Tag Archives: Savvy + Grace

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.

COVID Roundup: Library’s Phase 1; Westport Masks; Co-Working; More


The good news: The Westport Library is not charging you for all those books, DVDs and other materials you borrowed right before COVID-19, and have been unable to return.

The better news: The library is almost ready to pick them up.

It’s Phase 1 of their multi-step process to reopen. Details — including dates — will be announced soon on the library website, and through their newsletter and social media channels.

Though the building is closed, digital resources — including e-books, audiobooks, streaming music and movies, story times with favorite librarians, author talks and more — are available 24/7.


Joe Biden wears a black mask. Many of us wear whatever we can find. Donald Trump does not wear one at all.

But if all of us — including the president — want to look really cool, we’d wear a Westport mask. You know — one with a map showing the Saugatuck River and Long Island Sound.

They’re 3 layers strong — 2 of cotton, 1 poly — with elastic loops for the ears. The price is $21.99 each, and they’re available through the Savvy + Grace website. The Main Street store is open Monday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. for no- contact, curbside pickup. They also offer shipping.

Wear your Westport mask with pride! Shop local! And if you — or President Trump — need even more convincing, there’s this: Savvy + Grace’s masks are made right here in the USA.


Of all the businesses to open in Westport a month before COVID-19 struck, you’d think the least lucky would be Serendipity Labs.

It’s a co-working space. These days, the only office chatter is about how to keep people away from one.

But the folks who run the newly renovated, 23,000-square foot flexible workspace — with private offices, customizable team rooms and suites, plus meeting and event space at 55 Post Road West — want residents to know that as you get ready to leave your new office (aka “home”), they understand your concerns. They’ve got you covered.

Serendipity Labs’ “Workplace Transition Program” offers contact-less check-in and “continuous cleaning protocols.” There is “proper ventilation and air flow in all offices and common areas.” And, they claim, their workspace provides “60% more space per person than the competition.”

Private desks start at $299 a month. Drop-in plans begin at $49 a day. For more information, click here or call 203-293-0035.


And finally … like (hopefully) many of us, former Westporter Johnny Winter is “still alive and well.”

Well, at least the song is. He died in 2014.

COVID-19 Roundup: Center Street Concert; Free Face Masks; Meal Train; More


Last weekend, residents of Center Street enjoyed an amazing performance.

Their neighbor John Karrel, and fellow Westporter and friend Jeff Chasnow played beautiful selections from Bach and Vivaldi.

The musicians were socially distanced, on John’s porch. But they — and all who heard — were drawn emotionally together.

“It was so lovely sitting in the garden surrounded by spring blossoms, with the best weather of the year so far,” says Heidi Curran. “I hope they will treat us to more!”

John Karrel (left) and Jeff Chasnow)


Every Christmas, the tree next to Assumption Church is hung with lights.

This spring there’s something new on Riverside Avenue: face masks.

They’re hand-sewn, washable — and free for anyone to take. Be sure to pick up sanitizing prep pads too (donated by Knights of Columbus) — and a prayer card.


Everyone needs positivity. Savvy + Grace has it, for sure. In fact, it’s called a Positiv-A-Tea Basket.

That’s just one of the many fun, fine products the Main Street gifts-and-more store has for Mother’s Day (and the rest of the pandemic too).

Owner Annette Norton — downtown’s biggest booster — offers both shipping and no-contact curbside pickup (weekdays, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.). Her Easter baskets were a huge success, so Mother’s Day is a natural follow-up.

For gift baskets — or options to built your own gift box from their great selection of clothing, lounge wear, cashmere, fine jewelry, food items, bath and body products, and gorgeous home items — click here, or call 203-221-0077.

Positiv-A-Tea gift basket.


Tomorrow is National Nurses Day. As they and their colleagues bear the brunt of the pandemic, we can show support by signing up to feed a team (about 20 people) at Norwalk Hospital.

Ordering online through for this meal train helps them — and your favorite restaurant. Click here; it’s easy, quick and important.

Volunteer Lisa Power says, “If you’ve already signed up, and/or already donated to one of the many other places or people in need, please pass the link along to others. Spread the word!”


Speaking of Meal Trains: Garelick & Herbs participates. And they donate 20% of the price of any order to Jewish Family Services.

The popular market offers “Do Good, Feel Good” meal trains for Norwalk Hospital (20 staff members), Greenwich Hospital (50), Carrollton Nursing Home (35), and 5 options for police and fire department shifts.

They’re all on Garelick & Herbs’ website (scroll way down to the bottom). While you’re there, check out the huge variety of options for yourself, either curbside or delivery: breakfasts, sandwiches, salads, noodle bar, dinners, quiches, breads, pastas, desserts and more.

Plus Mother’s Day brunch, dinner, gift baskets, cakes — and a special “You Cook for Mom” feature.


In 6th grade, Emma Borys was diagnosed with epilepsy. The teenager is now an outspoken advocate for research and education.

The Walk to End Epilepsy — which she has raised plenty of funds for — has been canceled by the coronavirus. She also will not be able to take part in her long-awaited graduation walk at Weston High School.

But Emma is not deterred. She organized a virtual Walk to End Epilepsy — and promises to walk 2,020 steps (get it?) every day, from now until graduation, in return for pledges to the Epilepsy Foundation of Connecticut. Click here to help.

Emma Borys


The Avery Center for Obstetrics & Gynecology now offers COVID-19 antibody testing to determine whether you’ve been exposed to the coronavirus, even if you have no symptoms. It’s by appointment, at 12 Avery Place. Call or text 203- 227-5125.


And finally … a couple of years ago I saw “Bruce Springsteen on Broadway.” (Remember Broadway?!)

It was an evening of poetry, passion and power. Among the most powerful moments: a stripped-down version of this song. As always, The Boss says it best:

COVID Roundup: Fields Monitoring; Free Coding Class; Mask Making; Easter Baskets; STAR Funding; More

Beginning yesterday, town personnel are monitoring facilities closely. The goal: making sure that physical distance standards are adhered to by all.

Director Jen Fava says, “We continue to find people not only using our closed facilities, like athletic fields, courts, and other recreational areas, but also gathering in groups at these and other Parks & Rec and school facilities. In addition, there continues to be an issue with people not having dogs on leash.

“Parks and Recreation Department staff, in conjunction with school security staff and the Westport Police Department, will monitor the facilities to ensure compliance in an effort to protect the health and safety of our residents. Any non-compliance with staff will be referred to the Westport Police Department.”

Crowds have been gathering at the Staples football field, among other venues.


Looking for a new hobby, for yourself or your kids?

Learn to code — for free.

Staples High School Class of 1992 graduate Mark Lassoff has made a career offering tech ed videos online. Now he’s paying it forward.

Lassoff’s Fairfield-based Framework TV COVID-19 Code Camp teaches digital skills like coding, web development and digital design — for free. No prior experience is needed.

Video lessons and activities are offered 4 times a week. It’s interactive: Participants get to know each other, and ask questions of instructors.

For more information and registration, click here.

Mark Lassoff


For the past 2 years, Virginia Jaffe helped make costumes for the Greens Farms Elementary School play. Now she and her fellow designers are putting their creative skills to use by making masks for men and women on the front lines — in food stores, markets, hospitals, medical offices and the like.

Virginia, Jurga Subaciute, Marisa Zer and Taran Gulliksen set up production lines in their homes. They make over 100 masks a day. “We’re home schooling, house cleaning and meal making,” she says. “But we can also cut fabric and sew.”

As national and state officials urge Americans to wear masks, the need will grow.

The women need unused flat 5mm or thin rope elastic. Colors do not matter.

In addition, they’re looking for people with sewing machines who wants to help. “We’ll give you instructions and patterns for making masks,” Virginia says. “And we will coordinate where they need to be sent.”

If you can’t sew but want to get involved through a financial contribution (to purchase fabric, threads and elastic directly from a Norwalk supplier who offers heavily discounted prices), see below.

If you know of a group of local front line workers who need masks, she’d like to know too.

To donate elastic and/or funds, offer to help, or suggest recipients, email Westportmasks@yahoo.com.


With all that’s going on, add another stress: how to fill an Easter basket.

Savvy+Grace’s doors are closed. But energetic, creative owner Annette Norton offers safe (curbside pickup) for orders. And every one includes a solid chocolate bunny!

Email savvyandgracewestport@gmail.com. Include:

  • Your full name and cell phone
  • The age, name and gender of the gift recipient
  • The gift recipient’s size (top and bottom)
  • The recipient’s interests (dance, theater, type of sport, etc.)
  • Pierced ears? Likes jewelry?
  • Any other info that might be helpful.

Annette will text back with photos and prices, for your perfect basket.

Annette Norton is ready for Easter.


Laura Blair is one of STAR’s best fundraisers. This time of year, she’s usually a familiar figure outside stores and Staples sports contests, collecting pledges and donations for the annual Walk, 5K and Roll at Sherwood Island State Park.

STAR serves individuals with developmental disabilities and their families. The event helps support 12 group homes and 10 apartments, assisting 110 people with independent living, plus training and job placement to nearly 250 adults.

This year, the fundraiser is online. Click here to help Laura reach her $15,000 goal.

Laura Blair is a fundraising STAR.


And finally, what better way to end the week than with the wonderful Louis Armstrong: