Category Archives: Saugatuck

Any Way You Slice It, Julian’s Closes

Today is the final day to vote for your favorite pizza place in Westport.

But there’s one less contender than when the contest began.

Monday was is the final day for Julian’s, the brick oven pizzeria on Riverside Avenue.

An employee at the Post Road East location — which remains open — says the reason for the closing was a huge rent increase.

Sounds like the scourge of downtown has spread to Saugatuck.

At the 2016 Slice of Saugatuck, the line to sample Julian’s pizza ran past Parker Mansion.

Pic Of The Day #347

I-95 bridge (Photo/Peter Barlow)

[OPINION] Coalition For Westport Praises Saugatuck Committee Leaders

Alert “06880” reader — and co-chair of Coalition for Westport — Ken Bernhard writes:

As a member of the local political party Coalition For Westport, which focuses on planning and zoning issues, I attended today’s (the last) meeting of the Saugatuck Transit Oriented Design Master Plan Steering Committee.

The Committee was established 14 months ago by First Selectman Jim Marpe to submit a report to the state regarding proposals for the future of the 68 acres called Saugatuck. Having followed the progress of the Committee, I expected there to be some heated exchanges as the final summary was proposed for review and comment.

In earlier meetings, strong personalities had articulated remarkably divergent opinions. Many observers feared that an agreement was unlikely.

For over a year, a committee has discussed the redevelopment of Saugatuck.

To the rescue — after what appeared to be a rocky beginning from one member who wanted to raise anew conflict issues — came the committee’s leadership. Thereafter, with the always steady guidance and direction of the co-chairs (Planning and Zoning director Mary Young and volunteer Craig Schiavone), the meeting continued with the difficult chore of building consensus for the wording of a general summary of goals, discussions, recommendations and findings.

At the end, the committee was successful, and authorized the co-chairs to proceed.

It is important to note that the one consistent variable throughout these past months has been the professionalism of Mary Young and Craig Schiavone.

On more occasions than can be counted, they were patient when being challenged by emotional outbursts from both committee participants and members of the public. They were fair and objective while overseeing the discussions of the stakeholders including neighborhood residents, commercial property owners, commuters, retailers, and a multitude of opinionated citizens promoting different visions for the area’s future.

From the air, Saugatuck looks quiet.

In the end, they brought the proverbial “herd of cats” to a successful outcome, with most everyone pleased with the collaborative effort. It was a remarkable achievement, and both Mary and Craig deserve great credit for a job well done.

The Coalition For Westport congratulates the Saugatuck Committee on completing its work in a timely fashion. Further, the Coalition hopes that the Planning and Zoning Commission will now begin the task of changing its regulations to accommodate efforts to improve parking, traffic control, sidewalks, streetscapes and more.

Change is inevitable.  The question is whether the community will participate in, and lead, those changes.

Ryan Meserole: Suited To Be An Uber Driver

Three years ago, Ryan Meserole opened Suited.co. The small shop offers high-quality, hand-crafted suits. Its Railroad Place location is convenient and — surrounded by neighbors like Indulge by Mersene, Sports Attic and a few restaurants — cool.

But small retailers have a tough time. And Commuter Coffee is just the latest business to announce it may close.

Suited.co, on Railroad Place

Ryan grew up in the fashion industry. It’s his life’s work. He’s amazed to see so many clothing stores fleeing Main Street.

He firmly believes that customers are here. However, he notes, “They won’t always come to you. Sometimes you have to go out and capture them.”

A couple of months ago — sitting in his shop, wondering why foot traffic has declined — he suddenly realized: People are now dropped off at the station by Uber.

Aha!

“I can’t expect my window display to get customers in the door — even though I’m always complimented on it,” he says.

“But if I drove for Uber, I’d have my audience. And they’d be attentive.”

Ryan Meserole, in his Suited.co store.

It took him just a day to sign up to drive for the service. Almost immediately, he hit the road.

He wakes up at 5 a.m. He drives during rush hour, until 9 a.m. An hour later — the same as always — he opens Suited.co.

At his store, he reviews his passengers’ names and addresses. He sends them a personal note, with a gift card to see him and the shop “after our lovely little chat in the car.”

(It’s quite an incentive: a free custom shirt, or $150 off a Suited.co purchase.)

Ryan Meserole’s follow-up mailing.

Bottom line: Ryan’s sales are up nearly 30%. Plus, he says, “I’m being of service to my community. I’m expanding my customer base to Fairfield, Weston and Wilton. And I’m being paid by Uber to do it.

In his long retail marketing career, Ryan says, “this is the only campaign that ever paid me back.”

But he doesn’t need the Uber money.  So he donates it to charity — a different organization each month. Most recently, it was the March of Dimes.

You never know who your Uber driver will be. That’s part of the intrigue of the app.

In Ryan Meserole’s case, that seems to suit his — and his driving/custom suit customers — just fine.

Pics Of The Day #321

Remnants of Friday’s nor’easter:

A swamped boat in the Sherwood Mill Pond … (Photo/Andrew Colabella)

… and benches on the still-swollen Saugatuck River. (Photo/Carolanne Curry)

Cleanup Continues

Friday’s nor’easter has moved out to sea.

Power is back on. Roads are cleared.

But for this homeowner on Cross Highway, near North Avenue, recovery will take a bit longer.

Meanwhile, tides are still running much higher than normal. This was the scene earlier this afternoon, at the Black Duck.

(Photo/Ward French)

 

Friday Flashback #79

The Black Duck — Westport’s favorite dive/karaoke bar — has sat tilting in the Saugatuck River forever, right?

Well, sort of.

Seth van Beever posted this painting on Facebook:

He wrote that his grandfather — Gerry Haehl — owned the barge, and ran a bait and tackle shop there.

Seth says the barge was later replaced by a new one.

In the early ’70s, it looked like this:

Some things never change.

Others change very, very slowly.

On The Meeting Docket — And Off

In November, Westport’s Parks & Recreation Commission unanimously approved construction of a new walkway and bathrooms at South Beach — the no-lifeguard, cookout grill, alcohol-permitted section beloved by picnickers and sunset-watchers.

The walkway will be similar to the one installed 2 years ago, from the pavilion near Joey’s to the cannons. Made of cement, it features wooden railings open to access every 2 cars.

It will connect to the current walkway at the cannons. It continues to the cut-through road near the kayak launch, then joins the gravel marina walkway via a crosswalk.

The current roadway would shift slightly north, to accommodate the new walkway. Several parking spots would be lost.

Plans for the new walkway and bathrooms at South Beach. Click on or hover over to enlarge.

The bathroom — to be built on an unpaved area just south of the pickleball courts — will include an outdoor shower and water fountain. The exterior is white with blue trim, and brick accents.

The projected cost for the walkway is $429,643. The bathroom cost is $257,473.

This Thursday (February 15, 7 p.m., Town Hall), the Planning & Zoning Commission will discuss the proposal. The meeting is open to the public.

One meeting that will not be held is the Saugatuck Transit Oriented Design Master Plan Steering Committee. Their study — funded by a $450,000 state grant — was to be presented at a public session this Monday.

According to RTM member Matthew Mandell, “changes requested from the last meeting were so broad that there was no way to get a new draft in time.”

It’s unclear, Mandell adds, whether the public meeting will be rescheduled — or if there will be public comment at all.

He does not even know if the committee will vote to accept the report — which includes parking decks, new housing units, new retail and office play, but did not include a traffic study.

The state has extended the deadline for the TOD report to be filed. It’s now due in late March.

[OPINION] Carolanne Curry: Public Must Keep Questioning Saugatuck Development

Carolanne Curry is a 20-year resident of Saugatuck. She’s concerned about possible changes to the neighborhood — and about the process. She writes:

It was painful to hear the response given to Helen Garten at the last Transit Oriented District meeting.

Speaking as a public member attending the 8 a.m. session, Helen questioned the gap of understanding between the TOD committee members appointed by the 1st Selectman, and the frustrated “Don’t ruin our community” members of the public, who have religiously attended this dance marathon of TOD meetings for over a year.

Helen said that public input is not acknowledged to any degree in the TOD report that is shaping up to account for the $450,000 in state money spent by Westport to create a design plan to improve transportation at our transportation center.

One of the plans from the Transit Oriented Design proposal.

The response from those conducting that TOD session was that Helen perhaps had not attended a sufficient number of meetings, or else she wouldn’t be asking that question.

A comment about attendance was nowhere near appropriate. The right response would have been:

The TOD committee members understand that 1) development, 2) intensity of development, and 3) the inevitable “overdevelopment” of Saugatuck Center is the pursuit of this TOD committee. Even if it results in the loss of identity, community and history.

This appears to be one more battle between the forces of artificially forced development, and those who encourage relevant and organic growth of a community.

Hats off to Helen for warning that community input was not being acknowledged.

One of the final 2 TOD meetings is again at 8 a.m. — tomorrow (Tuesday, January 30, Town Hall). The public must keep asking questions about increased traffic and development in Saugatuck center.

An aerial view of Saugatuck, from the consultants’ draft report.

Pic Of The Day #286

Fog rolls in on the Saugatuck River, earlier today (Photo/Betsy P. Kahn)