The ink is still drying on the contract. Supply chain issues are delaying some equipment. The operator has not yet been finalized.
But the Old Mill Grocery lives!
For a couple of years, the future of the market/deli/community center on Hillspoint Road by Old Mill Beach was in doubt. The small, century-old wooden building could have been sold to developers, who were hungry to tear it down and replace it with a (very) high-priced home.
But Hal and Betsy Kravitz — owners of Joey’s by the Shore, the most recent iteration of what was previously Elvira’s, Kenny’s and (originally) the Old Mill Grocery — were willing to listen to the community.
Hal and Betsy Kravitz, after buying Elvira’s.
They worked with Jim Hood, Ian Warburg, Chris Tait and Emily Ashken Zobl — Westporters with long ties to the area — to save the deli.
Tom Febbraio — the Fairfield restaurateur who grew up around the corner — helped get a mortgage from Fairfield County Bank.
From left: Ian Warburg, Jim Hood and Emily Ashken Zobl helped organize the project. When this photo was taken, Chris Tait was out in the street soliciting donations.
A few folks pitched in big bucks. Scores of residents (and former residents) added whatever they could.
When mortgage negotiations took (surprise!) longer than expected, Hal and Betsy extended their deadline.
Now Old Mill Grocery and Deli — OMG! — lives. It will open this summer, probably with a soft launch.
Employees will include people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Bill and Andrea Pecoriello — owners of Sweet P Bakery and The Porch @ Christie’s, which helped pioneer that hiring model locally — are important supporters.
After nearly a century, the original name will be back.
It’s a win-win-win, feel good story.
So Jim, Ian, Chris, Emily, Tom, Bill and Andrea are all this week’s Unsung Heroes. And if you contributed any funds to the cause — $10,000 or $10 — you join them as honorees.
In a town and world “starved” for good news, this takes the cake.
(Do you know an Unsung Hero? Email email@example.com)
Howard Maynard died Sunday in Westport. He had lived here for 62 years.
After serving with the military in Korea for almost 2 years, Howard graduated from the University of California at Berkeley. He worked for Westinghouse in Bridgeport, then for 3 decades for Exxon in New York, in computer applications. He spent 4 years in London, where he developed an email system for the company.
After Exxon, he applied his knowledge and skills to Young & Rubicam in New York.
Howard was a skilled craftsman in his wood shop and darkroom. He loved chamber music and cars.
He served on many boards, including Human Services, the Westport Weston Health Department and Westport Library. He was proud of assisting with the library’s renovation.
His family says that Howard “lived a long and peaceful life. He was spare with his words and logical with his thinking. He fervently expressed gratitude for all he was given and obtained during his life — proud of his career and his post-retirement volunteer work for Westport.
“What really mattered to Howard, however, was his family, especially Mary, his wife of 65 years. They made the most of their time together, traveling often and widely.
Mary survives him, as do their children Douglass Maynard, Mallory McGrath and Allison deVaux and 7 grandchildren.
He donated his body to Yale Medical School. No services are planned. In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation to the Regional Hospice in Danbury.
And finally … Gary Brooker died Saturday, at 76, after battling cancer.
He was Procol Harum’s singer, pianist and composerin . The British band’s “A Whiter Shade of Pale” is one of the most memorable from the 1967 Summer of Love. It’s #57 on Rolling Stones “500 Greatest Songs of All Time,” and is in the Grammy Hall of Fame.
But Procol Harum was much more than just that Bach-derived song with haunting, mystical lyrics. They played and toured for 50 years. And in 2003 — in recognition of his charitable service — Queen Elizabeth made Gary Brooker a Member of the Order of the British Empire. Click here for a wonderful obituary.
Westport’s newest hot spot opened its doors yesterday.
And its porch.
From 6:30 a.m. till dark, The Porch at Christie’s was packed.
The Porch at Christie’s co-owner Bill Pecoriello, on the porch.
Neighbors, contractors, middle and high school kids, folks from across town — all headed to the Cross Highway bakery/café/ice cream stand.
They loved the breakfast specials, bowls, paninis, wraps and baked goods. They hung out on the porch (of course), and played cornhole on the grass.
But that’s only part of the story.
“We have 3 pillars: food, community and purpose,” says Bill Pecoriello, who with his wife Andrea own The Porch.
The food speaks for itself: high quality, affordable prices, everything from bagels and egg sandwiches to crumb cakes, cookies, freshly turkey and roast beef, flatbreads, farro and salmon teriyaki — plus “fun snacks” for kids, like hot pretzels with dipping sauce, pizza pops and Belgian-style waffles.
Not to mention great J. Foster ice cream.
The Porch ice cream stand.
The community part is important too. At a soft opening for nearby residents on Saturday, newcomers from New York met 50-year residents. When the Pecoriellos turned off the lights, people were still socializing on the (of course) porch.
“Commuters, teachers, students, landscapers — everyone is welcome. There’s something for everyone, 7 days a week,” Andrea says. “Hello Friend” signs and t-shirts are everywhere. Half the employees are Staples students.
But “purpose” may be the most important pillar.
The Porch is the Pecoriellos’ second venture into providing opportunities for those who often lack them. Inspired by their 3 children’s volunteer efforts while at Staples High School, they founded Sweet P Bakery. The Norwalk non-profit teaches baking skills to people with disabilities — then hires them.
The Porch purchases baked goods from Sweet P. (The muffins, cinnamon buns and more are made in Norwalk, but finished at the store. The aroma alone will sell dozens a day.)
The bakery features sweet items from Sweet P.
They have also hired a dozen people with physical and developmental disabilities. They work the counter, serve as greeters, and help in other capacities. They’re trained and supervised by an educator.
That’s not all. The Pecoriellos — whose Sweet P bakery has partnered with STAR on a baking class — hope to sell paintings and more, made by STAR clients. And they’ve talked with Westport Book Shop (which also employs people with disabilities) to paint unsold books as decorative items, sell them, and split the profits.
Speaking of paint: You won’t find a more pleasant place to work (or eat) (or hang). The interior of what was most recently Chef’s Table is bright and new. Staples grad Jess Spector painted a mural on the side of the building, where extra chairs invite even more sitting.
The fresh, new Porch interior. (Photos/Dan Woog)
It was hard to tell yesterday who smiled more: the customers, employees or owners.
The Pecoriellos have worked hard for nearly a year to make their vision come true. Andrea described it as the kind of place where, “if I was on vacation somewhere in New England and saw this, I’d say, ‘If this was in Westport, I’d support it every day.'”
They’ve created that vibe, for sure.
And they’ve done much more.
During the soft opening, a man with a special needs son stopped by. He’d moved to Westport for the school system’s opportunities.
Seeing people with special needs greeting customers, and serving them, he thanked the owners.
Then he said, “Today, I see a future for my son.”
PORCH SWINGS: The Porch at Christie’s is open weekdays 6:30 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Saturdays 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., Sundays 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. The ice cream stand (adjacent to the store) is open weekdays from 2 to 8 p.m., weekends noon to 8.
A weekend-only brunch menu features babka French toast, pancakes, scrambles and more.
Online ordering is coming soon, through the website (www.theporchatchristies.com). QR codes will be available outside for customers who are still uncomfortable indoors; orders will be brought out.
Westport filmmaker Doug Tirola made a documentary about Sweet P Bakery. It plays on a loop near the baked goods. Another film is in the works, about the long history of the store — founded in 1926 by Christie Masiello.
Andrea and Bill Pecoriello: the visionary Porch owners.
“The Porch at Christie’s” is the name new owners Bill and Andrea Pecoriello have chosen for the venerable space. It’s a nod to the storied past, and a welcome addition to the area.
But the couple will serve much more than breakfast, lunch, pastries, soups, salads and prepared meals. By hiring people with developmental and intellectual disabilities, they’ll provide job training, income, social interaction, life skills coaching, and opportunities for personal growth to that often underserved population.
Andrea and Bill Pecoriello.
This is not the Pecoriellos’ first such venture. Last year — inspired by their own 3 children’s volunteer efforts with a boy with disabilities — they founded Sweet P.
Seven students and 2 chefs operated the non-profit bakery out of a Norwalk commercial kitchen until March, when COVID struck.
The chefs stayed through June, making granola for frontline workers and food pantries. In-person, socially distanced baking classes are set to resume this month, along with another class they run sponsored by STAR Lighting the Way.
The Porch at Christie’s will go much further than the bakery (which will supply some of the goods sold there). Interacting with customers, employees can learn front-of-the-house skills.
The Pecoriellos also wanted to do something for Westport — the town they’ve lived in for nearly 26 years. They envision The Porch as a community gathering spot. “We want to be very inclusive,” they say, bringing together the neighborhood and employees.
They’ll do it with breakfast burritos, muffins and granola (and a more “brunch-y” menu on weekends); coffee, tea and smoothies; lunches; prepared meals to go; salads, paninis and flatbreads.
They’ll sell crackers and jams for picnics, gift baskets — and milk, eggs and cheese, products neighbors have long clamored for. Catering will be available too.
The couple is also excited to bring back the former Frosty Bear ice cream hut. They’re scouting out top local dairy farms to supply it, and will run a contest to pick its name.
The Frosty Bear ice cream stand will reopen, with a new name.
The Pecoriellos are searching too for the best Connecticut coffee roasters.
The Porch at Christie’s will be open 7 days a week, starting at 7 a.m. It will be “very COVID-friendly,” the Pecoriellos says, with curbside pick-up and takeout.
They hope to have a permit for lawn seating. Of course, they’ll have tables on the porch (alongside a new ADA-compliant ramp).
The interior will be refurbished with a “modern farmhouse” look. The target date for opening is March.
“We have a great relationship with our landlord, Tim Purcell,” says Bill Pecoriello. “He knows how important this is for the neighborhood.”
That “neighborhood” extends far beyond Cross Highway residents. It includes construction and lawn workers; parents and athletes at Wakeman Field, and students and teachers at Bedford Middle and Staples High School.
The new owners also hope for a partnership with Wakeman Town Farm, a few hundred yards away.
Next spring, the porch at The Porch at Christie’s will again be open.
Bill and Andrea Pecoriello seem to have thought of everything. They’re even buying a generator, to serve the neighborhood during power outages.
“We’ll have ice and everything else. Including WiFi,” they say.
So when the next blizzard passes, or another storm blows away, you can eat, drink and do your work at — and on — The Porch at Christie’s.
(The Pecoriellos want to hear suggestions and ideas. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.)
Click here to help support “06880” via credit card or PayPal. Any amount is welcome, appreciated — and tax-deductible! Reader contributions keep this blog going. (Alternate methods: Please send a check to “06880”: PO Box 744, Westport, CT 06881. Or use Venmo: @blog06880. Or Zelle: email@example.com. Thanks!)