Tag Archives: Gold’s

Water, Water Everywhere…

In the 1st World, we don’t think much about water. (Unless — as happened recently in Flint and at Staples High School — it turns discolored.)

But Ben Goldstein does.

Since age 9, Ben — now a Staples senior — has raised money for charity. He’s earned awards from Autism Speaks, for bringing in more than $10,000 a year for 5 years.

As a sophomore — fascinated by business — he decided to start his own venture. He wanted to include a charitable component too.

That summer, Ben took a business course at Brown University. It spurred him to develop an idea, a name and a business plan. He chose Choice Water.

Choice Water logo

Ben spoke with industry professionals, bottlers, plastic manufacturers and deli owners. He learned all he could about the bottled water industry.

What makes Choice Water different from the bajillions of other water bottles out there is that — based on the label they choose — consumers can direct a portion of the purchase price to different charities. So far, Ben  has lined up 2: Autism Speaks and Child Advocates of Southwest Connecticut.

Using the 99designs website, Ben found a woman in Indonesia to create his logo, and a man in Hungary to design the label.

Ben hit the pavement, talking with local deli and grocery store owners about refrigerator space. It’s not easy competing against Poland Spring and Coke. But Choice Water is on sale in all 4 Garelick & Herbs locations, Oscar’s, Gold’s, Fortuna’s and Village Bagels.

Ben Goldstein and Jim Eckel at Gold's Delicatessen.

Ben Goldstein and Jim Eckl at Gold’s Delicatessen.

“Each store is different,” Ben says. “Competition is different, space is different, the clientele is different.” In one store he may compete against 1 brand of water; in another, 6. He’s learned to adapt his product’s presentation for each store.

Ben believes Choice Water is important because “it’s an easy way for people to do good, while doing something they were going to do anyway. If you have a choice between buying water that supports a local charity, or a bottle from a multi-billion-dollar company…”

In addition, Choice Water empowers consumers to pick exactly which charity they like. Ben hopes to have more choices soon, and more locations throughout Fairfield County.

Westport Sunrise Rotary has honored Ben for his work.

Now it’s up to us. Which water will we choose?

Choice Water bottles


Liquor Locker Lore

In the mid-1960s, the Skolnick family was ready to leave Coney Island. Austin Sholes — who lived on North Compo, across from Gorham Avenue — urged his in-laws to look at Westport. They liked it, and bought a house on nearby Tamarac.

Irving Skolnick had been a diamond setter in New York. Now he bought Liquor Locker — one of the 3 package stores then on Main Street.

Seth Sholes and his grandfather, Irving Skolnick.

A bit later Irving’s son Harvey came home from the Army. He didn’t know much about whiskey or wine, but he joined the business. He liked dealing with customers. That was good for Irving, who preferred being in the background.

Irving’s wife Eva worked at the shop too. Theirs was a great partnership, and the store thrived. Changes came to Main Street — among the mom-and-pop shops that left were the 2 other liquor stores — but the Skolnicks stayed.

Liquor Locker has been a Main Street mainstay for 45 years. This week, though, the shelves are empty. The bottles are packed.

On Monday, Liquor Locker reopens in Compo Shopping Center. The new digs are between Olympia Sports and Gold’s.

Seth Sholes and his uncle, Harvey Skolnick.

The other day — between moving, and taking care of his 2 kids — Seth Sholes talked about Liquor Locker’s long history. He’s Irving’s grandson, and Harvey’s nephew.

Now — retired after 27 years on Wall Street — he’s also the store’s new co-owner.

Growing up in Westport, Seth says, “everyone went downtown.” For him and his friends, the store — with couches in the back — was a place to hang out during jaunts to the Y, Bill’s Smoke Shop, and “checking out the mitts at Schaefer’s and the skis at Sport Mart.”

As the business grew over the years, wines grew more prominent.

But what grew too were Main Street rents. “They’re crazy now,” Seth says. Harvey tried many times to buy his building. But the landlord — a 98-year-woman who’s owned it since he opened — never wanted to sell.

Her relationship with Harvey is warm. She came in the store the other day, and they hugged.

Harvey Skolnick at Liquor Locker, on Main Street.

Yet Main Street has changed. “People don’t hang out there anymore,” Seth notes. “They go for a specific purpose, like the Gap. We all knew Bill, Sam Sloat, the people at Klein’s. There aren’t many places now where you have interaction with the guy behind the counter.”

Liquor Locker did not change much. Harvey never got into email, and the store does not sell online. When an interesting new wine comes in, Harvey calls his customers.

Seth Sholes

There is no inventory system. “It’s all in Harvey’s head,” Seth says with wonder. “He knows when to order, and what’s where.” Seth plans to move it “out of his head, onto a computer. It’ll be the best of both worlds.”

When they thought about moving, Seth and Harvey looked at Compo Acres, near Trader Joe’s. Then a “For Rent” sign across the street caught their eye. They looked at the space near Gold’s, called the number, and waited for the real estate rep to come. A week later, the space was theirs.

It will have enough room for wine tasting. Yet Seth does not see Liquor Locker changing what it does best.

“We’re not interested in selling 500 cases of Absolut vodka,” he says. “We’ll still get excited about 20 cases of wine that no one else in the area has.”

Seth loves Compo Shopping Center. Gold’s has been there 47 years; the barber shop and textile store, even longer. “They’re all excited we’re coming,” Seth says. “We are too.

“It’s a little bit now like what Main Street was.”

A Modest Proposal

It’s good that the road linking Compo Shopping Center and East Main Street — where the Humane Society is located — is 1-way.

Unfortunately, the 1-way is the wrong way.

That little hill should be an entrance — not an exit.

Drivers can already reach East Main via the back lot — just cut through between CVS and Olympia Sports.  No human being has ever been seen leaving the shopping center via the hill (unless making an illegal right turn onto the Post Road).

Creating a 1-way entrance, rather than an exit, would alleviate the gruesome backup in front of what is now the shopping center’s only entry.  Drivers not turning into the shopping center get stuck at the light behind those who are; meanwhile, the entire intersection is a mess for many reasons.  (Three of the biggest:  the entrance/exit is too narrow; it’s not directly aligned with the one across the street at Trader Joe’s, and Westport drivers think traffic rules apply to everyone except themselves.)

Adding another entrance to Compo Shopping Center via East Main Street won’t alleviate every problem.  Cars will still bunch up in the Gold’s section, behind those waiting at every conceivable angle to exit.

But — as they say about taking Gold’s chicken soup for a cold — “it can’t hoit.”