Tag Archives: Westport Downtown Merchants Association

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.

The ADA In Westport: 30 Years Of Progress

Thirty years ago this week, President George H.W. Bush signed the Americans With Disabilities Act into law.

It was a monumental achievement. The ADA prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in employment, state and local government, public accommodations, transportation and more.

Its effects have been both intended (curb cuts make things easier for wheelchair users; closed captioning aids people with hearing loss) and unintended (those same curb cuts help anyone pushing a stroller or wheeling luggage; closed captions are great for TVs in noisy spots like restaurants and bars.

In Westport — as in the rest of the nation — the ADA has made building access easier. At Compo Beach, Mobi-Mats intended to ease the trek across sand to the Sound for people with mobility problems has been a boon to anyone hauling a cooler (or young kids).

Compo Beach Mobi-Mat. (Photo/Patti Brill)

The new bathrooms at South Beach are a welcome relief to many. So are the walkways that now lead from the pavilion all the way to the kayak launch.

Jim Ross — chair of Westport’s Commission on People With Disabilities — notes a few other important local initiatives.

The Remarkable Theater‘s drive-in movies have brought joy and life to Westport during this entertainment-starved COVID summer. But the theater has another, equally important mission: to create meaningful employment for the disability community. That visibility may be another legacy of the ADA.

The confidential Voluntary Registry — managed by Westport’s Department of Human Services, in conjunction with the Police Department — enables individuals with disabilities, and their families or caregivers, to register medical and living arrangements, so it can be known during a police or fire emergency.

Town officials and disability leaders are working to secure independent housing facilities on town-owned property.

An “Employment is for Everyone” initiative is in its early stages. Ross’ commission is working with the Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce and Westport Downtown Merchants Association to help people with disabilities find employment here — and help Westport businesses better serve the disability community.

When a beach wheelchair was delivered more than 10 years ago, then-Parks & Rec director Stuart McCarthy gave Rotary president Irwin Lebish a ride.

It is estimated that up to 1 in 5 Americans have some sort of disability. Have you, a relative or friend been impacted by the ADA? How does Westport compare to other places, in terms of accessibility and accommodations? Are there areas where Westport can do better? Click “Comments” below.

(For more on the 30th anniversary of the ADA, click here. Hat tips: Diane Johnson and Elaine Daignault.)

Roundup: Starbucks; State Regulations; Fine Arts Festival; Townee T-shirts; More


Westporters gathered at Starbucks’ downtown location this morning, to show support for a popular employee. He’s been the target of racial harassment and stalking by a customer,

After a firestorm on social media, Starbucks has finally banned the customer from its property.

(Photo/Amy Schneider)


The Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce reports:

While the state has paused its Phase 3 reopening, officials have made updates to  industry-specific rules.

The updates provide more specific guidance, and new recommendations for a broad range of sectors. Highlights include new rules for Indoor Recreation; expanded guidance for Outdoor and Indoor Events.

Changes impacting  Offices, Personal Services, Hair Salons & Barbershops,  Retail, Libraries, etc. include:

    • Non-essential businesses have the right to refuse service to anyone not wearing a mask.
    • In the event an employee tests positive for COVID-19, it is recommended the business implement a 24-hour passive decontamination and follow CDC guidelines for cleaning and disinfecting.

Changes impacting restaurants include:

      • Servers are no longer required to wear gloves.
      • Indoor performances are now allowed (with the exception of musical vocalists).

In addition, hotels are now permitted to provide non-essential services and amenities (valets, ice machines, etc.).


First, the downtown Fine Arts Festival was moved from always-hot July to much more pleasurable late May. Then the pandemic pushed it back to fall.

Now the Westport Downtown Merchants Association has reluctantly announced its cancellation. The next festival — with hundreds of artists, plus music, food, kids’ activities and more — is set for Memorial Day weekend of 2021 (May 29 – 30.

But you can still enjoy this year’s show. Click here for links to over 175 juried fine artists who would have attended, and will be welcomed back next year.

A scene from last year’s Fine Arts Festival.


Back in 2017, “06880” ran a story on Townee. The new company produced authentic, Westport-inspired t-shirts, sweatshirts, hats and more.

This summer they’ve added hand-created tie-dye clothing. “It’s the perfect way to show town spirit and positivity,” say Nick Prior and Theo Vergakis. They’re rising juniors at Staples High School — and they’ll deliver your goods personally.

They also offer tie-dye workshops at small home camps in town. Kids pick their styles, then learn how to tie-dye. The cost is just $20.

For more information, click here or email nickprior04@gmail.com

Theo Vergakis, Nick Prior and Townee tie-dyed tees.


Last night, Westport Public Schools officials presented 3 options for reopening to the Board of Education.

Today at 5 p.m., Westport Magazine’s Dave Briggs interviews Staples High School principal Stafford Thomas, on Instagram Live. The former CNN, NBC Sports and Fox News anchor will ask about that topic, and other important issues.

Search for @westportmagazine on Instagram to hear the interview. Questions can be submitted live (@westportmagazine), or beforehand (@davebriggstv).


The other day, “06880” gave a shout-out to 2020 Connecticut Entrepreneur Award winners Sarah Deren of Experience Camps, Remarkable STEAM and Mark Mathias.

There’s another local honoree (with an asterisk).

FinTron invest placed first in the Venture (Pre-Revenue) category. Their office is on Franklin Street. But they moved from Fairfield in the beginning of March, so that town gets credit for them in the list of winners.

No problem. From here on, FinTron is ours.


Partly cloudy skies are predicted for this weekend. Temperatures will be in the 80s — well below last weekend’s sizzling weather.

No matter what the weather, Westport’s Parks & Recreation staff is ready to welcome beachgoers. They manage the crowds with efficiency and energy.

And smiles — even if you can’t see them, behind their masks!


The Westport Library Book Sale is not accepting any more donations this week. The donation shed is full. Next chance: next Thursday.


And finally … what better way to celebrate the end of another week than with this great put-on-a-smile-on-your-face song? One more reason to love Scotland!

Roundup: Church Lane; MoCA; Charles Smith; More


Yesterday, the Board of Selectmen approved the Westport Downtown Merchants Association request for the closure of lower Church Lane throughout August.

That will allow “European-style” dining on the street, at Spotted Horse, Amis and the very new Manna Toast.

Stores will plan fun outdoor activities too.

Church Lane remains open from Myrtle Avenue to Elm Street; it’s only the short stretch leading to the Post Road that’s closed.

A scene last year on Church Lane. Expect more like it soon — with masks, of course.


On Thursday nights, MoCA Westport offers “Sunset Sketch & Paint.”

Now they’ve made this great art therapy class — a great way to relieve stress and anxiety — free to nurses and first responders,

The class is also open to any 15 and over, and includes a free glass of wine for those 21 and up. Click here for more information.

MoCA also announced a fun fundraiser. They’ve partnered with local artists to create limited edition cross-body messenger bags.

Artists so far include Amy Kaplan, Jay Petrow, Dale Najarian, Yvonne Claveloux, Trace Burroughs, Jana Ireijo, Fruma Markowitz, Susan Leggitt and Bethany Czarnecki. More will be announced soon.

The bags are available for purchase later this month through the MoCA Westport Museum Shop (in person and online). Follow @mocawestport on social media to learn more.

Untitled, by Yvonne Claveloux


The Westport Library is exploring all options for Camp Explore.

The next guest for the “virtual” youngsters’ program is former New York Knick forward Charles Smith. The Bridgeport native joins the group next Wednesday (July 29, 4 p.m.).

He’ll talk about his experiences as an athlete, business consultant, entrepreneur and civic leader.

Click here for more information, and registration,


And finally … at a time when many tempers are fraying, the Rembrandts say:

Roundup: Outdoor Dining And Fitness; Downtown Flowers and Barber; More


Last night, the Planning & Zoning Commission took steps to hear 2 COVID-related text amendments. Both respond to the changing business environment in town, and will be voted on July 23.

One amendment would extend temporary outdoor dining permits through the end of March 2021. Commissioners spoke of their desire to support local restaurants during an uncertain time, and reassure owners that investments they make for outdoor dining will be worthwhile beyond summer.

The second proposed text amendment would extend similar restaurant flexibility to fitness studios and gyms hoping to temporarily locate equipment outdoors. This applies to facilities like JoyRide, nearly all of which are locally owned.

Drafts of both text amendments will be posted Monday for review by the public. Comments may be emailed (pandzcomments@westportct.gov). To request a Zoom link to participate with “in-person” testimony at the July 23 meeting, email maryyoung@westportct.gov.

Romanacci’s Xpress is one of 3 Railroad Place restaurants with outdoor dining.


The pots and flower barrels lining Main Street, and hanging from poles throughout downtown, look gorgeous.

But they don’t water themselves.

The Westport Downtown Merchants Association needs volunteers. Watering takes about an hour a day. To learn more about the sign-up system — and how to choose your time — email events1@westportdma.com.

Main Street planters


Speaking of downtown: There will be one less barber next month.

Ron Provenzano — owner of the shop named for himself at 190 Main Street, in the old Sally’s Place space — is closing around August 7. He, his wife and their children are moving to Wilmington, North Carolina.

It’s not COVID-related, he says. His wife’s business is booming, and she loves that area.

Ron has been in his present shop, above Le Rouge Aaartisan Chocolates, for 6 years. That follows more than a dozen on Railroad Place.

With the closing the other day of Compo Barbers, 2 old-school men’s hair cutters are gone. Westporters will miss them both.

Ron Provenzano


Scott Smith writes:

“In all my years enjoying Old Mill Beach and Compo Beach (this social-distanced season, more than ever), I’ve never seen such a large boat working the waters so close to shore.

“I took photos from near the jetty at Soundview Avenue as this sturdy boat churned in a tight loop up and back, just off the far rocks at Compo Cove. No nets or traps; near as I can tell, it looked like it was sluicing a mound of dirt-like material piled amidships over the gunwales with a water jet.

“After an hour or so, the big black boat was off, headed for deep water and turning west.

“Anybody know if the boat was indeed offloading material into the Sound, and if so, where it came from and what it is?” If you have a clue, click “Comments” below.

(Photo/Scott Smith)


Westport Library Book Sale donations are back!

Beginning next week, materials will be accepted every Thursday, Friday and Saturday, during any hours the library is open.

Donors should come to the gray brick shed in the upper parking lot. Donations will be quarantined there for 3 days, before being handled by sale volunteers.

You can bring used books, audiobooks, CDs, DVDs, vinyl records, vintage magazines and other ephemera. Please: no water-damaged or mildewed materials, VHS tapes, audiocassettes, or self-recorded CDs and DVDs.  For more information, click here.

New book sale volunteers are always welcome. Help is needed all year to sort, research and price donated materials; provide merchandising and customer support at book sale events, and supervise and train employees with disabilities.  To learn more, email  info@westportbooksales.org


As noted in yesterday’s Roundup, MoCA Westport’s Helmut Lang exhibition is now open. There’s plenty of room to enjoy the show — just be like these visitors, and wear a mask!


And finally … yesterday’s “06880” story on the Paycheck Protection Program noted the 137 Westport businesses that got loans of at least $150,000, helping them meet payrolls and keep folks employed.

Another Paycheck — Johnny — had a different view of work. Back in 1977, he sang:

Roundup: Kids’ Mural; Harvey Brooks’ Book; Playhouse Video; More


Ever since youngsters in Homes with Hope’s after-school program turned Hal and Betsy Kravitz’s 77-foot-long South Compo wall into a “hopeful” mural, it’s earned honks and thumbs-ups from passing drivers, bicyclists and walkers.

It also caught the eye of a producer for WABC-TV news.

Which is why — barring breaking news — they’ll run a story on it tomorrow (Sunday, July 5) on the 11 p.m. news.

Channel 7 may include some footage from the video below. Stay tuned!


Harvey Brooks has played with and for Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix, Richie Havens, Stephen Stills, John Sebastian, Seals & Crofts, Boz Scaggs, Judy Collins, Loudon Wainright III, Phoebe Snow, Phil Ochs, the Fabulous Rhinestones and Fontella Bass.

The bassist laid down some of the most famous lines in music history, including “Like a Rolling Stone” and the hook on the Doors’ “Touch Me.” He’s featured on Miles Davis’ “Bitches Brew,” the best-selling jazz album of all time.

And for many years Harvey Brooks lived on North Compo Road, right here in Westport.

A few years ago he and his wife Bonnie Behar moved to Israel. But a good story is universal.

Today — which is also his birthday  — his memoir, “View From the Bottom: 50 Years of Bass Playing with Bob Dylan, the Doors, Miles Davis and Everybody Else,” was published. There are tons of musical anecdotes — and lots about his life in Westport too. To order, click here.

Congratulations, Harvey. And Happy Birthday too!


This summer would have marked the Westport Country Playhouse’s 90th season.

The coronavirus brought down the curtain on this year. But the theater — one of the country’s most historic — is not letting the anniversary go unnoticed.

They posed one question to WCP aficionados: “What does the Playhouse mean to you?”

Click below, for some very heartfelt responses.


Happy Birthday, America!

And huge props to the Westport Downtown Merchants Association. They made sure our Ruth Steinkraus Cohen Bridge is decorated appropriately — with, red, white and blue lights.

The photo below does not do it justice. Go see for yourself (after dark!).

 


Hugh Downs died Wednesday. He was 99.

The Westport connection? Scott Williams says that decades ago, the longtime TV newsmagazine and entertainment show host rented 121 Sturges Highway house Scott later grew up in.

Hugh Downs, on the “Today” set in 1966. (Photo/Jack Kanthal for Associated Press)


You’ve heard it everywhere. Don’t have a cow. Just wear your mask!

(Photo/Les Dinkin)


And finally … to celebrate America’s birthday, here’s the song that’s been called “our other national anthem.” It’s easier to sing — and the words sure are powerful.

Westport Marketplace: The Town At Your Fingertips

What’s open? What’s closed? What’s different? What’s going on?

Everyone wants to know. Now we can.

A herculean collaboration between Our Town Crier, the Westport Downtown Merchants Association, Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce and Town of Westport has resulted in a comprehensive, almost-beyond-comprehension website covering every conceivable business, service and organization here.

Welcome to the Westport Marketplace.

Screenshot from Westport Marketplace

The “Virtual Yellow Pages” directory is filled with links and up-to-date information for just about every business and service in Westport. There’s contact information, operating hours,, safety precautions and more.

Users can search by name, relevance, distance, even popularity.

Major categories unfold with dozens of sub-categories.

Besides retail, restaurants, automotives, realty, markets and pharmacies, there are sections on home services (landscaping, builders, interior design, organizers …), medical (acupuncture, specialists, therapists …), banks (accounting, financial advisors, tax help …), personal services (hair, dry cleaners, physical therapy, tanning …), children’s services (sports and music lessons …) and more.

The project could not have happened without 72 interns, says Our Town Crier founder Betsy Pollak.

“The first group drove around town, literally going to each doorstep. They hand-surveyed the entire town. The next group got it onto the website, and took care of social media.”

The Chamber helped keep the restaurant list accurate. The WDMA did the same with retail. Selectwomen Jennifer Tooker and Melissa Kane funneled new information to Pollak and her crew. Local artist/super-volunteer Miggs Burroughs created the Westport Marketplace logo.

“We have incredible young people in Westport. I feel like I should be working for them,” she says.

This is the site we’ve all been waiting for. And need.

Click here to access (and bookmark) the Westport Marketplace. Then go to town!

(Questions? Email info@thewestportmarketplace.com. To update or add a business, or offer feedback, click here.)