Tag Archives: The Granola Bar

Roundup: Dance Party, Menorah, Yuki Kitchen …

I’m an idiot.

I posted yesterday’s Roundup story about the Hackett family’s used sports equipment drive — it benefits Leveling the Playing Field, a non-profit that helps youngsters in need — without including where to drop the cleats, balls and more off.

They’ll be at the Granola Bar this Saturday and Sunday (December 10 and 11), from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Click here for a list of items you can donate. You know you’ve got some of it lying unused all around your house!

From left: Max Levitt (Founder of Leveling The Playing Field), Alex Hackett, Daisy Hackett, Chloe Hackett

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Before COVID, Julie Whamond hosted a dance party every year. It was her gift to friends — a way to let off steam during the stressful holiday season.

This year, it’s back.

And it’s better than ever. Julie is using the festivities to raise donations for Westport’s Warm-Up Fund.

The Fund — an initiative of Westport’s Department of Human Services — helps income-qualified residents with their home heating expenses.

The date is next Wednesday (December 14, 7 to 10 p.m.). Julie secured Christ & Holy Trinity Church’s Branson Hall. She hired a DJ.

Now she just needs even more folks to attend. Whether you know Julie or not: You’re invited!

Venmo a $30 (or more) donation: @Julie-Whamond. Wear festive attire. Bring a drink or snack to share. Then party down for the Warm-Up Fund.

Questions? Email Whamondjoy@gmail.com.

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The Westport Police have released arrest reports for the December 1-7 period.

Two people were detained in custody. One was charged with operating a motor vehicle under the influence of drugs or alcohol, failure to obey traffic control signal, and failure to drive in the proper lane.

The other custodial arrest was for conspiracy to commit burglary; oeperating a motor vehicle without a license; failure to renew registration; misuse of plates, and insurance coverage fails to meet minimum requirements.

The following citations were issued:

  • Traveling unreasonably fast: 18
  • Stop sign violation: 4
  • Violation of any traffic commission regulation: 3
  • Operating a motor vehicle without a license: 2
  • Operating an unregistered motor vehicle: 2
  • Failure to display plates: 2
  • Misuse of license plates: 1
  • Insurance coverage fails to meet minimum requirements: 2
  • Following too closely: 1
  • Failure to renew registration: 1

Not a suggestion. A command.

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Longtime ESPN reporter, E60 host Jeremy Schaap — a 1988 Staples High School graduate, and current Westport resident — never shies away from important issues.

He is the lead reporter and narrator of a new film, “The  Survivor.” The documentary examines the 1972 Munich Massacre. That September, terrorists murdered 11 Israeli athletics at the Summer Olympics.

Schapp will screen the film at the Westport Library on Monday (December 12, 7 p.m.). Immediately afterward, the 11-time Emmy Award-winning investigative journalist will host a talkback

Schaap traveled to Israel and Germany to tell the story through the eyes of 86-year-old Israeli race walker Shaul Ladany. He survived the massacre — as he had World War II and the Holocaust, when he was a child.

“In his long life, Shaul Ladany has seen up close the worst of humanity,” says Schaap. “Not only has he survived, he has pressed forward, constantly, to lead a life of achievement. The lessons of his life are valuable to us all. I was honored to be part of the team that told the story of what he endured and what he witnessed. Ladany’s story is not so well-known here in the United States — but it should be.”

The Munich Massacre was the first terrorist attack broadcast live on television around the world. “The Survivor” breaks down the tragedy through archival video and news reports, along with new interviews and reporting.

Jeremy Schaap

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Open Rice — the Chinese food takeout place between Sherwood Diner and Earth Animal — closed in June.

It’s been replaced by Yuki Kitchen. The Japanese food takeout place features sushi, bento boxes, noodles and more. Click here for the menu.

Yuki Kitchen (Photo/Dan Woog)

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What will you do with over 500 pairs of shoes?

If you’re Soles4Souls — the non-profit that collects new and gently used shoes — you’ll distribute them to people in need.

And you’ll do it with Westporters’ help.

This holiday season, Ken Bernhard and Ted Freedman led a drive that collected all those 500-plus shoes here. Collection boxes were placed at Town Hall, police headquarters and the Senior Center.

Ken and Ted thank all who contributed. It’s one small step — now, in proper shoes — to help break the cycle of poverty.

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An outdoor menorah will be lit on December 20 — and everyone is invited.

The event — on the 3rd night of Hanukkah — is set for Weston Center, at 6:15 p.m.

Doing the honors are Rabbi Levi & Chanie Stone, co-directors of the Chabad Schneerson Center. There’s live music too.

Hanukkah gelt and cookies, doughnuts and dreidels will be distributed to all.

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The Westport Rotary Club presented its annual Community Service and Public Protection Awards on Tuesday.

Recipients included artist and homeless advocate Nina Bentley; former Westport 1st Selectman Jim Marpe; RTM veteran Velma Heller; the Westport chapter of the National Charity League (represented by member Lisa Price), and Builders Beyond Borders executive director Amy Schroeder-Riggio.

Firefighter Rob Lenois and police officer Kevin Smith also earned awards for individual acts of heroism.

Nina Bentley receives her Westport Rotary Club award from Karl Mergenthaler and Leslie Roberts. (Photo/Jeff Wieser)

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These women don’t need shoes. Flip-flops are fine.

All year long.

(Photo/Tammy Barry)

They swim every Friday and Sunday — yes, even now.

The water temperature these days is 50 degrees. The air temperature is lower.

It will get a lot lower soon. But they promise to be in the water, when the rest of us are sitting lazily by a fire.

To each her own.

And congrats!

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A concerned reader emailed this photo yesterday:

It shows oil on the Saugatuck River, just below the Cribari Bridge.

“I don’t know where it’s coming from,” he says. “But it’s been there all day.”

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George Billis Gallery is moving again.

After opening on Main Street in late 2020 — in the midst of COVID, the 3rd outpost after New York and Los Angeles — the exhibit space moved to Post Road East.

Next stop: Fairfield. The 1700 Post Road location opens January 1.

“I love Westport. But the rent it too high for permanent space,” owner George Billis says.

He looks forward to welcoming customers to his new gallery. And hopes they’ll stop by before he relocates, for the moving sale going on now.

The first site of George Billis gallery, on Main Street.

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The moon sets every morning. That gets less love from “06880” photographers than when it rises, and hangs high in the sky.

And a lot less love than sunrises and sunsets.

So today’s “Westport … Naturally” photo shines a light on the moonset. It was taken this morning by Matt Murray, and shows Sherwood Mill Pond, looking west toward Hillspoint Road.

(Photo/Matt Murray)

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And finally … Joyce Bryant died recently, in Los Angeles. She was 95, and suffered from Alzheimer’s.

I’d never heard of her. But according to her New York Times obituary, she was :a sultry singer of the 1940s and ’50s who broke racial barriers in nightclubs and raised the hackles of radio censors before setting aside her show business career in favor of missionary work, then reinventing herself as a classical and opera singer,”

Click here for her fascinating life story. Click below to hear a bit of her work:

(Obscure nightclub singers, police reports, menorah lightings, new Japanese restaurants — “06880” brings you all the Roundup news, every day. If you enjoy our work, please click here to contribute. Thank you!)

Roundup: Cross Highway Crash, Used Sports Equipment, Terry Brannigan …

Another accident at the crash-prone Cross Highway/Bayberry Lane intersection sent one person to the hospital just before noon on Monday.

The collision — which closed Bayberry for a while — began when a driver headed toward Fairfield on Cross Highway ran the stop sign. The vehicle slammed into a car headed south on Bayberry. That automobile then hit the front of a car stopped at the northbound Bayberry stop sign.

The motorist who went through the stop sign was treated by EMS and transported to Norwalk Hospital for minor injuries.

The 3-car accident at the intersection of Cross Highway and Bayberry Lane. (Photo/Westport Fire Department)

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Back in 2020, the Hackett family wanted to do something meaningful to give back to those in need.

All avid athletes, they chose a project that connects with them, and their Westport community. (It also helps clear out clutter.)

Working with Leveling the Playing Field — a non-profit organization helps underprivileged youngsters who need sports equipment — they’ll collect new and gently used sports and playground equipment.

They’ll be at the Granola Bar this Saturday and Sunday (December 10 and 11), from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

The Hackett family, with just a few of their many donations.

You must have stuff lying around: cleats, field hockey sticks, lacrosse equipment, bats, ice hockey skates, footballs, softball gloves, soccer shin guards, etc. Click here for a full list of items — you’ll be amazed at what you forgot you have.

So clean out your garages, sheds and basements. It’s time to level the playing field for everyone!

For more information about this amazing organization, click below:

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One of the most important holiday collections is going on right now.

The Westport Domestic Violence Task Force is collecting gift cards for residents of 2 Domestic Violence Crisis Center safe houses.

Gift cards allow survivors the dignity to purchase what they most need or want for their families. Suggested retailers include Stop & Shop, ShopRite, Amazon, Target and Walmart.

Gift cards can be left with the dispatch center in the lobby of the Westport Police Department (50 Jesup Road), between now and December 13.

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Staples High School Class of 2020 graduate Terry Brannigan has many talents.

He’s double majoring in physics and music at Wesleyan University. He’s minoring in IDEAS (Integrated Design, Engineering and Applied Science). He’s a varsity wrestler.

And now — as wrestling season is just ramping up — he’s released a new song.

“Sunshine Serenade” is a blend of musical styles, from metal to R&B. Terry has been working on it — evolving and growing — the song for years.

“It finally bloomed into this rollercoaster that it is now,” he says.

Click here to stream “Sunshine Serenade,” on your favorite platform.

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Amy Schneider snapped today’s “Westport … Naturally” photo behind the Levitt Pavilion.

“What is it?” she wonders.

All I know is: It died long ago.

If you’re more of a naturalist than Amy or I, please click “Comments” below.

(Photo/Amy Schneider)

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And finally … Kirstie Alley — Rebecca on “Cheers,” among many other acting credits — died Monday. She was 71, and had suffered from cancer.

She had quite a full career (click here for her obituary). And when she died, everyone knew her name.

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(“06880” is — we hope — the blogosphere’s version of a neighborhood bar. Please click here to support us. Thank you!)

OMG! Old Mill Grocery Opens Soon

For a couple of months, Westporters gazed longingly at the old Elvira’s/Joey’s by the Shore on Hillspoint Road. A sign promised that the Old Mill Grocery & Deli would open this summer.

(Photo/Matt Murray)

Our long wait is almost over. The new owners have found a great local operator, poised to begin the last week of July.

It will be run by …

…. TGB Hospitality Group.

Doesn’t sound familiar? This will: TGB stands for “The Granola Bar.”

One of Westport’s favorite coffee shop/bakeries takes over one of our town’s most historic properties. For 103 years, the wooden building by Old Mill Beach has served the neighborhood, beachgoers, and everyone else who works or passes through the area.

Previous owners Hal and Betsy Kravitz searched hard for a buyer. They could not find one. Finally — just after they sold all their equipment — a group of nearby residents led by Jim Hood, Ian Warburg, Chris Tait and Emily Ashken Zobl formed a non-profit to buy the building, and keep it as a market/deli.

Done! The newest sign was unveiled yesterday evening. Standing proudly are (from left): Jim Hood, The Granola Bar co-founders Julie Mountain and Dana Noorilly, TGB Hospitality Group director of food and beverage JJ Heanoa, Emily Ashken Zobl. Koda — the Old Mill Grocery dog — sits in front.

Their fundraising was phenomenal. But they’re not pizza chefs and coffee makers.

They met with about 20 potential operators. The Granola Bar was the perfect fit.

Owners Julie Mountain and Dana Noorily have a great reputation. They know and love Westport. They’re pros — but they’re also fun to work with.

They had even thought about buying the building, when it was up for sale last year. But, Julie notes, “we serve food. We’re not in the real estate business.”

Since opening 9 years ago, The Granola Bar has been an integral part of Westport. “We live here. We see the people we serve every day. Our kids are in the schools. These are all our friends, our neighbors,” Mountain notes.

Julie Mountain and Dana Noorily, The Granola Bar co-founders.

Mountain and Noorily have expanded. TGB Hospitality Group now includes 6 restaurants, a catering business, food truck and restaurant consultancy.

But the Old Mill Grocery & Deli will not be The Granola Bar 2.0. It’s forging its own identity.

The “beach food” menu will include pastas, sandwiches, salads, wraps, smashburgers, and fresh fruits, vegetables and bread. TGB baker Rick Dickinson will provide the pizza dough. Breakfast food is both healthy and “indulgent.” There will be meals to please the night crowd too — and charcuterie boards to bring to the beach. (Old Mill Grocery will deliver to the Compo drop-off point, too.)

Plus, of course, ice cream.

Noorily  calls it “an elevated place the serves elevated food.”

“This community saved the building. They’ll get a year-round restaurant and market,” Hood says. (The “market” includes staples like butter, milk, eggs and paper towels.) That’s great news for the 750 homes within a 3/4-mile radius.

Committee members (from left) Ian Warburg, Jim Hood and Emily Ashken Zobl, outside the property they helped save.

“This is not a lift. It’s a full Botox,” Mountain says.

It’s also a fulfillment of the investors’ mission, to provide training and jobs for people with special needs and disabilities.

The new owners have done plenty of due diligence: first creating a non-profit, then purchasing the building, now finding the perfect operators.

In a few days, the next chapter in this historic story begins.

(Old Mill Grocery & Deli hopes to open on or around July 25. Hours are 7 a.m. to 9 p.m, 7 days a week. Click here for more information; follow on Instagram @oldmillgrocery.

(Soundview Empowerment Alliance — the nonprofit organization behind the community effort — seeks donors interested in “naming rights” for major items. They range from an espresso machine and pizza oven to re-shingling and a new roof. For more information email SoundviewEmpowerment@gmail.com.)

(Like Old Mill Grocery, “06880” is a community resource. Please click here to help support this blog.)

“06880” Podcast: Granola Bar’s Julie Mountain & Dana Noorily

The Granola Bar is one of Westport’s liveliest, and most fun, places.

That’s natural. Owners Julie Mountain and Dana Noorily are 2 of our town’s liveliest, and most fun, people.

So it was only natural that they told their stories — and many others — on “06880: The Podcast.”

They dish on how they started, how they grew, why granola?!, Westport’s dining and retail scenes, and other questions Westporters are hungry to know the answer to.

Click below, to feast on Dana and Julie’s comments.

Dave Briggs: Business’ Biggest Booster

For 18 months, COVID has devastated the globe.

It’s also been really good for Westport.

That’s the counterintuitive — but strongly held — view of Dave Briggs.

“People are reluctant to say it. And I’m not downplaying all the damage it’s done, and the lives it’s impacted,” says the longtime Westporter, and former Fox News, NBC Sports and CNN broadcaster.

“But because of COVID, we have hundreds of new residents who love it here. Downtown is being revived. It feels alive. New stores are opening. The vacancy rate is way down.

“There are new restaurants everywhere. There’s so much positive energy all over town.”

Dave Briggs

Briggs says it’s “tragic” that some restaurants and shops did not make it through the pandemic.

For the many that did though, it’s time to do three things.

“Let’s introduce our businesses to our residents, new and old. Let’s help them out, by telling their stories. And let’s celebrate what they’ve done to our town during COVID.”

Briggs is just the guy to do it.

For a number of months he’s parlayed his media background into a series of Instagram Live interviews, with intriguing area residents. Now he’s taking his platform one step further.

Using Instagram Live, Facebook Live (both @DaveBriggsTV), and then archived on his YouTube channel, he’ll highlight local business owners.

Restaurants, retail stores, spas, gyms, services like Vivid-Tek and home stagers — all will be part of his as-yet-unnamed venture. So will businesses like Merican Mule (premium cocktail brand) and Q-Collar (concussion product), which are locally based, yet still low-profile.

First up: The Granola Bar.

“Julie (Mountain) and Dana (Noorily) are two of my favorite business owners,” Briggs says.

“They started from the ground up with a coffee shop, when I’m sure many people said ‘Don’t do it.’ Now they have 5 stores, and a truck. They’ve got a great story.”

Briggs envisions other subjects, including people who are thinking about starting their own business.

He likes the immediacy of Instagram Live and Facebook Live (and knows that different people prefer one over the other). Both offer the ability to ask questions and respond in real time.

Social media is “a small business’s best medium to tell people about themselves,” Briggs says. “But not a lot of owners know how to use it well.”

Dave Briggs does.

Click on. Tune in. And celebrate all the good things that came out of COVID.

(Watch @DaveBriggsTV on Instagram Live and Facebook Live. Got an idea? Email DaveBriggs1976@gamil.com.)

Rick Dickinson Returns

When one door closes, another opens.

For Rick Dickinson, that cliché is true — literally.

Yesterday, the Peter’s Weston Market door closed for the final time.

This morning, it opens at The Granola Bar.

Rick spent the past 7 years running the market’s bakery. But for more than 2 decades before that, he was the much-loved (and very generous) owner of Great Cakes.

Rick Dickinson, with his great Great Cakes goods.

When that iconic bakery across from New Country Toyota closed 7 years ago tomorrow, Westport lost more than a spot to satisfy a sweet tooth and enjoy a leisurely coffee. It lost a business that always gave back to the community, and a businessman who cared deeply about the town.

Rick was Great Cakes. He worked there for 27 of its 32 years — the last 22 as owner.

As Peter’s Weston Market prepared to close, Rick began thinking about Granola Bar co-owner Julie Mountain. He called, asking if they needed help.

She was stunned. Julie and fellow owner Dana Noorily had just been talking about doing more with their baked goods.

The 3 met at the popular Playhouse Square café. Rapport was instant. “We had the same ideas. And we laughed a lot,” Rick says.

He quickly said: “I’m 150 percent in.”

They quickly said: “Great. You’ll start Monday!”

So Rick is already on the job. Unfortunately, he can’t whip up his new additions to the Granola Bar menu — challah, cakes, cookies, cupcakes, brownies — justlikethat.

Julie and Dana have already purchased a challah maker (from Peter’s). But other equipment is needed.

Items will be added gradually. Challah, he promises, is first.

Coming soon: new bakery items on The Granola Bar menu.

Rick is working out of Westport, supplying it and the 4 other Granola Bar locations (Fairfield, Stamford, Greenwich and Rye).

“Julie and Dana have such a successful business already,” he says. “This is a win-win for all of us. I haven’t been this excited in years. I feel like I’m coming home.”

Welcome home, Rick Dickinson.

And don’t let the door hit you on the way in.

Roundup: Granola Bar, Pruning, Pups, More

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When COVID hit, restaurants needed fast, to-go-friendly food. The Granola Bar scaled back their menu.

Many customers missed their oatmeal and turkey chili.

Great news: They’re back!

So is the kids’ menu. And the expanded bakery now includes cookie dough brownies, plus paleo and traditional chocolate chunk cookies.

There are specials each week. Coming soon: a robust catering department.

The Granola Bar has closed down their  pop-up taco bar. But more evening pop-ups will be announced soon. Follow @thegranolabar on Instagram for details.

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Pruning a tree, and raising a dog.

They’re all in a day’s work — well, 2 — at Wakeman Town Farm.

On February 8 (7 p.m.), master gardener/composter and Westport Garden Club civics chair Nathalie Fonteyne Gavrilovic offers the fundamentals of pruning. She’ll cover techniques, tools and timing. Click here to register.

On March 8 (7 p.m., Zoom), Dr. Jessica Melman discusses diet, crate training, vaccination schedules, flea/tick/heartworm prevention, common house hazards and more. She’ll answer questions too.

It’s perfect for all the new pandemic puppy owners. Click here to register.

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As a junior on the Boston College women’s rowing team, 2018 Staples High School graduate Brooke Schwab has spent more hours than she can count on the erg machine. It’s the workout rowers love to hate.

But today (Tuesday, January 26), she’ll erg 100,000 meters — with joy (and sweat).

A usual BC workout is 2,000 meters — 5,000 tops. These 100,000 meters — equivalent to 63 miles — will take 10 to 12 hours to complete.

The goal is to raise money for pancreatic cancer research, through the Jimmy Fund and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.

She’s honoring a close family friend, who was diagnosed last year at just 18.

Brooke is doing the heavy lifting — er, rowing. To do the easy thing — contribute — click here.

Brooke Schwab

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Published today: “The Attributes: 25 Hidden Drivers of Optimal Performance.”

Author Rich Diviney — a 1991 Staples High School graduate — is a retired Navy SEAL commander. In 20-plus years, he completed more than 13 overseas deployments — 11 to Iraq and Afghanistan. He was intimately involved in the SEAL selection process, whittling a group of exceptional candidates down to small cadre of the most elite.

His new book examines what it takes to be those optimal performers.

Diviney was often surprised by which candidates washed out and which succeeded. Some had all the right skills yet failed; others he might have initially dismissed rose to the top.

Seemingly objective criteria did not tell him who would succeed in the toughest military assignments. It is just as hard to predict success in the “real world.”

Diviney explores the lessons he’s learned about attributes –including cunning, adaptability, courage, even narcissism — that determine resilience, perseverance. situational awareness and conscientiousness.

He shares stories from the military, business, sports, relationships and parenting.

Click here for more information. (Hat tip: Celia Offir)

Rich Diviney

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Many Americans honored Martin Luther King last week. STAR Lighting the Way is celebrating him all year.

The non-profit — which serves people of all ages impacted by intellectual and developmental disabilities, and their families — is collaborating this year with Open Doors Shelter and Person-to-Person. Together, the organizations will address local food insecurity and hunger.

Volunteers will collaborate with STAR clients to prepare, deliver and serve hot meals to Open Doors Shelter, and collect non-perishable food to deliver to Person-to-Person.

The first meals were prepared by chef Luis Solis, owner of Don Carmelo’s. Dessert came from Sweet P Bakery in Norwalk, founded by Westporters Bill and Andrea Pecoriello. Both institutions are longtime STAR cooking class supporters.

The initiative was launched on the MLK Day of Service. Officials lauded a $20,000 grant from The Arc-US and AmeriCorps, to help the effort.

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Karen Veronica — founder of Bread & Roses, the AIDS care center in Georgetown — died yesterday at her home in Ohio.

Her path to helping hundreds of people — at a time when many communities turned backs on them — began when her ex-husband contracted AIDS.

She, his lover and her 2 teen-age daughters — students at Staples High School — cared for him during the 18-month illness that kept him bed-ridden until his death in 1988.

Her grief turned to activism. Bread & Roses opened the next year. Click here for Jarret Liotta’s story on her impact from the New York Times.

Karen Veronica

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Bernie Sanders continues to hang around town.

Now he’s waiting impatiently for the start of Westport Country Playhouse’s 2021 season.

(Meme courtesy of Bruce Miller)

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And finally … today is Australia Day. (Well, it is still January 26 in the US. In Australia, it’s already tomorrow.)

The holiday marks the 1788 arrival of the First Fleet at Port Jackson in New South Wales, and the raising of the British flag at Sydney Cove by Arthur Phillip. Aboard the ships: 750 British prisoners, and 250 military men.

 

Zac Mathias: Young Influencer With Flair

Zac Mathias jokes that he’s “homeschooled at The Granola Bar.”

He’s not. But the Weston High School junior is clearly a unique young man.

True, he spends a lot of time at the popular Playhouse Square spot. He’s also a regular at nearby Pure Barre.

Zac Mathias at Pure Barre.

If you follow Zac on Instagram. you know that already. And you’re not alone. Zac has 15,000 followers. He’s one of the area’s top social media influencers.

He posts — several times a day — with a focus on lifestyle and design. Clothes, beauty, skincare, furniture — if it’s chic, cool and/or helps you live better, Zac will let you know about it.

But he’s not all lipsticks and lotions. Zac also delves into politics, and LGBTQ issues.

As I said: He is not your average 11th grader.

Zac is passionate about what he does. And he discovered his passion early. At 5 years old, he rearranged his parents’ house. (A babysitter helped.)

He soon started designing for his friends — and his friends’ mothers. He got ideas from magazines, but trusted his intuition. It served him well.

It’s not easy being different. Zac was bullied. Fifth grade was the worst, he says. But his teacher let him stay inside during recess — and asked him to rearrange the room.

“Weston is small,” Zac says. “You’re with the same 200 kids from kindergarten on.” But he had plenty of “kind” friends, and they’re still tight. As he — and his classmates — have grown, many have recognized his gifts.

Zac Mathias

Zac always followed his dream. The summer after 7th grade, he interned at Dovecote. Owner Sarah Kaplan — who knew him from his fledgling Instagram presence — “embraced me,” he says. He worked with store stylist Ronny Carroll, learning all about artwork, accessories and more. Sarah gave him plenty of responsibility, including helping customers.

In 8th grade, Zac focused on social media. Businesses asked him to feature them.

He moved from designer to marketer to connector. Now he’s a bona fide influencer.

Zac is grateful for the opportunities he’s had (and created for himself). “I’ve met amazing people,” he says. “Coming from a small school where being different makes you ‘odd,’ I’ve been able to connect with so many other people.”

The other day, a woman whose 9-year-old is being bullied contacted Zac. He met the youngster. “It meant a lot to them to see me living my life,” he says proudly.

As for pride: Zac is a founding member of Westport Pride, a new LGBTQ organization. He looks forward to getting involved in activities like designing a rainbow crosswalk. He’s previously worked with the Triangle Community Center and Trevor Project.

Zac Mathias with shampoo by Better Natured, a Fairfield County company. Part of the proceeds from sales of his t-shirt support the Trevor Project, a suicide prevention effort for LGBTQ youth.

Local — as in, Fairfield County — is Zac’s focus right now. He highlights area businesses, not big brands. That’s why he hangs out at The Granola Bar. “It’s not Starbucks,” he explains. “You’re handed your coffee by someone in the community. Dana and Julie (the owners) are right there for you.”

In fact, Zac says no to “90% of the offers I get. Whoever I work with has to be the right fit. And if I like them, but let’s say the shoes are ugly, I’ll say that too.”

His father taught him an important business tenet: Never say a quick no. He cites one example: He kept communication open with a brand whose packaging he did not like. But he tried the product, and liked it. He gave advice on repackaging; now they are partners.

This summer, Zac posted some political thoughts. (You don’t need to guess who he supported for the White House.) If he lost any followers because of his stands, he says, “they weren’t the right followers. There are other followers who have different views than mine. We get along fine, beyond politics.”

He’s branching out too. Recently, Zac posted about his driver’s permit test. “I want people to laugh,” he says.

But it is “classic chic” that he most focuses on. He leans toward any product or service that lets someone be “unapologetically yourself.” That can be a handbag or shoes, he says. It can also be almond milk. It’s all about lifestyle, and fostering a community, an environment.”

Though Weston is small — and Westport is not exactly a metropolis — Zac like the area. “There are so many creative people here. They’re doing good things, with a big footprint. There’s a lot of opportunity.”

Zac Mathias at one of his favorite spots: The Granola Bar. (Photos/Julia Dags)

What’s next? Zac is working on a new project with a young woman from Massachusetts. He could see branching out to his own product line, or perhaps a reality show.

“The sky’s the limit,” he says confidently. “I could be the gay Martha Stewart — minus the jail time.”

(You can follow Zac on Instagram: @zac.mathias.)

Granola Tacos

Now in its 8th year, The Granola Bar is a Westport icon.

The Playhouse Square spot — which also offers coffee, smoothies, salads, wraps and more — has spawned 4 other locations (Fairfield, Stamford, Greenwich, Rye), and a booming catering business.

But no place is immune to COVID-19. The Granola Bar shut down early in the pandemic. When it reopened in May, owners Julie Mountain and Dana Noorily realized their business was solid from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. After that though, it flagged.

They were paying rent, and had fixed costs, for much longer than those 8 hours. Their executive chef, Neil Rohricht, is “amazing,” Mountain says.

So the owners asked themselves: “What does Westport need, and what would we be really good at?”

The answer: tacos!

Which is why The Granola Bar has introduced The Taco Bar.

From 4 to 8 p.m., 7 days a week, Westporters are scarfing up tacos (carnitas, pollo asado, papas con chorizo, pork belly pastor,, carne asada, charred cauliflower and vegan gringo), burritos (cali, mixtos, original), sides (guac, queso, chips, rice and frijoles borracho), and taco packs. Those include 12 “build your own” tacos, and a family dinner kit with a choice of 3 varieties). “Parents really appreciate the ease of feeding their families,” Mountain says.

A few of the Taco Bar’s items.

Like The Granola Bar, The Taco Bar is all takeout or delivery. There is no in-restaurant dining.

“Parents really appreciate the ease of feeding their families,” Mountain says. “And the deliciousness.

“We’re doing this with quality. We’re not just throwing something in a taco shell.”

Which is why — at The Taco Bar at The Granola Bar — you won’t  “granola tacos” on the menu.

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