Tag Archives: Arogya

Frederic And Jeanine’s Old-Time, 21st-Century Salons

In 2002, Frederic Chiu returned to the US after 12 years in France. A Juilliard-trained concert pianist, he settled in Westport. He loved the town’s support of arts and culture; besides, his wife Jeanine Esposito lived here since 1991. She is both an innovation consultant to Fortune 500 firms and a visual artist.

The couple bought a small house in Green’s Farms. As their children grew, they searched for something larger. It took a while, but finally they found an 1806 house on Weston Road. They loved it, for its bones and because there was space to invite artists and musicians for “salons” — just like in old-time Paris.

Jeanine Esposito and Frederic Chiu, in their Weston Road home.

Jeanine Esposito and Frederic Chiu, in their Weston Road home.

Five minutes after seeing it, they “crazily” put in a bid. They added a letter, about their dream of sharing arts there with the community. Soon, the house — once owned by Morris Ketchum — was theirs.

They had not even furnished it, when Frederic invited a touring Argentinian pianist to perform at an “art immersion event.” Argentine friends helped prepare native food. Guests called it an “amazing” night.

Frederic and Jeanine staged a few similar events. Each celebrated art, music, film and food, for no more than 65 guests. No one is an expert in everything, so everyone is open to sharing their experiences.

But each one cost money. So last fall Frederic’s friend — internationally renowned violinist Joshua Bell — played a fundraiser there, in the warm, graceful Weston Road home the couple calls “Beechwood.”

Beechwood House is a perfect place for salons.

Beechwood House is a perfect place for salons.

A neighbor — a part-time Westport resident — who had come to every event took the invitations, and pages from the website, and reported Frederic and Jeanine to town officials. The couple spent their fundraising dollars on lawyers.

Planning & Zoning ruled that no permits are needed for private salons. “We’re certainly not running a business,” Frederic notes. But the time-consuming, frustrating and expensive process got them wondering: How could they take something people loved — something that opens up all the senses, includes a mix of young and established artists and performers, and gets people talking to each other, laughing, having a good time — and reach a broader audience?

A piano performance is just part of one salon.

A piano performance is just part of one salon.

Around the same time, Frederic played a concert with 100 other pianos — all over the world. It was streamed over the internet. An idea was born: add technology to old-style salons, in a worldwide web of shared intimacy.

Guests chat with others far away, at satellite salons. The iPads are placed on mannequins, for a more "personal" feel.

Guests chat with others far away, at satellite salons. The iPads are placed on mannequins, for a more “personal” feel.

A donor offered to provide equipment. The challenges were daunting, but on November 17 Frederic and Jeanine hosted an event in Westport. Linked “satellite salons” took place simultaneously in Boston, New Jersey, Virginia and Beijing. All were small gatherings, with Skyped music, artwork, poetry and a Chinese dancer, plus fresh, local food. (In Westport, attendees ate from Wafu, and drank teas from Arogya.)

Frederic and Jeanine have made Beechwood a site for more than their salons. He’s held intensive weekend workshops there, and the couple has collaborated with the Westport Historical Society and Westport Country Playhouse to host events. Last summer, a “Beechwood Open” brought together young and old for an open stage, open mic, open screen (for films), open walls (for art) and open table. Frederic and Jeanine envision Beechwood as “a meeting ground for all the arts in town.”

Up next: a springtime collaboration of artists, musicians, filmmakers and tech folks. They’ll start at Beechwood, then move out into the community to do more.

It’s all part of Frederic and Jeanine’s wish to make their town a “cultural salon hub.” And not just for Westport, but the world.

Sculpture -- indoors and outside -- is an important part of Beechwood salons.

Sculpture — indoors and outside — is an important part of Beechwood salons…

...and so too is great food and good conversation.

…and so too is great food and good conversation.

 

(If your browser does not take you directly to YouTube, click here.)

 

Bedroom Matters

Shaw’s closed; Fresh Market opened.  Sweet.

Depot Liquors is gone; another package store will take its place.  No big deal.

But Bedroom Matters is shutting its doors tomorrow.  That is very bad news for thousands of Westport women — plus their partners. 

Bedroom Matters is a boutique across from the railroad station — a few doors down from Depot Liquors, in fact.  It sells the usual:  lingerie, massage candles, rhinestone pasties, Kama Sutra honey dust, vibrators, Bad Girl cuffs.

Margaret Wagner

In 2 years, it’s developed a loyal following.  “Our customers are amazing,” says founder Margaret Wagner.

But rents are high.  So tomorrow (Friday) is her last day as a brick-and-mortar retailer.  All merchandise is 50 percent off.  A final event tomorrow night will clear everything off the shelves.

Customers — many of whom thank Wagner for spicing up their sex lives and/or saving their marriages — need not despair.  She will continue to sell her products — including bedding, intimate objects, and educational and erotic books — online

Her classes (intimacy, lap-dancing — “anything fun and sexy,” Wagner says) and her Sensual Circles women’s groups will be held in several area locations. 

“We have 2,500 women on our mailing list,” Wagner says.  Places like Arogya and Soleil Toile are very interested in having our events at their place.”

Kama Sutra massage oil is $19.99 on the Bedroom Matters website.

Wagner says she is “passionate about one thing:  living a sensual life.” 

But sex, she says, “has become an action, a verb. Its soul is lost as it gets tracked through the mud of everything from pornography to Cougar Town.”

 She founded Bedroom Matters to “reintroduce sex and intimacy as a core of our being.  (I wanted) to build a platform for sensuality and sexuality that is beautiful, respectful, fun and intimate.”

She calls her store “an expensive tool to help women — and couples — with relationships and intimacy.”  It’s time now, she says, to move more toward the educational side of the business.  And to sell products in an environment with no overhead.

As Shoeless Joe Jackson says in “Field of Dreams”:  “If you build it, they will come.”

(Wagner also blogs.  Click here to read “Margaret’s Bedroom.”)

This book includes a box to check after completing each of the 101 places.