Category Archives: Local business

Pic Of The Day #782

We’re not sure who’s taking over the Post Road Gulf station at Hillspoint Road (Cumberland Farms). But it’s sure taking a while to change. (Photo/Art Schoeller)

Youth Commission’s Student Market Pops Up Saturday

Staples High School students take a heavy course load. Local graduation requirements are even more onerous than state ones.

Yet our teenagers also participate in clubs; play music and sports; act; volunteer in the community, and hold jobs.

Somehow, some of them even find time to make custom items. Others paint and bake.

This Saturday (June 8, 12 noon to 4 p.m., Bedford Square), the public gets a chance to see some of their most creative work.

And buy it.

Hillary O’Neill creates and sells terrariums through her company, Pebbles + Posies.

The Westport Youth Commission is sponsoring their 3rd annual  Student Creation Market.

Here’s some of what you’ll find among the dozen businesses:

  • Custom posters and stickers (Tomaso Scotti)
  • Paintings (Evie Dockray)
  • Custom dog treats (Lina Singh)
  • Limited edition custom shoes (Mitch Price)
  • Homemade terrariums (Hillary O’Neill)
  • Baked goods (Cate Casparius)
  • Creative cookies and desserts (Hailey Nusbaum)

The past 2 Student Creation Markets have drawn hundreds of attendees. Many have become huge — and continuing — customers of the young entrepreneurs.

It’s a special event — one day only.

Because when it’s over, our teenagers go back to work.

Coffee An’ … Moth Hole Repairs

Lisa Denaro is one of the many reasons to love Coffee An’.

The longtime waitress greets regulars and newcomers alike with a warm smile and great service.

She also sews their sweaters.

Lisa Denaro

One day, she noticed a moth hole on a very regular customer. Boldly, she told him she could fix it.

He took it off, and handed it over.

When Lisa gave it back a few days later, he was so impressed he urged her to start a business.

Darn It!

That’s the name she chose. Since then, she’s repaired moth holes for a number of Coffee An’ customers.

Lisa has found her niche. She does not do tailoring or seamstress work. Just moth hole repair.

Well, pet-sitting too. That’s another business: I Love ‘Em Like You Do.

But that’s another story entirely.

(For moth repair, call Lisa at 203-400-7589.)

Septic Systems, 8-30g, And A New Westport Hotel

There’s a new 8-30g application coming down the pike Post Road.

From all indications though, this one will face smooth sailing.

On Thursday (June 6, 7 p.m., Town Hall), an entity called 1480 PRE Associates goes before the Planning & Zoning Commission. They’ll ask for a special permit and site plan approval to build 32 housing units at 148o Post Road East.

They’ll be 1- and 2-bedrooms. Thirty percent will be affordable housing, as defined by Connecticut’s 8-30g statute.

The property — between the Rio Bravo/Julian’s Pizza strip mall, and a gas station — is a throwback to the days before the Post Road was greened and cleaned. Roger’s was there for decades; before that, it was Bob’s Welding.

There’s a little bit of music history too: Donna Summer shot an early music video there.

Roger’s Septic Tanks. The flowers in the foreground belonged to the gas station next door.

Several years ago, a private agreement was reached between the owner of the commercial site and homeowners on Cottage Lane — which runs behind — stipulating that no housing could be built on the property. The agreement did not involve the town.

However, word on the street Post Road is that homeowners have been consulted, and are on board with this project.

Something will eventually go in there. Sounds like neighbors are happier to have residents nearby, rather than another retail or office complex.

Less far along the P&Z pipeline — but perhaps more intriguing — is a pre-application that will also be heard on Thursday.

The agenda item reads:

To discuss amending the RORD #1 to allow Hotel Use for future redevelopment of 1 Burr Rd from Westport Rehabilitation Complex to “The Westport Hotel,” presented by Leonard M. Braman.

Will the Mediplex nursing home on Post Road West — next to Kings Highway Elementary School — be transformed into a hotel?

Stay tuned.

Westport Rehabilitation Complex’s Burr Street entrance.

Peggy’s Cottage: A Long Way From Tipperary To Westport

Just about the only thing better than an Irish brogue is hearin’ it spoken — and seein’ the smiles on the faces — of the owners of Peggy’s Cottage.

That’s the all-Irish, all-the-time shop that opened a wee bit ago across from Stop & Shop.

Irish candy, chips, drinks, flour, clothes, books, scented candles, gifts — they’re all there, in a Westfair Shopping Center store that looks like a cottage from the old country. Irish music plays in the background.

Brian Ellard and Meg Kirby, in Peggy’s Cottage. Which, of course, looks like an Irish cottage.

Brian Ellard and Meg Kirby are the owners. The Irish are known for their storytelling, and the couple’s tale is a grand one.

They’re both from Tipperary. He worked in a bakery, she at the local factory. In 1994 they decided to “chase the American dream.”

Meg’s uncle — Jim Fahey — had done the same thing, from the same county, in the 1960s. He had nothing when he arrived, but found work in construction. He helped build the first World Trade Center. After relocating to Westport he started a moving company, and built it into a big, successful business.

Brian worked for him for a while, then founded his own firm: Arra Carpentry. After 15 years, he and Meg embarked on a new adventure.

Peggy’s Cottage is exactly what Irish expats — and those from the rest of the UK too — have been looking for.

Some of the treats at Peggy’s Cottage.

There are lots of them, too. Fairfield’s Gaelic-American Club is thriving. The area is filled with folks from Ireland, England, Scotland and Wales. Throw in those who trace their ancestry there, those who have visited and love it, and those who are just curious, and the customer base is huge.

But the appeal is extra special for lads and lasses with brogues.

It wasn’t two minutes that I was talking with Brian and Meg when a young, red-headed guy walked in. He headed strait for the Alpen muesli.

Real Irish muesli is hard to find. In the States, anyway.

“I’ve been looking for this for years!” he said. He’d found something similar in a couple of stores, but it didn’t taste the way he remembered it.

“Sugar is different in Ireland,” Brian explains. “It comes from sugar beets. That’s why the flavors are different — cereal, candy, all of it.”

Cows are fed differently too. The food he and Meg sell is the real Irish deal. They carry what they like.

And when customers ask for something — like Scottish potato bread — they add it to the shelves.

Gifts galore at Peggy’s Cottage.

Customers tend to linger — and talk.

“Irish people like to socialize,” Brian says. “You know ‘the craic’ —  that’s news, gossip, fun, entertainment, enjoyable conversation.” There’s plenty of the craic at Peggy’s Cottage.

And you know “the luck of the Irish”?

Westport is lucky too — to have Peggy’s Cottage right here in town.

Brian and Meg invite customers to put a pin in this map, to show where they’re from. The owners are happy to order anything direct from any county.

Joseph Oyebog Serves Cameroon Tennis, With Intensity

In 2017, “06880” highlighted Joseph Oyebog.

The former Davis Cup tennis player/Cameroon national champion/beloved local tennis coach created a tennis academy in Africa. Thousands of youngsters benefit. Twenty earned college scholarships, or obtained coaching positions in the US and Europe.

The “06880” story invited readers to help him build an actual school.

Joseph Oyebog

You responded immediately. Support since then has enabled the Oyebog Tennis Academy to bring electricity to the campus. That led to the purchase of a refrigerator, which in turn helps feed young players 3 meals a day.

OTA has become a national tennis center. Important tournaments are played there, raising the profile of Cameroon tennis across the continent — and the confidence, hope and opportunity of youngsters in desperate need of all.

Joseph continues to do 2 things here: teach tennis, and gather resources to support the OTA program.

Westporters have rallied around Joseph’s mission, and been an important help.

For example, Guy and Sunny Sherman are co-presidents of the OTA board. The tennis center is named Sherman Grounds in their honor.

Heidi Kness, Stephanie Lemcke, Beth Hochhauser, Monica Ryan, Oona Robinson, Chris Lebrun, Lorraine Oldale, Christina Schwerin and Claire Mason all provide invaluable assistance. So does the Staples High School boys tennis team, which packs used tennis equipment to be sent to Cameroon.

Last fall, Westporters helped send a shipping container to Cameroon. It included  tennis equipment, shoes, tennis balls, clothes — and a truck. Joseph Oyebog stands proudly in the center.

On Saturday, June 1 (7 p.m., Intensity Tennis Center, 490 Westport Ave., Norwalk), OTA celebrates its 20th anniversary with a TennisFest.

It’s a night of food, fun, tennis playing and socializing. Alexandra Stevenson, Wimbledon semifinalist and former top 20 WTA star, will play in the Pro/Pro Mixed doubles event.

And the cause is one everyone can “love.”

(Click here for tickets and more information. Hat tip: Debra Levin)

I’m Sure This Stop & Shop Scene Is Just A Post-Strike Coincidence

After all, as the sign says, human beings will still do the clean-up:

(Photos/Mark Mathias)

What could possibly go wrong?

Bookcycle’s Remarkable Journey

The Remarkable Bookcycle sure gets around.

The mobile free library — a fun, funky collaboration between writer Jane Green, her husband Ian Warburg, artist/longtime Remarkable Book Shop enthusiast Miggs Burroughs and former Staples High School student Ryan Peterson — made its way from the Green/Warburgs’ Owenoke home to Bedford Square last fall.

EJ Zebro — owner of TAP StrengthLab — pedaled it over to Main Street recently, where it greeted visitors to the 1st Outdoor Market behind Savvy + Grace.

But Jane — a client and friend of EJ’s — told him the Bookcycle had to be back at the beach for the summer.

He and his TAP staff jumped at the chance to help. When the weather was right, Lauren Leppla hopped on, and made her move.

Local director Amelia Arnold chronicled the trip. If you didn’t see her (and it) riding by, here you go:

As Railroad Place Changes, Quentin Row Moves

Four years ago, Suited.co opened on Railroad Place.

Owner Ryan Meserole was passionate about selling high-quality, hand-crafted suits.

He figured his location — directly opposite the train station — was perfect for his target audience. Men could stop in on their way to or from the city. Surrounded by restaurants, coffee places and cool shops like Indulge by Mersene, he loved the vibrant neighborhood.

Ryan believed in giving back. He donated to local charities and national relief efforts. He gave discounts — even freebies — to less-fortunate local teenagers, and inner-city youngsters.

Recently, he rebranded Suited.co as Quentin Row. His commitment to the community was as strong as ever.

But in just a few years, the community has changed.

Fewer people commute to and from New York, Ryan says — a function of both the changing nature of work, and the decline of Metro-North. And with longer train rides (and regular delays), anyone who can take a town car to the city is now driven in.

Even a small change like Goldman Sachs’ recently relaxed, more informal dress code has affected his business.

Ryan Meserole, in his store.

In addition — and crucially — Ryan says that Railroad Place has changed.

The closing of Commuter Coffee cut sharply into foot traffic. And — partly because of family issues — the long-promised renaissance of the area near the train station has stalled.

For all those reasons, Ryan will close his store at the end of May.

But he’s not closing his business. He’s redirecting it toward a new, more flexible version of itself. Call it Quentin Row 2.0.

A 22-foot mobile showroom will travel to area train stations, festivals and the like.

Ryan will also refocus his efforts online. He promises that in cyberspace, he’ll still offer the “concierge service” customers appreciate.

Quentin Row online.

He will still have a physical presence. When Sconset Square renovations are complete, Ryan will share space with Gino, his long-time tailor.

Ryan will also offer private appointments in his Riverside Avenue home.

He could have gone to the new Norwalk mall, Ryan notes. But he insists that a town like Westport deserves a “niche heritage brand” like his.

He feels sad leaving Railroad Place. He put a lot of money into his renovations, and he knows the loss of a store leaves a void.

He says the new tenant is an office, not retail.

“I don’t think that’s what the street was designed for,” he says. “But people shop differently now.”

Railroad Place, 2 years ago. (Photo/Lynn Untermeyer Miller)

Still, he knows his new operation will give him a better work/life balance. Since the coffee shop closed, he’s sat in his store and watched foot traffic dwindle.

He thinks little things could make a big difference. If the MTA put its ticket machines in the station house, instead of on the platforms, “people would see the stores,” Ryan says. “Now, they don’t know we’re here.”

Yet for Quentin Road, time has run out.

“But I still love Westport,” he says. “I’m not going anywhere.”

Except in his new, 22-foot mobile showroom. Coming soon to an event — or train station — near you.

The Home Cook Really Delivers

Stephanie Berghoff was a hospitality major at Syracuse University. She took cooking classes after graduation in New York, then co-founded Culintro — a “LinkedIn for restaurant professionals.”

When she and her husband moved from Manhattan to Westport 3 years ago for the usual reasons — schools, and more room for their growing family — she continued her “chef head-hunting” business.

Last summer, she realized that her young children were not eating most of the delicious food she cooked for them.

So Stephanie decided to cook for others.

And deliver her food right to them.

She’s found a thriving market. The Home Cook has hit Westport’s sweet spot.

Stephanie Berghoff shops locally.

Every Wednesday, Stephanie sends menus to her email list. Customers order — sometimes every time, sometimes occasionally. The deadline is 10 a.m. Saturday.

She shops for supplies at Whole Foods and Stew Leonard’s (where, she says, organic meats are “really good,” fish is always fresh, and the dairy selection is great). Vegetables are procured locally.

Working out of a certified kitchen in a Weston church, Stephanie cooks 4 days a week. She does most of it herself; a local chef helps out once weekly.

She (and one assistant) deliver the meals — entrees and sides — Mondays and Wednesdays between 3 and 6 p.m., directly to customers’ homes. Stephanie follows up by email, with heating instructions.

In the beginning, Stephanie offered 4 basic options: beef, chicken, fish and grain-based meals.

Now there are more. She tries for 3 dishes that entire families can enjoy, and 2 that are “a bit more sophisticated.” Those may be for adults only — or foods that parents can introduce their kids to.

Greek-style chicken came with couscous and Greek salad. Another option: cauliflower couscous.

A recent Monday included:

  • Honey soy chicken poke bowl, served with charred bok choy and a choice of sushi rice or broccoli rice
  • Shrimp and crab or fish cakes, served with steamed artichokes and twice baked potatoes or roasted garlic Parmesan cauliflower
  • BBQ grilled chicken breasts, served with a spring salad asparagus and peas, plus corn bread (options: honey butter grilled corn and steamed broccoli)
  • Italian beef meatballs in a homemade tomato sauce, linguine or spaghetti squash, Caprese salad and sauteed kale.

All are healthy, using organic products whenever possible. She always offers no-carb and gluten-free options.

Favorites are Italian cuisine: chicken Parmesan, Marsala, Piccata and Scarpariello. Her pesto and chili dishes draw raves too.

Stephanie has had only had one or two busts. She thought meat loaf or shepherd’s pie would be great winter comfort food, but they did not prove popular.

This summer, Stephanie plans to add fully prepared barbecue packages.

Most dishes are freezable. Some customers order multiple meals, for later in the week.

Stephanie Berghoff’s gluten-free zucchini noodle mac and cheese.

Stephanie loves to read food magazines. They often provide new meal ideas.

Clients include working parents who want home-cooked meals for themselves and their family; stay-at-home parents with little time to cook; people who travel frequently, and those with family emergencies.

Proudly, she says, “I’ve never had a customer not come back.”

Besides cooking, time management is one of Stephanie’s talents. She has only a couple of hours after dropping her kids at school to cook, organize each individual order (with separate sides), and deliver them on time.

“If you’ve got young kids and count on this for dinner, it can’t be late,” she notes.

The Home Cook knows that everyone loves home cooking. She also knows that sometimes, people take credit for home cooking when they haven’t, well, cooked at home.

That’s fine.

“The biggest compliment is when people take credit for my meal,” she says.

“When kids say, ‘Mom, cook that again’ — I love it! That’s my goal.

“Home-cooked meals come from the heart. I want everyone to take pride in my food.”

(For more information on The Home Cook — including ordering and getting on her email list — click here.)