“Dan, have you heard reports about random loud bangs going on all over town at night? It was on Facebook “Westport Front Porch” again last night, and also on my private street group text (Old Hill area). We all experienced it a few nights ago, and each thought it was outside our own house.
“As far as we know the police get called, but nothing comes of it.”
What’s going on? If you know, click “Comments” below.
This hasn’t gotten much publicity. But the Westport Inn — Westport’s only hotel — has been sold.
It’s closed for renovations. The website says “We look forward to welcoming you back in January 2021.”
The Water Rats swim team is crawling out of the pool long enough to do some land-based good.
Tomorrow (Saturday, November 7, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.), they’re holding a food drive to benefit the Bridgeport Rescue Mission.
Water Rats are collecting Thanksgiving-themed food items and other non-perishables. Drop-off is the gravel parking lot at the Westport Weston Family YMCA. You don’t even have to get out of your car!
Westport has had its share of inns: The early ones, where George Washington stayed on his travels through town. The Pine Knoll and Hawthorne, which I think were more like rooming houses. The Inn at National Hall on the west bank of the Saugatuck River (whose bottom floor is soon to be the ‘Port restaurant).
We’ve had actual hotels too, including the Westport Hotel (on the corner of the Post Road and Main Street, which in 1923 became the site of the Westport YMCA and is now Bedford Square).
But back in what appears to be the 1930s or ’40s — judging from the hard-to-see automobiles in this postcard from Jack Whittle’s collection — we also had Mathewson’s Motor Cabins.
Click on or hover over to enlarge.
According to the postcard, they were located on the Boston Post Road/Route 1.
Motor cabins — also called “motor courts” — sprouted in the 1920s and ’30s, when Americans took to the roads in cars. They were a step up from rudimentary “tourist camps.”
According to Wikipedia, the price of motor courts was higher. But the cabins had electricity, indoor bathrooms, and occasionally a private garage or carport. They were arranged in attractive clusters or a U-shape.
Does anyone remember Mathewson’s Motor Cabins? Where exactly were they? Who stopped there? Did they have any impact on Westport?
Click “Comments” below, to fill us in on this lost era of town history.
UPDATE: Thanks to alert reader Tom Leyden, we’ve got an aerial photo from 1951. It shows Mathewson’s Motor Cabins right where the Westport Inn is today (as noted in the “Comments”) section). Check it out:
Posted onFebruary 26, 2016|Comments Off on Sharkey’s Puts Kids, Franchisees In The Driver’s Seat
Quick: Westport is world headquarters for which companies, in these 3 fields: heavy construction equipment, hedge funds, and kids’ haircuts?
That’s easy! Terex, Bridgewater and, um, well, I mean…
Many Westporters – especially those with boys and girls looking for a wash, cut and blow-dry, plus fun chairs, toy cars, game stations with Xbox and PlayStation, balloons and lollipops – know (and love) Sharkey’s Cuts for Kids.
But plenty of grateful moms have no idea it’s a flagship Sharkey’s. More than 40 others are franchised worldwide.
Owners travel great distances to our Post Road salon, to learn everything they need to successfully emulate this one.
Sharkey’s is the brainchild – and namesake – of Scott Sharkey. A Long Island native who moved to New York, his first career was in the family business: bar code printing.
Scott Sharkey, in his Westport salon.
When the company was sold, he and his wife Linda moved to Greenwich. As they wondered what to do next, she thought about her son Jack’s kids’ hair salon in New York. It was always packed.
They convened a few focus groups. Sharkey’s Cuts for Kids was born.
The 1st one was located in Greenwich. The 2nd — in 2003 — opened in Westport’s Home Goods plaza, near the Southport line.
Two years later, a Pennsylvania man asked for a franchise. Sharkey invited the potential franchisee up — and the concept took off.
In 2006, the Sharkeys moved to Westport. They sold more franchises. In addition to the 40-plus in the US, another 32 are in various stages of development. Sales are up 32% over last year — and growing.
People notice. Last month, Entrepreneur Magazine named Sharkey’s to its Top 500 Franchises list. It’s the only kids’ salon there.
It’s also the only one Scott and Linda own. That makes it, he says, “the most important of all.”
Sharkey’s Westport salon is a prototype for the franchise: a kids’ paradise.
It’s where they test concepts like new software, or selling shampoos and other hair care products.
It’s also where they introduce potential franchisees to ideas like donating a percentage of each cut to charity. (Kids get tokens, then choose their favorite charity from an ever-changing list like the Humane Society, Make-a-Wish Foundation and St. Jude Children’s Hospital.)
Folks with serious interests in franchising spend a day observing the Westport operation. They stay across the street, at the Westport Inn.
If they like what they see (and sign a contract), they come back for 4 days of training in how to run a salon the “Sharkey’s way.”
By their 2nd day, they work the front desk. If they’re lucky, they’ll see a kids’ party in action.
Franchisees learn how important it is to hire staff who have their own kids. And to pay them more than the industry average.
The Sharkey’s staff loves kids. And the kids love little touches, like the cars they sit in.
“We’re in the ‘mom business,'” Sharkey says. “We don’t hire right out of cosmetology school. It’s easy for young people to say ‘I love kids’ — but when they really see them, and try to cut their hair….” He shakes his head.
“We want people who are more nurturing.”
The reaction of franchisees, Sharkey says, is often “Wow! There’s so much going on you can’t see in a video.” (They also see the salon’s ubiquitous “sharks.” Get it?)
From its Westport headquarters, Sharkey’s Cuts for Kids has a worldwide presence. But every so often, Sharkey is reminded the world is still a very small place.
The other day, a couple who are new franchisees flew in from Tuscany. Sharkey took them to Tarry Lodge for dinner.
The wine list included a bottle from their home town.
Sharkey used it to toast their upcoming success.
Comments Off on Sharkey’s Puts Kids, Franchisees In The Driver’s Seat
BLT is described in a press release as “a leading real estate investor, developer and operator in Fairfield County and nationally.” It owns over 50 hotels across the US, and has developed numerous mixed-use projects, including Stamford’s Harbor Point.
Among its “premier commercial holdings”: the Nyala Farms complex, adjacent to I-95 Exit 18. Originally built for Stauffer Chemical, it now counts Bridgewater Associates as its anchor tenant.
“We’re pleased to add the Westport Inn to our local portfolio,” said Carl R. Kuehner III, CEO of BLT. “We believe that the Inn complements our office holdings here, and will continue to provide benefits for local corporations as well as residents of the Westport community.”
The Westport Inn began as The New Englander, in 1960. With BLT’s purchase today for $14.5 million, it will remain a hotel.
First Selectman Jim Marpe — who with Planning and Zoning Commission chair Chip Stephens worked to find a purchaser for the Sheldon Stein-owned Inn — said that BLT has “an extraordinary local and national reputation as a real estate investor, and is an experienced hotel owner. It’s gratifying to achieve a result that forestalls previous plans to develop multifamily housing on the hotel site, which we determined was not an appropriate use here.”
Stephens noted that apartments would have resulted in “excessive densification,” as well as the loss of much-needed hotel rooms.
The Westport Inn recently underwent a multi-million dollar renovation. It includes 117 rooms, plus 6000 square feet of event space.
There are over 125 miles of roads in Westport. But through November 28 of this year, 6.4% of all reported traffic incidents happened on one small stretch of the Post Road: between Maple and Bulkley Avenues.
That’s the area with no traffic lights, and a couple of dangerous crosswalks. Four pedestrians have been killed there since 2008.
The heavily trafficked stretch of Post Road East near the Westport Inn. Sasco Creek Village is on the right; Lansdowne Condos (not shown) are on the left. (Photo/Google Street View)
“This is not a NIMBY issue,” says a neighbor opposing the proposal. Jan Winston is president of the Lansdowne Condominium complex, across the street and a few yards east of the site.
Winston — a 28-year resident of the condos — points out that directly across from Lansdowne is the former “trailer park.” Now called Sasco Creek Village, it is being modernized — and enlarged. When completed next year, there will be 93 units of affordable housing, up from the current 72.
“There hasn’t been a peep from us” about the increased housing across the street, Winston says. “Many residents of Lansdowne fully support” affordable housing.
However, he notes, part of the what is driving the Westport Inn proposal is Connecticut’s Affordable Housing Statute. Known as “8-30G,” it allows developers to add “affordable units” that override local zoning regulations, in towns where less than 10 percent of the housing stock is considered affordable.
“You can’t put another 200 units there,” says longtime Lansdowne resident Mike Turin. “The number of cars accessing and exiting the Post Road in that area will be overwhelming.”
A drawing of the proposed apartment complex, as seen on Change.org.
Winston and Turin know there is plenty of opposition to the new plan, for many reasons. Westporters are concerned about the impact on schools, wetlands, sewers and the height of the proposed complex. Winston also acknowledges that Westport is far from the state’s 10% affordable housing mandate.
However, he says, “this particular development — with 373 parking spaces for 200 units — is not the way to get there. It terrifies us.”
He foresees tremendous traffic issues. It’s simply too dense for the 2.4-acre property. Lansdowne, he notes, has 90 units on 34 acres.
So where could the next affordable housing complex in Westport be built?
“I have no clue,” Winston admits. “I don’t pretend to be a surrogate for the P&Z.
“I just want to know 2 things. What are the rules — not only for affordable housing, but safety on this really dangerous stretch of road? And how does the town get to the right goal?”
Just 24 hours after it went online, a petition opposing the proposed 200-unit apartment complex on the site of the Westport Inn gained over 300 signatures.
Residents in the Long Lots area have formed a group: Westport United for Responsible Development.
Their petition — available at Change.org and addressed to 1st Selectman Jim Marpe — reads:
Ranger Properties, the current owner/developer of the Westport Inn at 1595 Post Road East, proposes to demolish the Inn and to replace it with a 200 unit multi-family apartment complex. The developer is using the Connecticut Affordable Housing Statute to bypass Westport’s zoning laws and build an apartment complex that would never be permitted under the existing local zoning laws.
A drawing of the proposed apartment complex, as seen on Change.org.
The proposed complex would contain 363,328 square feet, 5 stories (with balconies and roof amenities), and 370 parking spaces on less than 3 acres of land. This unprecedented development would rise in excess of 80 feet above an already elevated grade and tower over adjacent residential neighborhoods. The proposed project violates numerous Westport zoning laws concerning height, density, wetlands and use.
It would irreversibly alter the small town character of Westport, and would place undue burdens on schools, traffic and emergency response; resulting in significant public health and safety concerns.
The project is in the early stages of development.
It takes a while for news to travel from Southport to Westport.
This week, the Fairfield RTM voted 44 to 3 to restore $350,000 to the Pequot Library budget. The cut — made 3 weeks earlier by the Board of Finance — had threatened the existence of the 124-year-old library. (If you’re wondering, this became an “06880” story because many Westporters use — and love — the Pequot Library.)
The Pequot Library.
With that done, if you’re looking for another endangered Fairfield place to support, check out King’s Kitchen. That’s the Southport Beach farm-to-table concession stand, operated by Staples graduate Hunter King (who also just opened the Red Hen restaurant, in the Westport Inn).
The town of Fairfield will not aid in rebuilding the beach stand’s foundation, heavily damaged by Hurricane Sandy. FEMA has also denied funds, and Hunter’s insurance payment is not enough.
“06880” will continue to monitor developments of our friends over in “06890.”
Avid “06880” reader Bill Scheffler liked last year’s list of long-gone, much-loved (or, conversely, quickly forgotten) Westport restaurants.
He responded with a list of his own: old local hotels.
It was a great, blog-worthy idea. I was going to run it — honest, I was — but I guess 21st-century life intruded.
Back in the day -- and in another location -- this was the original Westport Inn.
I found Bill’s email the other day. Because bygone buildings have no sell-by date, his list is as fresh as ever.
Bill begins by noting our most recent hotel closing — the Inn at National Hall — along with the Westport Inn’s predecessor, the New Englander.
That’s too easy. Here are others. Some may be dimly recalled by old-time Westporters; others may be lost in the shrouds of time to all. In alphabetical order, they are:
Beachside Inn: Described by Bill as “a large, impressive oceanfront Victorian building in Green’s Farms.”
Compo Inn: Edward Nash bought the old Christ Church on what was then West Church Street (now Ludlow Road), up the hill from Post Road West — now condos — and turned it into a summer hotel. He added a restaurant (Tony’s), which became a popular hangout.
Golden Door: One of several motels located on the Westport-Norwalk stretch of the Post Road. A few remain (in Norwalk), though from the looks of them I’m guessing you pay by the hour, not the day.
Hawthorne Inn: Located at the southeast corner of the Post Road and Compo Road South (current site of Patriot Bank).
Jassil’s Penguin Hotel and Shorehouse: Known familiarly as The Penguin, even after it became the Miramar and then the Sound View Hotel. An Art Deco landmark on Hillspoint Road — just beyond the I-95 and railroad bridges — it was believed (by my young friends and I, long after its heyday) — to be a bawdy place that, remarkably, rhymed with “shorehouse.”
Mathewson’s Tourist Cabins: A tourist guide listed it as “near the Greyhound Terminal and the Beaches.” Well, the bus depot was in the building where (most recently) the Peppermill stood. And “the beaches” haven’t moved. So I’m not exactly sure where one would have found Mathewson’s Tourist Cabins.
Open Door Inn: Later known as the General Putnam Inn, this was razed to make way for the current police station.
Pine Knoll: Perhaps more of a boardinghouse than a hotel, this old Victorian mansion stood in what is now Playhouse Square (behind the old Derma Clinic). It was owned by the Kemper family, who also owned the tannery that became the adjacent Westport Country Playhouse.
Westport Inn (the original): A guidebook called this, somewhat ungrammatically, “AAA’s only accredited inn at Westport, Conn. Center of Art Colony.” It’s still standing — the white building at the rear of Colonial Green. But it’s been moved twice from its original location, on the southeast corner of the Post Road and Imperial Avenue. The 1st move was to the front of Colonial Green, where Webster Bank now sits.
Thanks, Bill, for the trip down Memory Lane. Which may one of the few places in Westport to never house a hotel.
What a view! If you were looking for lodging in Westport, and saw this on a website — as I did — wouldn’t it make you want to book a room at the Inn at National Hall, the handsome building smack in the center of the photo?
Sure. Unfortunately, this shot serves as the centerpiece of the website for the Westport Inn, a decidedly different establishment several miles east. Guests there gaze out upon a pediatrician’s office, gas station and Goodwill.
This elastic view of reality reminds me of an ad a few years ago for space at the Gorham Island office building — located coincidentally just behind where the photographer stood to take the photo above.
The artist got a bit carried away depicting the glories of the Saugatuck River. There, gliding majestically past the suddenly non-intrusive glass building, was a 3-masted schooner.
Must have been real low tide underneath the Post Road bridge that day.
Click here to help support “06880” via credit card or PayPal. Any amount is welcome — and appreciated! Reader contributions keep this blog going. (Alternate methods: Please send a check to: Dan Woog, 301 Post Road East, Westport, CT 06880. Or use Venmo: @DanWoog06880. Thanks!)