After a week of relentlessly grim news, this will bring a smile to your face:
Joey’s by the Shore is partnering with Elvira Mae’s. The joint venture brings the burgers, fries, lobster rolls (and much more) that Joey Romeo served for over 30 years as Compo Beach concessionaire, to the Hillspoint Road spot known for great coffee, bacon-egg-and-cheese sandwiches, soft-serve ice cream (and much more).
“Joey’s by the Shore, Featuring Elvira Mae’s Coffee Bar” opens April 3 (COVID-19 guidance permitting).
Joey Romeo and Betsy Kravitz, in their Hillspoint Road spot. The table is from Joey’s by the Shore at Compo Beach.
Joey and Betsy Kravitz — who took over Elvira’s, across from Old Mill Beach, last year — are mindful of the coronavirus.
“We’re monitoring the situation,” Joey says. “Health and safety are our number one concerns. We won’t put anyone at risk.”
Betsy points to the ice cream window as a way to minimize social interactions. She and Joey will also make sure the store does not get crowded.
And because there’s no cash exchanged — all payment is by credit card, Apple or Samsung Pay, or house accounts — that’s one less point of contact to worry about.
The idea for the 50/50 partnership began in November, almost as soon as Joey’s 31-year partnership with the town ended. (He also ran the Longshore pool, skating rink and halfway house concessions.)
“It opened our mind to possibilities,” Betsy says. They did not know each other well — each was busy running their own operations last summer — but when they met, they had “great chemistry.”
The menu will include nearly all of Joey’s favorites — and those Betsy’s customers loved too. In addition, there are to-go items for impromptu sunset-watching, like cheese, crackers and olives.
Joey’s Featuring Elvira Mae’s will be open 7 days a week, from 7:30 a.m. to sunset, all year long.
The staff will include familiar faces from Joey’s and Elvira Mae’s. Both were known for friendly, hard-working high school and college students.
The new Joey’s by the Shore will stock non-food items familiar from the beach, like towels, sunscreen and hoodies. They’ll sell flowers too.
As well as grocery staples: eggs, milk, butter, paper towels. And — key, in these COVID-19 days — toilet paper.
Joey’s old sign hangs in his new digs.
For the past 2 days Hillspoint Road has been crowded with walkers, joggers and bicyclists. We’re all eager to get outside, clear our heads and forget about the coronavirus for a while.
Soon we’ll have a friendly, welcoming — and safe — spot to stop, along the way.
(For more information, including house accounts, click here.)
Lost in all the excitement of yesterday’s fireworks was a celebration of a different kind: the return of a deli that doubles as a community center.
Elvira Mae’s — the new incarnation of the long-loved Elvira’s — had been all set to open. Owners Betsy and Hal Kravitz were shooting for before the fireworks.
Once the final piece was in place — a new grease trap (“not that we’ll have much grease,” Betsy notes) — the CO was issued.
At 3:05 yesterday afternoon, the first ice cream cone was handed through the new window.
And quickly devoured.
The ice cream window is an instant hit. (Photo/Robin Tauck)
Betsy proved her local love by giving free food to everyone working for the fireworks (plus Tootsie Rolls to the kids).
Elvira Mae’s will be closed tomorrow, for finishing touches on the interior. But it will open for real Saturday morning at 7. The breakfast menu includes coffee (with a full espresso machine), hot and cold drinks, bagels, pastries, eggs, smoothies and yogurt.
And yes: The egg sandwich will taste exactly the same as before. Elvira’s cook returns to Elvira Mae’s.
Owner Betsy Kravitz, with her gleaming new espresso machine.
House accounts return too. Someone just plunked down $100 for the first one.
The deli will be open till 4, serving sandwiches and other fresh food — all made to order, on the grill.
The ice cream window — already a favorite — is open until 9 p.m.
Betsy has not missed a trick. Just above the candy in the back, the wall sports all those kids’ photos that for years sat under the front counter glass. There are pictures too of Stacy, Niki and the rest of the original Elvira’s owners.
Candy and kids’ photos ..
Plus a (non-working) pay phone. It’s an homage to decades ago, when the market had the only phone around. When the phone rang the owner walked outside, yelled someone’s name, then waited for that person to walk over and take the call.
… and the original owners’ photos, alongside the (non-working) pay phone.
In the new Elvira Mae’s, Betsy and Hal’s relatives all pitch in. They believe in her mission: to make everyone feel welcome.
As anyone who’s been to Elvira Mae’s can attest: She already has.
A classic scene returns, updated. (Photo/Fred Cantor)
Betsy and Hal Kravitz sat outside Elvira’s yesterday.
The deli/market/community center on Hillspoint Road by Old Mill Beach has been closed since winter.
A steady stream of people — all ages, on foot and bike — stopped to peer in the dark window. No one — not even nearby neighbors — knew what lay ahead.
Betsy and Hal told them.
They’re the new owners. On Thursday, they closed on the property.
They’ve already begun renovating and remodeling. Soon — to the delight of everyone in the area, and countless other walkers, joggers, bicyclists, motorcyclists, tradesmen and everyone else passing by — Betsy will reopen it.
The new store will be great. So is the back story leading up to it.
Hal and Betsy Kravitz, at Elvira’s.
Hal is a Stamford native. He retired after a career with Coca-Cola and related companies, focusing on bottled water.
Betsy was born and raised in Buffalo. She spent most of her adult life in California, working on music for TV networks.
While in Atlanta to help start the Food and Wine Festival, she met Hal. Several years ago, they got married.
Life in Malibu was good. But they came back East in October, to be near ailing parents.
Neither of them knew Westport. When a realtor brought them here, they loved the “artsy, fun” vibe — and the water. “It was as close to the Malibu lifestyle as you can get,” Hal says.
They were also intrigued by Elvira’s. The realtor stopped there with Betsy, for lunch. Soon, she and Hal bought a house near Compo Beach.
Elvira’s, where Betsy had her first meal in Westport.
With 4 dogs, Betsy thought about running a doggy day care center. They explored other business options.
Then, on March 11 — Betsy’s birthday — they heard Elvira’s was for sale.
“We wanted to put down roots in Westport,” she says. “Buying it, and keeping it open, seemed a great way to be part of the neighborhood. Even though we were new to the community, we heard rumors it might be sold to a builder and become a house. We didn’t want that.”
Niki Boulas — part of the Yiovanakos family that owns it — was “fantastic,” Betsy says. She let the Kravitzes begin renovating even before the sale was final.
“They know the importance of summer,” Betsy says. “They want us to open as soon as we can.”
But because the transaction had not gone through, neither she, Hal nor Niki’s family could answer the many questions about the future of Elvira’s.
Balloons will soon be seen again at Elvira’s.
Now they can.
Yesterday, Betsy told “06880” — and that steady stream of hopeful customers — that she’s adding a window in front. She’ll serve ice cream — and food to go — there from 4 p.m. on.
The store itself will open at 7 a.m., and stay open till 4. Betsy is adding specialty coffee from BonJo in Stamford, more baked goods, healthy options — and bulk candy.
Luis Romero — the popular chef — will return full-time. The menu will be less extensive than Elvira’s. The pizza oven is gone.
But she’ll still sell ice — and the very popular bacon-egg-and-cheese breakfast sandwich.
She’ll still keep house accounts — though not with the current ledger. Betsy will use a smartphone app (and a gift card option for younger kids without cellphones).
She’ll also still sell newspapers. Someone asked for tidal charts. And — on Niki’s advice — she’ll mount all those kids’ school photos (currently under glass at the counter) on the walls. “She told me they always come back and want to see them,” Betsy says.
With those 4 dogs, Betsy is canine-friendly. She’ll welcome them with water and treats.
The floors are new. There’s fresh paint inside and out. The shelves in the middle are gone.
Before Elvira’s, the store at the foot of Compo Hill was owned by Ken Montgomery.
Betsy knows that Elvira’s regulars will be pleased it’s reopening. But she also knows she’s replacing a deli that was a 2-decade-old icon.
“We’re the new people here,” she says. “Everyone will tell us what went on before.”
She gives huge props to Niki, and Stacey and Nick Yiovanakos, for their help with the transition.
“They had great ideas for this place, and we do too. It’s like 1 plus 1 equals 3,” Betsy says.
Niki echoes the kind words.
“After 22 years, this is bittersweet for us. We’re happy for my parents’ retirement, and for us others moving on.
“It’s been nothing but our pleasure to serve the community. We will genuinely miss it. We take with us fond memories, and value the family relationships we built.
“We’re more than joyful that it will continue. Betsy and Hal are wonderful people. We want you to welcome them with open arms. Thank you to them, and everyone!”
Niki Boulas and her mother Stacey Yiovanakos. The counter displays photos of some of Elvira’s many young customers.
Betsy’s middle name is Mae. She thought about calling her new place Betsy Mae’s.
But when Niki said that Elvira’s was named for her mother Stacey’s sister — who died of cancer at 38, just before the deli — she realized the importance of keeping the name.
So — hopefully in mid-June, but definitely by July 4 — Elvira’s will open again.
As “Elvira Mae’s.”
“It’s a way to keep the old, and add the new,” Betsy says.
Just like the tides whose charts she’ll stock, Elvira Mae’s will be always moving, and also timeless.
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