Tag Archives: Drew Friedman

Art, Food And Fun — Just Another Day At The Beach

Drew Friedman’s $500,000 is the gift that keeps on giving.

The downtown landowner and co-founder of the Westport Downtown Merchants Association died in February 2016, at 86. His very generous bequest set up the Drew Friedman Foundation.

It’s already distributed money to Homes With Hope, CLASP, the Westport Arts Center and Westport Historical Society. It has funded art classes and activities for under-served students and young adults. This spring, an art exhibit at the Westport Woman’s Club showcased their work — and included presentations of scholarships to arts colleges.

The newest Drew Friedman Foundation initiative is a series of small art events at Old Mill Beach. The goal is to bring art opportunities and education to community members who are often overlooked.

The first one took place Wednesday afternoon. Clients from Project Return and Homes with Hope — the group home for teenage girls and young women, and Westport’s supportive housing organization respectively — enjoyed a day at the beach.

Making art at Old Mill Beach.

They learned about watercolor painting and shell decoration, with Westport artist Katherine Ross.

Fruma Markowitz showed them how to make contact photo prints with found objects and their own bodies. “The results were amazing,” says Drew Friedman Foundation art advisor Miggs Burroughs.

Some of the finished works.

The day ended with a lavish dinner at Nick Visconti’s Sherwood Mill Pond home. He was Friedman’s longtime business partner (and — importantly, for the food — former owner of Onion Alley. He cooked every dish himself.).

Project Return program director Tessa Gilmore-Barnes says that on the way home, one of the ladies felt “deep contentment.” Though shy at first, she relaxed and loved everything: the art, food, people and setting.

More events are planned, with these and other organizations.

Art is alive and well all over Westport — thanks in part to the late, and very generous, Drew Friedman.

Dinner is served, thanks to Nick Visconti.

Brownstone Finds A Main Street Home

Victoria Schallert reels off the names of locally owned, independent businesses downtown:

Le Rouge by Aarti. Dovecote. Lucy’s. Bungalow. Swoon. Faye Kim. Organachs. Age of Reason. Bespoke Designs. Oddz. Savvy & Grace. Soleil Toile. Fetaire. Bella Bridesmaids. Noya Fine Jewelry.

Plus all the smaller chains of just a few shops, like Lux Bond & Green, Shoe Inn and Shoes ‘n’ More.

And all the restaurants, ranging from Jeera Thai and Finalmente to Boca, Tavern on Main, Jesup Hall, Le Penguin, Joe’s and Westport Pizzerias, The ‘Port and many others.

Her point is: Downtown — including sometimes-overlooked Sconset Square and the Saugatuck River’s west bank — is not just chain stores (and not just women’s clothing).

Schallert should know. She’s the longtime owner of The Brownstone. That’s the jewelry, accesories and (okay) women’s clothing store on the 2nd floor of 142 Main Street.

The Brownstone, on the 2nd floor of 142 Main Street.

More directly, her fun, fashionable and eclectic shop sits right between Tavern on Main and Brooks Corner. The building once housed the original Ice Cream Parlor.

You don’t get more homegrown than that.

Schallert — whose background was in corporate security compliance — switched gears and careers in 2005. Her first Brownstone was on Washington Street in South Norwalk.

But that street was “dying,” she says. So 2 years later she joined with Westporter Mariana Hurtado (who worked at Banana Republic) and Celeste Puglisi (of Shoe Inn and Banana Republic), and moved to 36 Main Street.

She adored the location — right before Banana Republic and Shoe Inn — as well as landlord Drew Friedman.

“He gave us an opportunity. He really cared about the town,” Schallert says.

Victoria Schallert and Mariana Hurtado. Their store looks out over Main Street.

Of course, no store is ever static.

Over the years, as entertaining styles changed, The Brownstone’s focus shifted too. They now sell fewer home accessory items like candelabras; more jewelry, handbags and clothing.

Schallert and her partners work hard to welcome customers. They serve coffee and tea. (“A big corporate company might worry about the liability if someone spills,” she notes.) They gift wrap too, which many chains have gotten away from.

After Friedman sold in 2014, the new owners — Forstone Capital — wanted a larger tenant. They offered Schallert space upstairs. But the town said no to a zoning change that would have allowed the move.

So The Brownstone headed up the street, where Great Stuff had been.

Schallert loves that location — all of Main Street, in fact.

She knows it’s not perfect. It floods. (That’s why she had a tile — not wood — floor at her ground floor location. And when Hurricane Sandy hit, the owners put merchandise in their cars and brought it to their homes.)

A small part of The Brownstone’s offerings.

Schallert adds, “veryone wants independents. But rents are high.”

Yet, Schallert says, because of its small, walkable size, downtown Westport could be like a European village. She envisions folks strolling from Sconset Square through Main Street and across the river, at all hours of the day and evening.

“Everyone exercises here,” she notes. “They should walk downtown.”

But that takes a different mindset, she admits. “People invest in the schools and the library. They have to invest in — and think about — downtown too. They have to realize it nourishes us.”

Schallert wants everyone to know: You can get plenty of locally owned, great nourishment throughout downtown Westport.

And not just at our wonderful restaurants.

Drew Friedman: One In Half A Million

Drew Friedman was a pillar of downtown Westport. A major landowner, a founder of the Westport Downtown Merchants Association and landlord of restaurants like Onion Alley, Bobby Q’s and Acqua, he influenced much of Main Street.

His holdings once included the original Westport Public Library building on the Post Road between Main Street and Parker Harding Plaza (now Starbucks and Freshii). He also owned Post Road property beyond downtown. And was a presence in Weston too, as the owner of Cobb’s Mill Inn.

He died in February 2016, at 86.

Drew Friedman and his wife Laura Papallo Friedman, at Cobb’s Mill Inn. (Photo/Patricia Gay)

Now Friedman is back in the news.

In his will, he left $500,000 to set up a “Drew Friedman Community Arts Center.”

But it’s not a place.

It’s a foundation.

Friedman’s former business partner Nick Visconti asked artist/photographer Miggs Burroughs — whose “Tunnel Vision” project is installed next to and across from some of Friedman’s former properties — and Visconti’s sister Louise Fusco to join him on the foundation board.

Their mission is to give $50,000 a year to one or more worthy artists and/or arts organizations and activities in Westport or Weston.

Nick Visconti, MIggs Burroughs and Louise Fusco announce the fulfillment of Drew Friedman’s dream.

So far, money has gone to Homes With Hope, CLASP Homes, the Westport Arts Center and Westport Historical Society. It will help fund art classes and activities for under-served students and young adults. This spring, an art exhibit will showcase all their work.

In addition, the foundation will award 2 scholarships, of $7,500 each, so high school students with need can attend an arts college, or art classes at a community college.

A special gala at the Westport Woman’s Club on May 17 will celebrate the arts program — and artists’ — great accomplishments.

Though not an artist himself, Friedman married one. His wife Bobbie created memorable works of art on canvas, and in clay and bronze, in a beautiful studio he built at their Westport home.

Now Bobby Q’s, Acqua and Cobb’s Mill are all gone.

So are Drew and Bobbie Friedman.

But thanks to his generosity and foresight, the arts — and artists — in Westport and Weston will live on for years.

(Candidates for Drew Friedman Community Arts Center scholarships should click here for more information.)

Cobb’s Mill Closed

Drew Friedman died Saturday.

Barely 48 hours later, Cobb’s Mill Inn — the Weston restaurant he owned — was closed.

The Weston Forum reports that someone locked the doors at 3 p.m.

That’s bad news for fans of Weston’s only full-service restaurant.

It’s even worse news for at least one bride-to-be, who already put down a hefty deposit. She was told Cobb’s Mill would reopen “in a week after the funeral.”

She is not sure she can take that to the bank.

Services for Friedman — a founder of the Westport Downtown Merchants Association and longtime local commercial landowner — will be held at 11 a.m. on Thursday (March 3) at Weston’s St. Francis of Assisi Church. Burial will follow at 4 p.m. at Beth Israel cemetery in Norwalk.

Drew Friedman and his wife Laura Papallo Friedman, at Cobb's Mill Inn. (Photo/Patricia Gay)

Drew Friedman and his wife Laura Papallo Friedman, at Cobb’s Mill Inn. (Photo/Patricia Gay)

Remembering Drew Friedman

Drew Friedman — a longtime downtown landowner who, as a founder of the Westport Downtown Merchants Association, and landlord of restaurants like Onion Alley, Bobby Q’s and Acqua gave locally owned businesses space on Main Street, and influenced the entire downtown area — has died. He was 86.

There was a moment of silence this morning at “Weston Speak Up,” an annual affair in that town. Friedman was a presence in Weston as the owner of Cobb’s Mill Inn. He bought the iconic restaurant — with ducks and a waterfall — in 2011.

Drew Friedman and his wife Laura Papallo Friedman, at Cobb's Mill Inn. (Photo/Patricia Gay)

Drew Friedman and his wife Laura Papallo Friedman, at Cobb’s Mill Inn. (Photo/Patricia Gay)

Freidman sold his Bobby Q’s building in November 2014, for $9.2 million. He owned it for 31 years, renting to tenants like Onion Alley, Shoe Inn and the “Born to Explore” TV show.

His downtown holdings once included the original Westport Public Library building on the Post Road between Main Street and Parker Harding Plaza (now Starbucks and Freshii). He also owned Post Road property beyond downtown.

Friedman owned other commercial property in Westport too. Last May, he bought the 10-acre Stonehenge property in Ridgefield for $1,990,000.

Friedman’s wife Bobbi — a noted painter, sculptor and dancer — died in 2011. After her death, he married Laura Papallo.


Downtown Activism

It sounds like an oxymoron:  “Downtown Activist.”

For years, property owners sat idly by as Main Street morphed into Mall Street, local shoppers fled to more friendly and/or funky places like Fairfield, and the movie/bar/entertainment scene ossified.

Chain stores were happy to be here.  Rents rose.  There was not a lot of activity — but no reason for landlords to take an active role in anything downtown-related.

Drew Friedman is trying to change all that.

A major downtown property owner himself, he’s organized a group.  Its mission:

To formulate, propose and help implement an action plan to improve Downtown Westport as a vital community center for culture, art, entertainment, government, business, social activity, riverfront enjoyment and ambience.

Its name:  Downtown Activist.

Downtown Westport hums with activity, in this cover photo from Downtown Activist magazine.

The group has a website.  It’s got a glossy, full-color, 24-page magazine.

What it doesn’t have is a lot of activity.

The idea of the group — reinforced through the magazine — is to

  • Solicit ideas (via questionnaires,  and input from “downtown stake holders, interested parties, professionals and Activist Group members”)
  • Organize members into committees to “explore and evaluate the proposals recommended for downtown improvements”
  • “Translate committee recommendations into renderings, videos, interviews and other presentations to facilitate communicating the suggestions”
  • And stuff like that.

The magazine — it says $1 on the cover, but they’re really free, at Town Hall, Oscar’s, the alley leading to Bobby Q’s, the library and train station — is packed with information.

There’s a story on the history of parking in downtown Westport that includes a fascinating, little-known and very esoteric discussion of the Baldwin Lot (behind Williams Sonoma).

There’s a piece on beautification.

And there are photos of possible sites for more parking.  (Parking is a constant theme in the Downtown Activist magazine).  Suggested sites include the police station lot, Jesup Green (yes, the green itself), and the Baldwin lot (which seems pretty full already).

There are also 4 questionnaires.  They cover downtown in general; parks, park amenities and apartments; walkways and amenities, and (ta-da!) parking.

Drew was hoping for a lot of feedback.  So far, he’s disappointed.

“Most people don’t seem to have much interest,” he sighs.  “That’s been my experience over the last 40 years, trying to get people interested in zoning matters.”

One big name has sent in his $25 membership fee, and said he looks forward to participating.

Planning and Zoning Commission chairman Ron Corwin told Drew he’s eager to hear the questionnaire results.

Otherwise, the silence is deafening.

Drew keeps plugging along.  Recently, he sent a 2-page information sheet to every downtown property owner.  (Mailing 150 or so magazines was too expensive, Drew says.)

He got a few responses — though not as much as he hoped.

“I don’t know,” Drew says.  “They’re the largest stakeholders in downtown.”

They own property.  They make their money there.

But unlike Drew Friedman, they’re sure not downtown activists.