Category Archives: Local business

Roundup: Longshore Inn, Outdoor Dining, Ospreys …

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The new operators of the Longshore Inn have big plans.

This afternoon (Wednesday, March 31, 5:30 p.m.), Charles Mallory — CEO of Greenwich Hospitality Group, which runs the very successful Delamar Hotels — joins Dave Briggs on Instagram Live to reveal what’s ahead.

Listen — and respond in real time — via @WestportMagazine. You can send questions on Instagram ahead of time too: @DaveBriggsTV.

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The Westport Transit District recently replaced its previous fixed route system with Wheels2U Westport service, an on-demand, door-to-train station group shuttle service.

As part of the changeover, posters advertising the 50-year-old fixed route service at the Saugatuck train station were replaced with new ones highlighting the advantages of Wheels2U.

The Westport Transit District donated one of those now-historic fixed route posters to the Westport Museum for History & Culture yesterday. for its collection.

With Metro-North ridership beginning to pick up again, Wheels2U provides a convenient, reliable, and inexpensive way to get to and from the Westport and Greens Farms train stations. It serves a larger portion of Westport and meets more trains than the prior fixed route service.

Riders can order a ride using the Wheels2U phone app, be picked up at their door and then dropped off at the station platform at any time between 5:45 and 9:45  a.m., and 4 and 8 p.m. Reverse commuters can take the shuttle from the train station to their jobs almost anywhere in Westport for less than other alternatives.

Future plans for the WTD include getting more employees to their jobs, shoppers to stores, and seniors to the Senior Center.

For Wheels2U Westport’s service area, fares and other information, click here.  For information about Westport Transit’s door-to-door services for the elderly and people with a disability, click here.

Westport Transit District director Peter Gold presents Westport Museum of History & Culture collections director Nicole Carpenter with a now-historic Westport Transit District poster.

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Yesterday, the State Senate unanimously approved legislation to extend outdoor dining in Connecticut through March 31, 2022.

Local zoning or planning officials still have the final power to permit or expand outdoor dining. The law minimizes paperwork like site surveys or traffic studies, in order to expedite the process.

Earlier this month, Westport’s Board of Selectmen voted unanimously to extend outdoor dining here until further notice.

Outdoor dining on Church Lane last year.

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The ospreys are back — and not just at Fresh Market.

Chris Swan spotted one pair of the magnificent raptors at the nesting platform on Sherwood Mill Pond. He saw another on the saltmarsh at the end of Beachside Common, behind the Nature Center at Sherwood Island State Park. Welcome home to those two happy couples!

A Fresh Market — not Sherwood Island — osprey. (Photo.Carolyn Doan)

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Patagonia is holding a food drive for Homes with Hope. Bring non-perishable goods like canned chicken, tuna, salmon and soup, mayonnaise, peanut butter and jelly, cereal and pasta source to the downtown store.

They also sell “Patagonia Provisions” — items that can be bought, then given away. (Hat tip: Sal Liccione)

(Photo/Lauri Weiser)

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Taylor Whiteside (Whitey) Bailey, a Wesport native and member of a prominent Westport family, died March 18 in Escondido, California of natural causes. He was 88 years old.

He was the 5th child of Franklin and Mary Alice Bailey. His mother was well known here as the assistant to Miss Irene Comer at her dancing school, held in the second floor ballroom of the Westport YMCA. His father was the stepson of Arthur Dare Whiteside, a founder and president of Dun & Bradstreet, and one of the early developers of the Sylvan Road and Nash’s Pond areas of Westport.

Bailey’s brother and sisters included Mary Bailey Beck, Ann Bailey Hall, Franklin Bailey, Jr. and Dare Bailey Wells, all deceased. Joan Whiteside was his step-sister.

Bailey attended Bedford Elementary School and Bedford Junior High School, and was a 1950 graduate of Staples High School. He was a competitive swimmer at Longshore Country Club and a lifeguard at Compo Beach.

He joined the U.S. Marines after high school, and served overseas from 1950-53 during the Korean War. While stationed with the Marines at Camp Pendleton, he was chosen to be the jeep driver in the movie “Retreat, Hell.”

Bailey and his first wife, Allison Norris Bailey, moved to California from Westport in the late 1950s. The former sales manager of Pace Arrow motor home company, he spent the last 25 years of his life in Fallbrook, California.

Allison Norris Bailey and Mr. Bailey’s second wife, Jan Bailey, are deceased.
He is survived by twin sons Kim W. Bailey and Timothy Norris Bailey, both of Westport; Will Mason Bailey of Maui, and 3 grandchildren.

Taylor Whiteside Bailey

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Sure, you can have all the apps and video games you want. But there’s nothing like flying a good old-fashioned kite.

The good news: Tomorrow will be windy. The bad news: It may rain.

Amy Schneider spotted this colorful kite yesterday, at Compo Beach:

(Photo/Amy Schneider)

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And finally … happy 336th birthday, to Johann Sebastian Bach!

Roundup: Autism Awareness, Burying Hill Rocks …

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To honor Autism Awareness Month, Westport Police officers bought special commemorative badges. They’ll wear them on their uniforms throughout April.

The blue badge prominently features the puzzle piece logo — the symbol of autism awareness. A portion of the badge’s purchase price will be donated to Autism Speaks.

Westport Police officers show off their autism badges.

In addition, Fleet Auto Supply donated autism logos for the doors of all police cars.

During Autism Awareness Month, the Police Department reminds Westporters about the town’s Disability Registry. A combined effort of the Westport Disability Commission, Human Services and the Police, the confidential registry provides essential information to assist police and other emergency workers to address the needs of residents of all abilities. Click here for signup information.

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Westport’s rockiest beach is getting some love.

Two machines were hard at work yesterday and today, at Burying Hill Beach.

One ran rocks through a sifter.

Another smoothed the sand.

(Photos/Art Schoeller)

It’s not as difficult as freeing a 220,000-ton ship from the Suez Canal.

But it’s close.

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Concerned how much longer the bull market will run? Worried what’s next?

Y’s Women’s Investment Group has a few slots for new members. The club has analyzed the market for more than 20 years — and achieved better results than some famous prognosticators. For more information, email dynamicr@icloud.com.

Y’s Women membership is $45 a year. To learn more, click here. For the latest newsletter, click here.

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Betty Stolpen Weiner writes: “I recently moved back to the area (Weston), and wanted to share a nice Westport experience.

“I needed a large and very heavy table moved to my basement. I saw on Facebook that the Staples High School wrestling team moves furniture in exchange for a donation for the team.

“Sal Augeri sent his son Nick over with some friends to help. I was so impressed with how polite, responsible and helpful the boys were! It was a nice reminder of why I chose to move back to the area.”

If you’ve got moving (or other physical labor) needs, email salaugeri@me.com or terrybrannigan5@gmail.com.

Among the wrestlers’ jobs: moving a chicken coop. (This was before the pandemic, which is why they’re not wearing masks.)

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Samantha Lavy and Jennifer Strom — aka the JSRC Group of therapists — has opened a Westport office, at 26 Imperial Avenue. They’ll continue their Stamford practice too.

“We support couples, families, teens, and individuals as we all move through these challenging times and beyond,” they say. “We also continue our work advising families navigating the particular complexities and family dynamics which often occur in the context of family business and wealth.”

For more information call 203-212-8383, or email hello@jsrcgroup.com

Samantha Lavy (left) and Jennifer Strom.

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A worried “06880” reader writes:

“I was on my way to the transfer station, when a lady behind me took a picture of my minivan. I thought, oh boy, I bet with the wind, a trash bag fell out of the can on my cargo hitch.

“I got the station. Sure enough, one bag was missing.

“I drove the same route back, and found it. I picked it up and drove home.

“I am writing just in case a picture of my super-cool white minivan with an awesome cargo hitch gets carrying a couple of trash cans gets to you.

“I thought the lady who took a picture of my minivan would post it on social media and send it to you. I thought I would have to sell the super-cool minivan to avoid being identified and embarrass my children forever.

“I swear I pick up after my dog and park my car using one spot. Nevertheless, the fact that someone had a picture of my car was a very strong incentive to trace down the fly-away-trash bag.”

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And finally … tons o’ musical birthdays today, with a variety of genres. We salute:

Jay Traynor, the original “Jay” of Jay & the Americans (replaced later by Jay Black); born in 1943, died in 2014, age 71.

Eric Clapton: 76 years old today.

MC Hammer: 59 years old.

Tracy Chapman: 57 years old.

Celine Dion: 53 years old.

Norah Jones: 42 years old.

COVID Vaccine: Tons Of Websites, Phone Numbers, Tips!

Beginning this Thursday (April 1), all Connecticut resident and employees 16 and older are eligible to schedule a COVID-19 vaccine appointment. Supplies are increasing; more locations and appointments are added weekly.

Alert — and helpful — “06880” reader Sarathi Roy got a ton of info from her company’s very caring HR department, here in Fairfield County. It’s the most comprehensive list I’ve seen.

He asked me to pass it along. Feel free to forward widely to others!

NOTE TO READERS BETWEEN 16-45 YEARS OLD: Not all sites update their eligibility questions at midnight, but you are able to book appointments starting at 12:01 a.m. Thursday. Select the age eligibility box for 45+, then use your real age and accurate date of birth in the booking process.

If you don’t get an appointment right away, be patient. New appointments are added daily. Patience and persistence pays off.

CVS

  • Use this shortcut link to book appts through CVS: https://www.cvs.com/vaccine/intake/store/covid-screener/covid-qns
  • CVS releases new appointments daily around midnight, and again at 5:30 or 6 a.m. The appointments typically book 3-5 days out.
  • You do not need a unique account to schedule CVS vaccine appointments. And you can book them on behalf of other family members, if you have their information.
  • CVS has many locations administering the vaccine in Connecticut. To widen your search beyond your home zip code or town, use “CT” in the search box to view all locations

Walgreens

  • You must have a Walgreens account to schedule a vaccine appointment. You can register for an account at anytime
  • Use this link to book appts through Walgreens: https://www.walgreens.com/findcare/vaccination/covid-19/location-screening
  • Walgreens releases new appointments daily at 7 a.m. You should be logged into your account and ready to search at that time for fastest results. Appointments are released for 3 days in advance.
  • To widen your initial search area, use “Connecticut” in the first location search. You can narrow to a zip code or town in a later search window.

Yale New Haven

  • The Yale New Haven health system requires a MyChart account for vaccine scheduling. You can register for an account in advance at: https://mychart.ynhhs.org/MyChart-PRD/Authentication/Login
  • Vaccine clinics are being run in Bridgeport, Fairfield, Greenwich, Milford, New Haven, North Haven, New London, Old Saybrook, Orange, Trumbull and Uncasville.
  • You can call 833-275-9644 for help scheduling.

Stamford Health

VAMS

  • VAMS is a federal and state tool for registering and booking appointments. It is not required in Connecticut. You can use it as an option for scheduling, but you do not need to register in VAMS in order to book appointments with any of the above providers.
  • You can register in VAMS around 8 a.m on April 1 for the new eligibility group: https://dphsubmissi.ons.ct.gov/OnlineVaccine/
  • Once registered, you will receive several emails. The first will confirm your registration; the next (from CDC) will ask you to complete your profile in VAMS. Then it will allow you to schedule an appointment at a state-run clinic.
  • Additional information about using VAMS can be found here: https://portal.ct.gov/vaccine-portal/COVID-19-Vaccinations-VAMS-Support

Other

  • Check your town’s website for information and clinics available only to residents. You may be able to register in advance, or receive a call for available appointments or excess doses.
  • Connecticut Vaccine Assist Line (877-918-2224) operates 7 days a week, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Agents can schedule appointments at state-run clinics. If you call early and are given the chance to leave a message, you should. They accept a certain number of messages each day, then call those people back throughout the day to assist in booking appointments. Once the maximum number of calls for the day has been reached, the message option is turned off.
  • Vaccinefinder.org will show which locations in your area are administering which vaccine (Pfizer, Moderna or Johnson & Johnson).

Roundup: Express Train, I-95, Passover …

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Today is National Vietnam War Veterans Day.

Let’s pause and remember all who served — including Westport’s own Jay Dirnberger.

Jay Dirnberger

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After New Orleans Pelicans star Zion Williamson’s great game Saturday night, Dallas Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle had an unusual way of comparing Williamson to an express train:

“It’s not just an Amtrak, it’s the Acela. it doesn’t stop in Westport, it just goes straight to New York City.” (Hat tip: Fred Cantor)

This express train does not stop in Westport.

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Westport Book Shop is a smash.

That’s not just my opinion. The Jesup Road used book store — which also sells vinyl, CDs, DVDs and audio books — is so successful, it’s expanding its hours.

They’re now open Tuesdays through Fridays, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Sundays, noon to 5 p.m. They’re closed Mondays.

They’re open 24/7 online, too: www.westportbooksales.org.

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How is the I-95/Beachside Avenue bridge replacement project going?

Brandon Malin’s drone offers this unique view:

(Drone photo/Brandon Malin)

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COVID knocked out every in-person Seder last year.

This Passover, some Westport families gathered in small groups. Others celebrated virtually.

Below, David Ader joins the Yormark Seder. Pippa Bell Ader notes: “In the interest of saving paper, this year we read from the Haggadah via the second computer, on the right.”

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Easter is Sunday. Which means there are only a few days left to get your Easter basket.

Savvy + Grace has great ones. You can head to the popular Main Street store and pick what you want.

Or email savvyandgracewestport@gmail.com. Include your name, phone number, and the age, likes and interests of the recipient. Annette Norton and her staff will put baskets together, and call for your review.

Not sure? Check out some pre-made baskets online (click here).

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International Mother Earth Day is coming soon. To celebrate, the United Nations Association’s Southwest Connecticut Chapter is running a Student Creativity Contest.

They’re looking for ways to promote the UN’s sustainable development goals, legal protections for nature, and efforts to preserve biodiversity.

Submissions in any form are welcome: posters, flyers, stickers, postcards, videos, tweets, web pages, poems, songs, social media posts, whatever.

Cash prizes are awarded: $300 for 1st place, $150 for 2nd, $75 for 3rd, $25 for 4th through 10th place.

The deadline is April 16. Email a JPG, PDF, PowerPoint, MP3, MP4 or hyperlink to unaswct@gmail.com. For more information, click here.

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Speaking of Earth Day: Last fall , Melissa Ceriale and her Prospect Road neighbors participated in Debra Kandrak’s daffodil planting project.

The results are gorgeous. And they’ll pop up every spring too!

Daffodils on Prospect Road. (Photo/Melissa Ceriale)

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And finally … on this day in 1871, Queen Victoria opened London’s Royal Albert Hall.

Dr. Altbaum Hangs Up His Stethoscope

Medicine has changed a lot in the 42 years since Dr. Robert Altbaum began practicing.

Physicians know much more. They have better treatments and medications.

On the other hand, it’s much more of a business. Paperwork (on computers) has increased exponentially. There’s less time for each patient.

Another trend — “concierge” medicine — has widened the gap between those who can afford to pay for added access to doctors, and those who can’t.

Dr. Robert Altbaum

Several years ago, Internal Medicine Associates of Westport — where Altbaum has spent his entire career — began talking about a concierge tier. Four partners left, to open a strictly concierge practice

“It would have made life easier, and probably more profitable,” he admits.

“But my patients had been so loyal. I wanted to continue the same way to the end.”

He accepted 100 or so concierge patients. The rest — hundreds — he treated just as he’d always done.

“Emotionally, for me, it was the right decision,” Altbaum says.

This June, one of Westport’s longest-serving physician retires. He’ll hike, snowshoe, play tennis, travel, and enjoy his wife, children and grandchildren. All live nearby.

He’ll join the Y’s Men, and — a “perpetual student” — take courses at local universities.

Yet he won’t leave medicine behind. Altbaum will teach at Norwalk Hospital, and give talks at places like the Westport Library, on subjects like hospice, advance directives, and searching the internet for diagnoses.

Medicine has been a rewarding career for Altbaum. It’s what he always wanted to do.

He graduated from the Bronx High School of Science at 16. After New York University (Phi Beta Kappa, summa cum laude) and Harvard Medical School, he did a residency in internal medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital.

His wife was a Staples High School graduate. Her mother was diagnosed with cancer. To be closer, he spent a year of ambulatory chief residency at Yale New Haven Hospital.

During his mother-in-law’s illness, Altbaum met Paul Beres and Harold Steinberg. They were looking to add an internist to their practice, established by others in the 1950s.

Altbaum joined them in June of 1978. He’s been there nearly 43 years.

“It’s gone by quickly,” the doctor says. “There have been different partners. But it’s the same shingle. The same name.”

Altbaum still works 70 hours a week. Each day, after 8 to 12 hours with patients, he spends 2 to 3 hours updating records on the computer.

He takes his laptop into the examining room too. He regrets having to look down at the screen, rather than always into his patients’ eyes.

But that same technology allows him to retrieve information quickly. It eliminates possible errors in medication. He’s come to embrace it.

Technology has also made his patients — always intelligent — much more aware of their own medical care. “They walk in well prepared with information,” Altbaum says. “That can be good or bad.”

And although he sees each patient less than before — 15 to 20 minutes, rather than 20 to 30 — he never sensed a change. “There’s still a strong bond,” he says. “They’re loyal to their doctor, and their doctor is loyal to them.”

The Internal Medicine Associates staff. Dr. Altbaum is standing, far right.

What kept Altbaum going for over 4 decades? “I really like medicine. I like the science. I like the feeling at the end of the day that I helped people.”

His greatest worry when he began was that internal medicine would be “colds and influenza.” In fact, he says, as his patients have aged — the majority are now older than he is — their issues have grown more complex. That’s a challenge. And in that challenge, strong relationships are forged.

In the weeks since announcing his retirement, Altbaum has been heartened by his patients’ responses. “People say I’ve made a difference in their lives. That’s so rewarding,” he says. “That far outweighs the burden of the hours.

“I’m grateful that I’ve gotten a lot of intellectual and emotional reimbursement from what I’ve done.”

He always planned to retire at 70. Had he left a year ago — before COVID — he says, he probably would have come back.

“This has been very hard on our partners,” he notes. “But from a medical perspective, it’s been a very stimulating time. We learned a lot. We digested a lot of information in a short period of time.”

Much of Altbaum’s life has been focused on medicine. But he has another passion. It’s been on display for years: music.

Not just any music. Rock ‘n’ roll.

Dr. Albtaum (front row, far right) and his band.

As a child, Altbaum took piano lessons. At 13, he and few friends formed a band: The Blue Shades.

“It was 3 months of acne and voice changes. We had no gigs. We were pretty bad,” he recalls.

At 18, he got a gig: accompanying youngsters at Hebrew School. When his own children were part of the Staples elite Orphenians choral group, he played piano for them.

Then, 20 years ago, he and fellow physicians Fred Kaplan, Andrew Parker and Frank Garofalo formed a band.

DNR plays at the Levitt Pavilion. Keyboardist/vocalist Dr. Altbaum is at right. (Photo courtesy of WestportNow)

“It was like a Mickey Rooney movie,” Altbaum says. “We were a garage band. We actually practiced in Frank’s garage.”

Other doctors joined. They got good. They called themselves DNR (medical-ese for “Do Not Resusciate”). Their website claims that former Surgeon General Everett Koop called them “the best multispecialty rock group in Fairfield County.”

Through the years, more doctors have played with DNR. (And one attorney: bassist Fred Ury.)

The current lineup has been together about 15 years. They’ve got a devoted classic rock following. Their Levitt Pavilion show — a fundraiser for Westport’s Volunteer Emergency Medical Service — is always jammed.

COVID canceled last year’s show. But Altbaum is eager to get back on stage.

And he’ll have as much time as he needs to rehearse. (Hat tip: Amy Schafrann)

Roundup: Make A Wish, Mixed Messages …

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The Make-A-Wish Foundation has asked the Westport Weston Family YMCA to help with an emergency request this afternoon.

And the Y has asked everyone to help.

The wish — from a 6-year-old boy — is to swim with his family at the Y, have a pizza party, and pet a bearded dragon.

The Y hopes that members of the community will join staff and members to line the Y driveway entrance, to welcome the youngster at 3:10 p.m. today (Sunday, march 28. Let’s make it an unforgettable day for him and the family.

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Meanwhile, Stop & Shop seems to be sending some mixed messages:

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And finally … for all who celebrate Palm Sunday today:

Stephen Kempson Suits The Times

Four years ago next month, Stephen Kempson opened a bespoke tailor shop on Post Road West, just over the Ruth Steinkraus Cohen Bridge.

In addition to suits, jackets, pants and shirts, he offered shoes, ties and cufflinks; tailoring; ready-to-wear items off the rack, and wardrobe consultation.

In 2020, January — normally a quiet month — was excellent.

But when COVID it, men’s clothiers everywhere were collateral damage.

With no office to go to, why would anyone buy a suit, jacket, pants, shirt, shoes, tie or cufflinks?

The only garments men needed were sweatpants.

Mannequins in the Stephen Kempson window — and reflections of the stores across Post Road West.

Stephen Kempson London closed for 9 weeks. To keep his 2 tailors busy, the owner had them sew masks. Fingers that once measured, cut and sewed fabrics to show men at their best now created products that covered their faces.

In June, people began venturing out. But no one headed back to the office. Through August, Kempson had no new orders.

Cloth merchants in England and Italy told him business would not really come back until 2022. The British native kept a stiff upper lip.

He used the time to plan. And pivot.

Kempson ordered patterns and samples to design items a man might want as part of his new wardrobe. He created a lightweight, casual jacket for spring — “like an updated, younger safari jacket,” he says.

Stephen Kempson shows off lightweight, casual jackets for spring.

Excited, he realized he could use different fabrics to create fall jackets and pants too.

Kempson brought back a casual jacket he designed 12 years ago. He took a classic cashmere sport coat, and replicated it as a quilted winter jacket. He did a blazer version too.

The new price points were lower than before: a $750 start, say, rather than $1,450.

Classic cashmere sport coat, replicated as a quilted winter jacket.

He began seeing men younger than his usual clientele. When they return to the office — perhaps this fall, probably later — it will no doubt be only a couple of days a week. Those may be seen as special occasions, and reasons to dress well.

Meanwhile, he is selling soft polos, and adding more sportswear with casual elements.

Soft polos from Stephen Kempson.

Kempson likes helping men build wardrobes around their own personal styles. His shop lacks the long racks of large stores. But he has plenty of fabrics to choose from.

In a sign of changing times, he’s offering 5o to 60% off ready-to-wear items, and 20 to 50% off custom suits and jackets.

“Italians don’t usually give discounts,” he says of his suppliers. “But now, in the pandemic, they’re giving 20% off.”

After 35 years in the men’s clothing business, he remains excited. “For so long, it was all suits and sport coats,” Kempson says. “I’m enjoying offering new things.”

Remembering Steve Lyons

Steve Lyons — the Cape Cod artist who opened a gallery in Westport in 2019 — died peacefully Sunday at his Chatham home, surrounded by family. He was 62 years old, and had battled brain cancer.

When Steve opened Bankside Contemporary on Post Road West, next to National Hall, he envisioned it as both a gallery and a communal gathering place. The pandemic — which struck just a few months later — and his illness forced Bankside to close last year.

Art was his second career. Steve spent most of his adult life as a corporate writer for a mutual fund. But 9 years ago he went back to a hobby he loved. He began painting on scrap wood. Within a few years, he was named one of the Top 5 Expressionist Artists in the World.

During treatment for his cancer in California, Steve and his partner of 36 years, Peter Demers, both contracted COVID. On January 10, Peter died. Friends raised funds for Steve to return to his beloved Cape Cod.

Click here for a full obituary.

Peter Demers and Steve Lyons.

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In February 2020, I featured Steve Lyons in an “0688o” post:

Westport has plenty of art galleries.

But it may never have seen one quite like Bankside Contemporary, Steve Lyons’ new one on Post Road West.

Modeled on his successful gallery in Chatham on Cape Cod, this one — formerly Mar Silver Design, opposite Winfield Deli — is far from the very quiet/let’s examine the works/wine-and-cheese reception traditional gallery space.

Lyons prefers a “communal gathering space.” He wants people to wander in, say hi, enjoy cookies and candy and coffee, and just hang out.

“If you want art, we’ve got it,” he says. “But everyone is welcome.”

Steve Lyons’ art at Bankside Contemporary, 14 Post Road West.

If that sounds like a different kind of art gallery, well, Lyons’ path as an artist has been untraditional too.

Growing up poor in the foothills of Appalachia, he always painted. In college he minored in art and art history, but majored in something more career-oriented: journalism.

He moved to New York. He did PR for films and TV (and served a stint as critic Judith Crist’s assistant). He painted in his spare time, on weekends.

A job offer — corporate writing for a mutual fund — brought Lyons to New Haven. He bought a house on the Cape, and displayed his work at “casual shows” there.

He had some success. But he never thought about quitting his day job.

Steve Lyons

Eight years ago, Lyons began working on his back porch, painting on small pieces of scrap lumber. He put the finished art out front, with a sign asking anyone interested to put $40 or $50 in a nearby jar.

He sold 400 pieces that summer. Encouraged, he took a leap of faith to pursue art full time. “I know I’m one of the lucky ones,” he says.

Lyons opened a studio on Chatham’s Main Street — a homey place with a welcoming vibe.

In 2016 he was named one of the Top 5 Expressionist Artists in the World by the American Art Awards. The following year they named him #2 in the world for abstract expressionism. In 2018, Art Tour International Magazine listed him as one of the Top 15 Artists in the World to Watch.

It’s not quite a Grandma Moses story — she gained her first fame after age 80. But Lyons is 61 years old. Most “Artists to Watch” are not so close to Social Security.

Among the collectors paying attention was Phil Nourie. Last year — after a career in public relations and marketing — the 51-year-old Westporter started a new company.

Called GigSuite, its mission is to help people realize that after decades in a structured career, their skills actually are transferable. They can own, manage, advise and/or invest in a new, entrepreneurial field — even as their peers think about retirement.

The pair have formed an unusual business alliance. Lyons serves as Gig Suite’s art advisor. He helps clients who want to learn more about art, for aesthetic or business reasons (or both).

Steve Lyons’ “Dancing Clouds.”

Nourie, meanwhile, has helped Lyons open the Bankside Contemporary gallery.

“Steve changed careers in mid-life. He’s able to help others see it’s possible,” Nourie says.

Lyons’ artistic style is an important element in what both men do.

GigSuite’s research showed that “people need an open mind first, to overcome fear of trying something different later in life,” Nourie says. It also shows the human brain responds well to abstract expressionism.

So Lyons’ work hangs on the walls of Gig Suite’s office at 500 Post Road East, inspiring all who come to their workshops. And Gig Suite is the official host of the “Agility Through Art” series at Bankside Contemporary.

Grandma Moses, eat your heart out.

(For Steve Lyons’ website, click here.)

Randy Herbertson Has Plans For The Downtown Plan

Better parking. Enhanced river access. Tech upgrades, including vibrant WiFi.

Those are some of the initiatives planned for downtown.

Now all Randy Herbertson has to do is implement them.

He’s not alone, of course. The revitalization of Main Street, Jesup Green and environs is a huge task, with public and private partnerships and investments.

But as the new chair of the Downtown Plan Implementation Committee, it’s Herbertson’s job to see it all through.

Randy Herbertson

He’s hardly parachuting in. He and his wife Deborah have been here since 1998. But although they chose this town in part for its cultural offerings, for more than their first decade Herbertson was “that guy who saw Westport only in the dark.”

He owned a marketing and design firm in New York. She commuted too. It was only after he sold his business and opened The Visual Brand on Church Lane — and Deborah became creative director at Terrain — that he got involved in local affairs.

He went big. David Waldman encouraged him to join the Westport Downtown Merchants Association. He sat on the town website steering committee and the Westport Library board.

And Herbertson joined the Downtown Plan Implementation Committee.

The “plan” is the town’s Master Plan. Developed 7 years ago, it is now “a bit outdated,” Herbertson admits. But it’s a start.

The new chair hopes to prioritize the plan’s 4 or 5 major initiatives, by cost and complexity.

One key issue: Reimagining parking. First up, Herbertson says, is the Baldwin lot off Elm Street. That’s the easiest

Parker Harding Plaza is more complex. It involves rethinking green space, and the lot’s relationship to the Saugatuck River.

A slender ribbon of green separates the Saugatuck River from Parker Harding Plaza. (Photo/Amy Berkin)

Jesup Green is the most complex. The ultimate vision, Herbertson says, is to flip the current parking with the adjacent green space. That would emphasize and maximize river access, while adding perhaps a playground or skating rink.

The greening of downtown, including technology upgrades, could solarize much of the area. A stronger WiFI network would enhance music capabilities.

Herbertson’s committee will also figure out how to create “more stop-and-pause places. People want room to move freely outside, then stop and dwell.”

The DPIC head points to the COVID-induced closing of Church Lane as successful. It led to increased dining and shopping, Herbertson says. Now he wants to build on that success.

Another issue: the best way to manage services like trash pickup and recycling.

“A good downtown is the heart and soul of a community,” Herbertson says. “It’s great to see that ours is becoming that again.” New businesses — restaurants, book stores and more — are opening up. Some are start-ups; others have relocated from elsewhere in town.

Among the new businesses downtown: Capuli restaurant.

During his time as president, the Westport Downtown Merchants Association reinvigorated the Fine Arts Festival. They added special events for different populations — a fashion show, beer fest and more — and advocated for enhanced public/private partnerships. Cables were buried; sidewalks and curbs added.

Herbertson calls his roles with the Downtown Plan Implementation Committee and Downtown Merchants Association “synergistic.” The DPIC is an advisory body, he notes; the town controls all rules and regulations.

But, he notes, “everything the DPIC touches is something the WDMA is involved in.”

He also sees synergy with other initiatives in town — for example, the revitalization of Saugatuck.

“COVID taught us the importance of the retail community, as part of our town as a whole,” he says. “Whatever happens in one place affects the rest.”

So what does Herbertson’s idea downtown look like?

“Highly walkable,” he says.”Real strong integration of natural resources, especially the waterfront. Every space filled with a selection of things that are unique an good for the town, where people can stop and pause.

“And something for all ages.”

Downtown Westport. (Photo/John Videler for VIdeler Photography)

Roundup: Joey’s, Vaccine, Seniors’ Blog …

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Yesterday’s gorgeous weather brought beach-lovers to Compo.

It also kicked off the season for entitled drivers. First off the mark: This person, who believes the only way to enjoy the water is to park as close as possible to it.

(Photo/Roseann Spengler)

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Another sign of spring (and summer): Joey’s by the Shore (featuring Elvira Mae’s Coffee Bar) opened yesterday.

Hours are currently 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., weather dependent. Joey, Betsy and the crew say hi!

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After all the stories about difficulties scoring a COVID vaccine appointment, I heard the other side: how efficiently the process runs, once you actually get a slot for a shot.

The operation at the former Lord & Taylor parking lot in Stamford sounded particularly well organized.

That’s where I was scheduled yesterday, for my first dose. It’s all true.

From check-in to the shot itself and on through the 15-minute observation period afterward, the process was top notch. It was run with military precision. That’s not surprising: Connecticut’s National Guard was in charge.

Kudos to all involved. A big shout-out to the Guardsman pictured below. We had a great time chatting. He represents his unit — and the entire operation — exceptionally well.

The only tweak needed is laughably minor. The address given for the Lord & Taylor lot is 110 High Ridge Road. But the entrance for vaccines is on Long Ridge.

I can live with that.

(Photo/Dan Woog)

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Westport Police say:

“The Westport Police Department is shocked and saddened by the murders that occurred this past week in the greater Atlanta area. Our hearts go out to the victims as well as their loved ones. Violence committed against a person because of their race is something that should never be tolerated or excused.

“The Westport Police stands with law enforcement agencies nationwide as well as our partners at the Anti-Defamation League in condemning this horrible crime.For more information and resources please go to the Anti-Defamation League’s website.”

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Electric vehicle brands and state legislators hold a press conference tomorrow (Monday, March 22, 10 a.m.) at the Westport train station’s eastbound side.

They’ll discuss what they call “outdated dealer franchise laws that have plagued direct electric vehicle sales for almost a decade.”

A proposed bill would give “innovative companies the ability to have an uncorked presence in Connecticut.” Without this legislation, they say, many EV manufacturers will continue to be blocked from opening sales sites, offering test drives, and selling directly to consumers.” Click here for more details.

Westport is an appropriate site for the press conference. We have the highest percentage of EVs registered in the state — over 250 Teslas alone.

Electric vehicles lined up by the Staples charging stations (from left): Chevy Bolt, Tesla S, VW, Tesla X, Nissan Leafes,

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For nearly 2 years, Rosemary Cass’ blog has enriched the lives of people age 55 and older.

“Seeing it Clearly Now” inspires everyone — retired or not — be better with age. Her focus is on learning new things, finding purpose, and exploring the arts.

The blog features creative works of older writers and artists. For example, a recent post explored the writer’s gratification from her volunteer work with Al’s Angels.

Many contributors are members of the Westport Senior Center. Cass herself is a student in Jan Bassin’s writing workshops.

She’s always looking for submissions. Click here for the blog; email cass.rosemary@gmail.com.

Rosemary Cass uses the pen name “Rosy Prose.”

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And finally … Happy 436th birthday, Johann Sebastian Bach!