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:
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.
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.
Growing up, Gordon Joseloff loved the Remarkable Book Shop. Klein’s books, too.
For years after the Main Street stores closed, he dreamed of bringing a bookstore back downtown.
Joseloff died last month. But now that’s almost a reality — in a building his family has owned for years.
Joseloff’s cousin Bruce Beinfield – an architect who also grew up here, and remembers the bookstores fondly — is handling negotiations for the Post Road East building.
For decades, it housed the Fine Arts Theater. From 1999 through last spring, it was Restoration Hardware.
Soon — perhaps right after the holidays — Barnes & Noble will move from its current location, to the downtown site. Earlier today, Beinfield confirmed that a deal is imminent.
Barnes & Noble is poised to move here …
The Barnes & Noble chain was acquired last year by Elliott Management Corporation. Their goal is to give local managers more leeway in operating each store.
At 10,000 square feet, the new Barnes & Noble will be smaller than its current store. It moved into the shopping center near Angelina’s after outgrowing its original Post Road location further east (most recently, Pier 1).
Beinfield says that once the deal is finalized, Barnes & Noble hopes to move as soon as possible. Applications for signage are already on file with town officials.
Plans for a new Starbucks café inside have not yet been filed. However, the back of the building will have food. As reported on “06880” last month, Basso Restaurant & Wine Bar will soon replace Matsu Sushi (the former Fine Arts 3 theater) on Jesup Road.
So what will become of the current Barnes & Noble location? There’s no official word, but rumors include Amazon Go — the high-tech, automated, geofenced app-driven store selling prepared foods, meal kits, groceries and alcohol.
If that happens, it would be a full circle of sorts. Before Barnes & Noble, that building was a Waldbaum’s supermarket.
In yesterday’s story on a new movie shot in Westport, I casually mentioned that Barnes & Noble is moving.
I did not mention where.
Its new home will be the former Restoration Hardware (and before that, Fine Arts I and II theater). Looks like the bookstore-and-more will be downsizing — after enlarging from its first Westport location (the old Pier One, just east of its current Post Road site — soon to be the new Saugatuck Grain & Grape).
So what will replace the current Barnes & Noble?
Word on the street is it’s a grocery store — possibly Amazon Go.
That would be fascinating — and not just because Westport is ripe for advanced shopping technology.
The other reason: The previous tenant, before Barnes & Noble, was Waldbaum’s.
Changes coming soon
There’s not much wonderful about 2020. But “It’s a Wonderful Life” was a wonderful 1946 film. And this Sunday (November 22, 6 p.m.) it will be a wonderful radio show, courtesy of Staples Players.
Though the high school is closed, dozens of students — actors, the tech crew, sound effects people — have been working remotely.
Which is exactly how audiences around the globe will experience the old-time, very cool show on Sunday. They’ll gather around their radios — and devices — to enjoy a wonderful experience.
In true “show must go on” fashion, directors David Roth and Kerry Long are devising ways for actors to multi-task, and come up with sound effects on their own. At the same time, they’re solving complicated technical problems.
“As always, they’re rising to the occasion,” Long reports.
To join the (free!) livestream fun, click on www.wwwptfm.org. Westport-area residents can tune in to WWPT, 90.3 FM.
Colin Konstanty rehearses his George Bailey role, in “It’s a Wonderful Life,” before Staples High School went to full remote learning. (Photo/Kerry Long)
Sustainable Westport Advisory Team — a town body — will become simply Sustainable Westport. The new non-profit organization becomes a partner with Earthplace.
The group — which educates Westport residents and businesses to become a Net Zero community by 2050 — will continue to work with town officials.
Public Works director Peter Ratkiewich and operations director Sara Harris will be “sustainability coordinators” (aka “liaisons”).
If you think Net Zero by 2050 is far off — it’s not. It’s just as near to us as 1990.
COVID knocked out last spring’s high school sports season. Fall athletes played modified schedules. Now the virus has taken a toll on winter sports.
This morning, the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference postponed the start date for tryouts and conditioning to January 19. Hundreds of Staples students had been slated to start basketball, gymnastics, ice hockey, indoor track, skiing, squash, swimming, wrestling and cheerleading around Thanksgiving.
Earlier this month, the state issued new rules for youth sports — those run by outside (non-high school) organizations.
High-risk sports — wrestling, tackle football, boys lacrosse, competitive cheer, dance, boxing, rugby and martial arts — were halted through the end of the calendar year.
Participants in medium-risk sports like basketball, gymnastics and ice — hockey — are required to wear face coverings.
In addition, youth teams can no longer travel out of state. Regional tournaments and competitions in high- or medium-risk sports cannot be hosted in Connecticut. Venues were urged to limit spectators, and devise contact tracing protocols for players and fans.
After discussions with Weston officials, Aspetuck Land Trust is reopening Trout Brook Valley’s largest parking lot — the one on Bradley Road. It will be available starting tomorrow (Monday, April 27), on weekdays only. NOTE: Dogs are not allowed!
Click here for information on all 42 ATL preserves’, and their hiking trails.
Staples High School 1988 graduate Scott Froschauer is now a Los Angeles artist. He’s gotten lots of attention for works that use street signs to convey more useful instructions (like “Breathe” and “All We Have is Now”).
Longtime Westporters Ann Sheffer and Bill Scheffler — who spent part of the year in Palm Springs — are huge fans. They bought some of his work even before they knew the local connection.
Now, Ann reports, Scott is making face masks. They’re like his street signs, with messages like “Dream,” “Smile” and “Do Your Best.”
Good news: Barnes & Noble is back open. Curbside pickup is available from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
That news comes from Nina Sankovitch, who has particular reason to be pleased. Her newest book — American Rebels: How the Hancock, Adams, and Quincy Families Fanned the Flames of Revolution — is well stocked there.
Anyone buying her book there will receive a nice gift: one of Nina’s American Rebels tote bags (below).
And, she promises, once the virus is gone, she’ll be happy to sign your book.
Two weeks ago, “06880” posted a video of 1970 Staples High School graduate Stephen Wall — now a tenor with the Seattle Opera — entertaining his socially distancing neighbors with a rousing rendition of “Nessun Dorma.”
This week he’s back, bolder and more rousing than ever. Here he is, with his “Friday Figaro.”
This is not stop-the-presses news: raising teenagers is hard. These days, it’s even tougher.
Tomorrow (Monday, April 27, 12 to 1 p.m.), Westport Together sponsors a webinar: “Parenting High School Juniors and Seniors During the Coronavirus Pandemic.”
The program features local mental health professionals Deb Slocum of the Staples High School Counseling Department, Karen Krupnik of Positive Directions, and director of Westport Public Schools psychological services Dr. Valerie Babich. They’ll discuss ways to develop social, academic and emotional skills needed for life after high school. To register, click here or watch on Facebook Live.
Next month, Westport Together hosts more virtual discussion groups for parents of elementary, middle and high school students. Click here for their website.
Beechwood Arts’ “Coming Out Of COVID” event planned for this Wednesday (April 29) is postponed. The reason: a death in the organizers’ family. from complications of the coronavirus.
It will be rescheduled. For more information, click here.
And finally … Dionne Warwick reminds us of a simple, yet very important, truth:
But it’s easy to love Barnes & Noble — at least, the Westport one.
Sure, since it opened here more than 20 years ago it’s knocked off independent bookstores, plus toy stores and music stores and gift shops. But the selection is so good, and the managers are so community-minded, that we don’t really blame Barnes & Noble itself for all that.
The store reaches out to local authors, and treats them exceptionally. Barnes & Noble also is there for every school fundraiser and educators’ event — and not just for Westport schools, but the truly needy in Bridgeport too.
The real reason we love Barnes & Noble though, is the people. It’s rare these days — especially at big box stores — but the staff genuinely cares about helping customers. Plus, they know their stuff. That’s a winning combination.
In 2016, youngsters enjoyed Barnes & Noble’s Harry Potter trivia event.
The other day, I had a rare issue with a return. I contacted Tricia Tierney, the community relations coordinator I’ve known for years.
Almost immediately, she made things right. She figured out the problem, and solved it. Then she went waaaaay beyond, making sure I was okay with the solution, and apologizing on behalf of her staff.
It’s fashionable these days to think the only folks who care about customers are local mom-and-pops. It’s important, every so often, to acknowledge the Big Guys when they show small-town service.
For well over 20 years, Barnes & Noble has been a big part of Westport, in all the little ways that count.
Oh, yeah: Thanks for bringing back those comfy chairs too!
For over 20 years, a familiar sight in Westport.
(To nominate an Unsung Hero, email firstname.lastname@example.org)
When Tricia Tierney was hired as Barnes & Noble’s Westport community relations coordinator 20 years ago, the bookstore had just replaced Waldbaum’s in the Post Plaza shopping center.
It moved there from smaller digs a few hundred yards east — where Pier 1 was (until recently) located.
Much has changed in 2 decades. The toys and gifts section grew exponentially. Children’s books got their own separate section. The music department saw the decline of CDs, and the resurrection of vinyl. Something called a “Nook” took over the front of the store.
To celebrate 20 years in the same location, Barnes & Noble has remodeled. Music area walls have come down. Comfy chairs — which vanished a while ago — returned. The Nook tables are gone.
Overall, it looks and feels much more open.
Barnes & Noble, after remodeling.
Tierney has seen other changes. In the beginning, she spent much of her time arranging author readings.
J.K. Rowling was here in 1999 to promote her 2nd Harry Potter book. “It was like having a Beatle,” Tierney recalls. The line wound around Purple Feet. Rowling sold over 1,000 copies — and looked every child in the eye.
J.K. Rowling in Westport, nearly 20 years ago.
Martha Stewart spoke several times. Julie Andrews, Christopher Plummer and Frank McCourt appeared too. (Full disclosure: So did I.)
These days, there are far fewer author readings. Tierney now has a different job — community business development manager — and is more involved in book fairs, and school and business events. (GE moved to Boston, but still orders books for meetings through the Westport store.)
Tierney has developed strong relationships with area educators, in both the Westport and Bridgeport school systems.
Saugatuck Elementary School staff members, at a Barnes & Noble book fair.
The “community” in Tierney’s two titles is important, she says.
“From the start, we wanted Westport to know that we were part of the town — not just a big corporate store,” she says. “We still do.”
She is proud that when people hear where she works, they exclaim, “I love Barnes & Noble!”
This Saturday (May 6, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.), the store marks its 20th anniversary in Post Plaza. They’ve planned special story times and crafts for kids (including a make-your-own instrument activity). Young musicians will play. Wakeman Town Farm will bring animals. Food trucks — and a frappuccino bar — add to the fun.
And even though author appearances are now rare, local writers Tommy Greenwald, Michaela MacColl, Hans Wilhelm, Ramin Ganeshram, Christine Pakkala, Elizabeth Menke and Elise Broach will greet readers and sign books (12 to 2 p.m.).
Sure, Barnes & Noble — along with the internet, other technology (including the Nook) and many other factors — helped drive small, locally owned bookstores out of business.
But the Westport store has been an important part of our community for more than 2 decades. They’ve showcased local talent, supported tons of town causes, and helped many organizations raise money (holiday wrapping, anyone?).
On Saturday, Barnes & Noble celebrates that remarkable achievement.
Youngsters enjoyed Barnes & Noble’s Harry Potter trivia event last year.
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