Mention “downtown shopping,” and Westporters think first of Main Street.
That’s long been our retail heart. But it’s not the only one.
For more than half a century, Sconset Square has sat happily — and with plenty of parking — just a few yards from Main Street. It’s attracted local merchants, with a variety of offerings. Its stores (and restaurants and services, like tailors) have loyal clienteles.
Sconset (which started life as Sherwood) Square is an often-overlooked, and quite successful — piece of Westport’s retail puzzle.
Wende Cohen is one of those long-time merchants. But she did not set out to be one.
More than 2 decades ago she moved here from New York City for the usual reasons: 2 kids, more room, beaches, golf, the schools and community.
Wende had worked in magazine ad sales, before turning to her next job of raising kids. But her mother-in-law was in the antiques business, and when Wende traveled with her on European buying trips, she was hooked.
More than 2 decades ago — while still in her 20s — she opened a store called Bungalow, in the former Brandman’s Paints in Sconset Square.
She loved being part of the small shopping center. There was a camera store, a travel agency and more. Through the shop she met people outside her “circle of mom friends”: decorators, summer people, empty nesters.
Wende’s first container sold out in months. She went back to Europe, and returned with more unique items.
Over the years, Bungalow added gifts, jewelry, books and cashmere. It morphed into a “lifestyle store.” Wende expanded, and with the help of landlord David Waldman renovated her place.
Her merchandise is a mixture of old and new, with prices from $8 to $8,000. She works hard finding special pieces. She celebrates local artists, with pottery, photos and paintings.
And — as a small businesswoman — customer service is important.
Wende lets people take items home, and see how they fit or work.
In the store itself, she’s got a space in back where she’ll open a bottle of wine, or have an espresso. Le Penguin — a couple of doors away — sends over lunch on china.
She’s not immune to the winds of change sweeping retail — particularly the internet. So she’s making sure she does not sit still.
Recently, Bungalow renovated its space. It’s airier, more open. There are new high ceilings.
Sconset Square has been around for a while. So has Bungalow.
Both are success stories, in a Westport retail environment that needs some good news.