Tag Archives: Westport Downtown Merchants Association

Main Street Merchants To Earth: Screw You!

The 1st selectman endorses it. The Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce does too.

So do the Westport Downtown Merchants Association, Green Task Force and Earth Guardians, a Toquet Hall-based youth group.

All back an initiative asking local businesses to keep their doors closed on hot summer days. Air conditioning is a major contributor to carbon dioxide emissions that lead to global warming.

And open doors are a major contributor to wasteful air conditioning.

Yet despite reminders from all those folks, this was the scene last Saturday on Main Street:

(Photo/Bob Mitchell)

That’s 3 stores in a row with wide-open doors — including Blue Mercury, which has been doing it since at least 2010.

There were many more as well.

I know the usual suspects will jump into the “Comments” section, declaring that unless there’s a law against it, stores can do whatever they want to attract customers.

Of course they can.

But that doesn’t mean they should.

Book It! Main Street Art Show A Smash

With spectacular weather — and a wise move from Parker Harding Plaza, back to its original Main Street roots — this weekend’s 44th annual Fine Arts Festival drew twice last year’s numbers.

An eclectic mix of 148 artists, sculptors, photographers and jewelry makers — and the addition of new dining options — drew raves from longtime festival-goers and newcomers alike. The event is sponsored by the Westport Downtown Merchants Association.

Every artist has a specialty.

Elm Street was also filled with artists. These two had natural shade.

Gloria McRoberts specializes in sculptural weaving.

The alley next to the old Westport Pizzeria was transformed into al fresco dining.

Sculptures filled the street in front of Banana Republic.

A few steps from the art show, the Westport Library sponsored its annual ginormous Book Sale. 

In a world filled with Kindles and iPhones, it’s nice to know thousands of people still love to read books. 

And listen to CDs and vinyl, which were also on sale.

Like those tens of thousands of books — all could be had for a song.

The Westport Library book sale covers every category imaginable. Inside, there was even a sign marked “Beatles.” (It was for books, not music.)

The many long tables were perfect for browsing.

The hardest part of the Westport Library is choosing.

The art show and book sale were only 2 of many events in Westport this weekend.

And there’s much more to come. Happy summer!

Downtown Merchants Kick It Up A Notch

You may have noticed the signage downtown. Perhaps you saw the hanging baskets, the holiday snowflakes or the Christmas tree near Starbucks.

westport-dmaAll are part of recent initiatives by the Westport Downtown Merchants Association. Since welcoming new president Randy Herbertson this summer — and installing a fresh team including a marketing manager and events coordinator — the sometimes active, occasionally moribund, often ill-defined group has worked hard to make its mark on Main Street and nearby.

“We’re here to be the merchants’ advocate,” Herbertson — whose fulltime gig is running a Church Street multimidia design and promotion firm, The Visual Brand — says.

“We’re taking ourselves up a notch.”

The WDMA has addressed nagging issues like the Parker Harding dumpster — long a pig sty — with new enclosures and daily maintenance.

The organization has spoken with the Public Works and Parks & Recreation departments to ensure clear lines of responsibility for downtown upkeep.

Merchants are responsible for keeping their sidewalks clean. The WMDA is making sure they do it well.

Merchants are responsible for keeping their sidewalks clean. The WMDA is making sure they do it well.

Some of that sounds mundane. But small stuff pays off big time, in areas like public perception.

The WDMA has vowed to protect the new sidewalks. Each merchant is in charge of keeping them clean, but “everyone has different standards,” Herbertson notes. His group is working on a collaborative plan.

The Downtown Merchants Association may be best known for event sponsorship. Moving forward, Herbertson says, “We’ll try to focus on what matters most to merchants.”

The popular carriage rides, Santa visits and singing groups will continue this holiday season, for example. But the WMDA will offer gift wrapping and craft activities for children.

Plus this: valet parking.

It began on Friday, and continues every Saturday and Sunday through Christmas (plus Friday, December 23). The valet station is at the corner of Main and Elm Streets. Cost is $5 per car (plus optional tip).

Last year, horse-drawn carriages clomped throughout downtown.

Last year, horse-drawn carriages clomped throughout downtown.

The Fine Arts Festival may be relocated. The Blues, Views & BBQ Fest will be “better than ever,” Herbertson says.

A Fashion and Beauty Week is in the works. 80% of downtown merchants are involved in those fields, he explains.

The WMDA has just launched a new website. It offers more information on stores promotions and hours, along with a robust calendar.

Meanwhile, the merchants’ group is already looking ahead to next year. In 2017, Herbertson promises, the new trees on and around Main Street will be mature enough to decorate.

1 Parker Harding Problem Solved. 999 To Go.

Our long national nightmare is over.

Okay, maybe not. But at least Parker Harder Plaza’s dumpster problem has been solved.

For several years, the big green receptacles near Starbucks have spilled garbage, attracted rodents, and sent this message to downtown visitors: “Blech!

parker-harding-dumpster

No more!

Recently the Westport Downtown Merchants Association added a cleanup crew, initiated pest control, helped store owners review protocol and “addressed regular abusers.”

Ta da!

parker-harding-dumpster

Work is not finished. Still ahead: installation of upgraded and “significantly more attractive” enclosures.

We won’t hold our breath.

But at least while we don’t, we won’t hold our noses when we want some fresh food at Freshii.

The Latest On Lee Papageorge

About a year ago, Joel Smilow went to Oscar’s for lunch.

A longtime Westporter, and the former chairman and CEO of Playtex, he’s also a noted philanthropist. He made a transformative gift to Yale-New Haven Hospital’s Smilow Cancer Hospital, and donated medical research buildings at NYU and the University of Pennsylvania (among many other endowments).

Lee Papageorge — the popular owner of Oscar’s Delicatessen — was struck by a sudden thought.

“After all you’ve done for people,” Lee asked Joel, “has anyone ever bought you lunch?”

Lee was happy to do so.

Two months ago, Lee received a tough diagnosis: lung cancer. It was particularly devastating because he never smoked — not once in his life.

Lee is now undergoing immunotherapy — at the Smilow Cancer Hospital.

“Those people are fantastic. They’re geniuses,” Lee says with awe. “They know how to talk to you. They treat you so well. They’re the whole package.”

Oscar's owner Lee Papageorge.

Oscar’s owner Lee Papageorge.

Lee — who is 65 — has been a part of Oscar’s since the actual Oscar hired him at  16. Working in the original store — a few doors down Main Street, now part of Vince Clothing — Lee earned $1 an hour. “I had $20 in my wallet. I felt fat!” he says.

(Lee was not the 1st Papageorge who fed Westporters downtown. His grandfather and father opened the Club Grill in 1927. It later was known as Muriel’s, on the Post Road at Taylor Place across from what is now Tiffany.)

In 1967, Joe Milici bought Oscar’s (from Oscar). Lee kept working there. Four years later, he became a 50% partner. They moved to their present location soon thereafter.

The ’70s and ’80s were exciting times on Main Street, Lee recalls. There was always something going on.

He and store owners like Bob Hertzel, Stan Klein, Drew Friedman and Dan Coughlin were prime movers behind the Westport Downtown Merchants Association. They loved the area, the town and their customers. They supported each other, too.

Now, Oscar’s is the oldest — and last — “mom-and-pop” store on Main Street.

Oscar's Delicatessen (Photo/Videler Photography)

Oscar’s Delicatessen (Photo/Videler Photography)

As he battles cancer, Lee has been buoyed by the support of “very strong women.” Susan Gold, of the Westport Historical Society, has been particularly helpful.

Since he was 16, Lee has been a part of Oscar’s. And Oscar’s has been a part of downtown.

Lee’s many customers — and friends — send all their best wishes to him.

Artwork, Books — And Miggs Burroughs — Downtown This Weekend

Some things about the Westport Fine Arts Festival never change.

Favorite artists, sculptors, jewelry-makers and photographers return, with familiar work in an intriguing variety of styles. Westporters and visitors flock downtown; there is music and food. The weather is hot.

Some things are always different. There is new artwork. New bands play.

This year too, the Westport Library‘s new artist-in-residence lends his presence — and talents — to the 43rd annual Fine Arts Festival (Saturday and Sunday, July 16-17, 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Parker Harding Plaza).

Miggs Burroughs' official Westport Library "geek" portrait. (Photo/Pam Einarsen)

Miggs Burroughs’ official Westport Library “geek” portrait. (Photo/Pam Einarsen)

Miggs Burroughs co-presents his own artwork — along with others from the Westport Artists Collective — including Nina Bentley, Trace Burroughs, Linn Cassetta, Wilhelmina de Haas and Tammy Windsor.

Miggs will man an “Artist-in-Residence” booth, answering questions and providing information about the library’s connection with local artists, town arts organizations and events.

The Fine Arts Festival — sponsored by the Westport Downtown Merchants Association — is one of the town’s signature summer events.

Of course, so is the Library’s annual book sale. It runs this weekend too: Saturday, July 16, 9 a.m.-5 p.m.; Sunday, July 17, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; Monday, July 18, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. (all items half price); Tuesday, July 19, 9 a.m.-1 p.m. (all items free; contributions welcome).

The 2 events are big, fun and complementary.

Just think: It’s the Library’s biggest event of the year, and they share their artist-in-residence with the Arts Festival.

(For more information on the Fine Arts Festival, click here. To learn more about the Library’s book sale, click here.)

A mime and artist, both hard at work during the Westport Fine Arts Festival.

A mime and artist, both hard at work during the Westport Fine Arts Festival.

You can get just about anything at the Westport Library's book sale.

You can get just about anything at the Westport Library’s book sale.

Art (And More) About Town

Tonight’s Art About Town opening party drew hundreds of folks to Main Street.

Plenty of actual art was displayed, on sidewalks and in store windows. But there were other art forms too: street performers, musicians, face painters and more.

Plus (of course) food.

The annual event is sponsored by the Westport Downtown Merchants Association. Artwork will remain in stores — and available for purchase — through June 19.

Painting with a Twist had a booth -- including (just like at their art sessions) a bottle of wine.

Painting with a Twist’s booth included (just like their sessions) a bottle of wine.

But is it art?

But is it art?

Builders Beyond Borders showed mosaics. This one was made out of pieces of photos, taken on a recent service trip.

Builders Beyond Borders offered mosaics. This one was constructed from thousands of photos, taken on a recent service trip.

Little kids can make art out of anything. Including sand.

Little kids can make art out of anything. Including sand.

Art About Town - 2 ladies 1

Two ladies.

Haitian artist Jean Benoit -- now living in Stratford -- showed off his works near The Gap.

Haitian artist Jean Benoit — now living in Stratford — showed his works near The Gap.

Boo!

Boo!

Jeera Thai was among many downtown restaurants offering dinner.

Jeera Thai was among many downtown restaurants offering dinner.

Art is all about free expression.

Art is all about free expression.

 

 

Town Tells Downtown Merchants: Shut It!

Today is absolutely the most beautiful day of the year — just ask any of the 6 people left in town during the schools’ spring break.

It’s not quite air conditioning weather. But it’s close.

Which makes it a particularly apt time for Westport’s Green Task Force to send a letter. In it, they — along with First Selectman Jim Marpe, the Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce and Downtown Merchants Association encourage local businesses to help the town become “a more sustainable and resilient community.”

How?

By keeping doors closed when using air conditioning on hot days. (And heat on cold ones.)

Blue Mercury always keeps doors open, on hot days and cold.

Blue Mercury always keeps doors open, on hot days and cold.

Sounds like a no-brainer. New York City — which has a lot more doors than Westport — actually has a law to that effect.

The letter — addressed “Dear Business Owner/Manager” — says Westport prefers “more of a ‘team’ approach. We believe shoppers will be happy to know that fossil fuels and electricity are not being wasted, and that the air is not being polluted as a result of unnecessary production of heat or electricity.”

Marpe and co-signers David Mann (Task Force chair), Matthew Mandell (Chamber executive director) and Steve Desloge (DMA president) note that Westport is known as “a forward-thinking, environmentally focused community.” It was the 1st state east of the Mississippi River to ban plastic bags, and has set a goal of achieving net-zero energy, water and waste management self-sufficiency by 2050.

The letter invites businesses to be the town’s “partners on this journey.” It invites them to contribute their own sustainability initiatives and ideas.

The heavy (and open) door at Esthetique.

The heavy (and open) door at Esthetique.

“06880” has been out in front on this issue. Several times — beginning in 2010 — we’ve posted about this selfish practice. (Blue Mercury pops up in every story.)

Heated (ho ho) comments always follow. They’re divided into 3 categories:

  • Warm praise and agreement that this ridiculous practice must stop
  • Icy criticism that it’s a free country; stores should be allowed to do whatever that want, and besides, it’s just a teeny tiny bit of a larger problem
  • Pleas by store owners that they’re helpless. It’s “company policy.”

It will be interesting to see if the town has a little more juice than a blog.

Or if the offending stores continue to blow just more hot air about cold.

Chico's bucked the trend, with this sign. (Photo/Judy Crowley Simonetti)

Chico’s bucked the trend, with this sign. (Photo/Judy Crowley Simonetti)

 

Remembering Drew Friedman

Drew Friedman — a longtime downtown landowner who, as a founder of the Westport Downtown Merchants Association, and landlord of restaurants like Onion Alley, Bobby Q’s and Acqua gave locally owned businesses space on Main Street, and influenced the entire downtown area — has died. He was 86.

There was a moment of silence this morning at “Weston Speak Up,” an annual affair in that town. Friedman was a presence in Weston as the owner of Cobb’s Mill Inn. He bought the iconic restaurant — with ducks and a waterfall — in 2011.

Drew Friedman and his wife Laura Papallo Friedman, at Cobb's Mill Inn. (Photo/Patricia Gay)

Drew Friedman and his wife Laura Papallo Friedman, at Cobb’s Mill Inn. (Photo/Patricia Gay)

Freidman sold his Bobby Q’s building in November 2014, for $9.2 million. He owned it for 31 years, renting to tenants like Onion Alley, Shoe Inn and the “Born to Explore” TV show.

His downtown holdings once included the original Westport Public Library building on the Post Road between Main Street and Parker Harding Plaza (now Starbucks and Freshii). He also owned Post Road property beyond downtown.

Friedman owned other commercial property in Westport too. Last May, he bought the 10-acre Stonehenge property in Ridgefield for $1,990,000.

Friedman’s wife Bobbi — a noted painter, sculptor and dancer — died in 2011. After her death, he married Laura Papallo.

 

Turned On For The Holidays

New light posts went up downtown last week.

Last night, the Main Street holiday decorations — snowflakes, garlands, red and gold bows — were installed, and turned on.

Holiday lights - downtown

The result — a vast improvement over last year’s lame zip line — was a collaborative effort. The Downtown Merchants Association ponied up the funds, while the DMA, town officials and Beautification Committee helped it all come together.

The Beautification Committee plans to decorate the baskets on the old cobra-style lights too. Those poles will remain up until after New Year’s. Removing them now would disrupt holiday shopping — and leave gaping holes in the sidewalk, until they’re bricked over.

Downtown once again looks quite festive. Take that, Fairfield!