You’re running, biking, playing tennis or soccer. Your headband keeps slipping off your head.
Or — if it stays on — it gives you a headache.
That’s the dilemma Dari Herman faced.
Dari Herman and friend.
A lawyer in New York, Washington and Boston, she worked in TV, and handled NBA player endorsements for a sports agency.
She also volunteered for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society in Central Park, helping fundraising participants run half and full marathons.
But that pesky headband kept slipping off! There had to be a better way…
During lunch hour and on weekends, Dari headed to the Garment District. Through trial and error — and despite having no background in design or sewing — she finally created a no-slip, not-too-tight headband.
The secret: velvet lining, and an elastic outer piece.
Some of Sparkly Soul’s products.
Dari is a lawyer, so her next step was clear: filing for a patent. She got it.
She was not an entrepreneur. But she soon became one.
In 8 years, Sparkly Soul has grown big. The company produces all the Boston Marathon headbands for adidas, and the New York Marathon for New Balance.
Earlier this summer, they added a retail outlet.
A few years ago, Dari — who grew up in New York City — started looking for a place to expand. She and her husband (a Westchester chiropractor) wanted a place with a real community feel; somewhere they could get involved in daily life, and grow roots.
The Boston Marathon headband.
They looked all over: Boston, with its Marathon connection. Florida, where Dari provides headbands for runDisney races.
They weren’t sure where they’d end up. But, they told each other, “We’ll know it when we see it.”
“It” was Westport.
They looked at storefronts on Main Street. They ate at the Spotted Horse, and headed to Compo.
Everywhere in town, they felt the same vibe. “It’s beautiful,” Dari says. “But the people really make it. They’re as nice as the town. And there’s so much energy.”
She did notice empty storefronts. She does know that the future of retail is dicey.
But Dari is convinced that a company with roots in the community can thrive. “You have to have faith in your business, your product and yourself,” she says.
Dari and her husband moved to Westport 2 years ago. Sparkly Soul opened in early July — opposite (ironically) the now-closed Nike store.
Sparkly Soul’s new storefront.
Community response has borne out Dari’s faith. Word of mouth is strong. Customers love her headbands for men, women and kids. Sparkly Soul also sells sports and fashion accessories, and Westport-themed gear.
The Main Street space also includes her company office. Dari would like to bring her factory — now in New York — to this area too.
She wants Connecticut vendors too. Whatever helps our economy, she’s ready to try.
Westport-themed accessories, on display at Sparkly Soul.
Dari is a downtown booster. She’s attends merchants’ meetings, took part in the Sidewalk Sale, and looks forward to the Fine Arts Festival. She’s eager to host any kind of function in her store.
Dari is a runner (and triathlete) herself. She’s run 10 New York Marathons, and 2 in Boston.
In addition to feeling part of downtown, Dari has felt welcomed by Westport’s running community. She does the Roadrunner races every weekend, and made many friends through them.
If you see her on the road, just wave.
She’ll be the woman with the cool, fashionable — and no-slip — headband.
Annette Norton has a full-time job. She owns Savvy + Grace, the fun, funky gifts-and-more store underneath Tavern on Main.
But she spends plenty of time on a related project: bringing excitement back to all of Main Street.
Last month she brought an outdoor market to the parking lot behind her place. It rained — but the vendors and shoppers had a blast.
Tomorrow, she’s arranged for live music out in front. Madelyn Spera is a young singer-songwriter who plays piano and guitar, acts in musical theater, and — though just a rising Staples High School freshman — has already performed at New York’s Bitter End.
She’ll be on Main Street from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. Annette is working with the Youth Arts Forum — of which Madelyn is a member — to bring young talent downtown every Saturday.
Her landlord — Phil Teuscher — is very supportive. Like Annette, he understands the importance of fun — and music — on Main Street.
It’s a hot Westport topic, right alongside the future of Coleytown Middle School, bathrooms at South Beach, and ospreys.
“What’s up with downtown?” we ask.
We jabber about Main Street vacancies, online shopping, high rents and the new Norwalk mall.
We pine for the old mom-and-pop shops — or snort that those days are long gone.
Those were the days. Right?
The Coalition for Westport discusses that too. Members talk about attracting retailers like grocery and hardware stores, book shops and pharmacies; about 2nd-floor apartments; about a movie theater, cafes and other attractions that draw nighttime crowds.
To get a discussion going, the Coalition is sponsoring a forum. “Let’s Talk About Downtown and the Future of Main Street” is set for next Monday (May 13, 7 p.m., 24 Elm Street — in Bedford Square, next to HSBC Bank 56 Church Lane, the Visual Brand office).
Panelists include Joseph McGee, Business Council of Fairfield County vice president for public policy and programs; David Kooris, deputy commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development, and a representative of the downtown business community.
The other day, town arts curator Kathie Motes Bennewitz moved a Westport Public Art Collection painting from the Parks & Recreation office to Town Hall.
“Up by Daybreak Nursery” — done by noted Westport artist Howard Munce in 1989 — showed the weird Weston Road/Easton Road/Main Street intersection, near Merritt Parkway Exit 42.
On the back, Kathie noticed a few interesting things:
The note on the left — written by Howard in December of 1999 — said:
In 1989 I came upon this scene and quickly went home for my camera.
The locale is at the convergence of Rt. 136 and Rt. 57 — just opposite the Daybreak Nursery.
When former 1st Selectman Bill Seiden saw it he said “Worst traffic situation in town.” Many agree.
Since this painting was done, the nursery has built and planted a mound on the small island that separate the two roads. Also, the Merritt Parkway entrance has been redesigned, causing greater complication at the corner.
Happy motoring. Howard Munce.
Equally fascinating were these “Street Beat” interviews from the December 2, 1999 Minuteman newspaper. The question was: “Which is the most dangerous intersection in Westport?”
On the left, Jim Izzo — owner of Crossroads Ace Hardware — described nearby Main Street and Canal Road. “There is an accident every 2 weeks or so, some kind of fender-bender or something,” he said.
Sid Goldstein nominated Wilton Road and Kings Highway North, because of its narrow turning lane onto Wilton (since improved), and “drivers stop too close to the yellow line on Route 33 heading south” (still an issue).
Nancy Roberts of Wilton said it was the very intersection that Munce had painted: “The merge is laid out so that it confuses people, and not everyone stops properly.”
Todd Woodard — a Tacos or What? employee — thought it was Post Road East, where Roseville and Hillspoint Roads were not aligned properly. Plus, he said, the “big dip” on Roseville makes it hard for visibility. Also the two restaurants’ driveways are poorly placed within the intersection.”
Finally, Chris Cullen — who worked in marketing — pointed to North Compo and the Post Road. “They should make a right turn lane” on North Compo, he said, “because traffic gets backed up very easily.”
Those comments were made 20 years ago. Many are still relevant today.
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