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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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:
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.
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!
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:
COVID-19 testing is now available at several locations around Connecticut, and can be accessed through its 2-1-1 hotline — with certain caveats (see below).
The Westport Weston Health District’s initial contact trace testing is completed. They have one final round to test for those who were part of the initial investigation. It is only open to those already contacted directly by the WWHD.
Residents who feel symptoma of COVID-19 should stay home, and call or email their primary care provider with questions. Residents can call the state 2-1-1 line if instructed by their primary care provider to arrange testing, or if they have questions about being tested. A series of questions will be asked by a 2-1-1 representative to determine if testing is appropriate.
WWHD director Mark Cooper says, “It is no longer about parties, schools, religious institutions, employment, etc. Residents should assume that COVID-19 is everywhere and that anyone could have it. It has been shown that some people can have the virus with no symptoms at all. The number of COVID-19 cases in Westport and the state are going up, and they will continue to increase.”
Locally, the WWHD has contacted all those it became aware of who had contact with a COVID-19 positive person involved in the initial outbreak, and who it had tested.
Those who tested positive for COVID-19 are being advised to practice strict voluntary isolation. They are instructed not to go out, but to stay home. If they require something and must go out, they should do so during times there are fewer people out. Masks and gloves should be worn so as not to spread the virus.
Yesterday’s announcement about closing restaurants, bars, and theaters is a step towards implementing social distancing. Day care facilities continue to remain open. Day care facilities provide essential services, and the WWHD is working closely with them to reinforce the message that it is incumbent upon them to keep their staff and children safe. They have been requested to use thermometers and practice hygienic measures. If a staff member or child becomes infected by COVID-19, the WWHD will close that facility. It is in the facilities’ and the parents’ best interest to keep sick children at home.
Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce director Matthew Mandell just spoke with the director of the Connecticut Small Business Administration.
Mandell reports that loans of up to $2 million are now available. They can be used for most expenses: payroll, accounts payable, fixed costs. They do not cover business losses.
Interest is 3.25% (profit businesses) and 2.75% (non-profit businesses). Funds come directly from the US Treasury, not a bank.
All businesses with a physical presence in the state are available. Applicants must show a credit history and ability to pay back the loan.
Click here for an application, or call 800-659-2955, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Connecticut Small Business Development Center can assist in filling out and filing applications. Click here for more information.
The Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce has also updated its list of restaurants offering curbside and takeout delivery. Click here to see.
To facilitate social distancing at the transfer station, residents may no longer bring bulky waste items that require assistance.
While the transfer station remains open, personnel will refrain from coming into contact with individuals, or refuse brought there by residents. Thus, they will not assist residents with the removal or disposal of solid waste from vehicles.
Residents bringing smaller waste items to the transfer station must deposit their solid waste directly into the hopper, and discharge recycling directly in to the single stream bins. Plastic bags are not allowed in single stream recycling.
These protocols are in effect at least through March 31. During this time, all fees and collection of refuse tickets will be waived.
Bud Valiante is always helpful. But he can no longer help residents dispose of large items at the transfer station. (Photo/Cindy Mindell)
JoyRide is one of the many fitness centers closed by the coronavirus.
To fill the void, they offer free Instagram live classes all week at 10 a.m. Follow @joyridestudio, and click on in the morning.
Thanks to Forte.Fit, people can also take live 30-minute classes, or stream from a library of on-demand JoyRide cycling classes filmed over the past 2 years.
For those without a bike, there a number of JoyX boot camp classes, plus pilates, barre and yoga from other brands.
JoyRide offers Westporters a deeply discounted Forte.Fit membership (less than $8 a month). Use the code JOYRIDE89.
In addition, JoyRide has partnered with dietician Ilanit Blumenfeld to offer a 4-week nutrition and online fitness challenge. It starts March 23. Click here for info and sign-ups.
Annette Norton of Savvy + Grace asks customers and friends to follow her store on Facebook or Instagram.
She’ll post new merchandise daily. Her website will be ready to take orders on Friday. And she offers curbside delivery as well as shipping.
The other day, “06880” posted a story on 3 Westport teenagers who offer to run errands for older folks, and anyone else homebound by the virus.
A woman who took them up on their offer writes:
“I contacted them last night and got a text back from one that he would do my shopping. What a lifesaver! He kept in constant touch with me by text, went to 3 different stores (!) and spent about 3 hours.
“He delivered it all outside my door. I left him a check in an envelope with a generous tip, and proceeded to stock my house (after wiping stuff down with alcohol). We appreciate hearing about him, and what he did, very much.”
(From left): Ty Chung, Jonathan Lorenz, Luke Lorenz. — 3 very helpful guys.
Former 2nd selectman Avi Kaner continues to be interviewed by national media about the effects of COVID-19 on retail outlets. As co-owner of New York’s Morton Williams supermarket chain, he spoke today on Fox News about “senior hours” for shoppers, and contingency plans. Click below to see:
Takeout meals are available through curbside pick-up. If you can’t leave the house — or don’t want to — they’ll deliver. It may take some time how to do it, Taube says, “but we’ll figure it out. Everybody’s got to eat!
“We feel this is necessary in order to do our part to help stop the spread of this virus,” says the owner of 3 of Westport’s most popular dining spots.
“If there’s ever a time to tip, this is it,” he adds.
For the time being, the doors to The Whelk will be closed. (Photo courtesy of Our Town Crier)
While not closing, other restaurants are taking their own measures during the pandemic.
Pearl at Longshore — which recently hired a new chef, reworked the menu and remodeled the interior — has removed some tables, creating more distance between diners. They offer 10% off on takeout orders, and will bring it outside for pickup.
Pearl at Longshore has made changes….
In addition to also removing tables, offering curbside pick-up and delivery (within 3 miles), Rizzuto’s has removed items like flowers and salt and pepper shakers from all tables. They’re printing menus on lightweight paper for single use. too.
… and so has Rizzuto’s …
The Boathouse has added curbside pick-up, and will soon offer delivery.
… and the Boathouse, at the Saugatuck Rowing Club.
They — and every other restaurant in town — have strengthened existing health policies, and implemented new ones, such as washing hands upon arrival at work; before and after serving or removing food and beverages; before resetting tables, and after every customer interaction, including credit card processing. They’ve also expanded and enhanced their cleaning and disinfecting protocols.
Restaurants also encourage patrons to buy gift cards. They provide much-needed cash now — particularly for small, great places like Jeera Thai — and can be used whenever you feel comfortable going inside.
PS: It’s not just restaurants. Customers can call Calise’s Market (203-227-3257). They’ll put together hot foods, soups, sandwiches, cold cuts, homemade pizzas, drinks, snacks, milk, water, bread, eggs, butter, dry goods — whatever you want — all for curbside service or delivery.
Sandra Calise-Cenatiempo reports they just stocked up on pasta, sauces and many canned goods. Tomorrow (Monday) they’ll start making dishes that can be frozen.
If you own a restaurant — or store — and would like “06880” readers to know what you’re doing, click “Comments” below.
But restaurants are not the only small businesses reeling from COVID-19.
Savvy + Grace — the great, locally own downtown unique gifts-and-more store — will close for a while. But only the doors.
Owner Annette Norton — Main Street’s biggest booster — says:
As a small business owner I have been grappling with how to handle this.
I am responsible for the rent, vendor bills, expenses, yet with all of the information I am collection, it pales in comparison with our community’s health. Therefore, I have decided to close until further notice.
I will be inside, alone, processing all of our new merchandise for spring. Which, by the way, allows me to offer curbside delivery and call-ins, or direct message me on Instagram for shipping: @savvyandgracewestport. You can also call the store: 203-221-0077.
My store has always been, and always will be, about putting my customers first. This too shall pass.
I just want to do what is responsible, given the information available. It has been my pleasure to serve this community, and I am committed to seeing this through.
See you soon. Stay healthy!
Savvy + Grace, a jewel on Main Street. (Photo/Lynn Untermeyer Miller)
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