Tag Archives: Elvira’s

Elvira Mae’s Opens: The Sequel

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)

Elvira’s Is Closed. Opening Soon: Elvira Mae’s.

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.

Elvira’s To Open; Westport Rejoices

It’s a beautiful spring day.

And here’s some news to make Westport even sunnier.

I just spoke with Elvira’s. They want to put everyone’s fears to rest.

They’re sprucing up the interior. There are some changes coming — and a nice surprise or two.

But Elvira’s deli/market/community center will open this spring. The target date is Memorial Day.

See you there!

Elvira’s

Restaurant Churn? Not These!

A recent “06880” photo of the Compo Beach palm tree got an alert — and hungry — reader thinking about lobster rolls.

That reminded her of clam chowder, which made her think of Westfair Fish & Chips. She’s been a fan ever since she was a student at Staples High School, back in the mid-1980s.

The small, unassuming takeout-or-eat-in spot behind the strip mall opposite Stop & Shop has been a Westport favorite for over 30 years. And that got the “06880” reader wondering about other restaurants that have stood the test of time.

Three decades is a great achievement for many things: a career, a marriage. But it’s particularly remarkable in the constant churn that is Westport’s restaurant scene.

She and I came up with a list of places we think have been here for at least 3 decades. They include:

Gold’s. The anchor of Compo Shopping Center since it opened in the late 1950s, and the anchor 6 decades later for anyone who loves a quintessential deli.

Viva Zapata. Probably the oldest continually operating restaurant in town, especially when you consider its predecessor, at the entrance to what is now Playhouse Square.

Westport Pizzeria. Opened in 1968 on Main Street, where it stood proud and unchanging for over 45 years, “Westport Pizza” moved around the corner to the Post Road in 2014. Its special recipe thankfully remains the same.

The Black Duck. A star turn on “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives” has not changed this waterfront favorite one bit.

(Photo/Chou Chou Merrill)

Dunville’s. Around the corner from the Duck on Saugatuck Avenue, another down-home place that’s the same now as when its present owners grew up here.

Sherwood Diner. Or, simply, “the diner.” It’s no longer open 24/7, but is still the go-to spot for Staples High School seniors, senior citizens, every other human being in Westport, and anyone wandering in off nearby I-95.

(Photo/Lynn Untermeyer Miller)

Sakura. As steady as she goes. It — and the gorgeous cherry blossom tree outside, which gives the restaurant its name — has been a fixture opposite McDonald’s since the fast-food franchise was Roy Rogers. And before that, Big Top.

Fortuna’s. With limited seating, this is not really a restaurant. But stop quibbling. Its winning formula has filled the stomach of Staples students, Post Road workers and everyone else since the Ford administration.

Coffee An‘. If it’s good enough for Bill Clinton, it’s good enough for the rest of us. It doesn’t matter if you’re a president or a peon. The donuts are the same — unbelievable — for all.

Little Kitchen. When it opened on Main Street, it really was a “little kitchen.” Now it’s bigger, and the granddaddy of all Asian fusion places in town.

Da Pietro’s. One of Westport’s best — and smallest — restaurants, earning praise and love since 1987.

(Photo/Katherine Bruan)

Tavern on Main. This cozy 2nd-floor Main Street spot has not been here as long as its predecessor, Chez Pierre — but it’s getting close.

I couldn’t find out for sure when a few other long-lived (though probably less than 3 decades) restaurants opened. But these too have stood the test of time: Tengda. Tarantino’s. Finalmente. Via Sforza. Planet Pizza. Tutti’s. Positano’s (at 2 different locations).

Special mention goes to 2 fantastic delis that offer a wide variety of hot and cold food, and serve as community centers: Elvira’s  and Christie’s Country Store. 

Plus, of course, Joey’s by the Shore. It’s not a restaurant or a deli. But the beach concession occupies its own special. much-loved niche. And if it hasn’t been here for 30 years, it’s at least 29.

Finally, 2 other downtown delis have been around for decades. They’ve changed names, and — particularly with one — substantially updated the interior.

But Rye Ridge (formerly Oscar’s) and Winfield Street Coffee (previously Art’s, and definitely not on Winfield Street but right over the bridge) keep doing what their predecessors have done.

And what every other place in this story does: provide excellent food and continuity to generations of Westporters.

(Have I missed any longtime restaurants or delis? Click “Comments” — and my apologies!)

Friday Flashback #89

Last week, I posted a real estate listing for 222 Hillspoint Road.

That may not ring a bell. But this name for the property does: Elvira’s.

For 2 decades, the little store opposite Old Mill has been a big part of the beachfront community. It sells groceries, sandwiches, salads, pizza, gyros, ice cream and coffee, sure.

But it’s also a community center. It’s a place to meet, greet, eat; share gossip and snacks; hang out and hang loose.

Which makes it a far cry from its predecessor.

Kenny Montgomery’s store.

Kenny Montgomery owned the store, before the Yiozonakos family. He relocated there from the corner of South Compo and Greens Farms Road, when I-95 was built.

He sold the basics: milk, eggs and cigarettes. The store was dusty, and smelled bad. You went there only because you had to. (Or, if you were a kid, to see how much you could steal.)

That’s why — though the official name was different — everyone who grew up in Westport back in the day called it Grub’s.

But there’s another side to Kenny. When he died, he left hundreds of thousands of dollars to the Westport YMCA.

The store was a fixture at the foot of Compo Hill for many years. Long before Kenny — or so the story goes — the only telephone in the area was located there. When the phone rang the owner would walk outside, and bellow the name of whoever the call was for.

Today, of course, you can call Elvira’s on your cellphone, and have your order waiting when you arrive.

As for tomorrow — who knows?

Another view, from even longer ago.

[CORRECTION] Rare Building Opportunity By Beach

NOTE: The previous version of this story misstated the listing price. My bad!

“06880” is not in the habit of posting real estate listings.*

But this one — on 0.12 acres, with a listing price of $2.45 million — caught my eye.

One of the last residential construction lots available in Compo Beach … (available) for new home construction or home/office combinational use … Ideally suited for an ultra-modern home with ample room for parking. Ideal for someone looking to build in CT who works in area or even commutes (bus/train shuttle service on doorstep) into NYC via Metro North. Ideal for someone looking to build a wonderful home in a great community…

There was this photo too:

Recognize it?

Neither did I.

That’s because it doesn’t exist. The image is actually an artist’s rendering of what could go there.

So where is this magical lot?

The listing also says:

Property is dual-zoned and owner operated a seasonal business for ,over 20 years … Existing structure has some history within the town and is 1,424 sq. ft. with detached two car garage.

That’s putting it mildly. The existing structure does indeed have “some history with the town.”

It’s 222 Hillspoint Road.

Though you probably know it as Elvira’s.

*It’s probably not a bad idea. It could be a great source of income. Especially if I ask for finder’s fees!

Rare Building Opportunity By Beach

“06880” is not in the habit of posting real estate listings.*

But this one — on 0.12 acres, with a listing price of $2.45 million — caught my eye.

One of the last residential construction lots available in Compo Beach … (available) for new home construction or home/office combinational use … Ideally suited for an ultra-modern home with ample room for parking. Ideal for someone looking to build in CT who works in area or even commutes (bus/train shuttle service on doorstep) into NYC via Metro North. Ideal for someone looking to build a wonderful home in a great community…

There was this photo too:

Recognize it?

Neither did I.

That’s because it doesn’t exist. The image is actually an artist’s rendering of what could go there.

So where is this magical lot?

The listing also says:

Property is dual-zoned and owner operated a seasonal business for ,over 20 years … Existing structure has some history within the town and is 1,424 sq. ft. with detached two car garage.

That’s putting it mildly. The existing structure does indeed have “some history with the town.”

It’s 222 Hillspoint Road.

Though you probably know it as Elvira’s.

*It’s probably not a bad idea. It could be a great source of income. Especially if I ask for finder’s fees!

Pic Of The Day #120

Man and dog at Elvira’s (Photo/Katherine Bruan)

Elvira’s Opens Monday!

It’s the news Westport has waited for: Elvira’s is back.

The popular Old Mill deli/grocery store/community center was closed all winter. It’s the first well-deserved rest the Yiovanakos family owners have taken in 20 years.

But at 7 a.m. on Monday, they’ll again greet their regulars: commuters, kids waiting for the school bus, construction workers, delivery people, joggers, bikers, and everyone else who lives, works in or passes through the neighborhood.

Nicky and Stacey at their familiar spot. The counter displays photos of some of Elvira’s many young customers.

“We missed everyone!” co-owner Stacey says.

“We’re ready to rock and roll for the season,” Nicky adds.

It’s all back: coffee, salads, sandwiches, pizza, and Elvira’s beloved bacon-egg-and-cheese.

And all is once again right with the world.

Restaurant Rights Abandoned; Big Changes Ahead For Old Mill Beach

The on-again, off-again, on-again saga of a restaurant near Old Mill Beach is off again.

This time, forever.

When Positano — the latest in a string of restaurants on Hillspoint Road — closed almost exactly 2 years ago, there was speculation the new owners wanted to tear it down, and build a big house right there on the sand.

There was also talk that some neighbors — fearing the loss of their shoreline view, and enjoying the funkiness of a restaurant in the midst of a residential area — were doing what they could to make sure a new restaurant took Positano’s place.

The "Positano property," at Old Mill Beach diagonally across from Elvira's.

The “Positano property,” at Old Mill Beach diagonally across from Elvira’s.

That was somewhat ironic. When Positano applied for patio dining in 2012, neighborhood opposition scuttled the plan. Lack of outdoor seating was one factor leading to Positano’s closing, and its subsequent move to a new location next to the Westport Country Playhouse.

Though a number of residents worked for months to get another restaurant on the site, one neighbor continued to object. She sued.

Now comes news that the owner of the property — an LLC with an office in Nashville, Tennessee — has filed an affidavit with Westport’s Planning and Zoning Department. The owner acknowledges and affirms that “any and all commercial uses of the premises at 233 Hillspoint Road have been irrevocably abandoned and discontinued.”

In other words, any chances for a new restaurant — grandfathered in as a pre-existing condition — has been killed. Now, and in perpetuity.

Before it was Positano, 233 Hillspoint Road was several other restaurants (including, most notably, Cafe de la Plage). But before THAT it was a grocery store. Among its names: Beach Food Mart, and Joe's.

Before it was Positano, 233 Hillspoint Road was several other restaurants (including, most notably, Cafe de la Plage). But before THAT it was a grocery store. Among its names: Beach Food Mart (above), and Joe’s.

So what happens next?

The property is back on the market. It’s listed as “A Generational Waterfront Opportunity.”

Potential buyers have a chance to “build and live directly on Compo Cove Beach’s [sic] most unique [sic] lot with spectacular Long Island Sound views.” The land “is now available for a luxury private home to be built.”

Buyers can enjoy “the most beautiful expansive water views, spectacular sunrises and sunsets” (those sunsets might be tough, since the listing notes it is an “east facing property”, and Compo Hill is a substantial obstruction to the west).

This photo from the real estate listing shows the current footprint of the former restaurant (center). The yellow line shows the property boundaries.

This photo from the real estate listing shows the current footprint of the former restaurant (center). The yellow line shows the property boundaries. Click on or hover over to enlarge.

The listing continues:

Enjoy the ever-changing tides and light, the shore birds, and the tranquility that exists with living right on the beach. With no neighbor to your right,  it’s like having your own front row seat to the best Long Island Sound offers — sunbathing, swimming, fishing boating…

Seize this opportunity to create your own magnificent custom home for the first time ever on this site.

The cost?

A mere $4,500,000.

But wait! There’s more!

Elvira’s — diagonally across Hillspoint from #233 — continues to be on the market too. There’s been no sale yet, but word on the soon-to-drastically-change street is that it may not remain a grocery store/ community center.

All of which is food for thought.

A good place to think about it is at the Sherwood Mill Pond Preserve.

You know — where for nearly a century, Allen’s Clam House used to be.