1977, on the spring equinox.

Selma liked the idea of women working together, sharing common wisdom. She did not like the idea of women serving anyone. To this day, diners give their orders at a window by the kitchen, then pay. When meals are ready, their names are called. When they’re done, they bus their own dishes.

The menu, the kitchen, and Noel Furie.

It took a while for people — especially men — to understand Bloodroot. Salesmen would arrive, look at Selma, and ask for her husband.

Irene Backalenick wrote about Bloodroot for the New York Times. When an editor called to arrange a photogapher, Selma asked for a woman.

The paper sent a man. He used a fisheye lens, which Selma says “made all our heads look swollen.”

The other day — for a story on Bloodroot’s 40th anniversary — the Times sent another photographer. She was all over the place, taking hundreds of shots. Her husband — a Times opinion page editor — simultaneously served as her assistant, and held their 8-month-old baby.

“What a difference!” Selma says. “And it all seemed so natural.”

Selma Miriam, during a quiet moment at Bloodroot.

During its 40 years, Bloodroot has employed countless people: high school and college students, dropouts, middle-aged, part-time and full-time. All are women.

Several current employees come from Mercy Learning Center, Bridgeport’s literacy and life skills center for low-income women. They’re Haitian, Ethiopian and Congolese. “Such wonderful people,” Selma says. “They have great cooking knowledge. And an incredible work ethic.”

Bloodroot’s Ferris Avenue location — in the middle of a residential neighborhood — is not easy to find.

“We don’t get walk-in trade,” Selma says. “People have to find us.”

But find Bloodroot they did. They came for the food and/or the books. They stayed for the community.

One big change has been in the bookstore. In the beginning, Bloodroot played a huge role helping women find feminist books and magazines.

Over the years, two factors — Barnes & Noble, then Amazon — have destroyed women’s bookstores. (Including, ironically, the Amazon Cooperative in Minneapolis, the first feminist bookstore in the country.)

The bookstore section of Bloodroot.

Now, Selma says, she sells one book every couple of weeks. She took up the slack by publishing cookbooks. There have been 4 so far, plus a 2-volume “Best of Bloodroot.” There are calendars too, with 13 new recipes a year.

Of course, you don’t have to buy her recipes. Ask, and she’ll tell you. “The more we share with each other, the better we’ll all be,” she says.

At 82, Selma still loves Bloodroot. She is especially excited about the menu.

She continues to develop new dishes. She’s using more plant-based food, and has introduced vegan cheese, butter and whipped cream to diners.

The warm, welcoming interior of Bloodroot.

Three things keep Selma going. “The place is beautiful. I love to cook. And I love the diversity of people,” she says.

Her customers are loyal. (And — despite her initial belief that men would  not come — they include both genders.) The staff, in turn, feels a strong connection with their diners.

Selma has big plans for Bloodroot’s 40th year. She’s looking back by playing women’s music from the 1970s and ’80s.

And she’s looking ahead by inviting vegetarian restaurants from around the state to her place.

They bring their best dishes, to show Bloodroot customers the wide variety available. “I don’t cook Indian food or Jamaican food,” Selma says. “But that’s vegetarian too.”

She invites them for another reason too: to bring people together, in a warm, beautiful place.

That’s the community Selma Miriam created.

That’s Bloodroot.

(Click here for more information on — and directions to — Bloodroot.)

Speaking Of Bespoke Designs

For years, Shari Lebowitz visited Westport. When the time came to leave Manhattan — and her very successful interior design firm — our town’s arts, culture and strong sense of community made it a natural new home.

Her move worked out even better than she dreamed. Shari bought a home in Old Hill, made friends, found a sense of purpose, and met a fabulous man. They got married last October, in a beautiful wedding at Longshore. Their extended families enjoyed a perfect New England fall weekend.

But — you know there’s a “but” — while Shari wanted her event to be entirely local, the one thing she could not find here was wedding invitations.

Though she’d never heard of Printemps, she was looking for a place like it. Unfortunately, the all-things-stationery shop on Avery Place closed nearly 6 years ago, after 34 much-loved years in business.

The former site of Printemps.

Not long after, Shari saw a “magical” space in Sconset Square. She quickly realized it was perfect for a design studio.

The lease was available.

Bespoke Designs — the name she chose, to describe her one-of-a-kind approach to invitations, paper and engraving — is not a retail store, like Printemps was. It’s open by appointment only.

Still, she hopes her 2nd-floor studio becomes a “wonderful, warm place” where people feel welcome to stop in, talk, find unique designs, and share special events.

Shari Lebowitz, surrounded by her special designs.

“We create custom products for people who want beautiful invitations and stationery, with their own brand and identity,” Shari explains. “Place cards, monograms — it’s all personalized, high-end, bespoke.”

She notes that weddings today can be much more complex than back in the day — when, say, Printemps opened.

There are welcome dinners, pancake breakfasts, clambakes. Bespoke Designs can create a unique map of Westport, including restaurants, private homes, the church and Compo Beach.

Though weddings are big business (and, Shari points out, “a lot more people are allowed to get married now!”), she is involved in much more. She creates beautiful designs for christenings, kids’ parties, bar and bat mitzvahs, anniversaries — you name it.

She’s done her homework. She represents traditional paper brands like Crane, and has brought designers, calligraphers and hand-letterers into their network (from as far away as New Orleans). “These are people you can’t find elsewhere — or online,” Shari says.

Some will come to the studio for special events. Also in the works: calligraphy and related workshops.

Shari cites a recent Wall Street Journal story, calling ink the new status symbol. “In an age of unattractive communications, where people email and tweet and use emojis, we’ve lost the opportunity to be personal,” she says. “People are going back to pens and ink and personal notes — and they want them to be beautiful.”

Shari — who for years loved nearly everything about Westport — really loves her new venture.

She’s particularly excited about Sconset Square. Le Penguin has brought new energy to the small shopping center.

It’s right around the corner from Printemps. In many ways, what once was old is new again.

Shari Lebowitz, in her Sconset Square doorway.

It’s Never Too Early To Plan Ahead

Registration is now open for Longshore Sailing School!

Click on or hover over to enlarge. (Photo copyright/Stefen Turner)

And The Best Chicken Parm In The State Is…

I usually don’t post “best of…” polls.

But this one is truly important.

USA Today — with the help of local experts CT Bites — is asking readers: Who makes the best chicken parm sandwich in Connecticut?

The winner could be right here in Westport.

Three of the 20 nominees serve that favorite dish right here.

Gaetano’s Deli, Tutti’s Ristorante and the Winfield Street Italian Deli (formerly Art’s) are all in the running.

Click here to vote. (NOTE: You can do it once a day, through April 10).

Mangia!

The Winfield Street Deli chicken parm.

Radio Shack Shut?

For years, Westporters have headed to the Radio Shack near the Sherwood Island Connector for answering machines, fax machines, and low-tech technology like that.

But answering machines and faxes have gone the way of Pong. Which is why it was not surprising to see these signs, plastered Crazy Eddie-like, all over the store today:

radio-shack

Just to make sure I wasn’t supplying fake news, I asked an employee if the store is definitely closing.

“We don’t know,” he said.

“No one told us anything. We’re kind of in the dark.”

If only Radio Shack sold flashlights…

(Hat tip: Bruce Schneider)

Bella’s Black Belt

Every karate black belt is special.

Bella Rizzi’s is just a little more special than most.

Bella is a freshman with Down syndrome at Staples. Her parents raised her to know that she can achieve anything she puts her mind to.

For the past 6 years she’s studied at Kempo Academy of Martial Arts in the back of Compo Acres Shopping Center, between Soul Cycle and Chipotle. The instructors demanded the same from her as everyone else in the dojo.

Bella Rizzi, warming up.

Bella Rizzi, warming up.

At times — like everyone else — Bella got discouraged. Some of her classmates dropped out. Bella stuck it out.

She got through the tough times. She learned to work hard, and dream of earning that faraway black belt.

Many mornings before school, her parents — John and Markley — heard Bella hitting the punching bag.

Twelve belts precede the adult black belt. Each one presents its own unique difficulty. Bella earned all 12.

Last Sunday’s test was grueling. For over 3 hours Bella sparred, and recited more than 27 combinations of exercises.

The last hour took place outside, at Compo Beach. Three candidates performed their tests, wearing only their lightweight gi garments.

The wind blew. Most people watching were bundled up — or stayed in their cars.

Bella Rizzi prepares for her final black belt test, last Sunday at a very cold Compo Beach.

Bella Rizzi prepares for her final black belt test, last Sunday at a very cold Compo Beach.

To get to that point of karate, Bella had learned to block out all distractions, and focus only on the task at hand. She and the other 2 candidates had so much resolve, they did not feel the cold.

Bella was pushed to her limits. But that was not the first time. She’d been bloodied, humiliated, bruised and battered. Through it all, she never wavered from her goal.

On Sunday, Bella became an adult black belt. Fewer than 1% of all martial arts students attain that level.

She and the 2 other candidates — Max Bonehill and Kyle Ehrlich — had broad smiles. They’d created a bond that will last forever. And they’d made their dreams come true.

Bella is not finished with karate — not by a long shot. Recently, the dojo asked her to be a junior sensei. She is now teaching what she has learned.

Bella Rizzi: black belt!

Bella Rizzi: black belt!

Karate is a meritocracy. All students are respected for their rank. They wear their accomplishments on their belt. They don’t brag about it.

Bella is not a bragger anyway. But everyone in  Westport should know about her remarkable accomplishment.

Actually, her accomplishments — plural. She has written and published a book, “Time Travel Girls,” about being open to new opportunities. She has modeled for Girl Scouts of America.

Bella is only in 9th grade. She has a long way to go, and much more to achieve.

But the next time you see her — at a Staples event, writing in the library or running at Wakeman — give her a high five.

No one in Westport deserves it more.