What’s up with Steve Silver’s plan to open a vendors’ bazaar in his former gift-and-luggage store Compo Acres space?
Steve is shooting for April 1 — no foolin’! — as the target date for his innovative venture. He’s already heard from 20 local vendors, but there’s room for more.
Steve Silver in his former gift-and-luggage store. Soon, the space behind him will be filled with artists and entrepreneurs.
Artisans of all kinds — painters, jewelry makers, scarf designers, you name it — as well as entrepreneurs with ideas they’d like to test; people with a product to sell; mom-and-pops that need a smaller space…all are welcome.
“Whether you have 1 item or 100, this will be Westport’s small business refuge,” Steve says. “It’s got the power of an energetic group, uniting for a great cause. The possibilities are endless!”
Local artists or entrepreneurs interested in a space can contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
And — because this is truly a crowd-sourcing venture — even the name is up for grabs. “Silver’s Bazaar” is not set in stone. If you’ve got a better idea, email email@example.com.
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 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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. Want to know more as a small businessperson? Email email@example.com.)
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 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.
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 (firstname.lastname@example.org); leasing agent is Eliot Fierberg (email@example.com), and COO is Michael Makinen (firstname.lastname@example.org).
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