Tag Archives: Silver of Westport

A “Bazaar” New Life For Silver’s?

When Silver’s closed for good on Saturday — after more than 6 decades in Westport — it seemed liked the end of one more important, beloved and unique mom-and-pop store.

But there may be life left in the Compo Acres store after all. And that could be very good news for many other mom-and-pops (plus everyone else) indeed.

Steve Silver, in the store that bears his name.

Steve Silver, in the store that bears his name.

Steve Silver has 15 years left on his lease. He’s excited by the idea of reconfiguring his 2900-square foot store into a funky, fun and very original “Westport Bazaar.”

The idea — developed with Betsy Pollak, and refined by Gary Cosgrave — was to offer shared space to anyone with one-of-a-kind products to sell. Jewelry, vintage goods, gifts, candy, scarves, canes, artwork, handcrafted belt buckles — all could be sold at small counters or kiosks.

A couple of dozen artisans/merchants would share Steve’s space. Some would be small businesspeople who have been forced out of storefronts by rising rents (or fear they soon will be). Others would be folks who up to now have worked out of their homes (or dreamed of doing so).

It’s the kind of place where a small jewelry-maker could even place 2 or 3 pieces in someone else’s showcase.

In Steve Silver's plan, shelves of gifts and luggage would be replaced by stalls filled with jewelry, vintage goods and other unique items.

In Steve Silver’s plan, shelves of gifts and luggage would be replaced by stalls filled with jewelry, vintage goods and other unique items.

The “Westport Bazaar” would be run like a co-op. Fees would be based on a consignment model. All who have space would be asked to provide a certain number of work hours. Each person’s energy — and talents — would help the venture as a whole.

Steve’s idea has created tremendous excitement among Westport’s entrepreneurial, creative mom-and-pop class. But to make it work, he needs 3 things:

  • An architect who can take existing CAD drawings, and show in the plan all elements needed in the remodel
  • A lawyer who can help expedite the plan with the landlord
  • A couple of investor/angels, or low-cost effective help in the startup phase.

This is a win-win-win for Westport. Mom-and-pops and creative types will have an outlet for their goods. Shoppers will have a new, 1-stop spot for merchandise they can’t find anywhere else. Compo Acres will keep a valuable, traffic-driving tenant.

It’s a “bazaar” story that truly makes a lot of sense.

(Interested in helping out as an architect, attorney or investor/angel? Email steve@silverofwestport.net. Want to know more as a small businessperson? Email betsy@ourtowncrier.com.) 

Remembering Top Drawer

While it did not have the townwide presence of a Silver’s or Max’s Art Supplies, Top Drawer joins those 2 venerable businesses on an unenviable list: “Closed.”

The women’s clothing store in the small Post Road strip mall by North Maple Avenue (across from the Shell station and Athletic Shoe Factory) shuts its doors for good today. It’s been in Westport for over 30 years.

Longtime customer Marcia Falk said, “They filled a niche of personal service and old-fashioned caring that is going the way of dinosaurs.

“They sent thank-you cards for shopping to their customers. You can’t hold back the clock, but you sure can think back fondly to when local stores and local people were the retail backbone of a community.”

Top Drawer. When this Google Street View photo was taken, the Boat Locker was next door.

Top Drawer. When this Google Street View photo was taken, the Boat Locker was next door.

Steve Silver: Compo Acres Is Open For Business!

There’s never a good time for a commercial property owner to do a major renovation.

But there is a worst time: the holiday shopping season.

Steve Silver has lived or worked here his entire life. He and his sister Sue have a combined 70 years’ experience with Silver of Westport, the store their father founded in 1951. It’s the oldest continually operating store in town.

Their lease in Compo Acres Shopping Center has 16 years to go. Since April, though, they’ve been looking for someone to join them, or take over their luggage and gifts store. Nearing retirement, they want fresh ideas (and legs).

April is when construction began on the center. Steve says their landlord — Equity One — “seems to be doing everything possible to make our business fail.”

The company — which owns 2 other shopping centers in town — has simultaneously blasted and reshaped the back hill into level parking spaces; installed new sidewalks  and curbs around the building, and gutted 2 stores for new tenants.

The front of Compo Acres Shopping Center...

The front of Compo Acres Shopping Center…

The results will be nice, but timing is everything. Compo Acres has been a mess for 7 months. And Equity One plans to continue work straight through Christmas.

The Silvers — and several other tenants — asked for a break from November 1 through December 25. That’s the period when most businesses make most of their money. The landlord said no.

“We all love what we do here,” Steve says. “Our staff has stayed with us for over 15 years. Endless numbers of young people pass through here every Christmas, helping us. Many of them come back to visit, and remember their experience.”

Silver of Westport has supported nearly every charity that knocks on their door. That’s what locally owned businesses do. Steve himself was a 33-year United Way volunteer, and chaired 2 preschools.

“I always hear about mom-and-pop businesses failing,” Steve says. “I want people to know that it is landlords you have to look at — well, at least Equity One. And if nothing happens here, Equity One — which has already forced out businesses at Fresh Market center — needs to know how much Westporters care about their hometown.”

...and the rear.

…and the rear.

In 1963, Silver’s burned to the ground. Townspeople, fellow merchants — and a caring landlord — helped Steve and Sue’s father get back on his feet.

Silver’s asks area shoppers to help them and their retail neighbors out this holiday season. Ignore the parking mess. Ignore the scaffolding that makes it seem like the shopping center is closed.

Instead, help support the many local businesses that make Westport what it is.

And, if you’d like, contact Equity One to ask for a holiday season without hassles. Project coordinator is Michael Lai (mlai@equityone.net); leasing agent is Eliot Fierberg (efierberg@equityone.net), and COO is Michael Makinen (mmakinen@equityone.net).

Stop And Shop Here

Here is what I did not do on (aptly named)  “Black Friday”:

  • I did not pepper-spray fellow shoppers to keep them from an Xbox I wanted.
  • I did not get into fistfights, or stab anyone.
  • I did not shoot anyone in a parking lot.

All that happened at Walmarts, from Milford, Connecticut to California.

Thank god we don’t have a Walmart in Westport.  Though, Lord knows, the soon-to-be vacant YMCA would be a great spot for one.  Talk about bringing action to downtown!

While Westport stores did not open at 10 p.m. Thanksgiving Day — we may be crazy about shopping, but we’re not lunatics — Main Street was mildly to moderately packed this weekend.  I didn’t see anyone I knew, though.  Maybe Yogi Berra was right:  Nobody goes there anymore.  It’s too crowded.

Thanksgiving weekend in downtown Westport.

I’m not sure what attracts out-of-towners to downtown Westport.  Banana Republic, Eileen Fisher, The Gap, J. Crew, Pottery Barn — those are not exactly unique stores.

Of course, there are plenty of local businesses.  And just as the farmers’ market focuses attention on home-grown bounty, this shopping season should spotlight Westport merchants.

No, Mitchell’s doesn’t weave its own cloth.  But here’s what they do:  They always step up to support Westport organizations.  Buy an ad for our program book?  Donate something to our auction?  Help out a kid in need, with no public recognition?

Sure!  Just tell us what you need! says Bill, Jack or any of the 3rd-generation Mitchells now running the store.

When was the last time — to pick a name out of a hat —  Brooks Brothers did something like that?

Steve Silver, in the store that bears his name.

Same with Silver’s.  And Silver Ribbon.  And Sally’s Place.  Think of how many times you’ve seen their ads in programs.  They support school plays, sports teams, every fundraising effort imaginable.

The farmer’s market supports local, sustainable agriculture.  This holiday season, let’s support local, sustainable businesses.

We don’t do all our shopping at farmer’s markets, of course.  Sometimes we go Stop & Shop.

You won’t find every gift at a locally owned store.  If you were to get me, say, a gift certificate for books, I’d recommend Barnes & Noble — it’s close, convenient, and we long ago drove every independent bookstore out of town.

All I’m saying is, stop before you shop.  This month, think about supporting the Westport merchants who, month after month and year after year, support Westport.

Just stay away from Walmart.  You may not make it out alive.