Tag Archives: Sally’s Place

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?

Sally White, Superstar

With all the merchant-bashing that goes on in town (and here), it’s nice to hear a different perspective. 

“06880” reader Terri Gatti Schure sent this “open letter” to Sally White — the beloved (and longtime) owner of Sally’s Place.  It’s one of the last independent “record” stores in America — and Sally puts the “mom” in mom-and-pop shops.

Terri writes:

Dear Sally,

You were the topic of conversation at our recent Staples High School 40th reunion earlier this month. Several of us reminisced about you, and the memories were so fond and profoundly deep. We all agreed that your love of music came from the heart.  You had such passion — not just for the music itself, but for what the music created for us emotionally.

The incomparable Sally White

In 1967, the highlight of my Saturdays was going to Klein’s and listening to whatever you had on the “record player.”  You’d guide me through the latest and best artists, albums, top 10.  I could walk in and give you 2 or 3 words in the lyrics, and you knew exactly what song it was.

So it seemed fitting that this past Saturday, while in town to celebrate my Staples reunion, I would stop by with a dear classmate to see you.  Plus, I had these 2 songs I hadn’t been able to find…

Even though I hadn’t seen you in 40 years, you were the same old Sally.

And those 2 songs? One was about not paying the rent – an old R&B tune.  You wrote some notes in your spiral notebook — just like you did 40 years ago — and promised to do some research.  If anyone can find the song, it will be you.

The other song was more of a memory.  I told you that I recalled my mother sitting at the kitchen table in the dark,  in the late ’50s, smoking a cigarette, listening to this haunting song on the radio.  I could only recall that it had something to do with the earth being bitter.

You ran around the counter, grabbed a research book and then a CD, and said, “here it is!”

You took the CD out of the cellophane — not even caring that I might not buy it — and put it in your player.  “’This Bitter Earth’ by Dinah Washington,” you said.

As we listened to the song I was overcome with emotion, lost in the memory of my mother that night.  I looked at you through teary eyes, and of course yours were teary too.  That is what was always so special about you.  We could share a small piece of our heart with you, and you loved us all, because the music made it possible.

It was a pleasure and an honor seeing you again.  I want to thank you for sharing your music with me this past Saturday, as well as all those many, many Saturdays over 40 years ago.

Warmly,

Teri Gatti Schure

Best Of The Rest

Last week, “06880” lamented the lack of respect for Westport restaurants in Fairfield County Weekly’s annual readers’ poll.

The 2nd part of the survey is out — covering stores, banks, even doctors — and we’ve fared a bit better.

Winners include:

The incomparable Sally White.

Sally’s Place for “Best Independent CD/Vinyl Store.”  Such shops are fading faster than Donald Trump’s presidential hopes, but as the Weekly notes, owner Sally White is “one of a kind…. Die-hard music fans love Sally’s, and because White’s operation is so nimble, she can accommodate the special orders bigger stores can’t.”  The Weekly‘s readers nailed this one — as Sally’s fan Keith Richards also attests.

Plumed Serpent wins “Best Bridal Salon.”  I know as much about this category as Pakistan claims to have known about bin Laden, but here goes:  “Plumed Serpent, a multiple-year winner, is renowned for its selection of tasteful, stylish, higher-end dresses and excellent customer service.”  That’s almost enough to make me want to walk down the aisle, in a gown.

But a guy’s gotta look good too.  Fortunately, Men’s Wearhouse (4 locations, including Westport) wins for “Best Place for Tuxedos.”  The Weekly cites the chain’s “broad selection of styles and prices and oodles of shops.”  Sweet.

Bonnie and Rick, the great team at Great Cakes.

Speaking of sweet — and weddings — the “Best Place to Buy Your Wedding Cake” is Great Cakes.  I’m more into the  early-morning coffee — and the chance to see everyone from builder Bill Kashetta to surgeon Alan Meinke — but the crew in the back turn out awesome wedding cakes, all from scratch.  Owner Rick Dickinson is often told that his creations taste as good as they look — and how often do you say that about a wedding cake?

Another entry in the okay-I-believe-you department is Soleil Toile (“Best Lingerie Store [Non-Chain]”).  The Weekly praises the store’s attention to proper fit, and “very broad array of sizes and body types.”  O-kay…

Moving quickly along, the “Best Bank” is People’s United.  Ours shares the honor with other locations in the county, but New England’s largest bank earns props for their many locations, community service, and “expert bankers who can do loans and investments.”  (Um, isn’t that what bankers are supposed to do?)

Westport’s final winner is Dr. Mark Oestreicher.  He’s Fairfield County’s “Best Dermatologist.”  Once again, the Weekly voters have made a thoughtful, inspired decision.  Nothing rash about this one at all.

Our Town Crier

Heard you can get 25% off all supplements at Fountain of Youth?

A free in-home consultation from Making Faces by Debbie?  Two free children’s classes at Dynamic Martial Arts?  A $20 blowout at Roots Salon?

Probably not.  Then again, OurTownCrier.com — the website offering these exclusive deals — has been live for only a day or 2.

The site — linking local small businesses with Westporters seeking promotions and bargains — is the brainchild of Betsy Pollak.  A former small businesswoman herself — she owned Sundries Gifts and Homewares in Sconset Square for 5 years, and Westport Gift below Sally’s Place for 7 — she’s closely attuned to the challenges faced by stores not named Gap or Banana Republic.

“Small business owners are overwhelmed,” she says.  “They’re trying to make it in a tough economy, and because they’ve had to lay off staff, they’re having to do it all themselves.”

Spending all their time on basic functions, they can’t think about things like promotions and websites.  So Betsy does it for them.

She advises them how to grow their businesses; takes photos; then gives them an internet presence at minimal cost.  Some — like Great Cakes and Sally’s Place — have never been in cyberspace before.

What they get — and users see — is a clean, easy-to-navigate site, with sections including “Browse by Business Type,” “Featured Promotions,” “Business Spotlight” (Wild Pear and Max’s Art Supplies are in the current rotation), and “Upcoming Events” (like “Basics of Barbeque Cooking” at Bobby Q’s).

“I feel useful,” Betsy says.  “As a small business owner I felt run down.  Now I’m rejuvenated.”

Valentine’s Day offers a great opportunity for local promotions.  Traffic on OurTownCrier.com will build by word of mouth, but for now even a few additional customers are important to local businesses, Betsy says.

“The cost of business anywhere in town — let alone Main Street — is out of control,” she notes.  “You spend $1,000 a month in electric bills alone.

“But we need each other.  Westporters want a town without chain stores everywhere.  And small business want appreciative customers.”

In very old days, town criers gave citizens the news.  In the mid-20th century, the Town Crier was Westport’s local newspaper.  Today we get news of promotions and bargains — and businesses reach customers — with OurTownCrier.com.

Westport is still a small town after all.

Sally’s Very Special Place

Everyone loves Sally White.  But I’ve loved her longer than most.

Sally is the long-time and very legendary owner of Sally’s Place, the closet-sized, jam-packed, homey and way cool record store, located on the 2nd floor of a little shopping center at the un-chain, non-women’s-clothing-boutique end of Main Street.

The wonderful Sally White

I first met Sally when she managed Klein’s record department.  (Newcomers:  Klein’s was a department store at the site of the current Banana Republic.)  Long before it folded, Klein’s torpedoed its record department.  Sally was sent packing, but instead of wallowing in bitterness she took Klein’s lemons, and made Sally’s Place lemonade.

Sally came late to jazz, but she took to it with almost religious zeal.  Her shop — not easy to find, but unforgettable once you found it — became a mecca for jazz aficionados throughout the Northeast.  She’s also a blues expert, and more than once I’ve seen her deep in discussion with Keith Richards about obscure bluesmen.  Most times he listens.  She talks.

Sally’s encyclopedic knowledge includes show tunes, easy listening and ’60s rock.  She remembers nearly every customer, and quickly learns their favorites — but is never shy about suggesting an artist or even genre outside their comfort zone.

In a store crammed with CDs and vinyl, she knows exactly where to find whatever you want to buy — or she wants you to try.

Now a confession:  I have not been inside Sally’s wonderful Place in years.  Like too many folks, my music collections consists entirely of bits and bytes.  I have thousands of songs on iTunes.  I listen to Pandora on my computer and iPhone.  My enormous CD collection is collecting dust, and I took my turntable to the dump back in the Reagan administration.

I know, though, that if I walked up those steps to Sally’s Place — and, thanks to writing this post, I realize I probably should — she will greet me not with a quizzical look, or as a long-lost customer.  She will smile broadly, hug me, call me “Danny,” and point me in the direction of music only she knows I’ve missed, but will love.

(Sally White will be honored by the Westport Arts Center on Thursday, Dec. 10, with a special holiday jazz party.  The 7 p.m. event includes the rhythm section of Adam Nussbaum, Rob Aries and Brian Torff, plus guest artists.  It’s sold out — but if you want further information, call 203-222-7070.)

Honoring Our Artists

Daryl Wein

Daryl Wein

Westport is an arts hotbed.  Not a weekend passes without exhibits, performances and shows.  We attract hgh-powered names; for a small town, we’re a big player.

But 1 of my favorite events is pretty simple.  Each year Westport’s Arts Advisory Committee honors our own.  There are low-key speeches, a slide show, live performances, and heartfelt applause from neighbors and friends.

This year’s 16th annual Arts Awards take place 2 p.m. Sunday (Town Hall).  All Westporters are invited.  You don’t have to be an artist to enjoy it.

Horizon Awards will be presented to 2 rising young artists — both Staples graduates.  Daryl Wein (SHS ’02) is an uber-talented actor/filmmaker.  His documentary “Sex Positive” has won prizes, and been released in 9 countries.  He is an NYU Tisch School and USC Film and Television grad.

Josh Frank (SHS ’00) is a trumpeter, composer and music producer.  He has appeared with the Metropolitan Opera and recorded with the  American Brass Quintet.  He is a Juilliard graduate.

Sally White

Sally White

Champion of the Arts recipients include Howard Aibel (longtime advocate of the arts, as a director, board member and concert sponsor); Suszanne Sherman Propp (singer/songwriter and music teacher extraordinaire), and — a truly inspired choice — Sally White (longtime owner of Sally’s Place, perhaps the last great music store on the planet).

Heritage Awards will be presented posthumously to 3 giants:  Dorothy Bryce (actress); Mel Casson (cartoonist), and Barbara Wilk (artist).

There are many ways to enjoy a Sunday afternoon in Westport.  Honoring our arts heritage — with our own supremely talented artists, musicians and filmmakers — might just be the best.

Dorothy Bryce

Dorothy Bryce

All That Jazz

Sam Wilkes knows he’s strange.

The Staples senior doesn’t like iTunes.  “I want something tangible to hold,” he says. “And I like reading inlays.  You learn a lot about music that way.”

So Sam buys CDs.  Last summer he discovered Sally’s Place, the 2nd-floor store at the funky end of Main Street.  He can’t believe such an amazing place exists in his hometown.

Sam Wilkes loves Sally's Place

Sam Wilkes loves Sally's Place

“I’ve been to CD shops in New York City, and in Boston near Berklee School of Music,” the bass player says.  “They’re run by pretentious musicians who won’t even talk to you. Sally is the polar opposite.”

Sally is Sally White, and though Sam has known her only a year, he nailed it.

“She talks to me for hours about jazz,” Sam says.  “She knows everything and everyone.  She’s good friends with the owners of the Blue Note and the Half Note, and all the jazz legends — and she talks about them with me!

“When I buy something, she wants to know why I like it,” Sam continues.  “She always finds new things for me to listen to.  If I tell her about someone, she wants to listen too.  And if she doesn’t like it, she tells me why.

“Sally runs her shop by herself, but she has time for everybody.  She’s an inspiration to me.”

Sally's Place, Westport CTSam knows that the CD business — particularly a mom-shop in a suburban town — is in grave danger.  That’s why he was excited just before Christmas, when it was packed.

“I hope she’s doing okay now,” Sam says.  “A lot of people in Westport don’t even know about Sally’s Place.  But it’s a landmark.”

Recently, Sam was accepted at USC’s prestigious Thornton School of Music. The first thing he did was tell Sally.

She got him a CD.