Amy Oestreicher — daughter of Westport dermatologist Dr. Mark Oestreicher — has had a tough life.
At 18, a blood clot caused her stomach to explode. After a months-long coma, she endured 28 surgeries, and 7 years without food or drink. She also came to terms with a long-kept secret: sexual abuse by a trusted mentor.
She persevered, and developed a one-woman show about her challenges and triumphs. Then she wrote “My Beautiful Detour: An Unthinkable Journey from Gutless to Grateful.”
On Thursday, October 22 (7 p.m.), she’ll talk about her book at the Fairfield University Bookstore. The inspiring event — celebrating positive mental health strategies and the transformative power of creativity — will be broadcast on Facebook Live.
After a very successful summer, Joey’s by the Shore is pivoting to fall.
It’s a slower time for the beach deli, but they’ve made some menu tweaks and added a few features.
There’s are seasonal specials, like pumpkin spice latte, along with homemade peanut butter chocolate pie, Boar’s Head meats, fresh salads and rotating soups. Breakfast is offered all day long.
Monday through Thursday, they open an hour earlier — 7 a.m. — to catch the Old Mill sunrise. They close those days at 2 p.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday hours are 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Joey’s has added more (socially distanced) outdoor seating.
Jamie Lebish has led quite a life. He left Staples High School before graduating with the Class of 1977. He’s battled drug addiction and been incarcerated.
He’s also used music to heal a relationship with his father Irwin, a noted jazz pianist.
After moving to Maine, Jamie founded El Rancho De La Vida (“The Ranch of Life”) — a fully licensed substance abuse agency and non-profit recovery home.
But COVID has hit El Rancho hard. Federal and state funding dried up. Potential residents are finding it tough to go there.
Jamie says, “As my fiancee and I look at the road we left behind, from what was once our hometown on Main Street to the home we have built here in Maine, in the spirit of recovery and living a life with dignity and purpose, it is our hope that our hometown will support us as we navigate through these turbulent times.”
One day — sooner rather than later, hopefully — the Compo Beach snack bar will open.
A new concessionaire replaces Joey’s by the Shore. After 31 years, there will be a new look and feel to the familiar brick building.
It seems like it’s always been there, smack in the middle of the boardwalk. But for most of its existence, that was actually part of the bathhouses.
The concession stand was located a few yards north — where the volleyball courts are now. Low-slung and wooden, it had even more of a “beach shack” feel than the current one.
And because there were a few parking spaces in front — just before the drop-off area where the Soundview exit road begins — anyone could drive up and walk in. You didn’t need a beach sticker.
(Photo courtesy of Liz Doyle Boyd)
Working at Chubby’s was a coveted job. I was hired the summer after 10th grade. Despite the dorky uniform (blue button-down shirt, dark blue shorts, high socks), I had a blast.
I loved my co-workers. I got free food. I was at the beach. Life did not get better than that.
PS: A few years earlier, Chubby pioneered “delivery.” Employees wandered up and down the sand. They called in orders by walkie-talkie, and tied a ribbon on the customer’s chair. Someone else then brought the order.
That service was gone by the time I worked there. Maybe the new concessionaire can bring it back?
BONUS FEATURE:Chubby’s beach success led to a year-round restaurant on Post Road East. It’s now the site of Willows Pediatrics, next to the Westport Inn.
Chubby Lane’s featured the first $1 hamburger in town — with meat from Charpentier’s butcher across the street (now Border Grille) — and killer onion rings. I worked there also, wearing that same ridiculous outfit.
I had a blast there too.
This is actually the Bantam Restaurant, a predecessor of Chubby Lane’s. But when he owned it, it looked the same.
No one knows when Compo Beach and Longshore will reopen.
But when they do, the Parks & Recreation Department will be ready.
After announcing in November that Joey’s by the Shore is no longer the concessionaire at the beach, pool and halfway house, Parks & Rec sent out an RFP.
There were 5 responses. Three applicants were interviewed. And the winner is …
Upsilon Entertainment Group.
The Larchmont, New York-based firm begins the approval process at a Board of Finance meeting tomorrow (Wednesday. April 1). The 8 p.m. Zoom meeting will be livestreamed on WestportCT.gov, and shown on on Optimum channel 79 and Frontier channel 6020.
Then, at a public meeting on April 7 (8:30 a.m.), the Planning & Zoning Commission considers the 1st selectman’s 8-24 Request for a Report about the new concessionaire. The meeting will be streamed live on the town website, and on Cablevision Channel 79.
The P&Z’s purview is to consider the overall planning impact of the proposed lease for the use of these municipal spaces. Public comment can be made in writing only. Email email@example.com, to ensure that comments are circulated to the entire P&Z Commission.
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.)
Just a day after the town announced that Joey Romeo was no longer the Compo Beach and Longshore concessionaire, the “Joey’s by the Shore” sign was gone. Joey’s opened in 1988. (Photo/Lynn Untermeyer Miller)
On the heels of today’s announcement, Joey Romeo — owner of Joey’s by the Shore — has asked me to send this message to his countless loyal customers:
After 32 years serving the community, we were unable to come to an agreement with the town of Westport to continue operating our concessions at Compo Beach, the Longshore Pavilion, and the halfway house on the golf course.
It has been a pleasure to serve the all of our customers for all of these years. It has also been a joy to watch generations grow up in town. I have absolutely loved employing and mentoring so many students and young people. All have gone on to become productive adults.
Running Joey’s has been the highlight of my life. I will miss it, and all of you. I wish everyone the best and I look forward to seeing our beloved customers, employees, and friends around town.
For over 30 years, one of the joys of Compo Beach has been Joey’s by the Shore.
Joey Romeo has been more than just a concessionaire. He’s developed the most extensive menu of any beach food shack anywhere (he’s also sold beach towels, chairs, hoodies and more). He’s opened on spring weekends long before the official beach season, and been there on fall weekends long after the summer crowds have gone.
Joey Romeo, in a typical pose.
He’s the friendliest guy you’ll know, with a great, hard-working staff of (this is a rarity) Westport kids. He makes sure they’re polite, efficient, and that they keep the area spotless.
So it was a shock to learn from Parks and Recreation director Jennifer Fava just moments ago that Joey’s By The Shore will no longer operate the concession at Compo Beach — or the others at the Longshore Pavilion and Longshore halfway house — effective immediately.
Fava says, “Regrettably, Mr. Romeo has advised us that he will not pay the full rent due in 2019 under his lease, nor is he willing to fulfill his remaining 3 years under the lease. We have made every effort to negotiate mutually acceptable terms, but we have not reached an agreement with him.”
First Selectman, Jim Marpe added, “We appreciate the many years of service Joey has provided to the community, especially at Compo Beach, providing food for our beachgoers and jobs for some of our young adults. We will be working to get a new concessionaire in place to meet the needs of our residents and users.”
I’ve reached out to Joey for comment. Anecdotally, I’ve heard (though not from Joey) that last year — in the aftermath of new, heftier fees for Westonites and other out-of-towners, and a limit on the number of daily passes sold — was a tough one for him.
I’ll follow up when I hear back. In the meantime, here’s a tip of the Compo cap to Joey Romeo, and all his staff, for their 31 years of loyal, loving service to Westport.
As summer winds down, this week’s Unsung Heroes is a no-brainer.
Everyone — and there’s a ton — who made this year’s Compo, Burying Hill and Old Mill Beach and Longshore experiences so wonderful: Take a bow!
If you are a:
Parks & Recreation maintenance worker, who cleans up our messes so conscientiously and professionally
Parks & Rec gate attendant, who waves us in, collects our fees and deals so smilingly with a not-always-smiling public
Parks & Rec Department staffer or Commission member, who helped shepherd the new improvements (South Beach sidewalk and bathroom, new tables and grills) through from conception to completion
Lifeguard, who keeps us safe, provides first aid, reunites lost kids with panicked parents, and endured a few very boring days in the chair watching the water when the beaches were closed (special shout-out to directors Heidi List Murphy and Danilo Sierra)
Marina worker (and of course Westport Police marine unit member), who do so much good stuff the public seldom sees
Joey Romeo or part of his youthful “By the Shore” staff at Compo and Longshore, who serve great food and never get mad even when we have no idea what to order despite standing in line for 10 minutes thinking about it
(Photo/Betsy P. Kahn)
Longshore golf course, tennis court or pool attendant, who we see every day, in all kinds of weather and seldom even nod to
Early-morning employee like Drew Grega, who grooms the beach so well and unobtrusively we never even know you’re there …
Thank you, thank you, thank you.
It would not have been a wonderful Westport summer without you.
PS: I hope I haven’t forgotten anyone. If I have — aaargh! Just add those Unsung Heroes in the “Comments” section.
(To nominate an Unsung Hero, email firstname.lastname@example.org)
Joey’s by the Shore is one of Westport’s not-so-hidden gems.
It’s got the most interesting menu of any beach place I’ve seen. Joey, Donny and the kids who work there do a great job cooking, handling crowds, and coaxing orders out of kids (and parents) who get to the cash register, look up from their iPhones and suddenly have no idea what they want.
Joey’s crew is also fanatical about keeping the place looking nice, inside and out.
One thing they should not have to do is clean up after customers.
On my way inside Sunday, I passed a family — dad, mom, 3 cute kids — eating at a patio table. The sky was blue; the vibe, wonderfully chill.
This is what I saw when I came out:
The happy family was nowhere to be seen.
Of course, they may have had an excellent excuse for leaving their gross mess:
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