Tag Archives: Saugatuck River Bridge

Proud Townees Offer Westport Wear

Last summer, Ted Vergakis was on vacation in California. He saw someone wearing a simple T-shirt, with 2 words in beautiful script: “King’s Highway.”

Ted’s a Westporter. He had no idea what the shirt referred to. It could have been “a San Diego biker gang,” for all he knew.

No matter. He wanted one.

His oldest son Theo went to Kings Highway Elementary  School. His youngest son Alecko is a student there now. The family calls it “a special place,” and seeing those words crafted on a T-shirt seemed both cool and rare.

Ted realized that though there are places to buy things that say “Westport,” they don’t feel as if they were created specifically for here.

Ted and Stephanie Vergakis.

Ted and Stephanie Vergakis.

So he and his wife Stephanie decided to create a hand-drawn script for Westport, and a unique illustration that can’t be found anywhere else in town.

This was not a total stretch for the couple — but not exactly what they’d been planning either.

Both grew up in small Massachusetts towns. Both started their careers in advertising, managing creative departments and producing campaigns.

Stephanie went on to work in fashion, at Donna Karan. Ted spent several years running the global creative group at IMG — with clients like the Olympics, NCAA, sports stars and models.

Now they run their own studio, called Offmad. They provide creative and strategic support to clients like Kayak.com, PwC, Vroom and others.

Ted and Stephanie's Westport hoodie.

Ted and Stephanie’s Westport hoodie.

Their route to Westport — via Manhattan and Hoboken — was similar to others’. When they felt the need for more space, and realized the commute would be longer, they wanted someplace special.

“More of a destination, not just a suburban town,” is how Ted describes it.

Work colleagues suggested Westport. On weekend trips here, Ted and Stephanie “pretty much knew it was the perfect place.” They loved it all: seeing houses in the morning, then lunch at the Mansion Clam House, a trip to the Compo Beach playground, a stop at Trader Joe’s.

“We were really taken by how much at home Westport made us feel,” Ted says.

“It felt very New England and familiar. We both loved where we grew up and vacationed — Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard. Westport really reminded us of all those special things from home.”

But — like most Westporters — when Ted had his aha! T-shirt moment, he also realized that Main Street has become flooded with retailers that do not offer anything authentic and Westport-special.

So he and Stephanie decided to partner with skilled designers and illustrators. They wanted to celebrate their town, and the artists who created its legacy.

Townee's sparkling Saugatuck Bridge t-shirt.

Townee’s sparkling Saugatuck Bridge t-shirt.

Creating the sparkling Saugatuck Bridge illustration for their “Townee” apparel — which now includes short- and long-sleeve T-shirts, hoodies, fleeces and rally caps, for adults, kids and toddlers — was particularly important.

“I don’t think there’s a soul in town who doesn’t love the way the bridge looks during the holidays,” Ted says. “It’s perfect from every view — from 95, driving over it, walking through it.”

As for the company name, Ted says, “We think being called a townee is a compliment — a badge of honor. It’s someone who knows the best things to do, see, when to go places.

“Loving where you live makes you a townee. We all spend so much time  here doing normal day-to-day things. We want to remind others of how special Westport is.”

Their reminder: a line of high-quality apparel that’s comfortable, can be worn every day, and shows the pride people have in their town.

Townee launched last month. You may already have seen folks wearing Ted and Stephanie’s gear.

Just call them townees.

(Ted and Stephanie offer free delivery to all addresses. For more information — including ordering — click here.)

Comin’ Down The Pike

Turnout was low last week at Town Hall, as the Connecticut Department of Transportation unveiled plans for an I-95 bridge renovation plan that could have dramatic effects on Westport traffic.

The 2-year project — beginning in the spring of 2018, and including decking and girder replacement — would run from Norwalk’s Yankee Doodle Bridge (Exit 16) through the span high above the Saugatuck River.

It would entail lane closures (with the familiar miles of safety cones set out long before actual work), and possible rerouting of traffic along Saugatuck and Riverside Avenues, the Post Road and Sherwood Island Connector.

The specter of enormous tractor-trailers making that tight Riverside/Post Road turn is bad enough. With everyone nowadays using Waze, many drivers would instead try to use the Bridge Street/Greens Farms Road shortcut. If, that is, the Bridge Street Bridge were not being rehabilitated at the same time.

The Saugatuck River bridge, under construction in 1957. Back then, I-95 was called the Connecticut Turnpike.

The Saugatuck River bridge, under construction in 1957. Back then, I-95 was called the Connecticut Turnpike.

But wait! There’s more!

The DOT also hopes to resurface nearly 5 miles of the Merritt Parkway, from Newtown Turnpike to Congress Street in Fairfield. That project — planned to begin in the spring of 2017 — would also include bridge work. (Hopefully, the interminable North Avenue bridge renovation would finally be done by then.)

A public hearing is set for Wednesday (January 27, 7 p.m.) in the Town Hall auditorium.

No one denies that our 2 major highways need work.

But it’s clear too that the twin projects will have major impacts not only on those roadways, but many others throughout Westport.

Our Next Great Holiday Tradition

Christmas is 364 days away.  But — perhaps inspired by today’s “blizzard” — Al DiGuido and Steve Rubin are already looking ahead.

Al noticed that Westport doesn’t have an “official” Christmas tree — nor any “official” ceremony marking the beginning of the holiday season.

The Saugatuck River Bridge, all lit up this holiday season.

But, in a letter to the Westport News, Al — founder and driving force behind Al’s Angels — proposed that his organization work with the town to make the Saugatuck Bridge lighting the “official” holiday season lighting for Westport.

Al said:

It would be incredible if we could close the bridge down for several hours on one magical night.  Local restaurants could provide hot chocolate, donuts and other holiday treats — actually on the bridge, when we throw the switch.  Area vocal groups could provide holiday music.

I know Santa and Frosty would definitely make an appearance too.

While other towns may have “trees,” no one has a bridge like ours.  As Westporters, we love the differences in our town.

Let’s celebrate them!

He urged interested Westporters to contact him: adiguido@yahoo.com.

RTM member Steve Rubin seconds the motion.  He says:

What a grand idea!  What a better honor for the Cribari family!  What a true fun tradition for Westport!

The official name of the span is the William F. Cribari Memorial Bridge.  Born in1918, he directed countless numbers of cars as a police traffic official.  Few people loved Westport and its history more than “Crowbar” did.

To continue to light the bridge from Thanksgiving to New Year’s would be an exciting Westport happening.  It would encompass the entire holiday season for all.

Illuminating the bridge and nearby donated trees has become a Westport institution.  Al DiGuido and friends started this tradition about a decade ago with other proud Westport residents, including myself.

Taxpayers’ funds have never been used.  I think anybody driving by or across this bridge when it glows with lights would be happy to kick in a few dollars if requested to continue this tradition.

There you have it:  The next great new town tradition.

And — this being Westport — the time to start working on it is yesterday.