Tag Archives: Sconset Square

Roundup: Stephen Sondheim, Artists Collective, Sconset Square …

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Among the many tributes to legendary composer Stephen Sondheim, this one caught Veri Krassner’s eye.

Joshua Henry — the Tony-nominated actor whose credits include “Hamilton,” “Scottsboro Boys” and the current film “Tick, Tick….Boom!” — posted a photograph of Sondheim and the cast of “Being Alive” at the Westport Country Playhouse in 2007.

He noted how memorable the show was — especially because Sondheim himself was there to see it.

Henry was just beginning his career then. But he remembered Sondheim — and Westport.

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Speaking of Sondheim and the Playhouse: The legendary theater released a statement honoring the Broadway icon. The WCP says:

“During the summer of 1950, Stephen Sondheim was an apprentice at Westport Country Playhouse. He worked in a variety of capacities on 14 shows and appeared in a production of “The Life of the Party,” written by the Playhouse’s founder Lawrence Langner. Many of Sondheim’s fellow apprentices that year continued as theater professionals, including composer Mary Rodgers, film director Frank Perry, theatrical agent Peggy Hadley, and Actors’ Equity officer Conard Fowkes.

“Fifteen years after his apprenticeship, Sondheim’s own work appeared on the Playhouse stage with a production of A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum’ (1965). ‘A Little Night Music’ (1975) and ‘Side by Side by Sondheim’ (1978) followed in the next decade.  Most recently, ‘Into the Woods’ (2012) was directed by Mark Lamos, Westport Country Playhouse artistic director.

“’Being Alive!,’ a world premiere conceived and directed by Billy Porter, took the Playhouse stage in 2007, with music and lyrics by Sondheim, who also provided collaborative assistance. The retrospective of Sondheim songs featured Chuck Cooper, Joshua Henry, and Leslie Odom, Jr., among others.

In 2006, the Playhouse honored its illustrious apprentice with a gala tribute performance, “The Ladies Who Sing Sondheim,” with Laura Benanti, Kristin Chenoweth, Barbara Cook, and Patti LuPone, directed by John Doyle.

Lamos said: “The entire Westport Country Playhouse family is deeply saddened to hear of the passing of Stephen Sondheim. I got to know Stephen a bit over the years, mostly socially. He eagerly granted my request to appear in a tribute to Mary Rodgers, who he’d gotten to know while they were both apprentices here. She was our guest of honor when we saluted her father Richard Rodgers at Westport Country Playhouse’s annual gala in 2009.

“Yet when I was directing ‘A Little Night Music’ for Baltimore Center Stage and tried staging a short musical sequence that made no sense to me, I emailed him to ask about it. In minutes, he answered right back. ‘Oh you can cut that. It was something Pat (Birch, the original Broadway choreographer) and Hal (Prince, the legendary director) cooked up, but it’s not needed at all.’

“And just a year ago he graciously agreed to participate in the shooting of a short-form documentary by filmmaker Doug Tirola that celebrates the history of Westport Country Playhouse. In the video clip he wished the Playhouse a happy 90th birthday, then jokingly wished himself the same, since ‘we’re the same age.’ That’s a memory that I find particularly poignant today.”

Stephen Sondheim (crouching, top of photo), during his 1950 apprenticeship. The photo was taken at the Jolly Fisherman restaurant. Also in the photo: future film director Frank Perry (front row, left) and Richard Rodgers’ daughter Mary (2nd row, 4th from left).

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The Artists’ Collective of Westport celebrates the season with a “small works holiday show,” at their Westport Country Playhouse gallery.

An opening reception is set for December 8 (6 to 8 p.m.), with an open house from Thursday to Sunday (December 9-12, 2 to 6 p.m.).

As usual, the works are eclectic, intriguing, inspiring — and fun.

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Sconset Square merchants hosts a holiday stroll this Thursday (December 2, 5:30 to 8 p.m.).

Singers from Staples High School and Greens Farm Academy will entertain. There are events at 5 stores, plus Christopher’s French Crepe Food truck.

At Bungalow, for example, Suzie Kondi showcases her cashmeres and Westport’s Ronit Tarshis her jewels. Christopher LaGuardia of LaGuardia Design Group in the Hamptons will sign books.

Bungalow is part of Sconset Square’s Holiday Stroll.

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Plumed Serpent — the popular bridal and formal gown store in Colonial Green — was damaged in an October fire. It was contained in the front of the store, and no one was hurt.

All merchandise is gone. The store is bare. A sign says “Closed.”

However — thankfully — it’s only temporary. They’re still hosting appointments for current brides, for fittings and pick-ups.

They’re not sure when. But, they assure anxious brides and brides-to-be: They will reopen.

(Photo and hat tip/Molly Alger)

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Today’s “Westport … Naturally” photo features a red-tailed hawk, guarding its prey.

(Photo/Shira Honigstein)

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And finally … on this day in 1777, the first civilian settlement (“pueblo”) in Alta California was founded. Today we know it as San Jose.

Studio Cafe Settles In Sconset Square

Some new restaurants open with a splash. La Plage, Hudson Malone and Basso all appeared during the pandemic, with plenty of well-deserved press.

Others open their doors more quietly.

You may not have heard of Studio Café. It’s hidden in plain sight — inside The Tailored Home, the interiors and furniture design store at Sconset Square. Partners Scott Falciglia and Jhon Ortiz combine design and hospitality. The café showroom and garden all complement each other.

Studio Cafe,in Sconset Square.

That’s by “design.” Scott and Jhon have been inspired by dining experiences around the world. They realized that Westport has a robust restaurant scene, some of them — on the water or downtown — quite picturesque.

There are many cuisines here already. Studio Café adds Spanish flavors. The menu ranges from bacalao-stuffed roasted Navarro peppers with cream sauce  and butternut cream soup with grapefruit pieces to escalivada (roasted vegetable board) and arugula salad. There’s a fresh juice bar, coffee, tea and  baked goods too.

Studio Café is a quiet, comforting corner. The kitchen is small and open to the front counter, making guests feel like they’re “home.” Entertainment is on tap soon.

You can order online too (click here).

As for what to order, Scott recommends:

Breakfast: tortilla española (Spanished baked egg dish with seasoned potato or onion), with a fresh orange juice and latte.

Lunch: Roast asparagus with hummus and tapenade, with classic iced tea.

Afternoon snack: Chai latte and Spanish cheesecake.

(Follow Studio Cafe on Instagram and Facebook: @studiocafect.) 

Sampling Studio Cafe’s fare.

Weather Beginning To Look NOT A Lot Like Christmas

Because this is 2020, Christmas Eve and Day will be treacherous.

Winds will blow from 25 to 35 miles an hour; gusts may howl past 50. The strongest gusts are expected between 2 and 9 a.m.

Rain will pour down — 2 to 4 inches. It will be heaviest in the predawn hours.

With temperatures in the 50s, that means tons of melting snow.

So be prepared for flooding and wet basements, along with downed trees, flying furniture and (of course) power outages.

Sconset Square prepares for Deadman’s Brook to overflow. (Photo/Mark Mathias)

Westport will open its emergency operations center at Fire Department headquarters at 6 p.m. That mirrors Eversource’s start time for their on-call apparatus. They’ve already called in out-of-state help.

Could this be a repeat of Tropical Storm Isaias 4 months ago?

Back then, trees were in full leaf. They acted like sails on a boat, causing most of the uprooted damage.

This time it’s the weakened trees that will fall. Most of the damage this time will come from weak branches that fall — and pine trees.

Be safe. Be smart. And charge your devices.

Merry Christmas!

Menu Moments: What To Eat At Le Penguin

Le Penguin is a perfect spot for date night, dinner with friends, and adult birthday parties (gotta love the giant stuffed penguins and party music).

If you’re willing to forgo the bread basket, a healthy meal is surprisingly easy to put together right from the menu. In the latest installment of our continuing series, Westport nutritionist Heather Bauer serves up her top healthy picks for the popular Sconset Square spot.

Enjoy a warm welcome — and plenty of healthy options — at Le Penguin.

Healthy choice appetizers

  • Fresh baby artichoke salad (vegan)
  • Tuna tartare
  • Appetizer mussels in white wine
  • Boston Bibb salad (vegan)

Healthy choice entrees

  • Grilled salmon
  • Red snapper
  • Grass-fed grilled filet mignon (request no potatoes, sauce on the side, and all veggies instead of potatoes)
  • Entree portion of mussels in white wine (request veggies or salad instead of fries)
  • Appetizer beef carpaccio
  • NOTE: Chicken paillard lightly breaded with panko crust over arugula and parm: This is not on the menu, but it’s one of my favorite entrees at Le Penguin. The chicken is very thin, topped with a ton of arugula and freshly shaved parmesan.

Run Over To Fleet Feet

A new store has opened in Sconset Square. You can drive to its grand opening tomorrow.

Better yet, you can run.

Fleet Feet is family owned and operated — part of a network of specialty running, walking and fitness stores across the country. Owners Dave and Lynn Wright have been (duh) runners for decades. She is recreational; he’s more competitive, running every distance up to marathons (including Boston, New York and Chicago).

Lynn and Dave Wright

They have 2 grown children, and 4 grandchildren — some of whom already run.

Dave worked in retail technology his entire career. After earning his MBA 5 years ago, he began looking for his own business. Everyone always says “do what you love,” so…

From their base in western Massachusetts, they began exploring options. Fleet Feet — which had a store in Longmeadow, where they lived — seemed like a perfect fit.

Two years ago the Wrights began looking for markets in this area with a similar feel to Longmeadow.

But the place had to be more than a good business location. It had to feel like home.

“No cookie-cutter shopping centers,” Dave says. “We wanted a place that felt local and connected to the community.”

After spending a day at Compo Beach in August, they rode their bikes around town. Then they walked Main Street.

Till then, they’d only driven through here, on I-95 or the Merritt. Suddenly, Westport was on their short list.

They discovered Sconset Square accidentally, after searching online for smaller retail spaces. They came down on a beautiful late summer day, and instantly knew it was right.

The small, funky shopping center was just starting a face-lift project. It was affordable, and large enough for the Wrights’ plans.

They loved the landlord. The lease negotiation was short and easy.

Four months later, they opened. Runners have embraced them — even during the coldest days of winter.

“We are excited to see how many people we can help through walking, running and living a healthy lifestyle,” Wright says.

Tomorrow’s grand opening “runs” from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. There’s music, and a fun run/walk (3- or 5-mile routes) at 9 a.m.

Check out the running footwear, apparel and accessories. Learn about injury prevention products, and walk/run programs for every ability.

Oh, yeah: Jr. Deli’s food truck will be there. Whether you’ve run a few miles or driven over, there will be plenty to eat.

Fleet Feet is filled with running gear, and accessories.

Honoring Noel duPont At Sconset Square Stroll

In 1955, Francois duPont opened a jewelry store. Twenty years later, he took it to Main Street.

In 1980, Francois’ son Noel took over the business. It was one of Westport’s go-to places for beautiful items, handsome watches, and of course that quick replacement watch strap or battery.

Noel duPont

A few years ago, Noel moved around the corner to Sconset Square. “He lit up the square with his smile, and his weekly visits to each shop to check in,” says neighbor Tracey Heinemann. He was a constant and beloved presence — always accompanied by his Yorkie-poo Ollie.

Two weeks ago, Noel duPont died suddenly at home. He was 59 years old.

The Staples High School graduate had attended Berklee College of Music. A gifted drummer, he was passionate about the music of his idol, Frank Zappa. He also loved skiing, swimming and hiking in Maine.

He leaves behind his wife of 20 years, Julia, and sons Maxwell and Lucas.

A celebration of Noel’s life is set for Saturday, January 5 (Tavern on Main, 1 to 4 p.m.).

As is sometimes the case, a business cannot survive the death of its owner. Julia is liquidating Francois duPont Jewelers. This weekend and next, all jewelry is 50% off.

It’s a bittersweet time for Noel’s fellow merchants in Sconset Square. They’re busy preparing for next Thursday’s Holiday Stroll. From 5 to 8 p.m. on December 6, the popular shopping center on Myrtle Avenue — nestled between the Post Road, Christ & Holy Trinity and Church Lane — will be filled with holiday singers. The Little Red Waffle Truck will sell food. There are prizes too.

Each store has something special. Swoon offers festive English treats, and shows off seasonal floral deocrations. Bungalow serves aperitifs, along with tarot card readings. Bespoke Designs features champagne and savory snacks. Kerry Rosenthal has festive nibbles and toddies. Roots Salon gives discounts on artwork, and a chance to win a free service.

At Le Penguin there’s happy hour prices, complimentary bar bites, and singer Antoine Blech.

Francois duPont Jewelers, in Sconset Square.

Of course, Francois duPont Jewelers will be open too — for one of its last days.

Amid all the merriment, his many friends will be thinking of the popular, ever-smiling, aptly named Noel duPont.

More Than Just A Bungalow

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

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.

Pic Of The Day #537

Joyce Joiner’s 86-year-old mother is on the move (Photo/Joyce Joiner)

Photo Challenge #135

One mystery was solved with last week’s photo challenge: The image by Seth Schachter showed Dead Man’s (or is it Deadman’s?) Brook, as it runs through Sconset Square before disappearing underneath the Post Road on its way to Imperial Avenue. (Click here for the photo, plus all the correct — and incorrect — guesses.)

But another mystery remains:  Why the name? No one answered that question. If you’ve got a clue, feel free to comment here.

Vanessa Bradford, Rich Stein, Elaine Marino, Michael Brennecke, Don Chambers, Jill Turner Odice, Edward Bloch, Mary Cookman Schmerker and Seth Braunstein all knew exactly what the photo showed. Fred Cantor, Amy Ancel and John Terpening came close — but had the wrong side of the Post Road.

Here is this week’s challenge. If you know where in Westport it is, click “Comments” below.

(Photo/Lynn U. Miller)

[UPDATE] Friday Flashback #36

Sconset Square is seldom in the news. But now — as the small Myrtle Avenue shopping center seems poised for redevelopment — Westporters suddenly see it with new eyes.

It’s been around a long time. Originally called Sherwood Square — a name with far more historical meaning here than the faux-Cape Cod “Sconset” — it included stores like the Paint Bucket, in this 1966 shot.

Click on or hover over to enlarge. (Photo/Peter Barlow)

The view above is toward the west (Church Lane). As photographer Peter Barlow notes, it was an anchor store that sold many kinds of paint, decorating supplies and picture frames.

It also featured an art gallery — and that very cool “palette” sign.

In later years, these buildings became CamerArts. And wasn’t Carousel toys in there at one time too?


UPDATE: 12:25 p.m. After seeing today’s Friday Flashback, Seth Schachter sent along his own Paint Bucket photo. He’s told it’s from the 1950s, but wonders with the wild colors if it may be ’60s-vintage: