Tag Archives: Westport Downtown Merchants Association

Roundup: Michael J. Fox, Big Bucks, Downtown Dollars, More



Two days after the high school sports governing body pushed the start of interscholastic winter sports back to January 19, Governor Lamont did the same for youth teams.

His order — effective Monday — ends club team practices, games and tournaments, indoors and outdoors, for the next 2 months. Several COVID outbreaks have been traced back to youth sports.

Youth basketball has been played in Westport since the early 1900s. This was an early YMCA team. It — and all other kids’ sports — have been canceled through January 19.


The other night, Ian O’Malley’s Ring app notified him there was a visitor at his Greens Farms-area door.

The Westport realtor and New York radio personality was not expecting anyone.

“He was a lot bigger than he looks” (below), Ian reports:

He was not the only buck hanging around. James Chantler Brown has seen this handsome animal several times in the past few days, off Whitney Street:


Speaking of big bucks: The Westport Downtown Merchants Association has just launched “Downtown Dollars.”

The goal of the digital gift card is to encourage local shopping. Purchasers can write a personal message on the card, and send it to family, friends and colleagues by email, text, even physically (!).  

Click here to purchase; then scroll down for a list of participating merchants.


David Krasne has created a Google spreadsheet that tracks daily coronavirus updates in Connecticut. Each tab reflects a different town in southern Fairfield County.

David also tracks the rolling 7-day and 14-day average new case rates, per 100,000 population. Click here to see Westport; click other tabs at the bottom of the page.


Two years ago, Westporter Andrew Goldman launched an independent podcast, “The Originals.”

In April — with his interview with “The Nanny” Fran Drescher — it became the Los Angeles Times‘ only official podcast. Since then he’s chatted with Danny DeVito, Joan Collins, Barry Sonnenfeld and many others.

Goldman’s most recent guest is Michael J. Fox.

The episode is “different and more personal than any I’ve done,” he says. Goldman begins by talking about his “almost inconceivable privilege” — but admits he is still not particularly happy.

Fox, of course, has many more reasons to despair. His Parkinson’s is increasing; a recent accident took away his ability to walk, and send him into depression.

Yet the actor found a way to rekindle his optimism. His message is inspiring — and particularly meaningful at this unlike-any-other-holiday time.

Click here to listen.

 

Michael J. Fox’s book was released this week.


Gabriel Marous is a Westporter teenager, Pierrepont School student and Saugatuck Rowing Club racer.

He’s also seen the effects the coronavirus has had on area residents. So, with 2 friends, he formed the North Stamford Youth Action Group.

Their first initiative — a drive-through food pantry — helped them feed 33 families. A second one is set for this Sunday (November 22). With the holidays coming, the need is even greater.

To help, email digital gift cards from a local grocery story to contact.NSYAG@gmail.com. You can also search for Cash App under the name “NSYAG.” To volunteer, use the email address above or call 203-744-9796.

Gabriel Marous


Fourteen Staples High School seniors have been named National Merit Scholarship semifinalists. They are among more than 1.5 million students who took the PSAT exam. Congratulations to:

Back row (from left): Alexander Toglia, Simon Rubin, Sebastian Montoulieu, Rishabh Mandayam. Front: Charoltte Zhang, Mira Mahendru, Gary Lu, Lucas Lieberman, Frederick Linn.

(From left): Elana Atlas, Reed Caney, Mohit Gupta, Hannah Even. Missing: Max Montoya.


And finally … 35 years ago today, Microsoft unleashed Windows 1.0 on the world.

Roundup: Real Estate, Good Deeds, More


We all sense it. Now we have proof.

Jason Mudd of Cindy Raney & Co. realtors sends a Bloomberg statistic: This fall, Fairfield County had the fastest-rising real estate prices in the country.

Sales rose 80% in September county-wide from a year before. The median home price increased by 33%.

Westport saw a 72% rise in all sales, from January 1 through October 27, 2020, compared to the same time frame a year earlier. It was highest (135%) in the $2 million-plus price range.

Jason hears the same thing as realtors all over town: As quarantine cases increase, buyers (many from New York City) want more space — in their yards, and in their ability to work from home.

They want good schools for their children — and room for their kids to spread out, if they need to learn remotely.

Interestingly, open floor plans are not always the most popular. With families increasingly confined to their homes, “nooks and crannies” enable people to separate from family members for privacy.

Westport is attractive for many reasons, Jason says, beyond space and schools. There’s a vibrant restaurant scene. Plenty of shopping.

Another selling point: proximity to New York. Though the railroad station parking lot seems abandoned, the ease of hopping a train to the city is a big selling point for our town.

Plus it’s just a really pretty place, with tons of great people. But we already knew that.


Among the many people moving from New York to Westport (see above) is Maxx Crowley.

It’s a return home. His father Steve is the longtime owner of SCA Crowley Real Estate Services, and Maxx has joined the family business.

He’s also a new Westport Downtown Merchants Association board member. It did not take him long to help beautify Main Street and environs. He and his dad helped repurpose the summer barrels.

They’re also providing the holiday community tree. It goes up tomorrow, just outside Savvy + Grace.


Just in time for the holiday season: Good Deeds.

Westporter Bill Pecoriello launched the cashback app on Tuesday.

Good Deeds lets shoppers earn cash back while accessing their favorite brands and retailers, then automatically give some or all of those earnings as donations to the causes and nonprofits they care about.

Bill created the app after facing challenges raising funds for his nonprofit Sweet P Bakery, and The Porch to sell those baked goods. For more information, click here.


For 3 decades, ABC News correspondent and anchor Jay Schadler reported around the globe for “20/20,” “Good Morning America,” “Nightline” and “World News Tonight.”

He hitchhiked 20,000 miles across America.

On Tuesday, December 8 (7 p.m.) he lands in Westport.

Virtually, anyway. The Westport Library and “Live at Lincoln Center” producer Andrew Wilk team up for this online presentation.

“I come not as a teacher or a guide, but as a fellow traveler who’s still somewhere between being lost and finding his way home,” Schadler says.

Wilk adds, “I worked with Jay when he anchored the National Geographic Channel. I developed great admiration for his talent as a storyteller. Storytelling is at the heart of what we do in television. There aren’t many in Jay’s league.”

Click here to register for the free event.

Andrew Wilk (left) and Jay Schadler.


 

And finally … On this day in November 19, Abraham Lincoln delivered the Gettysburg Address. In just 271 words — at a time when the nation’s very existence was in doubt — the president reminded listeners of our highest ideals.

He concluded by urging “that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

 

An Artsy Saturday

Who says Westport is no longer an artists’ colony?

Yesterday, store windows all across town were transformed into Halloween-worthy works of art.

The paintings were done by local youngsters. The Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce sponsored the event — which was also a contest. MoCA’s Anne Greenberg and Ruth Mannes judged the windows today. Winners will be announced tomorrow.

Calvin Carreras (1st grade, center) was helped by Julian Carreras and Aaron Slomich.

Elsie Mergenthaler (6th grade)

Julia Natarajan (3rd grade)

Sally Nathan

Sophie Jacques (6th grade)

Meanwhile, over at MoCA, Westport artist Trace Burroughs led families as they pained an 8’10” x 20′ canvas. It was part of the the Guinness Book’s world’s largest abstract painting.

The style was all Jackson Pollock. And that’s who held the previous record!

Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce director Matthew Mandell (left) helping validate the painting’s size …

… while young artists work …

… and the finished product!

Roundup: Pumpkinfest, Hoops, Compo Beach, More


What’s new on Main Street?

Hundreds of pumpkins, pounds and pounds of apples, and bushels of art supplies.

It’s all part of Sunday’s “Pumpkinfest” (October 25, 10:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.)

Thanks to he Westport Downtown Merchants Association, Parks & Recreation Department and Westport PAL, hundreds of (costumed) families will have a chance to decorate pumpkins, take selfies in front of hand-painted backdrops (created by the Artists Collective of Westport, MoCA Westport and One River), and take home delicious (well, Cortland orchard) apples, courtesy of Camp Playland.

Pre-registration was required — and space was quickly filled. Earth Animal stepped up to underwrite an extra session, for 30 more families.

Families that want to gamble can stop by, in case there are last-minute openings.

The event is also the inauguration of a new program: Downtown Dollars. Gift cards for local stores will be awarded to families with the most creative pumpkins.

For more information, click here.


First, March Madness fell victim to COVID. Then the major sports leagues. High school spring sports were canceled — and so was 11-man football this fall.

Now comes news that one of the best sporting events on the planet — Westport Parks & Rec youth basketball — will not be played this winter either.

The department is following recommendations of the state Department of Public Health. They categorize indoor basketball as “moderate risk,” and suggest no team play.

In addition, Parks & Rec does not have access to the school facilities used for the program, director Jen Fava says.

She adds:

We understand this may be disappointing for some, but we must put the health and safety of our youth, and the community as a whole above all else. With the current rise in cases, events moving inside for the winter months and several upcoming holidays, there is uncertainty about what lies ahead. Adding a basketball league is an additional risk we feel should not be taken at this time.

Fava said that Parks & Rec is looking into alternative programs. Some basketball might be played if the DPH changes its recommendations, and school facilities become available.


This is a normal scene — in May, June, July or August.

Late October: not so much.

The beach sweeping crew was out yesterday, as the temperature neared 80.

(Photo/Chip Stephens)

Temperatures will still be in the 60s today and tomorrow. Everyone into the pool!


Tickets are still available for this Saturday’s “Show of Shows” (October 24, 7 p.m.), livestreamed from the Westport Library.

The great David Pogue MCs. Award-winning producer Andrew Wilk is the (very) creative director.

The show includes local personalities, comedy sketches, musical numbers with unexpected twists, and more.

Click here for information and tickets.


Westport Masks — the volunteer effort begun in the early days of the pandemic — has now made over 5,300 face coverings.

Thanks to sales, they’ve donated $1,500 to local food banks.

And they’re still going strong.

Tomorrow (Saturday, October 24) they’ll have their first pop-up shop mask sale. It’s at 19 Center Street (the corner of Brightfield Lane). Stop by — to keep yourself safe, and your neighbors fed.


And finally … yesterday was the 75th birthday of the Rascals’ Eddie Brigati. The vocalist/tambourine player helped write “I’ve Been Lonely Too Long,” “Groovin’,” “How Can I Be Sure” — and this classic:  

Roundup: Munchkins, Drugs, Halloween, More


Hey, Westport kids (age 5 to 13 ). If you’ve wanted to be in an amazing Staples Players production, here’s your chance!

Players’ radio theatre kicks off with “The Wizard of Oz” this Sunday (October 25, 6 p.m.) — and they want to hear your best munchkin voice.

Send a recording of you saying “follow the yellow brick road!” (munchkin-style). Players’ senior officers will pick 5 winners. Those recordings will be played on air during the live “Wizard of Oz” broadcast. (Click here for details.)

Winners also receive a $10 gift card to Saugatuck Sweets.

Click here, then click the blue “Submit Recording for Munchkin” button to upload your file. Include your name and phone number in the recording. The deadline is 6 p.m. Friday (October 23).

Need inspiration? Click below.


This Saturday (October 24) is National Prescription Drug Take Back Day.

You can celebrate with the Westport Police Department. From 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., they’ll be at the Senior Center collecting unused and/or outdated pills and patches. Vape pens are okay if the batteries can be removed.

If the vape pen battery cannot be removed, try an electronics chain store. Also not accepted on Saturday: liquids, needles and sharps.

The service is free and anonymous — no questions asked. For more information, click here.

PS: A year-round collection bin is located in the lobby of Westport Police headquarters. Prescription drugs can be properly disposed of there at any time.


The good news is: This Saturday  (October 24) over 100 Westport kids will take part in the 10th annual Window Painting Contest. They’ll vie for prizes in 3 categories: Scariest Artwork, Best Halloween Theme, and Most Original.

The more good news; 48 businesses all around town — shops, restaurants, services, delis, fitness centers and more — have offered up their windows.

The bad news: That’s not enough. The sponsoring Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce needs at least 20 more, to fill the demand.

They plead: Please donate your business window! You’ll do the town a service. In fact, it will be the perfect Halloween “treat.” Click here to register your window.


This Saturday (October 24), the United Nations turns 75 years old.

For over 50 of those years, Westport has celebrated that birthday with colorful flags. They fly every UN Day on the Ruth Steinkraus Cohen Bridge. That’s fitting: its namesake founded by the local United Nations Association, and Westport’s’ UN International Hospitality Committee.

On Saturday (11 a.m., Town Hall front steps), a public ceremony marks United Nations Day. First Selectman Jim Marpe, Hospitality Committee vice chair Bill Hass, and Staples High School Model UN president Lucas Slater and vice president Aidan Rogers will speak.

Special guest speaker Aye Aye Thant will discuss the importance of the UN. She should know: The Westport resident’s father is former UN Secretary General U Thant.

After the event, a bipartisan expression of support for the UN takes place at the Ruth Steinkraus Cohen Bridge. Marpe and local legislators will gather near the flags of UN member countries — which have flown there proudly, for decades.

(Photo/Jeff Simon)

Mike Burns spotted this sign on Compo Road South, near Longshore.

Finally, a candidate we can all agree on!


The Westport Public Schools’ guiding principles include social and emotional awareness, sincere kindness, principled thoughts and actions, and constant learning.

Several students have been selected, for embodying those principles. They are Caroline Caggiano, James Dobin Smith, Rachel Greenberg, Colin Konstanty, Natalia Maidique and Kyla Race.

Congratulations to all!

Three honorees (from left): James Dobin-Smith, Colin Konstanty, Caroline Caggiano.


How foggy was it last night? Very, as Andrew Colabella’s shot of the Ruth Steinkraus Cohen Bridge shows:

And finally … in honor of Staples Players’ “Wizard of Oz” radio broadcast (see story above):

 

 

Unsung Hero #162

Randy Herbertson is president of the Westport Downtown Merchants Association. He writes:

Jacqui Bidgood has been an on-and-off resident of Westport for over 15 years, and WDMA events director for 4. Under her very capable management we have hosted many well-attended events, from the Fine Arts Festival to Westoberfest and Fashionably Westport. All have contributed to the relevance of our  downtown district.

Additionally Jacqui has spearheaded the selection and management of our beautiful summer baskets, working with local growers, as well as our 2020 barrel program. Both further enhanced the public and private beautification of the area.

Jacqui Bidgood, with Fine Arts Festival volunteers.

When the pandemic struck and our big events could no longer happen, Jacqui rose to the challenge to show our community the DMA could mount safe events that would continue to attract local residents (and our many new transplants) to our stores and restaurants, in a much-needed time.

In barely 6 weeks, Jacqui will have made three diverse events happen: Fitness & Wellness Day, Fall Fashion Day (replacing the traditional sidewalk sale), and Family Pumpkinfest (replacing the Halloween parade).

All this took many hours of planning, close collaboration with town officials, and tireless effort to secure sponsors that enable these events to run well — and for free.

Her great attention to detail, tenacity and creative problem solving have turned all these ideas into welcome reality.

Randy is right. These events did not just happen. They happened in large part thanks to this week’s Unsung Hero, Jacqui Bidgood.

Roundup: Shorefest, Trader Joe’s, Fall Fashion, More


Yesterday’s “Shorefest on a Roll” — Friends of Sherwood Island’s reimagined, socially distanced annual fundraiser — was different than the usual lobsterfest.

It was also wonderful, fun, and made even better by spectacular weather.

Board members Cece Saunders and Steve Axthelm produced the clever, all-ages event. Riding in cars through the 232-acre state park, families listened to a podcast while enjoying kites, disc golf, music, and getting a purple martin education.

At the last stop, they picked up lobster roll dinners, courtesy of Westfair Fish & Chips.

Click here for a full report, and tons of photos.

Lobster roll dinners, at the end.


That’s one small step for a man. And one giant leap for faster checkouts.

Trader Joe’s has all registers open, for the first time since COVID struck in March.


The other day you worked out, at Main Street and Church Lane’s Fitness & Wellness Expo.

This Saturday, you can show off your new look. The Westport Downtown Merchants Association is sponsoring a Fall Fashion & Beauty Day.

Merchandise will be displayed on sidewalks — meaning there’s plenty of room to walk around in stores too. And despite the name, all downtown merchants — not just fashion and beauty retailers — are invited to participate.

All of Main Street, Elm Street and Church Lane will be closed from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Local merchants not on those streets are being offered spots, so there’s plenty to see and do. Of course, masks and social distancing rules apply!

 


World peace comes to Westport.

That’s the name of the next MoCA Westport exhibit. It opens October 8.

Works in the show reflect “the culture of identity, and the divided and fractured political climate of America’s past and present.” The multi-media exhibit includes photography, sculpture, video, site-specific installations, works on paper, and protest art.

The group show features local and world-renowned artists, highlighting contemporary media culture, the criminal justice system, and the relationship between science and religion. 

Westporters include illustrators Tracy Sugarman and Naiad Einsel, and photographers Spencer Platt and Richard Frank

Local politicians, and experts on climate change and the media, will be featured in panels throughout the exhibition. It runs through January 17.

For more information, click here.


And finally … today is the International Day of Peace. Enough said.

 

Roundup: Fitness, Virtual Slice, Trash, More


When is downtown Westport not an outdoor shopping mall?

When it turns into a Fitness & Wellness Expo.

That was the scene yesterday. Pure Barre, JoyRide, Row House and Athleta sponsored outdoor classes on Main Street. Vendors like Restore Cryo, Fleet Feet and New England Hemp Farm helped educate consumers. Church Lane merchants added wellness specials.

Everyone wore masks. And if they didn’t have one, the Westport Downtown Merchants Association — sponsors of the intriguing event — gave them one.

Work it!

Among the participants: 2nd Selectwoman Jen Tooker and Police Chief Foti Koskinas, in the photo below:


Yesterday would have been the 9th annual Slice of Saugatuck. It got squashed by the coronavirus — but the Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce did the next best thing.

They produced a video, showing the shops, restaurants and people who make up that vibrant community. Whether you’re a newcomer, old-timer or long-gone Westporter, check below for a 6-minute stroll through Saugatuck.

One more Chamber note: They’ve added a 2nd “Supper & Soul” socially distanced tailgate show featuring Terrapin: A Grateful Dead Experience (Friday, October 2; 7 p.m.). Tickets go on sale Monday at 10 a.m.; click here.


Westporter Helen Lowman is president and CEO of Keep America Beautiful. Next Sunday — September 20 — her organization hosts its 2nd annual TrashDash. The goal is for people to create cleaner streets, parks, and waterfronts by “plogging” (picking up litter while jogging).

It will be held officially at Mill River Park in Stamford (the city where Keep America Beautiful is headquartered) — but anyone can join in their own community, wherever it is. Just grab a bag and gloves and pick up litte. You don’t even have to jog!

Click here for more information.


The Westport River Dancers performed at the Rowing Club yesterday. It was a cancer fundraiser for Norwalk Hospital’s Row for Recovery.

Check out these dancing queens (and one king): Debra Montner, Hilary Solder, Eva Grant-Rawiszer, Suzanne Harvey, Jill Alcott Ferreday and Michael Chait. All are Westporters — and they met their $10,000 goal!


And finally … Toots Hibbert, who introduced reggae to the world — died Friday in Jamaica. He was believed to be 77, and was reported to have suffered from COVID-like symptoms. He and his group — Toots and the Maytals — had international hits like this:

Roundup: School Calendar And Kudos, Fitness, Fishing, More


The start of school may look unfamiliar — including the calendar.

But when you look at the Westport School Student Art calendar, you’ll realize that some things never change. Fortunately.

Despite disruption, the Westport Public Art Collections has produced its 2020-21 calendar. As always, it features great K-12 student art

Calendars can be purchased online (click here) and at ASF Sports & Outdoors (1560 Post Road East).

As always, proceeds support the care and maintenance of the fabulous Westport Public Art Collections. Works hang in all public buildings and are placed in outdoor parks. The most recent addition: the “Rock, Paper, Scissors” sculpture donated by Staples graduates Ann Sheffer and Bill Scheffler, to be installed soon near the Westport Library.

The cover of the 2020-21 Westport Public Schools calendar was drawn by Sophia Sheng, Coleytown Elementary School 5th grader.


Speaker of back-to-school: Staples High School teachers Deirdre Flores and Sarah Stanley spotted this sign on Pumpkin Hill Road.

As they stopped to take a picture, the homeowner cheered them — and thanked them from her porch. It made their day — and made them proud of what they do, and where they do it.


Missing your fitness? Wondering how you’ll survive whatever’s ahead when the weather turns cooler? Thought about taking a fitness class, but uncertain about how they work?

Head downtown on Saturday, September 12.

The Westport Downtown Merchants Association sponsors its first Health and Fitness Expo. JoyRide, RowHouse, Pure Barre and Athleta will all stage live classes outdoors, on Main Street. All will include levels of fitness and ability. All will of course follow COVID-19 requirements.

Vendors will also present health and fitness concepts. Church Lane merchants may join in too.

For more information — including how your business can participate — email events1@westportdma.com.


As summer ends, a shout-out to Alec Udell. Son of Staples grad Jeff Udell, he was visiting his grandmother Judy and went fishing at Compo, on the jetty by the cannons.

Using very light tackle, he caught this 30-inch striped bass. After a photo op, Alec released it safely back into the water.


And finally … today in 1888, George Eastman patented the first roll-film camera, and registered the name “Kodak.”

COVID And Isaias: A Boon For Downtown?

This may be counterintuitive. It may be provocative. It may also be dumb, and wrong.

But here is my thought, 5 months into a pandemic and 3 days after a tropical storm with a powerful punch:

Downtown may be going through a renaissance, thanks to our twin disasters.

COVID-19 caused the closures of many businesses, and the demise of a few well-known restaurants like Tavern on Main and Le Penguin.

But — thanks to the Westport Downtown Merchants Association and town officials — it resulted in the closure of Church Lane this month. The area was hopping last weekend, with music, outdoor dining at places like Spotted Horse and Manna Toast, and plenty of smiles.

Shops like Savannah Bee and the new hemp place boomed.

Church Lane, last weekend, (Photo/Dan Woog

Across the Post Road, the Levitt Pavilion is shut. But the Remarkable Theater has pioneered the surprise hit of the summer — pop-up movies in the Imperial Avenue lot — and the space has been used for other stay-near-your-car, socially distanced but very fun entertainment like Supper & Soul (sponsored by the Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce and Westport Library), and a Staples students-and-alums concert (organized by teenagers).

Drive-in movies, courtesy of the Remarkable Theater.

The tropical storm, meanwhile, spared downtown. It did not even flood, probably because merchants sandbagged their doors figuring it would. (The fact that we had less than an inch of rain also helped.)

So the power stayed on (though unfortunately not on Church Lane). Residents who could get out of their side streets descended on the area.

Starbucks did a gold rush business (even without credit cards — cash only). So did Rye Ridge Deli and GG & Joe’s açaí bowl spot, along with full-service restaurants like Jeera Thai, Don Melo, Walrus Alley, Amis and others.

All day long, and into the evening, folks wandered. Kids rode bikes. Let me repeat that: Downtown, kids rode bikes. It was as close to the 1950s as you can get, without actually being there.

Adults stopped and chatted. They shopped. You couldn’t see, but behind their masks, they smiled.

But the best thing — if by “best” you toss out the reason for it — was the gathering on Jesup Green, along the Riverwalk, and on the Westport Library steps.

A small part of the large WiFi crowd. (Photo/Miggs Burroughs)

Hundreds of folks sat, enjoying free WiFi. They did business, read emails (and “06880”), talked on their phones, watched movies on their tablets.

There was not a lot of chatter, during the day. Using devices will do that. Staying 6 feet apart didn’t help.

But when evening came, things got more social. A woman picked up her ukulele, and gave an impromptu concert. Folks put down their phones, and started talking. They watched the rowers gliding past.

An (Photos/Miggs Burroughs)

The sun set. The moon rose. The river shimmered. You could see stars.

Is this a harbinger of things to come? What will downtown look like once everyone gets power and internet — and the world gets a vaccine? Will this be a fleeting moment in time, or a sea change?

I have no idea. But for right now — despite all that is bad in Westport, the country and the planet — downtown Westport is suddenly, inexplicably, momentously, both fun and cool.