Tag Archives: Jr’s Hot Dog Stand

A Holiday Toast To (And From) Jr’s

John Brandt has been in Westport long enough to see a lot of changes. But some things never do. That’s why the Staples Class of 1961 grad was glad to send this report along:

From time to time, a vestige of the old Westport bubbles to the surface. Tonight was one of those times.

Jr’s Deli and Grill on Riverside Avenue has been a Westport fixture since the 1970s. That’s when Junior Bieling and his wife, Bedford Junior High School teacher, the former Carol Digisi, opened a great little breakfast and lunch spot.

Jrs - sign

Their nephew, Jeff Arciola, took over the business when they retired. He’s now handed it off to the current “chef,” Eric Johnson, and his “sous chef,” Joe. The ambiance hasn’t changed, nor has the clientele. It remains one of the warmest places in town.

Last night Eric invited his regulars, their families and friends, and anyone who loves great food and company to a holiday open house to celebrate the season and the continuation of a Westport tradition. We gathered to renew our commitment to one another and to the town we love.

The air was festive, the food and drink were terrific, but the company — commuters and contractors, lawyers and landscapers, retirees and working stiffs of every stripe — was a cross-section of what Westport was, is and will be. It’s friends and neighbors supporting one of the great places on Earth: our town.

Big Switch In Saugatuck: Jr’s Hot Dog Stand Changes Hands

Jr’s Hot Dog Stand is a special Westport place — for 2 reasons.

Sitting on the banks of the Saugatuck, it offers the best view of any deli in town.

And for nearly 40 years, it’s provided a “Cheers”-like home for hundreds of regulars.

Jrs - sign

Junior Bieling and his wife — the former Carol Digisi — opened the breakfast-and-lunch spot in 1976. Their nephew Jeff Arciola took over 10 years ago. He added a few items to the menu, put “Deli & Grill” on the sign so people would know he served more than hot dogs, and added a mobile “Weeniemobile.”

But Jr’s has remained pretty much the same, since the Ford administration.

A while ago Jeff and his wife Kathi made a momentous decision. They and their kids will move to North Carolina. Kathi — herself a 4th-generation Westporter — is pursuing a nursing career. “It’s time for the 2nd part of our lives,” Jeff says.

Jeff Arciola, at his familiar spot behind Jr's counter.

Jeff Arciola, at his familiar spot behind Jr’s counter.

So — at the end of April — a non-family member will take over Jr’s. He’s Lou Promuto, a restaurateur who owns Sunset Grille and Valentino’s in Norwalk. Eric Johnson, the new manager will come in soon, to get to know the place, its people and their routines.

There’s no need to tinker with Jr’s winning formula. The plumbers, masons and electricians will still arrive at 6 a.m., before work. Workers from nearby Riverside Avenue office buildings will stop by from 8 to 10. A mixed crowd will be in at lunch, for burgers, chili and meatball parm.

John Brandt, in his familiar corner seat.

John Brandt, in his familiar corner seat.

Whoever is there will continue to talk, argue and — in the words of longtime regular (and self-professed token liberal) John Brandt — “solve world problems.”

Jeff is confident the traditional hangout is in good hands. “I think Junior and Carol would be happy,” he says of his uncle and aunt who died within weeks of each other 2 years ago.

About the only thing that will change is that Jeff’s 2 kids won’t stop by on their way to pre-school. “They’re the show,” John says, of the attention they get from the crowd.

Otherwise, Jr’s will remain the same.

The new owner bought the Weeniemobile, too.

Remembering Junior Bieling

Another piece of old Staples, old Saugatuck, and old Westport is gone.

Junior Bieling died yesterday at Bridgeport Hospital. He was 80, and had been ill for several years.

Junior Bieling

A celebrated athlete at Staples, Junior — no one, then or now, ever called him “John” — returned to Westport after earning a Silver Star in the Korean War. He played football with the legendary local Advertisers team, and semi-pro softball for the Raybestos Cardinals. He is a member of the Connecticut Fast Pitch Hall of Fame.

Long-ago Westporters knew him as the owner and operator of the Jockey Club restaurant/bar in Saugatuck. He served as a bartender at the VFW, then opened Jr.’s Hot Dog Stand on Riverside Avenue — not far from the original Staples, where he had starred. He sold the restaurant in 2004.

Junior was also known as an avid Staples sports fan. For decades he was a fixture at football and basketball games. Though confined to a wheelchair in recent years, he seldom missed a game.

Junior’s wife — well-known Bedford teacher Carol Digisi Bieling — died this past November.

Friends are invited to the Harding Funeral Home (210 Post Road East) on Monday (April 2, 4-8 p.m.). A funeral will be held Tuesday at Assumption Church (10 a.m.). Interment with full military honors will follow.

To leave an online condolence note, click here. Contributions in Junior’s name may be sent to the Staples High School Athletic Department, c/0 Marty Lisevick, 70 North Avenue, Westport CT 06880.