Tag Archives: Bedford Square

Adios y Hola, Villa Del Sol!

Villa del Sol has served its last margarita.

At its longtime Elm Street location, that is.

The interior of Villa del Sol, as seen from the outside steps.

The popular downtown restaurant is moving to 170 Post Road West. The former site of Peachwave has been vacant for over 2 years.

David Waldman — developer of Bedford Square — is purchasing the Mexican restaurant, adjacent to his new complex. It’s part of a land swap. He’ll demolish the old Villa del Sol. In return, he’ll construct a retail/residential building across Elm Street, behind Lux Bond & Green.

The old Villa del Sol on Elm Street. On the left is the new Bedford Square. The restaurant will be demolished, and used for parking.

(Hat tip: Steve Stein)

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Bedford Square (Photo/David Squires)

Savannah Bee Company Has Westport Buzzing

For a decade, honeybees died in distressingly large numbers.

But in downtown Westport, they’re alive and well.

At least, their honey is.

On Friday, Bedford Square welcomed its newest tenant. Savannah Bee Company — an artisanal honey and body care store — opened its 8th location. It’s the first outside the Southeast.

Savannah Bee Company’s entrance on Church Lane.

“They’ll have to sell a lot of honey to afford that space” is the reaction from some residents.

But others who have seen Savannah Bee in action — in its 3 eponymous locations, or its upscale locations in Charleston, Myrtle Beach, St. Simons or Lake Buena Vista — know it’s more than just a honey store.

And folks who have wandered in since its opening are all abuzz.

Savannah Bee is the brainchild of Ted Dennard. If you think his company is interesting, wait till you hear his back story.

Ted Dennard, at the “honey bar.” The front counter is made of bee boxes.

Dennard grew up in St. Simons, Georgia. When he was 13, a beekeeper asked his father for permission to put hives on the property. His father agreed — provided the man taught his kids about beekeeping.

Dennard studied religion and philosophy in college, then joined the Peace Corps.

He opened his first store in 1999, selling tupelo honey. He expanded slowly, adding sites and expanding his mission.

Customers at the Bedford Square store can sample a variety of honeys, from several continents; bottle their own (from local beekeepers), and enjoy treats like “artisanal honey chocolate” made by Fred Knipschildt.

The bright interior of Savannah Bee Company.

Dennard has spent time in this area, and loves it. Westport, he says, is a community that “seems to appreciate what we do, and understands the wonder of the honeybee world.”

He calls bees “an amazing species. They keep the world thriving.”

Dennard marvels at their complexity, their important (if unsung) role in nature, and their appeal to anyone who understands them. After 40 years, he says, “they never let me down. I’m always learning more.”

So he’s undertaken the Bee Cause Project (get it?). Savannah Bee donates hives to schools. Students watch bees build honeycombs, make honey, raise babies, do their dances and pass nectar.

More than 250 schools already participate, in 46 states. Each beehive is worth about $2,000.

Savannah Bee also gives honey to students, to sell. The money they earn helps fund more hives, in more schools.

“Bees have been around for hundreds of millions of years,” Dennard says. “We’re taking the long view. We’re trying to raise a generation that loves, understands and protects honeybees.”

He learns a lot from bees. One lesson: “You don’t get anywhere unless you’re moving.”

Savannah Bee Company has moved out of its Southeast hive. It’s now making honey — and happy customers — in downtown Westport.

Pic Of The Day #58

Flowers in front of Bedford Square (Photo/Mary Sikorski)

Pic Of The Day #35

Bedford Square public art (Photo copyright Lynn U. Miller)

Pic Of The Day #6

Bedford Square courtyard. (Photo copyright Katherine Bruan)

Maker Faire Makes Its Mark

You can’t keep a good geek down.

Chilly temperatures and a light rain did not deter thousands of folks from descending on the Westport Library, Jesup Green and Bedford Square, for today’s 6th annual Maker Faire.

Every type of STEM creation was represented: robots, 3-D designs, flight simulators, submersibles and more.

The arts were there too: violinists, jewelry makers, sculptors…

And of course local organizations: the Y, Wakeman Town Farm and Rotary Club were among those showing their commitment to creativity and community.

In 6 short years, the Maker Faire has become one of the biggest events of the Westport year. Now all we need is some young guy or girl who can control the weather.

Which I’m sure we’ll see next spring.

Hand-made robots were a huge hit.

Christopher Crowe’s creations drew a crowd.

What better spot to hang out in than the Westport Library’s permanent Maker Space?

State Senators Toni Boucher (front) and Tony Hwang (right) joined 1st Selectman Jim Marpe (left) and Westport Library trustee Iain Bruce at the Maker Faire.

A father gives a hands-on wind tunnel demonstration to his daughter.

Westporter Charlie Wolgast — a professional pilot — checks out a flight simulator in Bedford Square.

Beware!

Old Post Office Offers New Design

For several years, Design Within Reach had a small Westport store.

Tucked away on Elm Street — behind Klein’s and the back entrance to the YMCA — it was not, CEO John Edelman admits, a great location.

Now Design Within Reach — which calls itself “the largest retailer of authentic modern furniture and accessories in the world” — is back in Westport.

This time, they’re doing it right.

Design Within Reach — a new store in the old post office.

The Stamford-based company has taken over both levels of the 1935 post office building on the Post Road, across from Jeera Thai and Finalmente. They’ve completely renovated the 2 floors — which themselves were redesigned by Post 154, a restaurant that could not possibly need all that space — and made good use of the terrace overlooking Bay Street.

The Bay Street side of Design Within Reach. New entrances lead up from the sidewalk.

It’s one more exciting addition to downtown. With Bedford Square and Jesup Hall restaurant opening nearby, there’s an infusion of energy that hasn’t been felt since the movie theaters’ last picture shows 2 decades ago.

Edelman is excited to return. And he doesn’t just mean relocating the store.

His Westport roots go back to his parents, who got married here 70 years ago. They moved to Ridgefield (more land), but he made regular trips to Gold’s (for Sunday lox and bagels) and Klein’s (for Sally White’s record department).

Eight years ago, when Edelman became CEO, the New York Times did a story. Of all the company’s stores, he chose to be photographed in Westport.

Last week — as guests at an opening party admired the handsome chairs, desks, beds, lighting fixtures, sofas and more — Edelman took time to talk about his sprawling new store.

John Edelman (center), Design Within Reach’s CEO. He’s flanked by Matt Mandell (left, Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce executive director) and Westport 1st selectman Jim Marpe.

As a post office, the building was a typical New Deal project: big and heavy. The Post 154 owners modernized it, but when they closed they left lots of “stuff” behind.

The new tenants created a beautiful space. It’s modern, open, alluring and airy.

Designers kept the center staircase, but that’s about all that remains. They “deconstructed” nearly all the rest. Exposed ceilings and HVAC give the store a hip, contemporary feel.

Dozens of pendant lights hang above the center staircase.

The terrace is a great idea, showcasing relaxed living while drawing customers from the side street.

The store — which really should be called Design Within Reach of Only Certain Zip Codes — does not have many suburban locations. Edelman says. But with 70% of their clientele having graduate degrees, Westport is a perfect spot.

Edelman is back in Westport big time. He and his wife rented a house on the water. He can walk to the train station, and he may buy a boat.

He can’t buy records from Sally White anymore. To mail a letter, he uses the “new” post office.

But he can still get his bagels and lox at Gold’s.

And then, a couple of blocks away, he can watch Design Within Reach help jump-start the renaissance of downtown Westport.

There’s plenty of room on the lower level to show off bedding, and more.

Bedford Square Is Complete. Another Intriguing Project May Come Next.

Since it opened 2 weeks ago, Bedford Square has become Westport’s newest destination. Folks flock there to shop, eat, and hang out in the courtyard.

David Waldman’s project — which took many years to conceive and sell to town boards, and another 2 years to construct — seems like the end of a long process.

But it may be only the beginning.

Numerous sources say that the Westport-based developer is under contract to buy both Sconset Square and 155 Post Road East. They’re contiguous properties: Sconset is the small shopping center off Myrtle Avenue with stores like Bungalow and Le Penguin restaurant, while 155 Post Road is the cement building across from Design Within Reach (the old post office). Eyeglasses.com is a current tenant; it used to house the Tack Room and Christian Science reading room.

155 Post Road East is a tired-looking building across from Design Within Reach (the old post office).

With Bedford Square, Waldman re-imagined the way we use Elm Street/Church Lane/Main Street. If he acquires those nearby properties — and, rumor has it, the Westport Pizzeria building too — he could redesign that section of downtown as well.

And tie it together with Bedford Square, which is much closer physically to Sconset Square than most of us now realize.

Sconset Square has been in Westport for years. Originally called Sherwood Square, it was the site of the original Sport Mart.

Word on the downtown street is that Waldman could reorient Sconset Square, opening up the backs of those stores to anyone using a redesigned walkway from the Post Road to Church Lane.

Removing the Westport Pizzeria building could create a pedestrian walkway to Church Lane — and enable merchants to utilize the backs of their stores, as well as the fronts.

He could also consolidate several of the parking lots on Church Lane — like the one behind SoNo Baking (soon to be Aux Delices) — making them more accessible and practical.

Right now there’s a hodgepodge of small parking areas off Church Lane, and behind Sconset Square. It’s tough to walk there from the Post Road.

Other rumors are flying, including the possibility of the Westport Arts Center and/or Westport Film Initiative moving into 155 Post Road East. That could give those organizations great visibility — and bring more people downtown.

The synergy between arts, retail, restaurants (and the new Bedford Square rental units) sounds exciting.

Of course, Bedford Square did not happen overnight.

It took many long nights of meetings.

Followed by 2 years of construction.

Westporters have so far voted with their feet. They’ve poured into Bedford Square.

There are sure to be many votes ahead for this next phase of downtown development.

Meet M.EAT

When Saugatuck Center opened a few years ago, Saugatuck (now Fleishers) Craft Butchery helped deliver the buzz.

Now — as Bedford Square attempts to draw folks downtown — it’s adding its own field-to-table butcher shop.

M.EAT Organic Beef & Provisions opens this spring. The “old-school meat market with new school fundamentals” offers high-quality beef and lamb from Uruguay, Argentina, New Zealand and Australia.

In addition to hand butchering, M.EAT will feature a “burger bar,” where customers can choose their own grind of meat types and fat content, accompanying organic cheeses and produce, as well as seasoning products, and cooking and equipment aids.

M.EAT will also carry domestic organic meat and chicken, with ingredients from local farmers and artisans.

It’s expected to open in late May.