Category Archives: Local business

Roundup: Remarkable Bookcycle, MoCA Art, More


Sure, the Westport Library is open now by appointment only.

But — just like the Hotel California — you can check out any time you like, at the Remarkable Bookcycle.

Westport’s favorite mobile library (named for our favorite former bookstore) has been parked recently on Church Lane, at Bedford Square.

Check it out! And if you’ve got any books to give as well as receive — well, bring ’em on.

(Photo/Amy Schneider)


“Hindsight is 2020” — the high school student art show opening January 23 at MoCA Westport — has extended its submission deadline. The final date for entries is now next Monday (January 11).

The show is open to all high schoolers. It’s a great opportunity to have their work reviewed by noted Westport artist Amy Kaplan and dealer/gallerist Paul Efstathiou — and have it showcased at the museum.

It’s also a chance to earn cash prizes of $500, $300 or $100.

We know students have had a challenging year. Art and creative expression have helped many students with coping and resilience,” museum officials say.

A wide variety of entries have alrady come from across Connecticut and Westchester County.

Click here for submission deadlines.



Fleet Feet Run Club’s winter session starts this Saturday (January 9).

The Sconset Square store’s coaches can help everyone reach their goals. It can be  running a marathon — or running down the block.

For details, stop in the shop or call 203-557-3608.


And finally … the 1972 disaster film “The Poseidon Adventure” had an all-star cast: Gene Hackman, Ernest Borgnine, Jack Albertson, Shelley Winters, and Red Buttons.

Also starring on the tsunami-struck ship was Pamela Sue Martin. She earned more fame later, as Nancy Drew on the ABC-TVseries, and Fallon Carrington Colby on Dynasty.

Well, Pamela Sue — or “Pam,” as I knew her as a classmate at Long Lots Junior High and Staples High — celebrates her birthday today.

“06880” celebrates with the most famous song from “Poseidon Adventure.” It was nominated for an Academy Award, then became a hit the next year for Maureen McGovern. Happy birthday, Pam!

 

 

Roundup: Academic All-Americans, Art Gallery, Ice Giants, More


For the 18th time in 20 years — and the 15th season in a row — the Staples boys soccer program has been honored with a national award for academic excellence.

And they did it with a record-setting GPA, one far beyond the already high standard.

A squad must have a 3.25 grade point average for all varsity players. The award is given for the previous academic year. In 2019, Staples’ varsity players had an average GPA of 3.76 — way higher than the previous record of 3.43.

The Academic All-America award is given by United Soccer Coaches, a 30,000-member national organization. The Wreckers’ coach, Dan Woog — hey, that’s me! — says indications are good that the 2020 squad should also qualify for  the honor.

The 2019 Academic All-American Staples boys soccer team. (Photo/Christina Bassler)


The arts scene in Westport just got even more interesting.

George Billis Gallery has relocated from New York City to Westport. The new space is 166 Main Street, next to Simon Pearce. It features work by national and international emerging and established artists.

When the gallery was established in1997, it was the 12th to open in the Chelsea Arts District. In 2004, Billis opened a 2nd location in the burgeoning art district of Culver City, Los Angeles.

Hours are Wednesday through Sunday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., and by appointment (203-557-9130). Click here for the website.

George Billis art gallery on Main Street.


It’s a new year, and our thoughts turn to … Uranus and Neptune.

On January 19 (8 p.m., Zoom and YouTube) the Westport Astronomical Society hosts a virtual lecture with Dr. Heidi B. Hammel. She’ll talk about a new concept to return spacecraft to explore the 2 “Ice Giants.”

This Dr. Hammel’s 3rd WAS appearance. A rock star in her world, she is vice president for science at AURA, which operates the Hubble Space Telescope and many other observatories. Click here for more information.


And finally … on this day in 1959, Alaska was admitted to the union, as our 49th state. The next year Johnny Horton sang the theme from the film “North to Alaska,” starring John Wayne, Ernie Kovacs and Fabian. Horton was killed in an
automobile accident the day after the movie was released.

Roundup: Downtown Merchants, Let It Be, More

Just in time for the new (shopping) year: the Westport Downtown Merchants Association updated their “Merchants” page.

Dozens of downtown stores and restaurants now have a photo of the exterior, a short description, and links to their websites — all searchable, of course. Click here to see.

Savannah Bee and other Church Lane merchants are featured on the Westport Downtown Merchants Association website.


For a Covid-time project, the Gerards of Westport decided to teach their 11- and 8-year-old children to build a song.

They chose “Let It Be.” It’s a great tune for times of trouble — or any time.

The Gerards then filmed the process, at various sites in Westport. Take a peek:


And finally … Phyllis McGuire, the last surviving member of the McGuire Sisters, died this week in Las Vegas. She was 89.

The trio “bewitched teenage America in the 1950s with chart-topping renditions of ‘Sincerely’ and ‘Sugartime,’ in a sweet, innocent harmony that went with car fins, charm bracelets and duck-tail haircuts,” the New York Times said.

It added, “The McGuire Sisters were one of the many white groups that covered 1950s R&B hits, many by Black artists, in what critics called blander versions though better-selling ones.”

Sammi Henske’s “Rocky” Idea Takes Off

You might hear Westport middle schooler Samantha Henske’s latest idea — sending rocks to friends — and think she has rocks in her head.

Then you hear the concept behind it:

  • You buy a rock for $10, to let a friend know you’re thinking of them.
  • The friend loves the rock (inscribed “Inspire kindness,” “See good in all things,” with a smiley face, or a custom design), and sends one of her own to another friend.

  • You both enter a special code (unique to those rocks) into Sammi’s website, and track that chain as it spreads all over the country.
  • You smile as you learn that the rocks are called “Huggs” — so Sammi is helping send hugs everywhere.

Then you hear that most of the proceeds go to charity — the first one Sammi’s chosen is Westport’s own Al’s Angels — and you realize she does not have rocks in her head at all.

Just a brain that has come up with a simple, fun idea that brings smiles to friends, and sunlight to strangers.

At a time we desperately need all the joy we can get.

(For Sammi Henske’s Huggs website, click here. For her Instagram, click here. For a WTNH Channel 8 story on Sammi, click here.)

Samantha Henske

 

Roundup: Main Street, Weather, Longshore, More


(Photo/Jo Shields)


It started out as a white Christmas. By the end of the day, rain and 50-degree weather had washed most of the snow away.

All that remains are brown, crusty mounds like the ones below, at the Imperial Avenue parking lot.

The forecast is for temperatures in the high 40s today, 30s tomorrow and Wednesday, 40s and 50s the rest of the week and weekend.

Rain is predicted for New Year’s Eve. No big deal — you weren’t going out anyway, were you?

(Photo/Rowene Weems)


Was it a line for COVID testing — or the vaccine?

Perhaps PlayStation 5?

Nope, nope and nope.

This was the post-Christmas line outside Lululemon yesterday.

Jo Shields reports: “People waiting say it’s just social distancing, combined with shopping appointments and a limited number allowed in the store. Sounds like a really responsible company policy. Maybe even smart for sales.

“And although there were complaints about being cold, everyone was good natured and patient. And wearing masks.”


Barbara Levy entertained this good-looking — but hungry — visitor outside her Greens Farms home yesterday:

(Photo/Barbara Levy)


Pam Kesselman jokes: “Someone left a Big Bertha (large driver) in the 9th hole sand trap at Longshore. Please claim before it disappears.”

(Photo/Pam Kesselman)


And finally … we catch up with one more recently deceased musician.

Chad Stuart died last week of pneumonia. He was 79.

One-half of Chad & Jeremy — often confused with the longer-lived, more successful, equally cute British duo, one of whom also wore glasses — Chad & Jeremy made a brief career out of summer-themed songs.

And there’s this tidbit from Stuart’s New York Times obituary: describing Stuart’s solo career after the pair broke up: “At one point he opened for the hard-rock band Mountain in a bowling alley in Hartford, Conn.” Yesterday’s Roundup paid tribute to Mountain founder Leslie West, who died just 3 days after Chad Stuart.

Zac Mathias: Young Influencer With Flair

Zac Mathias jokes that he’s “homeschooled at The Granola Bar.”

He’s not. But the Weston High School junior is clearly a unique young man.

True, he spends a lot of time at the popular Playhouse Square spot. He’s also a regular at nearby Pure Barre.

Zac Mathias at Pure Barre.

If you follow Zac on Instagram. you know that already. And you’re not alone. Zac has 15,000 followers. He’s one of the area’s top social media influencers.

He posts — several times a day — with a focus on lifestyle and design. Clothes, beauty, skincare, furniture — if it’s chic, cool and/or helps you live better, Zac will let you know about it.

But he’s not all lipsticks and lotions. Zac also delves into politics, and LGBTQ issues.

As I said: He is not your average 11th grader.

Zac is passionate about what he does. And he discovered his passion early. At 5 years old, he rearranged his parents’ house. (A babysitter helped.)

He soon started designing for his friends — and his friends’ mothers. He got ideas from magazines, but trusted his intuition. It served him well.

It’s not easy being different. Zac was bullied. Fifth grade was the worst, he says. But his teacher let him stay inside during recess — and asked him to rearrange the room.

“Weston is small,” Zac says. “You’re with the same 200 kids from kindergarten on.” But he had plenty of “kind” friends, and they’re still tight. As he — and his classmates — have grown, many have recognized his gifts.

Zac Mathias

Zac always followed his dream. The summer after 7th grade, he interned at Dovecote. Owner Sarah Kaplan — who knew him from his fledgling Instagram presence — “embraced me,” he says. He worked with store stylist Ronny Carroll, learning all about artwork, accessories and more. Sarah gave him plenty of responsibility, including helping customers.

In 8th grade, Zac focused on social media. Businesses asked him to feature them.

He moved from designer to marketer to connector. Now he’s a bona fide influencer.

Zac is grateful for the opportunities he’s had (and created for himself). “I’ve met amazing people,” he says. “Coming from a small school where being different makes you ‘odd,’ I’ve been able to connect with so many other people.”

The other day, a woman whose 9-year-old is being bullied contacted Zac. He met the youngster. “It meant a lot to them to see me living my life,” he says proudly.

As for pride: Zac is a founding member of Westport Pride, a new LGBTQ organization. He looks forward to getting involved in activities like designing a rainbow crosswalk. He’s previously worked with the Triangle Community Center and Trevor Project.

Zac Mathias with shampoo by Better Natured, a Fairfield County company. Part of the proceeds from sales of his t-shirt support the Trevor Project, a suicide prevention effort for LGBTQ youth.

Local — as in, Fairfield County — is Zac’s focus right now. He highlights area businesses, not big brands. That’s why he hangs out at The Granola Bar. “It’s not Starbucks,” he explains. “You’re handed your coffee by someone in the community. Dana and Julie (the owners) are right there for you.”

In fact, Zac says no to “90% of the offers I get. Whoever I work with has to be the right fit. And if I like them, but let’s say the shoes are ugly, I’ll say that too.”

His father taught him an important business tenet: Never say a quick no. He cites one example: He kept communication open with a brand whose packaging he did not like. But he tried the product, and liked it. He gave advice on repackaging; now they are partners.

This summer, Zac posted some political thoughts. (You don’t need to guess who he supported for the White House.) If he lost any followers because of his stands, he says, “they weren’t the right followers. There are other followers who have different views than mine. We get along fine, beyond politics.”

He’s branching out too. Recently, Zac posted about his driver’s permit test. “I want people to laugh,” he says.

But it is “classic chic” that he most focuses on. He leans toward any product or service that lets someone be “unapologetically yourself.” That can be a handbag or shoes, he says. It can also be almond milk. It’s all about lifestyle, and fostering a community, an environment.”

Though Weston is small — and Westport is not exactly a metropolis — Zac like the area. “There are so many creative people here. They’re doing good things, with a big footprint. There’s a lot of opportunity.”

Zac Mathias at one of his favorite spots: The Granola Bar. (Photos/Julia Dags)

What’s next? Zac is working on a new project with a young woman from Massachusetts. He could see branching out to his own product line, or perhaps a reality show.

“The sky’s the limit,” he says confidently. “I could be the gay Martha Stewart — minus the jail time.”

(You can follow Zac on Instagram: @zac.mathias.)

Filling In The Blanks To Fight Local Hunger

We’ve heard a lot about the importance of helping local restaurants during the pandemic. And of course we know that now, in these very tough times, many area residents are hungry.

Here is a brilliant way to help both.

Westport-based CK Business Solutions and Stamford’s CC VIP have teamed up with Filling in the Blanks. The non-profit delivers weekend meals to low-income children in Fairfield and Westchester Counties.

The astonishingly simple idea:

Buy a gift card from a restaurant anywhere in Westport — or Norwalk, New Canaan, Stamford or Greenwich.

Leave it at the restaurant and email fundandfeedlocal@gmail.com, letting them know you bought it. A Filling in the Blanks volunteer will pick it up.

If you prefer, you can mail the gift card to CK Business Solutions, PO Box 2031, Westport, CT 06880.

Filling in the Blanks will put the card in the hands of a family in need.

You help your favorite restaurant. They feed a hungry family.

We got this! Let’s go to town — figuratively and literally. It could be the greatest gift you give this holiday season.

(For more information about this project, click here.)

 

Marpe: Celebrate Holidays Quietly — At Home

First Selectman Jim Marpe says:

2020 has obviously been a unique and challenging year in Westport, the nation, and the world. We remember those among us who have been negatively impacted by this horrible pandemic, and we send them our healing thoughts and prayers.

In their honor, I respectfully request that you enjoy Christmas and New Year’s with only those in your immediate household, foregoing travel and large gatherings. Instead, I encourage you to stay safe and stay at home. By doing so, I’m confident that by this time next year, we’ll again be able to gather together in person to recall, rejoice and reaffirm our holiday traditions.

This Christmas season, I wish you the calm and peace that is at the heart of good will and generous spirits.

(Card created by Bonnie Marcus)

And this year in particular, I hope that you have the chance to slow down and thoughtfully reflect on the true meaning of this time in our collective human experience. To quietly celebrate, and to rest. Perhaps take the opportunity to initiate new traditions in your family.

And to reach out – virtually or physical distanced – to a neighbor, relative or friend who may be alone, in need, or less fortunate. Remember, small acts of kindness can have a huge impact.

However you choose to celebrate and worship this year, on behalf of the town of Westport, I wish you a happy and joyful holiday season with your immediate family.

Please continue to be healthy and safe. The proactive behaviors that you take today will insure that our families, friends and neighbors will be here to happily celebrate what I know will be a renewed and uplifting 2021.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

And The Holiday Window Decorating Contest Winners Are …

Only a few people can watch NFL games in person. You haven’t been to a concert in longer than it takes to conceive and deliver a baby.

But anyone could have gone around town, checked out holiday window decorations, and voted for their favorites.

In fact, many people did.

Yesterday, the Westport Downtown Merchants Association and Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce announced the winners of the annual contest. This year for the first time, it encompassed the entire town. 

And the winners are…:

Mom and Pop Shop:  The Plumed Serpent Bridal 

Plumed Serpent Bridal 

National chainAnthropologie

Anthropologie

Restaurant/Deli:  Joe’s Pizza

Joe’s Pizza

Non-retail:  Artistex Salon & Spa

Artistex Spa & Salon

And the grand prize — for the window with the most total votes: The Plumed Serpent Bridal.

They win dinner for 4 at Don Memo.

Click here for a list of all participating venues. Voting in closed — but you can still enjoy them!

Roundup: Celestial Convergence, Barnes & Noble, Downtown Employees, More


It was a bit too cloudy and foggy yesterday to really see the convergence of Saturn and Jupiter. It’s been nearly 400 years since the planets passed so close to each other, and nearly 800 years since their alignment — seeming to form one “Christmas star” — occurred at night.

But that didn’t stop a number of Westporters from heading to Compo Beach to look.

Jo Shields reports, “I heard someone say there was a lot of applause and cheering on South Beach. But then someone said it might have just been a plane.”

Here’s what she saw, on the jetty:

(Photo/Jo Shields)


It’s official!

Barnes & Noble signed its new lease yesterday, for the former Restoration Hardware site. “06880” reported that the deal was imminent last week. The opening is slated for February. David Adam Realty was the realtor.

Restoration Hardware moved out in June. Soon, Barnes & Noble will move in.(Photo/Chip Stephens)


Last summer, as the pandemic (first) raged, the Westport Downtown Merchants Association partnered with ASF, on a fundraiser to support local businesses. The community helped raise over $2,700.

Last month, the WDMA asked retailers to nominate employees who have gone “above and beyond.”

There were many stories about heroes who put in extra hours, offered creative ideas to keep businesses afloat, provided extraordinary customer service, or remained strong in uncertain times.

Now the WDMA has awarded 26 of those very deserving employees $100 Downtown Dollar eGift Cards. Congratulations and thanks go to:

Karyl Scott (Massage Envy)
Kimberly Lavigne (Sorelle Gallery)
Francisco Moreno (Winfield Street Deli)
Henry Potter (Athleta)
Ellyn Weitzman (Franny’s Farmacy)
Stephanie Soares (Don Memo)
Alba Antun (Don Memo)
Zach Hinman (Don Memo)
Owen Wiseman (Kawa Ni)
Kelly Clement (Kawa Ni)
Marco Almanza (Kawa Ni)
Lux Bond & Green Team
Paulino Garcia (The Whelk)
Lupita Cristostomo (The Whelk)
Matt Balga (The Whelk)
Julie Cook (Savannah Bee)
Will Newman (New England Hemp Farm)
John Vaast (Walrus Alley)
Patricia Andrade (Splash of Pink)
Isabelle Johansen (Cotelac)
Jinkuk Hong (Manna Toast)
Victor Mejia (Manna Toast)
Jessica Zito (Manna Toast)
Karen Martella (Catherine H)


The ink is barely dry on the new federal COVID relief package.

But this afternoon (Tuesday, December 22, 2:30 p.m.), Congressman Jim Himes and officials of the Small Business Administration join a live Zoom discussion to explain it. Click here for the link; the passcode is 509950.

Congressman Jim Himes


Jewish Senior Services is located in Bridgeport, but its Westport roots are strong and deep.

Ken Wirfel and Alan Phillips are the 2 most recent board chairs. Dozens of Westporters are board members and/or supporters, including the Nevas, Kassen and Magidas families.

Scores of Westport relatives are in long-term care there, have gone through short-term rehabilitation, or utilize JSS’ home care or community services.

Yesterday, the first doses of Pfizer’s COVID vaccine were administered there, to nearly 300 people. CEO Andrew Banoff called it “a day we will never forget.”

Although JSS’s mission is grounded in Jewish traditions, well over half of the residents and clients are not Jewish. They are “the largest faith-based not-for- profit senior care community in Connecticut.”


Amy Schneider captured the winter solstice sunset — the first one of the season — last night.

Here’s the “bright” side to winter: For the next 6 months, every day there’s a little more light.

(Photo/Amy Schneider)


The Saugatuck River Dancers keep dancing — and keep raising funds for suicide prevention.

Suzanne Harvey’s latest choreography is Meghan Trainor’s “Holidays.” She created it to share the joy of dance and the holidays with others. Tomorrow (December 23) is the 28th anniversary of her brother Michael‘s death. He was just 15 when he took his life.

Hilary Solder, Jill Alcott, Deb Montner, Michael Chait and Eva Rawiszer joined Suzanne in dance. The video is below. Click here for a link to donate to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.


And finally … on this day in 1984, subway vigilante Bernhard Goetz shot 4 would-be muggers on a Manhattan subway. Five years later, he was part of a Billy Joel song.