Category Archives: Local business

Roundup: Church Lane; MoCA; Charles Smith; More


Yesterday, the Board of Selectmen approved the Westport Downtown Merchants Association request for the closure of lower Church Lane throughout August.

That will allow “European-style” dining on the street, at Spotted Horse, Amis and the very new Manna Toast.

Stores will plan fun outdoor activities too.

Church Lane remains open from Myrtle Avenue to Elm Street; it’s only the short stretch leading to the Post Road that’s closed.

A scene last year on Church Lane. Expect more like it soon — with masks, of course.


On Thursday nights, MoCA Westport offers “Sunset Sketch & Paint.”

Now they’ve made this great art therapy class — a great way to relieve stress and anxiety — free to nurses and first responders,

The class is also open to any 15 and over, and includes a free glass of wine for those 21 and up. Click here for more information.

MoCA also announced a fun fundraiser. They’ve partnered with local artists to create limited edition cross-body messenger bags.

Artists so far include Amy Kaplan, Jay Petrow, Dale Najarian, Yvonne Claveloux, Trace Burroughs, Jana Ireijo, Fruma Markowitz, Susan Leggitt and Bethany Czarnecki. More will be announced soon.

The bags are available for purchase later this month through the MoCA Westport Museum Shop (in person and online). Follow @mocawestport on social media to learn more.

Untitled, by Yvonne Claveloux


The Westport Library is exploring all options for Camp Explore.

The next guest for the “virtual” youngsters’ program is former New York Knick forward Charles Smith. The Bridgeport native joins the group next Wednesday (July 29, 4 p.m.).

He’ll talk about his experiences as an athlete, business consultant, entrepreneur and civic leader.

Click here for more information, and registration,


And finally … at a time when many tempers are fraying, the Rembrandts say:

Women-Owned Businesses Pivot In Pandemic

Of all the businesses slammed by COVID-19, it’s hard to imagine one worse than event planning.

For 15 years, Susie Blumenfeld built Pink House Productions into one of the area’s go-to firms. Weddings, birthdays, bar and bat mitzvahs, Sweet 16s, birthdays and anniversaries — if you could celebrate it, Susie and her staff would help you celebrate it even better.

Susie Blumenfeld

When the coronavirus swept through though, business instantly stopped. First, March and April events were postponed to June. Then they were pushed back to November. Now there’s little until 2021.

Pink House Productions was all about people. While other event planners began offering Zoom or drive-by parties, Susie resisted.

“I have the best clients in the world. I didn’t want to cheapen the integrity of what I do,” she says.

But bills don’t pay themselves. So the party planner pivoted. She now picks the perfect gifts, and personalizes them.

“I’m 58,” Susie says. “My friends are retiring, and moving to Boca. I’m starting a new business.

“Clients always trusted us with their mitzvahs, birthdays and weddings. Now they trust us with ‘contactless shopping.’ I text them photos; we gift-wrap and ship — technology is great.”

Shari Goldstein

Susie has always supported women-owned businesses. She shares the stories of 2 friends, who also were severely impacted by COVID.

Shari Goldstein is a speech pathologist. She too loves her work. And she too has relied on face-to-face contact. It’s important to see how a child’s lips and mouth move, in order to help.

But Shari has moved her business online. She conducts sessions by video now. It’s different — but she’s adapted.

“She could have packed it in too,” Shari says. “She didn’t. She’s too passionate about what she does.”

As with Susie, trust is crucial. “You trusted her with your kids in person. Now you trust her over the computer with your 2-year-old.”

We don’t always think of nutrition as a personal field. Yet, Susie asks, “what is a more sensitive topic that weight loss or health, for you and your family?”

Robin Barrie Kaiden

During the pandemic, her friend Robin Barrie Kaiden has added an app and link to her website, allowing clients to communicate virtually.

“I’m impressed with my friends,” Susie says. “Their ingenuity is amazing.”

As for herself, she notes, “A much as I want my business to go back, I can’t do it before everyone is ready. I love event planning, but I love this too. I have to look forward and be positive. I hate negativity.”

Besides, she says, “look at the real estate market. Lots of people are moving to new houses. They all need housewarming gifts!”

One of Pink House Productions’ new offerings.

Rally Set For Downtown Starbucks Employee

An 8 a.m. rally is planned for Friday morning (July 24) in support of a downtown Starbucks employee.

The barista, Dayshawn — one of the most popular at the Parker Harding Plaza location — has posted on social media that he is the target of continued harassment by one customer. She calls him the “N-word,”and stalked him in the parking lot.

Dayshawn, the Starbucks employee.

Other customers have witnessed what’s happened. Dayshawn said that Starbucks officials have not intervened effectively, not banning her while telling him and co-workers it is their job to serve customers.

Organizers add that the woman harassing Dayshawn is “unstable. The focus is not on her. It is on this: After Dayshawn and his coworkers wrote to corporate Starbucks about this woman, they shrugged him off.

“This is systemic racism, enabled by corporate America. There is no reason he should have been in a hostile working environment like this. They need to answer for it.

“No one inside the local Starbucks is responsible for what Dayshawn has experienced. They have been very supportive of Dayshawn throughout this. The focus is on what we stand for in this town and what we expect of our business models.

“Please wear yellow if you have it, and keep this supportive. Even a sign with a heart will send a message.”

 

Roundup: P&Z; Ospreys; Justin Paul; Bridge Lights; More


This Thursday (July 21, 5 p.m., Zoom session), the Planning & Zoning Commission considers 3 COVID-related items.

Two are text amendments aimed at striking a balance between promoting economic vitality and protecting nearby residents.

One would extend the current temporary outdoor dining regulations through March 31, 2021. The other would allow fitness businesses to use certain outdoor spaces, enabling them to serve clients in a socially distanced way.

In addition, Pierrepont School is seeking to use additional space at 220 Post Road West — across the street from its current home at 1 Sylvan Road North — to provide more social distancing space for its approximately 48 students in grades 7-12, and staff.

The meeting will be livestreamed on www.westportct.gov, and shown on Optimum channel 79 and Frontier channel 6020. Public comments may be sent by noon on Thursday to PandZ@westportct.gov, and during the meeting as well (PandZcomments@westportct.gov. For full details, click here.

Outdoor dining has been successful on Railroad Place.


Yesterday’s Roundup featured a photo of the Fresh Market osprey fledglings.

A bird-watching friend writes about other osprey platforms in town. They include:

Two on the exit road from Longshore. One is along Gray’s Creek at the back of the out-of-town parking lot for the marina. The other is along the exit road just past Gloria’s mooring, opposite the 12th green.

Two are at Sherwood Island. One is north of the Nature Center in the salt marsh between the island and Beachside Commons; the second is on the west side of the island, in the marsh alongside Sherwood Mill Pond, north from the end of the second bridge at the tidal gates,

One more is off Beachside Avenue, east of Burying Hill Beach and Harvey Weinstein’s former home.

All 5 are occupied, and have 2 or 3 hatchlings each. They’re practicing flying and fishing prior to their late summer migration to South America for the winter.

A local osprey nest (Photo/Jen Greely)


Staples High School 2003 graduate Justin Paul has gone on to fame (and many honors) for his off-the-charts songwriting (“Dear Evan Hansen,” “La La Land,” “The Greatest Showman”).

But he has not forgotten his home town. He recently volunteered as a judge for the Norwalk-to-Bridgeport Project Census Throwdown contest, encouraging high school students to write creatively and educationally about the 2020 Census.

Justin was very impressed with the winning rap submission, from Elijah Atkins of Bridgeport’s Bridge Academy. He encouraged Elijah to further explore his gift for lyrical structure and creativity.

Congratulations, Elijah — and thanks, Justin!

Justin Paul


A few spots remain for the Earthplace Summer Teen Volunteer Club. Daily activities include animal care, special event preparation, and maintaining the Earthplace private preserve.

Sessions run July 17-August 7, and August 10-21. For information, click here.


The Westport Downtown Merchants Association has decorated the Ruth Steinkraus Cohen Bridge downtown with summer-color lights: blue, green and white.

Pretty lit!


And finally … Happy 72nd birthday, Cat Stevens (Yusuf Islam). There are so many songs to pay him tribute. Here are 3. What’s your pick? Click “Comments” below.

Roundup: Hot Yoga Closes; Book Donations; Contact Tracing; Commuter Survey; More

 

 


Hot Yoga writes:

“It is with the heaviest of hearts that we tell you we are closing the doors to Westport (/Fairfield) Hot Yoga. This was a difficult decision that was made very consciously, and for a variety of reasons both in and out of our control.

“For 10 ½ years, we brought you the very best hot yoga that we know how. We also spent this time building an incredibly strong and resilient community of beautiful yogis, of which you are an integral member. This is not goodbye. This is just so long for now.

“We feel very connected to each of you in our own way, and hope we can continue to grow and develop these relationships with you, although it will not be at 877 Post Road East. With everlasting grace and gratitude — Rich, Abbey and Yogi.””


There’s a (relatively) new liquor store. An established (and much beloved) donut shop. Across the street will be a (very) new restaurant.

And — in mid-September — Outpost Pizza establishes an outpost at the site of a former dry cleaners, near Coffee An’, The Grapevine, and the new spot soon to replace 323.

Outpost has a great reputation in Stamford. Their prices are good. They’ll be welcomed to the neighborhood, for sure.


Westport Library Book Sales has been “overwhelmed by the generosity of our community.”

They resumed collections yesterday at 9 a.m. By 2 p.m. the shed was full.

Donations must be quarantined for 3 days, so no more can be accepted now. Donations resume next Thursday.

For more information, click here.


The Westport Weston Health District says: Be aware of scammers posing as COVID-19 contact tracers!

Impostors claim to work for “the sheriff’s office” or local health department. They say they need to load “contact tracing software” onto a victim’s computer. 

Do not fall for these scammers. Official contact tracers working on behalf of the WWHD or state Department of Public Health will never ask to enter your home, threaten you with a fine, or ask you for personal financial information. Anyone asking for such information is trying to steal your identity, money or both.

If someone asks to enter your home for “contact tracing,” call the police immediately.  Do not let strangers into your home.

Other things to be alert for if you receive a call:

  • Do not pay a contact tracer. Anyone who says you must pay is a scammer.
  • Do not give out your Social Security number or financial information. There is no reason why a legitimate tracer would need these.
  • Do not share your immigration status. Legitimate contact tracers do not need, and will not ask for, this information.
  • Do not download anything onto your computer. Real contact tracers will not ask you to download any software on your computer.

Contact tracing is an important component of public health, and an essential tool to stop the spread of COVID-19.

Connecticut’s contact tracing initiative is completely voluntary. There is no cost to participate. If you do participate, you may elect to receive daily health assessment reminders via text, email or phone. You will be reminded to do a simple assessment of your symptoms each day.

All information is strictly confidential. Contacts who are identified will not be given information on cases (such as the name of the person who may have exposed them).


The state Department of Transportation is conducting a brief survey about commuting during COVID-19. Answers will help the agency plan funding for future projects.

If you were or are a commuter, click here to take the survey.


MoCA Westport invites all Fairfield County teenagers interested in the arts to join its new Teen Council.

The Council will connect the museum with area youth through events, exhibitions, performances and educational programming. Teen Council members will develop strong relationships with prominent artists and community leaders as they explore their personal creativity.

Teen Council members will enjoy behind-the-scenes access to MoCA Westport — and free memberships.

Click here to apply, Questions? Email teencouncil@mocawestport.org or check out Instagram: @mocawestportteens.


And finally … happy 85th birthday, Peter Schickele!

Friday Flashback #201

Years from now, kids growing up in Westport today will look back with love on Saugatuck Sweets.

The Riverside Avenue hangout has it all: great ice cream, and plenty of other sweet treats. An inviting, we-want-you-here vibe. A plaza right on the river, with music and other entertainment. It’s a special go-to place for kids (of all ages).

Decades ago, the Ice Cream Parlor played a similar role. Pretending (in the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s) to be an “old-fashioned” ice cream shop, it was known for sundaes, a “pig’s trough” (if you finished it all, you didn’t have to pay), and penny candy like dots you licked off wax paper (seriously?).

It was a family spot, somewhere to go after the movies, definitely a date destination.

The pink Ice Cream Parlor on the Post Road, painted by Gabrielle Dearborn. It’s now a non-pink office building.

The Ice Cream Parlor had 3 incarnations. It started on Main Street, on the first floor of the building The Brownstone recently vacated (next to what’s now Savvy + Grace and the former Tavern on Main restaurant — back then, Chez Pierre).

The Ice Cream Parlor moved to the north end of Compo Shopping Center (now Cohen’s Fashion Optical). The final spot was on the Post Road just east of Colonial Green; it’s now a real estate office, opposite Quality Towing & Auto Repair.

In 1955, Seventeen Magazine used the first location for a photo shoot. I’m not sure what the story was. But these images — sent along by Brenda Pool — are either very iconic, or very ironic.

(Photos/Dennis Warsaw)

Christie’s Country Store: A Dash Of Renovation?

For a place that looks almost exactly like as it did 7 decades ago, Christie’s has seen a lot.

For decades, Christie Masiello and her nephew Don ran the Cross Highway store as a country market. Nearby residents bought milk, eggs and produce there.

When the Masiellos finally sold it, there were changes (including a brief, forgettable moment as a dry cleaner).

In 2009 John and Renee Hooper bought it, and brought back the comfy, community gathering place vibe. They added burritos, prepared foods, Frosty Bear ice cream and a Sunday farmers’ market.

The couple wanted to offer brunch in the winter by the fire, and on the porch in the summer, plus a limited dinner menu. But state regulations prohibit expanding the septic system — a prerequisite for the changes — so after 9 years the Hoopers closed Christie’s.

Chef’s Table took over in April 2019, adding premium sandwiches, soups and a salad bar. But it closed this past January. Owner Rich Herzfeld said, “Very simply, the location didn’t work out for us.”

Jonathan Mathias

Jonathan Mathias thinks it can work for him. The 1977 Weston High School graduate — who for 20 years has built A Dash of Salt into a full-service catering firm with clients throughout the tri-state area, and as far as Maine and Florida — had long been encouraged by Christie’s owner, Tim Purcell, to give it a try.

Now Jonathan wants to.

He’s got some intriguing ideas. He’d transform the patio, with inviting seating, and hang rattan swings by the entrance. He’d bring back the ice cream hut, and sell Arethusa dairy products from Litchfield inside. He’d offer pick-up Community Supported Agriculture boxes from a farm partner, and local fresh eggs too.

With a bit of attention and fixing up, Jonathan says, Christie’s could be vibrant and exciting. He mentions Harbor Market in Sag Harbor as a model.

But he needs community support. He was buoyed by many positive comments when he floated the idea on Facebook.

Of course, online likes don’t translate into cold cash. Putting a first-class market requires extensive funding. Purchasing the building would be ideal. He’s looking for investors who share his vision.

Interested residents — or anyone who would like to know more — should email contact@adashofsaltcatering.com.

Christie’s, and its traditional front porch.

Just tell him Christie Masiello sent you.

[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: