Westport is decked out in purple, for Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Week. Through Saturday, Tavern on Main features a violet gin cocktail; LaRouge by Aarti handmade chocolates is donating 10% of sales of purple hand-painted chocolates to Alzheimer’s Connecticut, and Spotted Horse will donate 20% of sales on Thursday, while featuring a specialty Purple People Eater cocktail.
It’s not New Orleans, where music follows you from restaurants and clubs all the way down the street.
And it’s not Italy, where strolling musicians entertain you as you dine.
But every couple of months, Westport comes close.
That’s when the Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce sponsors the unique 3-part “Supper and Soul” series. A $75 ticket covers a 3-course meal at one of 5 downtown restaurants; a concert at Seabury Center, and happy hour pricing for post-concert drinks at any of those 5 places.
The first “Supper and Soul” took place in January. It was a cold night, but the enthusiastic crowd was warmed by the concept, the restaurant hosts and the music.
The next “Supper and Soul” is Saturday, April 28. The headliner is Vanessa Collier, a blues performer known for her charm, passion, soulful voice and searing sax solos.
For the past year Vanessa has toured Europe as a featured artist with Ruf’s Blues Caravan, and North America with her 5-piece band.
The 5 restaurants are 190 Main, Amis, Rothbard Ale + Larder, Spotted Horse and Tavern on Main. Each is an easy walk from Seabury Center.
Dinner begins at 6 p.m. The concert follows at 8.
Tickets are bought online through the Chamber; reservations follow, on a first-come, first-served basis (also through the Chamber). Drinks and tips are not included in the ticket price.
On the one hand, Westport teenagers always complain “there’s nothing to do here!”
On the other hand, they love to eat.
In an effort to convince hungry kids that there are things to do in Westport — like, go to a variety of local restaurants — the Youth Commission has created a Student Discount Partnership.
Working with the Downtown Merchants Association and Chamber of Commerce, commission members have signed nearly 30 restaurants (and 2 businesses: Suited.co and Lux Bond & Green). They offer 10% off for Staples, Weston High and Greens Farms Academy students presenting a school ID. Only 2 places said no.
Participating locations sport a sticker. The eye-catching Minuteman design was created by Staples senior Julia Schorr. Baker Graphics printed 70, for free.
The program began just a couple of weeks ago, with low-key publicity. But participation — and feedback — has been great. Oscar’s, for example, has seen a definite bump in business, from groups of teens.
Oscar’s owner Lee Papageorge gives thumb’s-up to the Youth Commission’s Student Discount Partnership.
A girl reported that she and her friends had a great time at Spotted Horse. They gave everyone a discount, even though a couple of kids forgot their student IDs.
Outside Spotted Horse, with student IDs from Staples, Weston and Greens Farms Academy.
“We wanted to concentrate on home-owned places, where kids could have an impact,” says Youth Commission member Reece Schachne, discussing why members selected restaurants instead of chain stores.
Publicity has come mainly through Instagram (“wycstudentdiscounts” is the handle). Youth Commission co-chair Kyle Ratner is helping coordinate an official launch this week, with announcements on the “Good Morning Staples” TV show, a story in the school newspaper Inklings, and the website westportyouthcommission.org (launching February 9).
You’re probably wondering: Why do Westport students need a discount for anything?
Lower prices are not the main aim, Reece and Kyle say. It’s more about making sure teenagers know they have plenty of things to do, and many places to do it, all around Westport.
Especially if it involves food.
(For more information, click here. Participants in the program include 323, Acqua, Angelina’s, Arezzo, Bartaco, Black Duck, Blue Lemon, Border Grill, Da Pietro’s, Finalmente, Freshii, Garelick & Herbs, Jeera Little Thai Kitchen, Joe’s Pizza, Lux Bond & Green, Mumbai Times, Oscar’s, Planet Pizza, Rizzuto’s, Señor Salsa, SoNo Baking Company, Spotted Horse, Suited.Co, Sweet Frog, The Boathouse, Tutti’s, Villa del Sol, Viva Zapata and Westport Pizzeria. Any restaurant or business interested in joining the program should email email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org)
Not to be outdone by the recent Saugatuck Center redevelopment, downtown is perking up too.
Freshii — offering healthy salads, wraps, burritos and rice bowls — just opened next to Starbucks, in the Parker Harding lot.
And Starbucks itself will soon face competition. Java Coffee & Cafe — offering the “highest quality, custom roasted free trade and/or certified organic” joe; all-natural loose leaf teas and tisanes; a breakfast menu (with 9 varieties of muffins!) and lunches like salads — is taking shape on Church Lane.
Java Coffee & Cafe (Photo/JP Vellotti)
The same crew that turned the nearby dilapidated Sherwood house into the handsome Spotted Horse restaurant has transformed the drab-looking Wild Pear restaurant (and before that, Chef’s Table).
Gone are the front steps, and narrow entry. Plentiful windows promise people-watching, which has made Spotted Horse so popular. The entire facade is warm, inviting — and fits so handsomely with the rest of the street.
Java’s motto is “Wake Up and Live.” When it opens soon, it will wake up its own little corner of downtown.
First it was Dairy Queen — a once-cool high school hangout that faded over time.
Then it was Woody’s, a diner that never caught on. And Swanky Frank’s — not to be confused with its Norwalk “cousin.” And never as popular.
Since Swanky closed in June, Westporters have watched its transformation. And wondered what comes next.
The answer: The Little Barn.
Co-owners Scott Beck and Kevin McHugh — native Westporters — are a month away from opening. Their goal is to be ready before the holidays start.
The Little Barn nears completion.
“Since Kevin sold his shares in The Little Pub in Ridgefield,” we’ve been looking for a great spot to put in a new pub concept,” Scott says.
When they heard Swanky Frank’s was available, they moved quickly.
“We loved the idea of redoing such an iconic building in Westport — particularly because we both grew up here, and spent so much time at DQ,” Scott says.
The cozy fireplace.
The project has been fun. They sourced materials for an “authentic look” from across the country. Now, they’re concentrating on the finishes.
The fireplaces are already in use.
The menu and ambiance is “casual and fun,” says Scott — “just like the concept: a pub in a barn.” The food will be classic pub and comfort food. That means burgers, fish and chips, steak frites, plus healthy options (“lots of salads”), tacos and wraps.
There’s a kids’ menu too.
Between them, Kevin and Scott co-own 4 other restaurants in Fairfield County: Match in SoNo, Grey Goose and The Chelsea in Fairfield, and the Spotted Horse in Westport.
The Horse sparked the recent — and continuing — Church Lane resurrection.
I’m not sure there will be new life along The Little Barn’s stretch of Post Road, between Arby’s and Fortuna’s. But Kevin and Scott have the magic touch.
Last month, I posted a story about an odd plaque in the Westport Y.
Placed near the stairs by the pool, it honored the “William Phelps Eno Memorial Pedestrian Mall.” Inquiring minds wondered not who Eno was — every Westporter knows he’s the Westport businessman and traffic safety pioneer who “invented” the stop sign, pedestrian crosswalk, traffic circle, 1-way street, taxi stand and pedestrian safety island — but rather, what’s up with that “memorial pedestrian mall.”
Here’s a partial answer. It’s straight from Jay Sherwood. Yes, of the Sherwoods.
I grew up at 26 Church Lane (now the Spotted Horse). My bedroom faced the street, and the 3 homes across it.
35 Church Lane — the Krellen house, now called the Gunn House –was just outside Jay Sherwood’s bedroom window.
At Elm and Church Lane was Mr. Krellen’s (sp?), home, which still stands. Next was the Lewis home. In the 1940s and ’50s it was occupied by Miss Lewis (who ran the Educational Toy Store, where Metro Swim later was) and her mother. Next to that was a home with a beauty salon on the 1st floor.
In those days I could peer between the Lewis and Krellen homes, and see the hills west of the Saugatuck (Old Hill section) until Klein’s Stationery built its addition.
The Y grew in size too. First to fall (late ’60s?) was the beauty salon. Then the Lewis home made way for the Weeks Pavilion in the late ’70s. There was supposed to be an outdoor walk from the parking lot off Elm Street to Church Lane. I remember an artist’s rendition of it. But next thing I knew, the “path” was inside the new building (which was built right up to the property line).
The William Phelps Eno plaque.
I do not know why there was a change in plans. Perhaps the owners of 35 Church Lane did not want an open public walkway so close to their property. Funny though: Kids and even older folk always trespassed onto 35 Church, between Church Lane and the parking area in the rear. Either the “Y” was closed or they simply wanted to walk outside. They created havoc with the stone retaining wall. The problem continued until 35’s owners put up a fence along the parking area.
I apologize for posting this so late. It’s been a busy day.
The wooden house next to Terrain — in its Curran Cadillac days, before it was spruced up.
But not as busy as the Historic District Commission’s night will be.
Meeting at 7 this evening (Town Hall, Room 201), they’ll comment on an application from Terrain to demolish the 19th century wooden building at the corner of Crescent Road (opposite the firehouse), and replace it with 9 parking spots.
UPDATE: Apparently the request by Terrain has been withdrawn. Tonight is their 1-year anniversary dinner. Maybe it’s bad form to have a private dinner with New York media on the same night as a teardown request?
But that’s just a warm-up okay. The agenda also includes:
To take such action as the meeting may determine to reconsider waiving the balance of the delay period for a demolition permit application at 44 Spicer Road.
To take such action … to waive the balance of the delay period for a demolition permit application at 60 West Parish Road.
To take such action … to waive the balance of the delay period for a demolition permit application at 12 Harding Lane.
To take such action … to waive the balance of the delay period for a demolition permit application at 6 Rebel Road.
To take such action … to waive the balance of the delay period for a demolition permit application at 46 Partrick Road.
To take such action … to waive the balance of the delay period for a demolition permit application for the house and garage at 8 Compo Hill Avenue c. 1920 identified on the Historic Resources Inventory.
To take such action … to waive the balance of the delay period for a demolition permit application at 35 Church Lane, identified on the Historic Resources Inventory as the Kemper-Gunn House c. 1890.
To take such action … to waive the balance of the delay period for a demolition permit application at 121 Imperial Avenue.
To take such action … to waive the balance of the delay period for a demolition permit application at 28 Turkey Hill Road South.
To take such action … to waive the balance of the delay period for a demolition permit application at 6 Harbor Road.
To take such action … to waive the balance of the delay period for a demolition permit application at 37 Evergreen Parkway, identified on the Historic Resources Inventory c. 1915.
To take such action … to waive the balance of the delay period for a demolition permit application at 4 Jackie Lane.
To take such action … to waive the balance of the delay period for a demolition permit application at One Lantern Hill Road.
To take such action … to waive the balance of the delay period for a demolition permit application at 7 Grist Mill Lane.
To take such action … to waive the balance of the delay period for a demolition permit application at 15 Appletree Trail.
To take such action … to waive the balance of the delay period for a demolition permit application at 28 Maple Avenue.
That’s a lot of work. Afterward, they might want to go out for a beer to relax.
I suggest the Spotted Horse. It’s a nice old building, with lots of ambiance.
Paul Schott of the Westport News called the 60,000-square foot mixed-use complex planned for the site of the current Westport Y “arguably the most far-reaching commercial real estate project planned during the last generation in downtown Westport.”
There’s no “arguably” about it. This is The Big One. A true downtown game changer.
The proposed Bedford Square plan, looking northwest. The new buildings (shown) would replace the current YMCA Weeks Pavilion, and 35 Church Lane.
The development — announced Tuesday — would keep the original Bedford Y. The old Tudor building at the corner of the Post Road and Main Street has, since 1923, defined downtown.
But the Weeks Pavilion — the hideous 1978 addition that, in part because of its unwieldiness, has driven the Y to Mahackeno — would be torn down.
So would 35 Church Lane, an 1890 Queen Anne-style house. That will arouse a lot more sentiment than the lumpy, leaky Weeks Y.
The block — extending out to Elm Street — will be the site of a new “Bedford Square.” Retail, residential, restaurant and office space would ring a large public plaza. Public walkways will tie the entire area in with adjacent downtown areas.
The 30 residential units include 550-square foot studio apartments, on up to 1,800-square foot 2-bedroom homes.
Also planned: a 100-car underground parking garage.
A view of Church Lane, looking east. The current firehouse portion of the Y is at left; Patagonia is on the right.
Construction could start in the fall of 2014 — assuming (a big “if”) the new Y is ready then, and the lengthy town board review process goes smoothly.
Construction is expected to take 18 to 24 months. That would be a chaotic time downtown.
But — judging from the initial rendering — Bedford Square could be a handsome, well-planned, creative and unifying addition to downtown.
Coming as it does while Lou Gagliano’s 2020 Committee is also working to make downtown more pedestrian friendly, the timing seems right.
We’ve seen what the addition of one restaurant (the Spotted Horse) and one retailer (Urban Outfitters) can do to Church Lane. Imagine what an integrated, block-long plan could accomplish.
The Bedford Square plan is definitely — not arguably — “the most far-reaching commercial real estate project planned during the last generation in downtown Westport.”
Let’s hope it works out better than a previous, similarly touted project 60 years ago: Parker Harding Plaza.
Then again, it can’t turn out worse.
Part of the courtyard that would be ringed by new buildings on Church Lane and Elm Street.
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