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DISCLAIMERThis blog is personal opinion, and is not representative of the views of the Westport School District or Board of Education.
Tag Archives: Main Street Westport
For years, John Dodig and his husband Rodger have done their holiday shopping on Amazon. That often means gift cards for their many children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, siblings and friends.
This year — with memories of years gone by — they headed to a mall. But after 2 hours in Trumbull, they’d found exactly 2 gifts.
Depressed, they left.
Driving home, they decided to try downtown Westport. They parked in the Baldwin Lot behind Brooks Brothers, and headed to Church Lane.
On a whim, they walked into Savannah Bee Company. The manager greeted them warmly.
John and Rodger learned about bees, honey, sustaining the environment, and the store’s strong support for the community. They also found several perfect gifts.
They put them in their car, then browsed more stores in Bedford Square and on Main Street.
“We found something for everyone on our list — and had a great time shopping,” says John, who retired in 2015 after 11 years as Staples High School’s well-respected principal.
“Everyone in every store went out of their way to be helpful. They were beyond friendly.”
John and Rodger finished their shopping, feeling like “supportive and thankful Westporters.”
John’s advice: “Forget the malls. Shop locally! Our shop owners need our support. And they provide everything we need during this gift-giving season.”
Last week’s “06880” story about downtown holiday decorations drew plenty of comments. Many readers recalled with fondness the ghosts of Christmases past. Main Street, they remembered, was alive with lights and garlands. It was a bright, magical winter wonderland.
That may have been true. But not in 1975.
On Christmas Day that year, Fred Cantor drove through town. He captured several scenes. The other day — sparked by the nostalgic debate — he unearthed those photos.
Snow had fallen earlier. The plowed, shoveled and congealed streets and sidewalks have that bleak midwinter look.
There’s nary a star, ornament or whimsical Santa on any pole. You don’t see any twinkling lights either.
The only wreaths are on Sport Mart (far left).
But the view of the Mobil station (now Vineyard Vines) brings back fond memories. Every year — a few days before Christmas — owners Gene and Mary Hallowell lowered the hydraulic lifts. They covered them with table cloths. Then they laid out a feast.
The party was supposed to be for loyal customers. But anyone could wander by for food and (of course) drink.
And everyone did.
Further down Main Street, Fred found this:
The Remarkable Book Shop hummed with activity at holiday time. It was the perfect place for gifts — there were toys, puzzles and trinkets, plus a joyfully eclectic collection of books, maps and whatnot — as well as a great spot for curling up in an easy chair to read, relax or just people-watch.
But the Remarkable Book Shop did not go all out with holiday decorations either. In fact, as Fred’s photo shows, in 1975 there were none.
One place did get into the holiday spirit.
And with good reason: The Corner Spirit Shop — on Wilton Road, at the Post Road West intersection — was one of the most visible spots in town.
Plus — then, as now — a liquor store hops at holiday time.
So of course they threw a couple of wreaths on their windows.
That’s what Westport looked like, 42 years ago this holiday season.
The Sport Mart is gone. Remarkable, too. And — as of a few weeks ago — the building that housed the Corner Spirit Shop is only a fond memory.
Just like some of those Christmas decorations of yore.
It only took, oh, a year or so since the Main Street/North Compo/Clinton Avenue improvement project was completed.
But a new crosswalk was finally striped today.
Except for one minor detail:
Hey, no biggie! I’m sure the state will get around to removing it — and the others nearby — soon.
Like, say, a year from now.
Downtown shoppers: You’ve got 2 weeks to get your specialty teas and accessories.
Davids Tea — or, as they oddly prefer, DAVIDs TEA — will close its Main Street store on April 29.
According to alert “06880” reader Pat Pontoriero, they’re doing well here. However — surprise! — they’re not renewing the lease because of high rent.
Davids plans to diversify around Connecticut. Right now, their only other location in the state is at West Hartford’s Westfarms Mall.
The Westport store — between Brooks Brothers women’s store and Jack Wills — was only the 3rd US outlet for the Canadian-based chain. The first 2 were on Bleecker Street in New York, and Polk Street in San Francisco.
Now there are a few dozen.
But — in 2 weeks — one fewer.
The spectacularly glacial speed at which the Merritt Parkway North Avenue bridge project is proceeding led alert “06880” reader David Dean to ask: What’s up — if anything — with another project, just a few hundred yards away?
In May of 2013, the Connecticut Department of Transportation held a public information session at Town Hall. The subject: the “skewed geometry” of the Main Street/Compo Road/Clinton Avenue intersection.
DOT’s principal engineer outlined a plan — by then 10 years (!) in the making — to widen the east side of Main Street for 1,000 feet, widen North Compo to include a left turn lane, and realign through traffic to Clinton. The project would also replace culverts for Willow Brook.
DOT put the cost of the project at $2 million. Construction was expected to start in the spring of 2015, and be finished that fall.
Yeah, and I can walk to the planet Zork.
Construction is not yet finished, for a very good reason: It has not begun.
Spurred by David’s request, I asked the selectman’s office for an update on the project. It took awhile for them to find out — they’re dealing with the DOT, after all — but this afternoon, Town Hall issued a press release.
DOT has “rescheduled” the project. It is now set to begin April 1, with completion set for fall 2016.
It was put on “hold” by DOT, pending approval for the culvert installation by the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection. Detours resulting from the Merritt Parkway North Avenue bridge project — which involve Weston Road — added to the decision to delay the project.
The good news: The job has finally been bid on.
The bad news: It will entail closing a section of Compo Road North for a month or so during the summer.
Which, in DOT-speak, means more than a month, at a time still to be determined.
Two feet is really a lot of snow.
It’s gorgeous. Compelling. Breath-taking.
It’s also a ton of snow to get rid of.
So far, our plow guys have done an amazing job. Many roads are already cleared to the pavement.
The shoulders are another story — we’ll deal with that tomorrow. In the meantime: THANKS to all who helped dig us out so far.
Got a snow photo to share? Send to: email@example.com. Show us what you’ve got!
Last week I got a sneak peek at a new Westport Historical Society project: “Main Street Memories.”
A creative map, interactive web link, brochure and gallery exhibit will make the town’s mom-and-pop days come alive again. Westporters who remember Welch’s Hardware, Greenberg’s Department Store, Gristede’s, Country Gal, the Townley Restaurant and the Melody House can ooh and aah over those long-lost spots; those who know only the Gap, Banana Republic and Talbots can laugh, cry, sigh or otherwise emote.
As part of the preview, I saw a map of Main Street in 1959. Here’s a breakdown, from the Post Road (nee State Street) to Avery Place:
- Women’s clothing stores: 8
- Men’s clothing stores: 2
- Kids’ clothing stores: 2
- Grocery stores: 3
- Hardware stores: 3
- Liquor stores: 2
- 5-and-10 stores: 2
- Department stores: 2
- Restaurants: 2
- Jewelry stores: 2
- Pharmacies: 2
- Beauty salon: 1
- Fish market: 1
- Frame shop: 1
- Gift shop: 1
- Gas station: 1
- Fur shop: 1
- Travel agency: 1
- Record store: 1
- Bakery: 1
- Cleaners: 1
- Appliance store 1
- Photo shop: 1
- Linen store: 1
- Shoe store: 1
- Caterer: 1
- Smoke shop: 1
- Deli: 1
My own, very unscientific survey — some stores, frankly, mystify me, even after I’ve examined the goods — shows, 50 years later:
- Women’s clothing stores: 117
- Women’s shoe stores: 114
- Kids’ clothing stores: 99
- Home furnishings: 4
- Jewelry stores: 4
- Men’s clothing stores: 4
- Restaurants: 3
- Banks: 2
- Perfume store: 1
- Exotic soap store: 1
- Liquor store: 1
- Art gallery: 1
- Pharmacy: 1
- Deli: 1 (Oscar’s — the only place still on Main Street)