Tag Archives: Granola Bar

Westport Means Business

The event was called “Westport Means Business.”

But the crowd that packed the Westport Country Playhouse barn Tuesday night enjoyed plenty of laughs — plus wine and food — as 4 women described the many highs and few lows of owning a local business.

They ranged in age from 30s to 50s. They’ve been in operation from 20 years to just 1. Yet the quartet share joy in what they do, gratitude for the opportunity to do it — and a firm belief that Westport is a great place to pursue their dreams.

Second selectman Jennifer Tooker’s shirt motto — “Be Bold” — set the tone for the evening.

The evening was sponsored by the Westport Library, with support from the town. Second selectman Jennifer Tooker moderated, with ease and grace.

Julie Fountain and Dana Noorily — founders of The Granola Bar — are rock stars on the entrepreneurial scene. In 6 years they’ve gone from making desserts in their kitchens to owning 6 restaurants, here and in Westchester.

Interrupting each other, finishing their partner’s sentences and laughing often, the pair talked candidly about the challenges women face, from banks to stereotypes. They even pulled the plug once before they started, then forged ahead after Dana’s husband encouraged them to follow their dream.

When a mentor suggested that their planned granola manufacturing facility include something in the “front of the house,” they did not know the term.

Today they do. Proof of their success came a couple of weeks after they opened their first restaurant. It was filled with people they didn’t recognize. Their friends and family had supported them along the way — but now they had real customers.

Julie and Dana are proud to be setting an example for their young children, as “stay around” — rather than “stay at home” — moms. As they grow their business, there will be more obstacles — family and professional — to overcome. But they’re confident, excited, and proud that their journey began in their home town.

Jamie Camche has owned JL Rocks for 3 times as long: 18 years. Opening a jewelry store was a leap of faith. But her husband has supported her. She’s developed a strong and loyal clientele.

She noted the importance of having local ties too. Jamie was on a buying trip in Europe last September, when heavy rains flooded her Post Road East store.

Thankfully her landlord Mike Greenberg was there, hoisting buckets and bailing her out. He was at the Playhouse barn on Tuesday as well, supporting Jamie.

Participants in the “Westport Means Business” event included (from left) Kitt Shapiro (West), Jamie Camche (JL Rocks), 2nd selectman Jennifer Tooker, and Dana Noorily and Julie Mountain (Granola Bar).

Kitt Shapiro is 57. Yet she calls herself “the new kid on the block.” She’s owned West — the cool Post Road East clothing store — for only a year.

She’s been a 20-year resident of Westport, though. Those ties propelled her “leap of faith” into something she’d never done before.

“I feel so committed to this town, to small businesses, to being part of the tapestry of the community,” Kitt explained. “It’s my home.

West is just around the corner from Main Street, on Post Road East.

“We all know retail has changed,” she added. “But I truly believe local retailers are not going away. People want to touch, see and feel merchandise. They want to interact with other human beings. They’ll seek out people who are kind and smile.”

When Tooker asked for questions, an audience member wondered why none of the 4 businesses were on Main Street.

“We can’t afford it,” Julie said. “But we can’t afford a lot of Main Streets.”

“A town is more than Main Street,” Kitt added.

Third selectman Melissa Kane agreed. Getting the word out about options beyond that small, chain-dominated stretch of downtown is important to retailers and town officials alike, she said.

“We have not done a great job of that,” she admitted. “We need a professional initiative.” Kane said the town is working with a national wayfaring firm, developing signage and strategies to help residents as well as visitors realize the wealth of small, local businesses surrounding Main Street — and where to park, and walk to find them.

Julie praised Westport officials from departments like Fire and Health, for making life easy for entrepreneurs. Westport is the easiest to work with, of their 6 locations (Westchester is the toughest).

“The first health inspection could have been the scariest experience of our life. It wasn’t,” she said.

In her opening remarks Tooker noted that the town, library, Westport Downtown Merchants Association and Chamber of Commerce are all spreading the news: Westport is a great place to live, raise a family — and grow and launch a business.

Or, as Julie Mountain, Dana Noorily, Jamie Camche and Kitt Shapiro reiterated: Westport is open for — and to — business.

 

Techno Claus Comes To Town. Wait — He Already Lives Here!

One of the highlights of the holiday season — far better than fruitcake, much less stressful than holiday parties — is Techno Claus.

That’s “CBS Sunday Morning”‘s annual present to viewers. “Santa” — who for some reason has a New York-ish accent — offers viewers a whimsically rhyming musical look into some of the season’s more intriguing high-ish tech items.

It doesn’t take Einstein to figure out that Techno Claus is really David Pogue.

His clever patter and fun piano playing are no surprise. The nationally known tech writer/journalist/author/TV star majored in music at Yale, then spent his first 10 years after graduation working in New York, with a theatrical agency, and as a conductor and arranger on Broadway.

Pogue is also a longtime Westporter. Yesterday’s gift to viewers had a decidedly local flavor.

Nearly all of the scenes were filmed at his house: inside, in front and out back.

The only other locale was Granola Bar. That was for a segment on a reusable straw. Okay, it’s not exactly high tech — but it is important.

Click below to see Pogue’s Santa’s take on a speaker with scents; a spy camera for pets (it dispenses treats too); a keyboard for phones, and a wallet with tracker.

Ho ho ho!

Pic Of The Day #161

A tender moment outside Granola Bar. (Photo/Katherine Bruan)

Gen Bouchard: There’s Life After Hedge Funds

Gen Bouchard’s career in finance includes 11 years at SAC Capital and its successor, Point72.

She loved working with “super-smart, phenomenal” colleagues. However, she notes, “in hedge fund terms, that’s a long time.”

Starting out, she wore “plain Jane suits.” But SAC brought in a stylist, offering personalized fashion tips. Bouchard realized that “how you look determines where you go in life.”

Gen Bouchard

Gen Bouchard

When she began raising 2 daughters — and faced her own health issues — Bouchard realized something else: The discussions she and her husband often had about starting their own business might lead to a new direction in life.

Bouchard met Lisa Kornstein, owner of the Scout & Molly’s women’s apparel boutique. Both had multiple sclerosis.

“Her story resonated with me,” Bouchard says. “She was passionate about raising funds for MS. I am too.”

On Saturday (April 2, 10 a.m.-6 p.m., Playhouse Square), Bouchard celebrates the grand opening of Scout & Molly’s latest franchise.

“We have price points for everyone,” the new owner says. “And it’s a non-snooty atmosphere.”

Scout & Molly's newest store, in Playhouse Square.

Scout & Molly’s newest store, in Playhouse Square.

Bouchard’s disease was diagnosed 12 years ago. She did not tell anyone at SAC. “It was an intense atmosphere, with long hours,” she recalls. “I did not want to change how people reacted to me.”

Two years ago, she suffered an intense brain infection — fatal within 48 hours. She was treated in 46.

“SAC rallied behind me,” she says. “They were very kind.”

Yet as she worked from home — with 2 small kids — she realized, “this was a sign.” Bouchard left the hedge fund world.

Scout & Molly logoScouting locations for Scout & Molly’s throughout New York City, Westchester and Fairfield County, she fell in love with Westport.

“I sat at Granola Bar. Everyone was friendly. The women interacted well,” Bouchard says. “This area seemed like a perfect fit for our model.”

She soon found a storefront just a few feet away.

Saturday’s grand opening features food, music and giveaways. Everyone is welcome.

Including — especially — all the women from Bridgewater.

 

Gaelle Dudley Designs Westport

For decades, Swezey’s Jewelers was a favorite downtown destination for Christmas shoppers.

They didn’t all buy diamonds or watches. But everyone loved the winter scene lovingly created in the large storefront window, complete with an always-chugging model rail train.

Swezey’s is now Jack Wills. Model trains are out; “Mortal Kombat” is in.

But this year, strollers enjoyed an intriguing — if smaller — winter scene, on the same side of Main Street. Vita Design Group‘s display included an ice rink, skaters, benches, trees, and 3D-printed examples of a few Vita-designed houses.

A view from inside, of Gaelle Dudley's Vita Design Group winter scene.

A view from inside of Vita Design Group’s winter scene.

The display was the work of Gaelle Dudley. You may not have heard her name. But you’ve seen her creations all around town.

Gaelle’s business is GLDesign06880. A home and business interior and exterior home design firm, it — that is, she — is responsible for the planters and outside “look” of popular spots like Granola Bar, She la la, Joyride and Fitness Factory.

Gaelle is exactly what you think of when you hear her tagline: “live beautifully.” Young, lovely and energetic, she comes by her design chops naturally.

Gaelle Dudley (Photo/Irene Penny)

Gaelle Dudley (Photo/Irene Penny)

A dual citizen who was born and raised in Paris, Gaelle embodies sophistication, elegance and good taste.

But her career path was not always smooth. And “the good life” has not always been great.

After majoring in business at Skidmore College, and joining a startup during the first internet boom, Gaelle entered the corporate marketing world. She worked for KPMG and Starwood Hotels, and had amazing experiences.

But last year, she was diagnosed with cancer. Sitting at her desk after leaving Sloane-Kettering one day, she decided to make a life change.

“I’d always dabbled in design,” Gaelle says. “My mother was a sculptor. I wanted to apply my talents to ‘the real world,’ not the 0.5% of the world I was seeing. I wanted to help people express themselves through their homes and gardens.”

She began offering freebies — planters and containers — to friends. Quickly, the word spread: Gaelle was good!

A window box by Gaelle.

A window box by Gaelle.

She’s also resourceful. She sources nurseries and stores from Port Chester to Bridgeport. She does not mark up, or make a profit on, materials.

What she does do is add personality and color to homes and businesses. She loves enhancing curb appeal.

Indoors, for example, Gaelle transformed a drab attic  into a beautiful playroom. She created a reading nook, a boys’ nook and a girls’ nook, and painted the ceiling.

“I bargain hunted, packed up my car, went over and made it look like a million bucks,” she says.

One of Gaelle's interiors.

One of Gaelle’s interiors.

Outdoors, she swaps out plants every season. “Main Street is definitely improving,” she notes, looking at other store entryways. “But I still see a lot of dead planters. It needs more greenery.”

Gaelle plants as she goes. “I don’t do sketches,” she laughs. “I tell my clients, “let me be creative. Trust me.'”

After a career in marketing, Gaelle loves working with her hands.

“This brings me such happiness,” she says.

“And plants don’t talk back.”

Playhouse Square Solves Parking Problems

It took the intervention of a powerful force — Mother Nature — but the beleaguered Playhouse Square shopping center finally solved its crowded parking issues.

At least for today.

Playhouse Square 1

Of course, most stores did not benefit from the open spaces. They were closed.

The new Granola Bar was open — until 2:30. Business was slow. But it was warm inside — so toasty, in fact, that young Ryland romped around in shorts:

Playhouse Square 2 - Ryland

The post office was open too. So now there’s no excuse for not mailing that Valentine’s Day card today.

Unless, that is, you wanted to park right in front…

Westport Post Office

Meanwhile, nearby was a scene that will look all too familiar the rest of today.

And tomorrow. And…

Playhouse Square 4

Playhouse Square: Parking Paralysis

For years, a pair of shopping centers — Compo (CVS, Gold’s, etc.), and Compo Acres across the street (Trader Joe’s, Silver’s, etc.) — reigned as Westport’s Worst Parking Lots. Parker Harding gave it a valiant effort, but no other place came close.

Suddenly, a challenger has emerged.

Over the past couple of weeks, Playhouse Square roared out of control. A combination of the holiday post office rush, the opening of the very popular Granola Bar, and snow that makes the narrow lanes even more congested, created — well, the perfect storm.

But don’t take my word for it. Here’s an email from an exasperated “06880” reader:

Today as I drove east on the Post Road, I noticed an enormous line of cars waiting to enter the Playhouse Square parking lot. I’ve made several visits to the post office in the past couple of weeks, and the situation has gotten progressively worse.

Cars stack up on the Post Road, waiting to enter Playhouse Square. It happens both westbound and eastbound.

Cars stack up on the Post Road, waiting to enter Playhouse Square. It happens both westbound and eastbound.

There are not enough spaces, and when you park near the entrance, it is difficult to exit from your space due to the line of cars entering the lot. But today was the first time that I saw a line on the Post Road itself.

Once they enter the lot, drivers face a long -- often unmoving -- line of cars. This photo shows at least 7.

Once they enter the lot, drivers face a long — often unmoving — line of cars. This photo shows at least 7.

This is a traffic hazard for everyone, and the police should be concerned too. I thought about ways to avoid this problem but even if I found a parking spot somewhat nearby and walked, there are no snow-cleared sidewalks, nor is there a reasonably close crosswalk for the Post Road in the vicinity.

They can't move because the cars in front of them are waiting for spots. And there are no spots, because drivers can't back out because cars can't move!

They can’t move because the cars in front of them are waiting for spots. And there are no spots, because drivers can’t back out because cars can’t move!

I am not sure where to direct a complaint, so I hope our selectmen will take notice. How long does the post office lease last? This is not a good location for a post office. At least the old one was surrounded by many lots, and one could walk there easily.

Sometimes, 2 exit lanes work. Often, they don't.

Sometimes, 2 exit lanes work. Often, they don’t.

This location has only one access point, in a very busy area in the best of times. When you add snow to the holiday season, it is abysmal. Is it not possible for the postal service to open a satellite location like we used to have near exit 17?

There are 2 answers. One is to use the Green’s Farms post office — but that’s way out of the way, for anyone not in the neighborhood.

The other is to use the Westport Country Playhouse parking lot. At least for now, the gate is open to Playhouse Square. But leaving via the narrow Playhouse driveway is no picnic either — because there is no traffic light, and cars may be lined up in front of you waiting to enter, yes, Playhouse Square.

Meanwhile, there are more problems in the "upper" lot. These 2 drivers parked illegally by the left curb, creating even narrower driving lanes -- and more chaos.

Meanwhile, there are more problems in the “upper” lot. These 2 drivers parked illegally by the left curb, creating even narrower driving lanes — and more chaos.

Should I even mention the dozens of Dattco buses, spewing smoke as they stack up outside the tiny entrance to their yard across the street?

Nah.

And, past the post office, the sidewalk juts unnecessarily into the lot, near the flagpole. That funnels drivers into yet another bottleneck.

And, past the post office, the sidewalk juts unnecessarily into the lot, near the flagpole. That funnels drivers into yet another bottleneck.

Life Is Good. I Can Park On The Sidewalk.

First came the post office. Now The Granola Bar — home of the $1 mini-muffin — has brought even more traffic.

The Playhouse Square parking lot is more crowded than ever.

I know. I live in the condos behind it.

Still, that doesn’t mean you can just drive on the sidewalk and park your Jeeps.

Parking on sidewalk

Yes, Jeeps.

The alert — and pretty pissed-off — “06880” reader who took this photo said there was actually another Jeep parked in front of this one. Also on the sidewalk.

The gate to the Westport Country Playhouse lot is now open. Their parking lot is huge.

Of course, that means actually walking a few more steps than if you plant your Jeep on the sidewalk.

Nah. Life is good.