Tag Archives: Randy Herbertson

If Main Street Looks Messy …

Alert “06880” reader Sharon Fiarman has noticed a slew of empty storefronts — and a ton of construction — on Main Street.

She wondered what was going on. It’s a great question.

I asked Westport Downtown Merchants Association president Randy Herbertson. He says:

Major flood-proofing is going on in these spaces, which is why they are so ripped up.

It is a significant expense (which the old Chico’s space already went through), but necessary in these times of climate change.

(Photo/Sharon Fiarman)

We have some great new stores going in — a profile that makes sense for downtown Westport (versus the new Norwalk mall.)

Lululemon is expanding into the old Nike space, which will now include more experiential activities.

Johnny Waas, a clothing store, is going into the old Allen Edmonds, while Sundance (Robert Redford’s brand; only 16 stores nationwide) will be in the old Ann Taylor.

Also, at the far end (the old Talbots Kids) will be a new breakfast/lunch restaurant, with a beautiful outdoor patio facing the river.

And further up, Belden Place (the old Nappa space), which is almost done, has signed a specialty exercise tenant for their front space.

More to come soon!

New SoNo Mall Looms Large

If you drive through Norwalk on I-95, it’s impossible to miss.

A 700,000-square-foot mall is rising inches off Exit 15.

Artist’s rendering of the SoNo Collection mall.

It won’t open until October 2019. But — with its size, its freshness, and its retailers like Nordstrom and Bloomingdale’s — the SoNo Collection seems to pose a direct threat to Westport’s Main Street.

Matt Mandell disagrees.

The executive of the Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce told the Fairfield County Business Journal, “We offer an open-air experience instead of an enclosed mall. People come to Westport for a change of pace.”

Westport Downtown Merchants Association president Randy Herbertson adds that the mall offers “opportunities” for our town.

“They are focusing on mid-tier to aspirational retailers, and only 6% devoted to food service which will most likely be fast-service casual (chains like Olive Garden).”

That will “further accentuate our opportunity to provide a more upscale, specialty, open-air and experiential shopping, dining and living district that will complement this offering.”

Main Street is open air — not enclosed.

But, Herbertson says, to attract new merchants and downtown residents — and continue drawing investments like Bedford Square, the new Elm Street property, Belden Place, the former Save the Children complex, and the building that’s replacing Bobby Q — “we need to prioritize stronger cooperation and co-investment between our town and commercial interests.”

It’s already started, he says, through a constructive meeting he attended with First Selectman Jim Marpe and his team, Mandell, and area developers, landlords and merchants.

Meanwhile, the clock ticks down toward October 2019.

(Click here for the full Fairfield County Business Journal story. Hat tip: Scott Smith)

Downtown Merchants Kick It Up A Notch

You may have noticed the signage downtown. Perhaps you saw the hanging baskets, the holiday snowflakes or the Christmas tree near Starbucks.

westport-dmaAll are part of recent initiatives by the Westport Downtown Merchants Association. Since welcoming new president Randy Herbertson this summer — and installing a fresh team including a marketing manager and events coordinator — the sometimes active, occasionally moribund, often ill-defined group has worked hard to make its mark on Main Street and nearby.

“We’re here to be the merchants’ advocate,” Herbertson — whose fulltime gig is running a Church Street multimidia design and promotion firm, The Visual Brand — says.

“We’re taking ourselves up a notch.”

The WDMA has addressed nagging issues like the Parker Harding dumpster — long a pig sty — with new enclosures and daily maintenance.

The organization has spoken with the Public Works and Parks & Recreation departments to ensure clear lines of responsibility for downtown upkeep.

Merchants are responsible for keeping their sidewalks clean. The WMDA is making sure they do it well.

Merchants are responsible for keeping their sidewalks clean. The WMDA is making sure they do it well.

Some of that sounds mundane. But small stuff pays off big time, in areas like public perception.

The WDMA has vowed to protect the new sidewalks. Each merchant is in charge of keeping them clean, but “everyone has different standards,” Herbertson notes. His group is working on a collaborative plan.

The Downtown Merchants Association may be best known for event sponsorship. Moving forward, Herbertson says, “We’ll try to focus on what matters most to merchants.”

The popular carriage rides, Santa visits and singing groups will continue this holiday season, for example. But the WMDA will offer gift wrapping and craft activities for children.

Plus this: valet parking.

It began on Friday, and continues every Saturday and Sunday through Christmas (plus Friday, December 23). The valet station is at the corner of Main and Elm Streets. Cost is $5 per car (plus optional tip).

Last year, horse-drawn carriages clomped throughout downtown.

Last year, horse-drawn carriages clomped throughout downtown.

The Fine Arts Festival may be relocated. The Blues, Views & BBQ Fest will be “better than ever,” Herbertson says.

A Fashion and Beauty Week is in the works. 80% of downtown merchants are involved in those fields, he explains.

The WMDA has just launched a new website. It offers more information on stores promotions and hours, along with a robust calendar.

Meanwhile, the merchants’ group is already looking ahead to next year. In 2017, Herbertson promises, the new trees on and around Main Street will be mature enough to decorate.