Tag Archives: Sally’s Place

Tributes Pour In For Sally White

Sally White was not an internet person. She much preferred interacting with people, face to face.

But when the longtime, much-loved owner of Sally’s Place — and before that, manager of Klein’s record department, and Melody House worker — died of cancer yesterday at 88, every online platform was filled with memories.

Generations of Fairfield County men and women (and teenagers) were Sally’s customers — and friends. She influenced literally tens of thousands of us. She opened our ears — and our minds and souls — to all kinds of music.

And she opened her heart to us.

Everyone has a Sally White story. Here are 2 of  my favorites. The first is from Drew McKeon. A Staples High School class of 2000 graduate, he’s spent the past several years touring the world with fellow Westporter Michael Bolton. Sally is a big reason why.

So sad to say goodbye to my old friend, Sally White. I’ll never forget the hours spent sitting one on one, listening to her stories of seeing the greats live (Sinatra, Hendrix, Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Coltrane, Dylan, Buddy Rich, Miles), and how much our town had changed since she came to Main Street in 1954.

The wonderful Sally White

She sold me the first jazz albums I ever bought (“Kind of Blue”, “Speak No Evil,” “The Real McCoy,” Jarrett Trio “Live at the Blue Note”), and shook her head every time I came in for the latest Zorn Tzadik release.

I bought my first copy of “Purple Rain” there, and Tom Waits’ “Mule Variations,” and “Bright Size Life,” as well as every album Bill Frisell, Alison Krauss and Belá Fleck released from 1995-2014. I got Nirvana “Unplugged” there too.

She told me the same story about the guy offering to buy her Sinatra poster for $1000 (even though she had 2!) every time I came in, and regaled me with childhood tales about a shy and gentle Horace Silver.

She felt so guilty about declining invites to my high school shows that she gave me a gig playing standards with a quartet outside the shop during the Memorial Day parade.

I cringed every time she cut open a CD so haphazardly, the X-acto knife lunging in towards her abdomen. I’d tell her not to rip the cellophane just so I could obsess over the Winter&Winter packaging. “Hey, they don’t call it Sally’s for nothing — my store, my rules!”

Sally doing what she loves most: interacting with one customer. Another browses behind her.

She sold me “Innervisions” and Maceo’s “Life on Planet Groove” and “Babylon By Bus,” and gave me “Appalachia Waltz” for my 15th birthday. She stuffed 2 copies of Downbeat in my bag with every purchase, and tuned in to every episode of the WWPT radio show I hosted with Ted Thompson. My obsessive love for Joni and Edgar Meyer was born and fostered at 190 Main Street.

I, like so many other local musicians, am so thankful to have had Sally recognize and encourage my unquenchable thirst for music of all styles at a young age. I always thought it was so cool that I got my first Miles record from the same badass lady that a young Scofield did, a couple decades before. (I got a shitload of Sco records from her, too.)

Perhaps more than anything, I’ll always remember skimming through her prized postcard collection from the great Adam Nussbaum. He, years prior, was one of “Sally’s Kids” too.

At the time, I couldn’t fathom ever actually going to places like Malta, Cairo or Shanghai — let alone, getting paid to play drums there. But I knew I wanted to more than anything, and she assured me I would “be out there soon enough.”

I hope Blue Eyes is singing one for my gal Sal tonight!

——————————————

And this, from Jim Motavalli. He graduated from Staples in 1970 — 30 years before Drew McKeon — but he too will remember Sally White forever.

With 2partners, I started a record store in Fairfield, circa 1975. It was called Trident, because there were 3 partners — one of whom was my twin brother. The 2 of us had just graduated from the University of Connecticut, where we took not one business course.

We had a plan — we would pioneer the sale of used records in Connecticut — but beyond that we didn’t have a clue how to set up and stock a store. Fortunately, we had a friend, Sally White, then running the record haven at the downtown Westport department store Klein’s. Far from stocking just the hits, Sally made sure that the store was bulging with jazz — including albums from players who lived in the area: Dave Brubeck, Gerry Mulligan (and, later, McCoy Tyner and Max Roach).

We called her, and she came over to talk business. Despite the fact we were planning to compete with her, Sally held forth all evening on all aspects of dealing with suppliers, getting credit, buying a cash register, handling returns, and was endlessly helpful.

I was thought of this episode on learning that Sally White died this week. She had closed her store, Sally’s Place (which succeeded her long stint at Klein’s) in 2013 — a victim of the digital revolution. I’m sure not being able to greet her many friends took something out of her — she’d sold records for 57 years!

After describing the recent revival of vinyl, Jim concludes:

Goodbye Sam Goody’s, Goodbye Tower Records. It’s not likely I’ll mourn the passing of these corporate superstores.

But I will shed a tear not so much for Sally’s Place, but for Sally herself. A real mensch.

(Click here to read Jim Motavalli’s full story, on his music blog Territorial Imperatives.)

Remembering Sally White

Sally White — who influenced, inspired, amazed and befriended generations of local musicians, music lovers and music wannabes — died this morning at Autumn Lake Healthcare in Norwalk.

For 57 years — first at Melody House on Main Street; then running the music department at Klein’s, a few doors away, and finally as the owner of Sally’s Place — she was one of Westport’s most beloved figures. 

In July of 2013, I posted the story below. It drew 57 glowing comments. Her passing will elicit many more.

There is no word yet on services. Whenever and wherever Sally White is laid to rest, I’m sure there will be plenty of great music.

————————————————————————-

Sally White has been selling music on Main Street since 1956.

Sometime this summer, her song will finally end.

The beloved owner of Sally’s Place — the record/CD store where Keith Richards and Mary Travers shopped (and schmoozed) with Sally, and any other music lovers who wandered up the steps at 190 Main Street — is closing down.

She’s not sure when (probably later this summer). And she has no idea what she’ll do with the hundreds of posters, autographed photos and musical tchotchkes that line the way (maybe sell them?).

Sally White, standing underneath a photo of one of her all-time favorites: Frank Sinatra.

Sally White, standing underneath a photo of one of her all-time favorites: Frank Sinatra.

She does know, though, that she’ll leave a business she’s loved from her 1st day at Melody House, a few doors away, 57 years ago.

She also knows why she’s closing. The internet dragged too many customers away. The stagnant economy dragged business down further.

Sally’s Place has a niche in Westport that will never be replaced. I walked in this afternoon at the same time as another customer. She wanted a vinyl copy of “Rubber Soul.” Sally promised it would be in by Saturday.

When Melody House closed in the late ’50s, Stanley Klein offered her a job in his department store’s record section. Raising 2 sons alone, she said she could work only 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. She also told him how much she needed to be paid. He hired her on the spot.

She worked there for more than 20 years. Her gentle nature, loving presence and encyclopedic knowledge of music influenced generations of Westporters — myself included.

Sally's Place is at 190 Main Street -- on the right, just past Avery Place.

Sally’s Place is at 190 Main Street — on the right, just past Avery Place.

When Klein’s record department closed in 1985, she decided to open her own store. Her brother-in-law wrote a business plan. She showed it to the president of Westport Bank & Trust.

He gave it right back. “We don’t need it,” he said. He trusted her word.

She offered her house as collateral. He refused. He was happy to back Sally’s Place without it.

It’s been an “amazing” 27 years, Sally says. “The bank, the record companies, my landlord — everyone has been fantastic.”

Especially her customers. “They make me feel special,” says Sally. “But I’m just doing what I love.”

Another customer this afternoon asked Sally for a turntable needle. She handed him a phone number. “This is the Needle Doctor,” she said. “He has everything.”

Sally’s musical roots run deep. She’s seen Frank Sinatra on stage. Also Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Tommy Dorsey, Glenn Miller, Benny Goodman and Artie Shaw.

Brubeck and Gerry Mulligan were close friends. So are many customers who never played a note. All are bound by a love of music — and the treasure that is Sally.

Sally doing what she loves most: interacting with one customer. Another one browses in back.

Sally doing what she loves: interacting with a customer. Another browses in back.

“I’ve been working since I was 14,” Sally says. “I’ve been a part of this town for a long time. This is my heart and soul. I wouldn’t trade places with anyone.”

She’s survived as long as she has on special orders. Bluegrass compilations, rap, the “Roar of the Greasepaint” soundtrack — all are hand-written, in old-school logbooks. People find her from around the country.

She does not charge for mailing. “It’s my way of saying thanks,” she says.

As if on cue, a customer requested “old Polish-American polka music” for a wedding. She mentioned a composer. “S-t-u-r-r,” Sally spelled. “Right!” the woman said.

There is plenty of new vinyl -- and CDs, and random stuff, and musical knowledge -- at Sally's Place.

There is plenty of new vinyl — and CDs, random stuff, and musical knowledge — at Sally’s Place.

She does not stock Lady Gaga. “You can get that at Walmart for 10 bucks,” she says.

You can get it online, too — along with virtually everything Sally sells. Which is why she has written this message (by hand):

After 27 years of business I have decided to retire. The economy and internet sales have made it impossible for me to continue.

I thank you for your support, and hope you wish me well in retirement. I’ll miss you.

“Quick and easy,” she says. “I don’t need the schmaltz.”

But we need to say “thank you” to Sally White. Please hit “Comments” to share  your memories, or offer praise.

And then — whether you’re a longtime admirer, a former customer who faded away, or someone who always meant to stop by but never did — go see Sally.

She’ll be glad to see you.

And her broad, loving smile will make your day.

(Click here to read a previous post about Sally’s Westport Arts Center award.)

Back to the Basics: A Portrait of Sally White from Claire Bangser.

Old Post Office Offers New Design

For several years, Design Within Reach had a small Westport store.

Tucked away on Elm Street — behind Klein’s and the back entrance to the YMCA — it was not, CEO John Edelman admits, a great location.

Now Design Within Reach — which calls itself “the largest retailer of authentic modern furniture and accessories in the world” — is back in Westport.

This time, they’re doing it right.

Design Within Reach — a new store in the old post office.

The Stamford-based company has taken over both levels of the 1935 post office building on the Post Road, across from Jeera Thai and Finalmente. They’ve completely renovated the 2 floors — which themselves were redesigned by Post 154, a restaurant that could not possibly need all that space — and made good use of the terrace overlooking Bay Street.

The Bay Street side of Design Within Reach. New entrances lead up from the sidewalk.

It’s one more exciting addition to downtown. With Bedford Square and Jesup Hall restaurant opening nearby, there’s an infusion of energy that hasn’t been felt since the movie theaters’ last picture shows 2 decades ago.

Edelman is excited to return. And he doesn’t just mean relocating the store.

His Westport roots go back to his parents, who got married here 70 years ago. They moved to Ridgefield (more land), but he made regular trips to Gold’s (for Sunday lox and bagels) and Klein’s (for Sally White’s record department).

Eight years ago, when Edelman became CEO, the New York Times did a story. Of all the company’s stores, he chose to be photographed in Westport.

Last week — as guests at an opening party admired the handsome chairs, desks, beds, lighting fixtures, sofas and more — Edelman took time to talk about his sprawling new store.

John Edelman (center), Design Within Reach’s CEO. He’s flanked by Matt Mandell (left, Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce executive director) and Westport 1st selectman Jim Marpe.

As a post office, the building was a typical New Deal project: big and heavy. The Post 154 owners modernized it, but when they closed they left lots of “stuff” behind.

The new tenants created a beautiful space. It’s modern, open, alluring and airy.

Designers kept the center staircase, but that’s about all that remains. They “deconstructed” nearly all the rest. Exposed ceilings and HVAC give the store a hip, contemporary feel.

Dozens of pendant lights hang above the center staircase.

The terrace is a great idea, showcasing relaxed living while drawing customers from the side street.

The store — which really should be called Design Within Reach of Only Certain Zip Codes — does not have many suburban locations. Edelman says. But with 70% of their clientele having graduate degrees, Westport is a perfect spot.

Edelman is back in Westport big time. He and his wife rented a house on the water. He can walk to the train station, and he may buy a boat.

He can’t buy records from Sally White anymore. To mail a letter, he uses the “new” post office.

But he can still get his bagels and lox at Gold’s.

And then, a couple of blocks away, he can watch Design Within Reach help jump-start the renaissance of downtown Westport.

There’s plenty of room on the lower level to show off bedding, and more.

You Are A Westporter If…

The other day, a friend made a confession.

“I’ve only been here 10 years,” she said. “I’m not really a Westporter, am I?”

Bill Clinton once famously explained, “That depends on what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is.”

The definition of the word “Westporter” seems similarly slippery.

Here’s what I think. You’re a Westporter if:

You give directions using a landmark that no longer exists. “Take a right at what used to be Dairy Queen” works. So does “Woody’s” or “Swanky Frank’s” — because, as real old-time Westporters know, they’re all the same spot.

Little Barn logo

You lament the changes you’ve seen since you’ve been here. That can be the demolition of the Compo Inn or the Victorian house on Gorham Island; the closing of Klein’s or Sally’s Place (bonus points if you know how they’re related), the end of the Arrow, Jasmine or the Blu Parrot. You’re even a Westporter if you moved here in June, and are sorry the Red Barn closed a month later.

You can’t believe how rude people are today. It’s amazing, you say, how much more self-centered are compared to the 1950s/1970s/1990s/2000s/2013.

David Pogue driving video

You are able to compare today’s young athletes to yesterday’s. It doesn’t matter whether the name you use is Nooky Powers, Cannonball Baker, Steve Baumann, Lisa Brummel, Lance Lonergan or Jon Baumann (not related to Steve) — if you toss out a reference like that, you’re a Westporter.

Lisa Brummel at Yale

You can reference a weather event. The Hurricanes of 1938 and ’55; the Nor’easter of 1993 and Superstorm Sandy all count. The key is to mention how much snowier/rainier/hotter/colder things are/are not compared to the “old days.”

Black Duck in Hurricane Sandy

That’s my bar for Westporterdom. We’re a big tent. We welcome everyone.

If you’ve got other ideas, hit “Comments” below. We want to hear from you — whether you’re a Westporter or not.

 

Sally’s Door Still Open

Reports that Sally White would closer her beloved Sally’s Place record store this Sunday were inaccurate.

She’ll be open at least a week more. Maybe 2.

So there’s still time to buy some of her great music stock. Or a tschotske off her wall.

Or simply to say, “Thanks for everything.”

The incomparable Sally White.

The incomparable Sally White.

Saying Goodbye To Sally

In July, “06880” broke the sad news that Sally White would close her beloved Sally’s Place record store.

Current and former residents, music lovers far and wide, and everyone who cared about this warm, wonderful mom-shop owner, reacted with sorrow. They also posted heartfelt remembrances, and heaped praise, on this blog.

That last day is now set. Sally will shut her always-welcoming door this Sunday, September 29.

Her many fans have only a few days left. Go in. Say thanks, and goodbye. Buy one last vinyl or CD.

Sally White deserves it all.

Sally White, standing underneath a photo of one of her all-time favorites: Frank Sinatra.

Sally White, standing underneath a photo of one of her all-time favorites: Frank Sinatra.

Sally’s Place To Close; A Westport Era To End

Sally White has been selling music on Main Street since 1956.

Sometime this summer, her song will finally end.

The beloved owner of Sally’s Place — the record/CD store where Keith Richards and Mary Travers shopped (and schmoozed) with Sally, and any other music lovers who wandered up the steps at 190 Main Street — is closing down.

She’s not sure when (probably later this summer). And she has no idea what she’ll do with the hundreds of posters, autographed photos and musical tchotchkes that line the way (maybe sell them?).

Sally White, standing underneath a photo of one of her all-time favorites: Frank Sinatra.

Sally White, standing underneath a photo of one of her all-time favorites: Frank Sinatra.

She does know, though, that she’ll leave a business she’s loved from her 1st day at Melody House, a few doors away, 57 years ago.

She also knows why she’s closing. The internet dragged too many customers away. The stagnant economy dragged business down further.

Sally’s Place has a niche in Westport that will never be replaced. I walked in this afternoon at the same time as another customer. She wanted a vinyl copy of “Rubber Soul.” Sally promised it would be in by Saturday.

When Melody House closed in the late ’50s, Stanley Klein offered her a job in his department store’s record section. Raising 2 sons alone, she said she could work only 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. She also told him how much she needed to be paid. He hired her on the spot.

She worked there for more than 20 years. Her gentle nature, loving presence and encyclopedic knowledge of music influenced generations of Westporters — myself included.

Sally's Place is at 190 Main Street -- on the right, just past Avery Place.

Sally’s Place is at 190 Main Street — on the right, just past Avery Place.

When Klein’s record department closed in 1985, she decided to open her own store. Her brother-in-law wrote a business plan. She showed it to the president of Westport Bank & Trust.

He gave it right back. “We don’t need it,” he said. He trusted her word.

She offered her house as collateral. He refused. He was happy to back Sally’s Place without it.

It’s been an “amazing” 27 years, Sally says. “The bank, the record companies, my landlord — everyone has been fantastic.”

Especially her customers. “They make me feel special,” says Sally. “But I’m just doing what I love.”

Another customer this afternoon asked Sally for a turntable needle. She handed him a phone number. “This is the Needle Doctor,” she said. “He has everything.”

Sally’s musical roots run deep. She’s seen Frank Sinatra on stage. Also Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Tommy Dorsey, Glenn Miller, Benny Goodman and Artie Shaw.

Brubeck and Gerry Mulligan were close friends. So are many customers who never played a note. All are bound by a love of music — and the treasure that is Sally.

Sally doing what she loves most: interacting with one customer. Another one browses in back.

Sally doing what she loves: interacting with a customer. Another browses in back.

“I’ve been working since I was 14,” Sally says. “I’ve been a part of this town for a long time. This is my heart and soul. I wouldn’t trade places with anyone.”

She’s survived as long as she has on special orders. Bluegrass compilations, rap, the “Roar of the Greasepaint” soundtrack — all are hand-written, in old-school logbooks. People find her from around the country.

She does not charge for mailing. “It’s my way of saying thanks,” she says.

As if on cue, a customer requested “old Polish-American polka music” for a wedding. She mentioned a composer. “S-t-u-r-r,” Sally spelled. “Right!” the woman said.

There is plenty of new vinyl -- and CDs, and random stuff, and musical knowledge -- at Sally's Place.

There is plenty of new vinyl — and CDs, random stuff, and musical knowledge — at Sally’s Place.

She does not stock Lady Gaga. “You can get that at Walmart for 10 bucks,” she says.

You can get it online, too — along with virtually everything Sally sells. Which is why she has written this message (by hand):

After 27 years of business I have decided to retire. The economy and internet sales have made it impossible for me to continue.

I thank you for your support, and hope you wish me well in retirement. I’ll miss you.

“Quick and easy,” she says. “I don’t need the schmaltz.”

But we need to say “thank you” to Sally White. Please hit “Comments” to share  your memories, or offer praise.

And then — whether you’re a longtime admirer, a former customer who faded away, or someone who always meant to stop by but never did — go see Sally.

She’ll be glad to see you.

And her broad, loving smile will make your day.

(Click here to read a previous post about Sally’s Westport Arts Center award.)

Back to the Basics: A Portrait of Sally White from Claire Bangser.

 

Sally White: The Original Shazam

Sally White’s first customers followed her from Klein’s.

Over the years, she added more — many more — thanks to adoring word-of-mouth recommendations.

The customers are fewer now. That’s what happens when you own a “record store,” and most folks get their music through cyberspace.

But plenty of people still discover Sally’s Place (it’s on the less-fancy stretch of Main Street, just past Elm Street). Once they find it, they love it. And they love her even more.

Sally's Place, on the 2nd floor at 190 Main Street.

Sally’s Place, on the 2nd floor at 190 Main Street.

Claire Bangser is a huge fan. A lifelong Westporter and 2005 Staples High School grad, she first met Sally at age 14, while writing an article for the school paper about “Westport’s best kept secret.”

They connected immediately. Sally has that effect on whoever walks through her door.

“Her stories resonate with me,” Claire says. “I’m inspired by how much she gives to everyone around her, with absolutely no ego. She reminds me to stay humble.”

But while most fans simply extol Sally — her generosity, her welcoming shop, her encyclopedic knowledge of all things musical — Claire has done more.

She made a video about this quiet Westport legend. It’s called “Back to the Basics.”

Sally White video

Claire had always been an artist. She got into film just last year — traveling on a National Geographic Young Explorers grant to Turkey and the South Caucasus — but she has nailed her 1st-ever video portrait. It’s filled with a little history, a little background jazz music, and a lot of love.

“Sally is the original Shazam,” says Claire, referring to the owner’s astonishing ability to hear 2 bars hummed off-key to the most obscure song, then come up with the title, artist and label. Three days later, the CD is waiting for you. If you decide you don’t want it — hey, no problem.

“I want more people to know about Sally,” Claire says. “The music industry may be moving online, but Sally most certainly is not. She’s a rare gem in a town (and country) that is slowly being overtaken by large chains. She’s a true expert when it comes to music.”

Sally White, in a typical pose: answering a customer's question by phone.

Sally White, in a typical pose: answering a customer’s question by phone.

Claire wishes she could have included more of Sally’s wonderful stories in the video. But she hopes it whets people’s appetites to hear those tales themselves.

Thanks to Claire’s video, you don’t have to actually go to Sally’s Place to experience her wonderfulness.

But you should.

A decoration on the wall says, "Just for the record: Sally I love you."

A decoration on the wall says, “Just for the record: Sally I love you.”

Mount the few steps. You’ll hear great music. You’ll learn a lot. You may even see a devoted fan, like Keith Richards.

Most importantly, you’ll find an amazing woman — a throwback to the days when Main Street was filled with Sally Whites.

And when no one needed a reason to make a video, paying homage to a hometown heroine.

(To watch Claire Bangser’s video, click here.)

$mall Business $aturday

Shoehorned in between Black Friday and Cyber Monday is tomorrow’s much-less-ballyhooed event: Small Business Saturday.

I am not making this up. According to (naturally) the Small Business Administration, tomorrow is “a day to celebrate and support small businesses and all they do for their communities.”

As a small person myself, I fully support all small business people.

Here are a few ways to spend Small Business Saturday:

Compo Basin — a holiday card by Kassie Foss.

  • Head across the river to Age of Reason. It and other Post Road  West shops — all worth visiting — were hit hard by Hurricane Sandy.  The educational toy store, for example, lost $40,000 in merchandise.
  • Don’t forget Sally’s Place.You might buy all your music on iTunes (or, ahem, not “buy” it at all), but someone on your list still loves CDs or vinyl. And if Sally White’s shop on Main Street (just past Avery Place) is good enough for Keith Richards, it’s good enough for you.

I know there are many more stores worthy of our business on Small Business Saturday. Click “Comments” to add your own.

323: It’s All True

Bogey’s — vacant since Hurricane Irene last August — will reopen soon.

A sign on the new restaurant — named 323, for its location at 323 Main Street — promises “It’s All True.” I have no idea what that means, but it sounds intriguing.

323 will extend the dining options on the non-chain-store end of Main Street. A new wine bar opened recently next to Sally’s Place, and Joe’s Pizza will relocate there soon.

Count one more area of downtown is livening up.

Would I lie?