Tag Archives: Savvy + Grace

“06880” Podcast: Annette Norton

Annette Norton loves downtown.

The owner of Savvy + Grace — the fun, funky gifts-and-more Main Street store — takes every opportunity she can to talk up the shops, restaurants and events that once again draw folks to the area.

She spoke passionately and insightfully about downtown — its past, present and future — along with her recent decision to become a Westport homeowner on “06880: The Podcast.”

Annette’s thoughts will get listeners thinking too. Click here for the latest edition of “06880: The Podcast.”

Screenshot from Annette Norton’s “06880” podcast.

Pic Of The Day #1485

Shopping local is easy, with this guide outside Main Street’s Savvy + Grace 

Roundup: Express Train, I-95, Passover …

=================================================

Today is National Vietnam War Veterans Day.

Let’s pause and remember all who served — including Westport’s own Jay Dirnberger.

Jay Dirnberger

====================================================

After New Orleans Pelicans star Zion Williamson’s great game Saturday night, Dallas Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle had an unusual way of comparing Williamson to an express train:

“It’s not just an Amtrak, it’s the Acela. it doesn’t stop in Westport, it just goes straight to New York City.” (Hat tip: Fred Cantor)

This express train does not stop in Westport.

======================================================

Westport Book Shop is a smash.

That’s not just my opinion. The Jesup Road used book store — which also sells vinyl, CDs, DVDs and audio books — is so successful, it’s expanding its hours.

They’re now open Tuesdays through Fridays, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Sundays, noon to 5 p.m. They’re closed Mondays.

They’re open 24/7 online, too: www.westportbooksales.org.

=======================================================

How is the I-95/Beachside Avenue bridge replacement project going?

Brandon Malin’s drone offers this unique view:

(Drone photo/Brandon Malin)

=======================================================

COVID knocked out every in-person Seder last year.

This Passover, some Westport families gathered in small groups. Others celebrated virtually.

Below, David Ader joins the Yormark Seder. Pippa Bell Ader notes: “In the interest of saving paper, this year we read from the Haggadah via the second computer, on the right.”

=======================================================

Easter is Sunday. Which means there are only a few days left to get your Easter basket.

Savvy + Grace has great ones. You can head to the popular Main Street store and pick what you want.

Or email savvyandgracewestport@gmail.com. Include your name, phone number, and the age, likes and interests of the recipient. Annette Norton and her staff will put baskets together, and call for your review.

Not sure? Check out some pre-made baskets online (click here).

=======================================================

International Mother Earth Day is coming soon. To celebrate, the United Nations Association’s Southwest Connecticut Chapter is running a Student Creativity Contest.

They’re looking for ways to promote the UN’s sustainable development goals, legal protections for nature, and efforts to preserve biodiversity.

Submissions in any form are welcome: posters, flyers, stickers, postcards, videos, tweets, web pages, poems, songs, social media posts, whatever.

Cash prizes are awarded: $300 for 1st place, $150 for 2nd, $75 for 3rd, $25 for 4th through 10th place.

The deadline is April 16. Email a JPG, PDF, PowerPoint, MP3, MP4 or hyperlink to unaswct@gmail.com. For more information, click here.

=======================================================

Speaking of Earth Day: Last fall , Melissa Ceriale and her Prospect Road neighbors participated in Debra Kandrak’s daffodil planting project.

The results are gorgeous. And they’ll pop up every spring too!

Daffodils on Prospect Road. (Photo/Melissa Ceriale)

=======================================================

And finally … on this day in 1871, Queen Victoria opened London’s Royal Albert Hall.

Unsung Heroes #168

Even before COVID, it was our mantra: “Buy local.”

Since the pandemic, we’ve paid even more attention to the importance of supporting the men and women who — against ever-more daunting odds — make this town go.

They stock stuff we need. They employ our kids and grandparents. They support every school and civic fundraiser. They answer our calls. They know our names.

And — this is really cool — they support each other. I posted this story last weekend, but it might have gotten lost over the holiday. So here it is again:

There’s a new Christmas tree on Main Street, right next to the old Tavern on Main restaurant. But it’s more than just a handsome holiday sight.

Annette Norton — owner of the nearby Savvy + Grace gift shop — works with the Ralphola Taylor Charity, a YMCA community center serving low-income Bridgeport children. They earn points for good behavior during after-school activities, then redeem those points at the center’s Holiday Store by buying presents for their families.

Annette Norton and the Christmas tree, near Savvy + Grace.

In return for purchasing a gift for the Ralphola Taylor Charity, Annette will personalize a white dove ornament with the donor’s name, and hang it on the tree.

Gifts can be bought 3 ways:

  • At Savvy + Grace (next to the former Tavern on Main restaurant)
  • Online (at checkout, just choose free delivery to the charity)
  • Purchase something from any other local store, then drop it off at Savvy + Grace. What a great way to support all Westport merchants, and kids in Bridgeport.

Donations are accepted now through Monday, December 7.

How great that Annette wants you to purchase a gift at any local store. And how wonderful that she’s a local merchant.

Which is why Annette Norton — and all Westport business owners, struggling but still giving in this holiday season — are this week’s Unsung Heroes.

(Do you know an Unsung Hero? Email dwoog@optonline.net)

Roundup: Downtown Tree, Dead Fish, More


The Main Street Christmas tree is starting to look a lot more Christmas-y.

Annette Norton — the owner of Savvy + Grace, whose front door is just steps away — is personalizing ornaments for the handsome tree. (Knowing Annette, I guarantee: They’re beautiful.)

But there’s more to this story than ornaments on a tree. Annette is working with the Ralphola Taylor Charity, a YMCA community center that serves low-income Bridgeport children. They earn points for good behavior during after-school activities — and then redeem those points at the center’s Holiday Store by buying presents for their families.

In return for purchasing a gift for the Ralphola Taylor Charity, Annette will personalize a white dove ornament with the donor’s name, and hang it on the tree.

Gifts can be bought 3 ways:

  • At Savvy + Grace (next to the former Tavern on Main restaurant)
  • Online (at checkout, just choose free delivery to the charity)
  • Purchase something from any other local store, then drop it off at Savvy + Grace. What a great way to support all Westport merchants, and kids in Bridgeport.

Donations are accepted now through December 7. Let’s fill that tree — and the Ralphola Taylor Charity Holiday Shop! shelves!

Main Street Christmas tree.


It’s a common — and natural — occurrence, though not often so late in the season.

When bunker form large schools they deprive themselves of oxygen, and suffocate.

Dozens of dead fish have been spotted recently, at Compo Beach and Grace Salmon Park. Here was the scene yesterday, at Parker Harding Plaza:

(Photo/Arlene Yolles)


And finally … the Grand Ole Opry debuted on this date in 1925, as a “barn dance” broadcast on WSM. 95 years later, it’s the longest running radio broadcast in American history. 

Uncle Jimmy Thompson was the first performer on that first show. He was 77 years old — so the recording below shows someone born 13 years before the Civil War began. Talk about American Roots music!

Roundup: Christmas Tunes, Food, Tree And More


The Senior Center is filled with fascinating people.

High on the list: pianist Irwin Lebish. A veterinarian since 1954, he is still — in his 90s —  a general practitioner at Schulhof Animal Hospital.

That’s not all. He also plays piano with the hands of 20-year-old.

The other day, Dr. Lebish recorded a Holiday Piano Recital — jazz, standards and more — for the Senior Center. He was joined by a young whippersnapper: his son Scott, on bass.

Jim Honeycutt and Nick Pisarro videotaped it all. Click below to enjoy!


Everyone knows about stress eating. But what about stress cooking?

If the thought of making another — or any — holiday meal fills you with dread, click here.

The WestportMoms’ Food Delivery & Catering Guide is filled with businesses that have pivoted during the pandemic to provide — in addition to their usual delicious fare — catering, weekly meal plans, delivery and curbside pickup.

No cooking? No problem! Click here.


MoCA Westport invites all high school students to submit works of art for a student exhibit. “Hindsight is 2020” will run open January 23, and run through March 6.

This is the first student in-person show at MoCA’s Newtown Turnpike space. The museum presented an online student exhibition in July.

“Hindsight is 2020” will feature submissions created this challenging, unique year.

All high school students may submit 1 work, of any kind. The deadline is January 8. Cash prizes of $500, $300 and $100 will be awarded by judges. Click here for details, or email liz@mocawestport.org.


Downtown’s newest Christmas tree stands outside Savvy + Grace, near the steps to the old Tavern on Main.

Check it out — and don’t worry. It will be trimmed soon!


And finally … happy 55th birthday to Björk! Now — can anyone name another Icelandic singer-songwriter?!

Roundup: COVID Spread, Book Sales, Westport Blanket, More


Yesterday, 2 officials advised Westporters about the rapid increase of coronavirus in town.

Superintendent of Schools Tom Scarice said that while COVID cases have been discovered in the school population, administrators’ swift response to new cases has resulted in “little to no widespread COVID contamination.”

However, new cases require immediate attention, like quarantining and contact tracing. While the lack of spread demonstrates that the processes in place are working, the schools are continually challenged by new cases resulting from outside activities.

These include recent large gatherings, parties and sports activities involving students or parents. Photos and social media posts caused 1st Selectman Jim Marpe to ask Parks and Recreation director Jen Fava to consider reinstating earlier COVID-related policies at local parks, fields and recreation facilities.

Marpe says: “The ability for our schools to remain open for in-person learning is dependent on the actions of our entire community. I urge all residents to follow the appropriate public health protocols so that our community can remain open, but safe.

“Please refrain from contact sports, wear a mask, social distance, avoid gatherings and practice good hygiene. Residents are strongly urged to avoid gatherings where adherence to social distancing and mask wearing cannot be accomplished.”

Anyone awaiting test results, whether taken because of symptoms or COVID exposure, should not go out into the community until receiving those results.

Staples Players have done most rehearsals for their radio shows remotely. When they do get together, they are diligent about wearing masks. (Photo/Kerry Long)


The Westport Library’s Holiday & Winter Book Sale is always eagerly anticipated by gift givers.

The bad news: COVID-19 has knocked out in-person shopping. This year it’s all online.

The good news: It’s already there.

Fiction, mystery, arts, biographies, photography, cookooks, sci-fi, puzzles, kids’ books, plus CDs, puzzles an games — they’re all available from the comfort of home.

Click here to browse. All books are available for pickup by appointment at the library’s upper parking lot, 7 days after purchase.

New items are added weekly. So bookmark the page, and check back often.


Speaking of holiday gifts: This is my favorite so far.

Savvy + Grace — the wonderful, whimsical Main Street gift shop across from Rye Ridge Deli — sells some very cool Westport-themed items. What stands out is a fleece blanket, featuring an 1890s topographic map of the town.

Click here to check it — and much more — out. In-store shopping, curbside pickup and shipping are all available.

Savvy + Grace’s Westport blanket.


And finally … today is Friday the 13th. Just what we need in 2020!

Roundup: Masks, More


Yesterday morning, Rick and Amy Leonard walked across the Ruth Steinkraus Cohen Bridge downtown. They saw a friend and her companion, with a dog.

They watched as Stephen Kempson — the custom suitmaker and wardrobe consultant whose store is the first one on Post Road West — talked to one of the women.

He had noticed that her face mask was broken. So he gave her one from his shop.

It was a special mask — decorated with golden retrievers, just like her dog.

Why did Stephen have that mask? He sells them in his store. They’re $25 each — and $5 goes to charity.

He’s a full service bespoke tailor, for sure.


Speaking of masks: Here I am, sporting my new one from Savvy + Grace. (You can’t see, but I’m smiling.)

Those aren’t golden retrievers like Stephen Kempson’s. These show a nautical map of Westport waters. A great way to show your hometown pride (and stay safe).

They’re available at the store (146 Main Street) and online (click here).

PS: Purchases support Savvy + Grace’s #PayItForward program. Each month they donate masks to local non-profits.


And finally … last month was celebrated widely as the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, giving women the right to vote. But the first vote cast by a woman in a general US election occurred 50 years earlier — 150 years ago today, on September 6, 1870 — when Louise Ann Swain cast a ballot in Laramie, Wyoming. The territory had just allowed women to vote.

The Rachel Rose Of Texas

Earlier this summer, Savvy + Grace sponsored a great afternoon of sidewalk music.

Some of the entertainers were current Westporters. Getting to the Main Street gifts-and-more shop was easy.

Rachel Rose’s route to the Main Street gig was a bit more circuitous.

The Long Lots Elementary, Bedford Middle and Staples High School (Class of 2014) grad was fortunate that her grandmother, Sylvia Wachtel, lived in Westport too. A huge Turner Classic Movies fan, Sylvia shared her love of jazz films — and the music of Ella Fitzgerald, Nina Simone and Etta James — with Rachel.

Rachel’s parents were also music fans. They played Bryan Adams and John Mayer CDs in the car. Her dad liked the Dead, Steve Miller and Dave Matthews.

Rachel Rose

After graduation, Rachel — who sang with Staples’ Orphenians, and took private lessons with Cynthia Gibb — headed to the University of Texas. She calls Austin “the live music capital of the world,” and figured it was the perfect place to get a general degree (she majored in psychology) while also performing.

She joined an elite UT vocal group, Ensemble 109, and formed a band. Austin’s 6th Street bar-and-music scene was indeed hopping. She played everywhere, met plenty of people, and got an A&R job with a music streamer.

Rachel calls her musical style “Jewish soul., contemporary soul and R&B.” She identified with Amy Winehouse, whose “Back to Black” album was particularly influential.

Jazz remained important to Rachel. New York had a more robust jazz and sould scene than Austin, Rachel says, so in 2018 she reluctantly left Austin, and relocated to Brooklyn.

As soon as she arrived she began writing songs. “It was a leap of faith,” she says. “I tried to find my image, my music.”

What emerged was “a melding of Austin and Brooklyn.” This past February she quit her job with a music distribution company, and concentrated full time on her career.

She finished writing songs for her EP this spring. In mid-August she released her first single, “You.” It’s available on every major platform.

The second single followed. The full EP is available September 7.

Her Savvy + Grace gig represented a great “homecoming” for Rachel Rose. There could not have been a more appropriate venue, for this savvy, graceful — and quite talented — rising star.

(Click here for Rachel Rose’s website.) 

Downtown Busking Set For Saturday

If you’ve been downtown lately you know that most stores are open, and life is returning to Main Street and environs.

If you haven’t been downtown: Here’s your chance.

This Saturday (July 25, 12:30 p.m.), there’s live entertainment. The area around 146 Main Street will be filled with cool and talented musicians.

(Busking will take place near Savvy + Grace on Main Street. Photo/Lynn Untermeyer Miller)

The busking is the brainchild of 2 dynamos: Savvy + Grace owner Annette Norton, and actor/singer/educator Cynthia Gibb.

Annette — whose gifts-and-more shop is another great reason to head downtown — firmly believes that interesting events draw people to the Main Street she loves.

Cynthia — a Staples High School graduate, star of “Fame” and founder of Triple Threat Academy for young actors, singers and dancers — has enlisted nearly a dozen entertainers. Some have already recorded professional; others have appeared on TV.

Some of Saturday’s entertainers.

The cast includes “Billy Elliot” dancer/”County Comfort” TV star/Staples player Jamie Mann; Westporter Rob (Slosberg) Morton, whose “Just One More Day With You” has over 100,000 YouTube views; Momo Burns-Min, a recent Weston High graduate who performed with Kelli O’Hara in the Westport Country Playhouse’s April livestream; soulful indie singer/songwriter Rachel Rose of Brooklyn, and Wilton High’s Olivia Vitterelli.

Each singer will perform a couple of songs. It’s fast-paced and fun. Of course, masks and social distancing are required.

Let the busking begin!

Westport’s own Jamie Mann also performs this Saturday.