Last Saturday, Carolanne Curry noticed some workers bustling about in a West Ferry Lane parking lot near the train station. It’s owned by the town, but is a convenient spot for Gault customers.
After years of being on edge about potential development of Hiawatha Lane — her neighborhood — the longtime resident worried something was up.
The West Ferry Lane parking lot, after some work was done. (Photo/Carolanne Curry)
Something was up. But she needn’t have worried.
Yesterday, Gault Family Companies president Sam Gault replied to her email. He said:
Carolanne, thanks for reaching out. I offered to do a clean-up of this parking lot for the town, to make it look presentable for our neighborhood.
This has been an eyesore for many years (overgrown bush, dead trees, leaves, sand from plowing, etc.). The soil that you see is sand buildup over the years leveled out.
We have a few more trees [in poor shape] to take down. We are distributing wood chips over the entire area, and re-installing a nice black chain link fence that will disappear to the eye (as opposed to the rusted, dented, broken fence that was there).
This will upgrade the entrance to our neighborhood that has been neglected for years. Any questions, please reach out. If you want a tour, let me know.
The jury is still out on Summit Saugatuck’s proposal to build 187 units of housing nearby.
But the verdict is in on Gault. After 156 years in the area, they’re still at the top of their game.
Gault was already 57 years old — just a little younger than Mitchells of Westport is now — in 1920, when workers installed a coal-fueled heating unit for the Abbott family.
The 96-year-old boiler in the Salmonds’ basement.
The Dutch colonial on St. John Place has been renovated several times since Woodrow Wilson was president. But the boiler was the same.
This week, company president Sam Gault presented homeowners Willie and Anne Salmond — a retired couple — with a state-of-the-art new one. It’s quite a 45th wedding anniversary gift: The value is $11,000 (including installation).
(And it came not a moment too soon. Sleet fell yesterday, on the coldest day of the fall.)
Sam Gault (right), president of Gault Energy & Home Solutions, delivered a new state-of-the-art Energy Kinetics System 2000 boiler to Anne and Willie Salmond yesterday.
The Salmonds — who moved here in 1984, when Gault was just 121 years young — have an interesting story themselves. They raised 3 children in Westport, but also traveled extensively for work. Among other things, he served in Uganda with an HIV/AIDS prevention program, while she did foundation work in India.
Both are members of the Saugatuck Congregational Church. He’s recently taken on preaching assignments there, and at Christ & Holy Trinity Episcopal Church.
Willie is from Scotland. Anne is from Northern Ireland. Both grew up in homes where heat was a luxury. In fact, coal was used in bedrooms only if someone was sick.
As a New England winter nears, the heat is welcome — especially since Anne has arthritis.
They thanked Gault for its generosity, noting that since retirement they wanted to spend their money on what Anne calls “things you can see. We ignored the old dinosaur in our basement.” Now, they’re inspired to take on other domestic projects.
Here’s one final twist: The original owners of the Salmonds’ house — the Abbotts –are related to the Gaults through marriage.
This morning, the company — Westport’s oldest business (by about a century) — announced a major corporate rebranding. And a new corporate umbrella.
Plus a modern new logo.
Gault’s new logo (and name).
Gault Energy & Stone will now be called Gault Family Companies. Three rebranded lines of business — Energy & Home Solutions, Stone & Landscape Supplies, and Properties & Development — will operate under it.
Sam Gault is the 5th generation to head the family firm. He and his marketing team began the process 3 years ago, soon after the company’s 150th anniversary. They were assisted by Westport-based The Visual Brand.
Sam Gault says the new logo and expanded corporate structure “capture our rich history, and reveal our ambitious plans for the future.
“From our humble beginnings as a hauling business with a single horse and wagon, the company has continued to evolve to meet the ever-changing needs of the communities we serve, always focusing on delivering exceptional personalized service.”
Horses hauling coal in front of the company’s 19 Riverside Avenue building (1905-08).
During its 15 decades, Gault has morphed from hauling into coal, sand, oil and, most recently, energy solutions.
Adding “Home Solutions” to its energy brand will help the company showcase its many services — such as providing bioheat and propane delivery, low cost-electricity, high-efficiency heating and air conditioning equipment insulation, standby generator installation, and maintenance and repair.
The stone and masonry supply business provides a full range of interior and exterior services. Adding “landscape” to the brand signals a growing partnership with homeowners.
Hamilton Development — Gault’s real estate arm — is best known for its award-winning mixed-use Saugatuck Center development. But the real estate footprint also includes many other commercial and real estate properties. Sam Gault says the brand focuses on “best practices when it comes to design-build, livability, energy efficiency and stone and masonry work.”
The logo that Gault retired today.
As for the new “G” logo: Its swoop gives a nod to the company’s history, but in a modern way.
Gault has been a strong, steady presence in Westport since the Lincoln administration. The company has always supported the town, in ways big and small (and often anonymously).
May Gault Family Companies — and the Gault family — thrive for at least another 163 years.
(To learn more about Gault’s 1st 150 years, click here.)
The 1914 logo…
…and one from the 1960s.
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Posted onJune 5, 2015|Comments Off on Maxine Bleiweis, Sam Gault: “1st Citizens Of Westport”
One is leaving. Another is staying. And 5 more have fantastic futures ahead.
This Tuesday (June 9, Westport Inn, 6:30 p.m.), the Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce presents First Citizen Awards to Westport Library director Maxine Bleiweis (she’s leaving, after turning it into an amazingly lively and innovative place) and Sam Gault (5th-generation president of the company that bears his family’s name; driving force behind Saugatuck’s wonderful rebirth — he’s staying).
The Chamber will also honor 5 “Young Entrepreneurs”: Staples seniors Harry Epstein, Nick Massoud and Scott Pecoriello, and Weston High’s Rebecca Marks and Michael Sitver. They’ll be cited for their efforts in creating “new and intriguing business ventures.”
Scott developed a subscription weather service, a weather app and a general interest blogging platform. Nick owns Top Hat Tutors, employing 22 tutors in a variety of subjects. Michael blogs about emerging technologies, and is a website consultant to businesses.
That makes sense — the Chamber of Commerce is all about supporting local businesses.
So — this also makes sense — Tuesday’s keynote speaker is Ron DeFeo. He’s CEO of Terex Corporation. It’s a local business (in the sense that it’s headquartered here). But it’s also a $7.1 billion manufacturer of heavy equipment, with over 15,900 employees and 50 manufacturing facilities on 5 continents.
The library. Saugatuck. Construction cranes.
That’s a paragraph that may never have been written before, in the history of the world. But it’s all on tap here this Tuesday — plus catering by Garelick & Herbs.
He started Source Marketing here in 1989. He sold his majority stake 9 years later, then created dLife — a multimedia diabetes education platform.
He rented office space all over town and near the train station. But after stepping down from dLife a year and a half ago to tackle new projects, his work environment changed.
He saw people at coffee and lunches. Yet his home office felt isolating and uninspiring.
Howard Steinberg, at 20 Ketchum Street.
Westport is filled with solo entrepreneurs and tiny companies operating out of basements and spare bedrooms. When Howard saw MadisonMott — the cutting-edge branding, advertising, digital and social media agency in Saugatuck — and realized there was 5,000 square feet of vacant space next door, his newest venture was born.
The Hub is a place where creative people — entrepreneurs, investors and early stage businesses — can work on their own projects. But at the same time they support each other and share ideas. They may share capital too.
“Ideas will percolate. Things will emerge organically,” Howard says.
The organic percolation takes place in a wide-open, inviting workspace. Westporter David Murray designed yin-and-yang-shaped desks. They’re a far cry from the right-angles seen in offices for the last century — and they’ll go a long way to promote collaboration.
So will the kitchen/coffee bar, with its funky countertop.
The Hub also features a videoconference room, plus another conference area with a bluestone slab from Gault as its tabletop. (Sam Gault owns the space, and has been a very supportive landlord.)
Monthly fees range from $600 to $1,500, depending on the type of workstation. High-speed internet, cable, printers, copiers, conference rooms — and of course coffee — are included.
Those rates are competitive with area office suites, Howard says. But the work environment is much friendlier than separate rooms with walls and doors.
Howard says about half the people who have signed up so far had been working out of their homes.
He was one of them.
The other day though, he said “the 5 sweetest words in the world” to his wife: “I’m going to the office.”
The Hub’s desks invite collaboration. They’re more inviting now than this photo shows; chairs have arrived.
(For more information on the Westport Innovation Hub, click here.)
When they’re not brutally bashing each other in the Comments section, “06880” readers are united in a love of Westport’s past.
So today’s post is something we all can agree on: Helping Gault celebrate its 150-year legacy in town.
Today, the company that’s morphed from coal, sand and oil into energy solutions launches a “Call for Memories” campaign. The aim: putting a modern spin on the time-honored tradition of sending congratulatory messages.
A delivery truck in 1939. Check out the phone number on the side: “5181.” Today, it’s 203-227-5181.
At a mere 100 years old — in 1963, the year civil rights protesters were fire-hosed in Alabama, and JFK was killed — Gault received hundreds of letters, cards and telegrams (!). Senders shared personal memories of great experiences with the company and family.
Telegrams have gone the way of the Gaults’ 1st delivery method — horse-drawn wagons. Cards and letters are headed that way soon.
So this time, Westport’s oldest business has created an online site — gault150.com/memories — to collect 150th-anniversary memories from family friends, organizations, trade partners, and Gault Energy & Stone employees and customers across Fairfield County.
These memories will be showcased on the company’s anniversary website www.gault150.com, as well as in a commemorative booklet and at this summer’s Westport Historical Society exhibit, “Five Generations of Yankee Ingenuity: The Gault Family.”
Gault’s facility towered over its Riverside Avenue neighbors — like the legendary Jockey Club directly in front — in this 1953 shot.
Sam Gault — the 5th generation to lead the company, who was born (cue the eerie music) during that centennial year — has spent several months passing around the company’s 100th anniversary files, which were sealed for 50 years.
“Many of us saw these for the very first time,” Sam says. “It’s amazing to read through everything my father and grandfather received 5 decades ago. These mementos are priceless to me and to my family.”
Now, Sam says, “we’re scanning hundreds of fragile documents and photos that trace our family and company’s 150-year history. This campaign will assure that our more recent history will be preserved for the next 150 years and beyond.”
Sam hopes these memories — like first selectman Gordon Joseloff playing baseball in the 1950son Gault Field (now houses on Imperial Avenue) — will inspire others to describe how the Gault family and businesses have touched their lives.
Gault Field, on the river side of Imperial Avenue, brought Little League baseball to Westport in 1947.
Three generations of the Gault family will choose some of those memories for inclusion in a time capsule at the family’s Compo Road South barn. It will be opened at the company’s 200th anniversary.
“06880” readers in 2063 will no doubt still enjoy looking back, when not engaged in debates over the poor parking habits of hovercraft drivers, and whether the YMCA should move from its longtime Mahackeno home to a new location.
(To submit memories to the Gault site, click here. For more information about the Gault family history and the company’s 150th anniversary celebration, click here.)
In the winter of 1997, Yvonne Dougherty rose early every morning to drive her son Peyton to Staples swim team practice.
On the way back she’d stop by Juba’s — the coffee shop in Peter’s Bridge Market, near her home — for a jolt of caffeine to start the day.
Then she got a job there. It paid $7.50 an hour — but she quickly fell in love with the coffee business.
On September 11, 2000 she took over Juba’s lease. For an investment of just a few thousand dollars, she had a steady business. She took in $900 a day, with virtually no overhead.
Three and a half years later, the new owners of Peter’s Bridge “threw me out,” she says.
In less than a month, she opened a new place in a former boating just across Riverside Avenue.
Yvonne called it Doc’s, in honor of her last name — pronounced “Dockerty.”
Yvonne Dougherty, outside Doc's.
Her landlord — Sam Gault — was “phenomenal,” she says. He kept her rent low, and helped any way he could. He told her she could probably stay for 2 or 3 years.
Yvonne spent plenty of money — $250,000, she estimates — complying with town regulations. She had to change the parking lot, and put in a sidewalk.
But customers — including, importantly, many commuters — loved Doc’s. For much of the decade, she averaged $1,500 a day.
Then the economy tanked. Starting in the fall of 2008, business tailed off precipitously. The opening of a similar place — Cocoa Michelle — closer to the train station may also have hurt.
A year ago, construction began on the Saugatuck redevelopment project. Winter — always slow — was particularly harsh. Between road closures on Riverside Avenue, bad weather that kept people home, and uncertainty about whether Doc’s would stay open, business dropped 30 to 40 percent.
(Interestingly, Yvonne says, the new Dunkin’ Donuts at the site of the old Juba’s had no effect.)
Doc’s owner second-guesses herself for many of her problems.
“Even though I have an MBA from the University of Virgina — back in the Stone Age — I didn’t have a clue to market Doc’s. Or even brand it,” she says.
“I missed the opportunity to be on the web. And I could have rented out this place for parties more than I did.”
Yvonne adds, “When someone walks in your shop, they have to know what you’re selling. I’ve got lots of tchotchkes here, but I think they distract people. Some of my charm came back to bite me in the butt.”
Starbucks, she says, “may be sterile and boring. But you know what they’re selling.”
Doc’s “would have been far more successful if I’d known I was going to be here for 8 years,” Yvonne says. “I would have put in a kitchen. I would have designed everything much better.”
With close to 2,000 square feet — 10 times her space at Juba’s — she says, “It was probably too much.”
Yvonne adds, “I was a one-woman show. I learned you have to work on your business, not in it.”
The 2nd phase of Saugatuck’s redevelopment starts soon. A retail/residential/office mix will replace the buildings in and around Ketchum Street — including Yvonne’s.
Doc’s last day is November 12.
“I wish I had a plan for what’s next,” Yvonne says. She’s found a potential location in Southport — but she needs a partner.
Perhaps, she says, she can open Doc’s as a smaller space inside existing stores — the way she started, with Juba’s inside Peter’s Bridge.
But Peter’s Bridge is gone, and Yvonne can’t think of any other place in town that make sense. “That’s my challenge — to find something that works,” she says.
She will miss her customers. Many have been very loyal.
“I see people in town, and I think, ‘that’s a medium latte,” she says. “That’s a pretty bizarre skill.”
Meanwhile, the clock ticks for Doc’s.
“I’ve got to figure out something soon,” Yvonne says.
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