Tag Archives: Bean n’ Batter

Will Hamer: National Guardsman Finds Way To Help

Westport is a great town, Will Hamer says.

But he knew he was sheltered from real life here. So though he was not sure what to do after high school — the first 2 years as a member of Staples’ Class of 2015, the last 2 at tiny Dublin School in New Hampshire — he knew he wanted to “experience America.”

Hamer headed to Michigan. Working there, he learned about the Army National Guard there. He enlisted as an infantryman.

Will Hamer

Eventually Hamer returned to Connecticut. He sold ads for a radio station and Hearst Media, and opened  Bean n’ Batter, a waffles/granola/coffee bar spot in Bridgeport.

A second location, in Stamford, was nearly ready when the pandemic hit. Instead, he closed his first shop. “I learned a lot,” he says. “Especially the importance of cash reserves.”

Will Hamer (far left), Mayor Joe Ganim (2nd from right) and others celebrate the opening of Bean n’ Batter.

When he moved to Connecticut, he transferred to this state’s National Guard. He’s helped build hospitals in Stamford, Hartford, New York and Massachusetts. He’s delivered ventilators.

His unit did not go to Washington for the inauguration. “They sent the MPs,” he explains. “The infantry doesn’t do crowd control.”

Now he’s preparing for a deployment overseas.

He can’t say where or when he goes, or even what he’ll be doing. But, he notes, “the army National Guard does everything. We’re trained for combat, but it’s also about winning the hearts and minds of local people. We help them build schools and hospitals. We make sure their livestock is healthy too.”

So what’s ahead? “They tell us to be prepared, but have no expectations,” he says. “We’ve trained forever for this. We’re super-ready.”

The Connecticut Army National Guard.

Many of his fellow Guardsmen — and people who join the military generally — do it for job training. “When you come out as a mechanic, a truck driver, a medic or whatever, you’re really well trained,” he notes.

Others join to get college paid for — and get paid while serving.

Hamer joined “to meet new people.” He was not disappointed. He “fell in love with the people who make our country run.”

He mentions “teachers who work with kids, single mothers on the night shift, welders who build bridges. Those are the people I’m proud to represent.”

Hamer says, “I wanted to do something to help. Whatever you do in the military is helpful.”

He knows only one other Westporter in the National Guard. He wishes more young people would consider joining.

And after he returns from overseas?

“I want to buy a house with a VA loan, and start a family,” he says. “And thanks to the military, everyone in my family will get healthcare.”

If that’s not enough to make someone think about the Guard or the military, there’s this: “Half price Chipotle. The discounts are very cool!”

Will Hamer’s Bean N’ Batter

Will Hamer is still in his early 20s.

But already he has:

  • Played rugby at Staples High School
  • Left Staples after 2 years to row for the Dublin School in New Hampshire, then rowed 2 more years at Iona College
  • Worked as a floor whip at the 2016 Republican convention
  • Joined the National Guard
  • Sold ads for a radio station and Hearst Media
  • Worked for candidates in Michigan
  • Gathered voting data throughout the Midwest (and lived out of his car while doing so).

Will Hamer, in a rare moment of relaxation.

Will loves Westport; it’s “artsy, accepting, nice and friendly.” His parents are still here. But having seen so much of the rest of the country — and meeting so many different people in Walmarts, campgrounds and other places — he knows this town is a bubble.

So when he heard about a crepe shop next to a comedy club in New Jersey that was making a killing, he had an idea for his next venture.

Ta da!  Will is now the owner of Bean n’ Batter. The waffles/granola/coffee bar opened earlier this month.

In downtown Bridgeport.

At 855 Main Street — directly across from People’s Bank headquarters — it’s already drawing raves. It’s one more piece in what Bridgeport boosters hope is the long-talked-about, hopefully-here-at-last renaissance of the once-thriving city.

Will has hopped on the Bridgeport bandwagon. One corner of the restaurant is filled with photos of the historic past, including colorful mayor P.T. Barnum, and John F. Kennedy’s raucous rally 2 days before the 1960 presidential election.

Bridgeport, in an earlier heyday.

Nearby residents and office workers alike are making Bean n’ Batter their place. They like the food, and the homey vibe.

“People are so receptive to what we’re doing,” Will says. “They like our prices — and that we’re not Starbucks.

The Crunchy: strawberries, blueberries, bananas, granola and honey drizzle.

“This is a great city,” he adds. “There’s so much going on — like the amphitheater next to Webster Bank Arena.” That’s just a few blocks away — under the I-95 overpass — from the new hot breakfast spot.

Before opening Bean n’ Batter, Will admits, he did not know much about Connecticut’s largest city — just a few miles from his hometown.

Now he urges Westporters to discover Bridgeport — and not just attractions like the Barnum and Discovery Museums, Beardsley Zoo and Seaside Park. Will has discovered fantastic restaurants like Pantanal, a Brazilian BBQ and buffet place on Frank Street.

Mayor Joe Ganim and several City Council members came to Bean n’ Batter’s grand opening. So did State Senator Will Haskell. His district does not include Bridgeport — but he was there to support a new business in a nearby city (and one opened by a fellow Staples grad).

Will Hamer (far left), Mayor Joe Ganim (2nd from right) and others celebrate the opening of Bean n’ Batter.

Which leads to one final thought: If Bean n’ Batter really takes off, it may expand.

Perhaps to Westport.

You know: the other town — besides Bridgeport — that has Will Hamer’s heart.