Tag Archives: Niki Boulas

Elvira’s Is Closed. Opening Soon: Elvira Mae’s.

Betsy and Hal Kravitz sat outside Elvira’s yesterday.

The deli/market/community center on Hillspoint Road by Old Mill Beach has been closed since winter.

A steady stream of people — all ages, on foot and bike — stopped to peer in the dark window. No one — not even nearby neighbors — knew what lay ahead.

Betsy and Hal told them.

They’re the new owners. On Thursday, they closed on the property.

They’ve already begun renovating and remodeling. Soon — to the delight of everyone in the area, and countless other walkers, joggers, bicyclists, motorcyclists, tradesmen and everyone else passing by — Betsy will reopen it.

The new store will be great. So is the back story leading up to it.

Hal and Betsy Kravitz, at Elvira’s.

Hal is a Stamford native. He retired after a career with Coca-Cola and related companies, focusing on bottled water.

Betsy was born and raised in Buffalo. She spent most of her adult life in California, working on music for TV networks.

While in Atlanta to help start the Food and Wine Festival, she met Hal. Several years ago, they got married.

Life in Malibu was good. But they came back East in October, to be near ailing parents.

Neither of them knew Westport. When a realtor brought them here, they loved the “artsy, fun” vibe — and the water. “It was as close to the Malibu lifestyle as you can get,” Hal says.

They were also intrigued by Elvira’s. The realtor stopped there with Betsy, for lunch. Soon, she and Hal bought a house near Compo Beach.

Elvira’s, where Betsy had her first meal in Westport.

With 4 dogs, Betsy thought about running a doggy day care center. They explored other business options.

Then, on March 11 — Betsy’s birthday — they heard Elvira’s was for sale.

“We wanted to put down roots in Westport,” she says. “Buying it, and keeping it open, seemed a great way to be part of the neighborhood. Even though we were new to the community, we heard rumors it might be sold to a builder and become a house. We didn’t want that.”

Niki Boulas — part of the Yiovanakos family that owns it — was “fantastic,” Betsy says. She let the Kravitzes begin renovating even before the sale was final.

“They know the importance of summer,” Betsy says. “They want us to open as soon as we can.”

But because the transaction had not gone through, neither she, Hal nor Niki’s family could answer the many questions about the future of Elvira’s.

Balloons will soon be seen again at Elvira’s.

Now they can.

Yesterday, Betsy told “06880” — and that steady stream of hopeful customers — that she’s adding a window in front. She’ll serve ice cream — and food to go — there from 4 p.m. on.

The store itself will open at 7 a.m., and stay open till 4. Betsy is adding specialty coffee from BonJo in Stamford, more baked goods, healthy options — and bulk candy.

Luis Romero — the popular chef — will return full-time. The menu will be less extensive than Elvira’s. The pizza oven is gone.

But she’ll still sell ice — and the very popular bacon-egg-and-cheese breakfast sandwich.

She’ll still keep house accounts — though not with the current ledger. Betsy will use a smartphone app (and a gift card option for younger kids without cellphones).

She’ll also still sell newspapers. Someone asked for tidal charts. And — on Niki’s advice — she’ll mount all those kids’ school photos (currently under glass at the counter) on the walls. “She told me they always come back and want to see them,” Betsy says.

With those 4 dogs, Betsy is canine-friendly. She’ll welcome them with water and treats.

The floors are new. There’s fresh paint inside and out. The shelves in the middle are gone.

Before Elvira’s, the store at the foot of Compo Hill was owned by Ken Montgomery.

Betsy knows that Elvira’s regulars will be pleased it’s reopening. But she also knows she’s replacing a deli that was a 2-decade-old icon.

“We’re the new people here,” she says. “Everyone will tell us what went on before.”

She gives huge props to Niki, and Stacey and Nick Yiovanakos, for their help with the transition.

“They had great ideas for this place, and we do too. It’s like 1 plus 1 equals 3,” Betsy says.

Niki echoes the kind words.

“After 22 years, this is bittersweet for us. We’re happy for my parents’ retirement, and for us others moving on.

“It’s been nothing but our pleasure to serve the community. We will genuinely miss it. We take with us fond memories, and value the family relationships we built.

“We’re more than joyful that it will continue. Betsy and Hal are wonderful people. We want you to welcome them with open arms. Thank you to them, and everyone!”

Niki Boulas and her mother Stacey Yiovanakos. The counter displays photos of some of Elvira’s many young customers.

Betsy’s middle name is Mae. She thought about calling her new place Betsy Mae’s.

But when Niki said that Elvira’s was named for her mother Stacey’s sister — who died of cancer at 38, just before the deli — she realized the importance of keeping the name.

So — hopefully in mid-June, but definitely by July 4 — Elvira’s will open again.

As “Elvira Mae’s.”

“It’s a way to keep the old, and add the new,” Betsy says.

Just like the tides whose charts she’ll stock, Elvira Mae’s will be always moving, and also timeless.

Truckin’ By Elvira’s

No one minds fair competition.

Unfair competition — well, that’s different.

Nick Yiozanakos and Niki Boulas, Elvira's owners.

Nick Yiozanakos and Niki Boulas, Elvira’s owners.

In February, Niki Boulas — owner of Elvira’s Deli near Old Mill Beach — emailed the first selectman’s office.

She said that after Hurricane Sandy, there’s been lots of construction in the area. Recently, she noticed a big impact from food trucks. She wondered what could be done.

Pat Scully replied:

All food trucks are required to have a health permit. Food trucks that park on town-owned property are also required to obtain a town vendor’s permit.

However food trucks on private property are not required to obtain a town permit (just a health permit). There are no local zoning laws regulating food trucks. Therefore if the food trucks you mention are located on private property construction sites, the town does not have any jurisdiction to ban them from operation.

The food permit costs $10. There is an additional fee of $25 for each vehicle used.

Yet the town’s “Vendor’s Permit/Door-to-Door Solicitors” regulations also say:

Vendors are not allowed to compete directly with established retail operations anywhere in the Town of Westport. For example, ice cream vendors may not operate in the main business areas of Westport or in close proximity to outlying stores which sell ice cream.

While “directly” and “close proximity” are not great legal terms, the food trucks are clearly on town — not private — property. Niki took this photo yesterday, in “close proximity” on Hillspoint Road:

Food truck on Hillspoint Road

On Friday, Elvira’s placed a petition on their counter. It reads:

As many of you are aware, there have been many food trucks coming into our area from out of town. These trucks have had a significant negative impact on our business.

Their fees to the town are minimal. There is no way for Elvira’s, as a small mom and pop business, to compete with their prices as our overhead costs are greater, and we are a Westport taxpayer.

For over a month now we have been dealing with town officials and our First Selectman, and we have gotten nowhere. As a local business serving the community for the last 16 years, we find this situation to be unfair. Now we need your help by signing our petition to ban or restrict them from our Compo Beach area. Thank you!

Bedford 8th graders Bryce Reiner and Billy Hutchison are big -- and loyal -- Elvira's customers.

Bedford 8th graders Bryce Reiner and Billy Hutchison are big — and loyal — Elvira’s customers.

As of yesterday afternoon — despite 98% of Westport being away for school vacation — nearly 200 customers had signed. The names included some heavy hitters in town.

Elvira’s has many fans. It’s been an anchor of the Old Mill community — during Hurricane Sandy, sure, but before as well.

And long before the invasion of the (perhaps illegal) food trucks.