As plans to renovate the Westport Inn move through the application process — the 116-room hotel will be downsized and upgraded to 85 rooms, with more landscaping, a 3-story addition, demolition of the front building, a pool, rear dining terrace, and driveway and parking improvements — let’s look back, to its earlier incarnations.
The New Englander Motor Hotel was perfect for the 1960s. It welcomed weary Connecticut Turnpike travelers at Exits 18 and 19. Amenities included a pool (with, for a while, “memberships” offered to Westporters).
The postcard above is an accurate rendition of the rooms facing the rear (north), and the pool.
I’m not sure what the view in the front shows, though. That’s not exactly the Post Road, and the stores on the other side.
The Westport Inn/New Englander has been a hospitable spot for a century. Long before motels, it was the site of Mathewson’s Tourist Cabins. They were all the rage when motoring was new.
The Turnpike (now called I-95) was still in the future. The drive between New York and Boston could be long; driving on the Post Road was tedious. The “motor cabins” offered a welcome respite.
“Tourist cabins” eventually morphed into “motor courts,” then “motels.” A few still survive.
One is the Norwalk Westport Motel.
It’s in Norwalk; presumably “Westport” sneaks into the name because 1) it’s kind of near the border, and 2) in Norwalk, the Post Road is called “Westport Avenue.”
In 2022, the Norwalk Westport Motel has seen better days.
Some of those days can be seen in this postcard, courtesy of Carl Swanson:
I have no idea what the room rate was, back then.
But gas was probably 39 cents a gallon.
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The proposal to upgrade the Westport Inn has been pulled from the next Planning & Zoning Commission agenda. A public hearing has been postponed to September 12.
The first plan included hotel rooms and housing units. Housing was eliminated from subsequent plans.
The current proposal would redevelop the existing 116-room hotel to 85 rooms. Site improvements include addition landscaping, a new 3-story addition, demolition of the front building, minor additions to the rear building, pool, rear dining terrace, and driveway and parking improvements.
All application materials can be viewed here (scroll down for 1595 Post Road East).
Jennifer Howe Rosen headed to the Black Duck the other day. With live music, she thought it would be packed.
It wasn’t. She writes:
“Pre-COVID the Duck was packed with families, salty dogs, townies, tourists, and post-train business people.
“The Duck built a new deck, and refreshed the place. They managed to stay open during the worst of the pandemic.
“They are our local watering hole and burger/seafood destination. They have live music, boat access, and their signature tilt toward the river. It’s time to get back to our loyal, salty roots and frequent the Duck!”
Paul Newman, Joanne Woodward, James Naughton, Eva Le Gallienne, Jack Klugman, Imogene Coca and Sandy Dennis are just a few of the actors who lived in Westport or Weston, and made the short trip to star on the Westport Country Playhouse stage.
Clay Singer too.
The 2013 Staples High School graduate and former Players star has already performed at the historic theater, in “Romeo and Juliet” and “Man of La Mancha.” He returns in the next WCP show, “4000 Miles.”
There are many reasons to love the Playhouse. Seeing homegrown — and excellent — talent is an added bonus. Click here for tickets, and more information.
“Cheese Fries & Froot Loops” — the funny, poignant solo show written and performed by Weston’s Chris Fuller, about this lifelong dream to play on the PGA Tour while living with bipolar manic disorder — has added a pair of benefit performances.
The July 23 and 24 shows (8 p.m., Westport Woman’s Club), will raise funds for the Artists Collective of Westport’s project to provide art supplies and instruction to underserved children.
Reservations (suggested donation: $15) can be made by email (email@example.com) or phone (203-349-8786).
The agenda for next Monday’s Planning & Zoning Commission meeting (July 11, 7 p.m., Zoom) includes important discussions, such as converting the current Westport Rehabilitation Complex on Post Road West into a more modern eldercare facility, and redeveloping the 117-room Westport Inn into a smaller hotel with a restaurant, bar, event space, fitness center, pool and site improvements.
The existing Westport Inn (left), and the proposed new structure.
Two other interesting items are up for discussion too.
Birchwood Country Club wants to construct 4 pickleball courts, near their existing tennis courts. They’d fill a need — at least, for members of the private club — but they’re close to a few homes.
The ball will be in P&Z’s court.
The other intriguing item involves trampolines: Should they be regulated by zoning? And if so, how?
Most trampolines are above ground. But what about permanent, in-ground trampolines? A resident has asked for an interpretation.
Click here for the full P&Z agenda, including a Zoom link.
Westport Sunrise Rotary’s Great Duck Race returns this Saturday (July 9). There’s a new location — Jesup Green — but the same family fun.
The day begins with a 10 a.m. Fun Fair in the Westport Library parking lot. Activities include a Nerdy Derby, face painting and bubble machines.
At 1 p.m. on Jesup Green, 3,000 plastic ducks will slide down a 160-foot sluice course. Each wears a number, matching a $20 raffle ticket. The first 10 ducks down the course win money for their ticket holders. First place is $5,000. Second place wins $1,000. The next 8 finishers get $500 each.
The event is a major Sunrise Rotary fundraiser. Proceeds support charitable endeavors in this area, the state and around the world.
Click here for tickets. Click below for a sneak quack peek.
The Great Duck Race is not the only water-related activity this weekend.
Sunday marks the 43rd annual Westport Weston Family YMCA’s Point-to-Point Compo Beach Swim. The mile-long event includes competitors from across New England and the tri-state region.
All proceeds go to the Y’s aquatics programs to improve aquatics safety in the community, including swim lessons for all ages.
There are 4 heats, based on ability. Advanced swimmers start at 8 a.m., followed by intermediate swimmers (8:05), beginners (8:10) and myTeamTriumph (8:15).
That last group is special. My Team Triumph is a national non-profit serving children, teens adults and veterans with disabilities who could otherwise not experience endurance events like open water swims, road races, or triathlons.
“Captains” (special needs athletes) are paired with able-bodied “angel” volunteers, who use specialized racing equipment such as rafts to pull their captains during the race. Special needs athletes who would like to participate must register in advance with My Team Triumph.
Eegistration can be done online at westporty.org/43rd and is $50. Walk-registrations costs $60, starting at 7 a.m. The top 3 men’s and women’s finishers win awards. Swimmers get Point-to-Point swim caps and t-shirts.
No small potatoes: 19 teenagers and 9 adults just returned from Saugatuck Congregational Church’s High School Youth Group mission trip to Maine,
They stayed in Old Orchard Beach, and worked on a Growing to Give farm in Brunswick. The organization raises organic vegetables using climate-friendly methods, and donates them to food banks and pantries.
The youth group also cleared trails for the Saco Land Trust.
Westport Lifestyle Magazine’s July issue is out. Among the highlights: a deep dive into the Westport Library’s Verso studios. Click here to learn more about the professional-quality production facilities right under our noses (and open to the public).
One of the Verso studios. (Photo/Brendan Toller for Westport Lifestyle Magazine)
On Thursday Adil Kassam, and Mehnaz and Atif Bhanjee — representatives of the Ismaili Muslim community — presented 1st Selectwoman Jen Tooker, 2nd Selectwoman Andrea Moore, and the Westport Police and Fire Departments with gifts of appreciation.
During the holy month of Ramadan, it’s traditional to visit municipal offices, to express thanks and appreciation for the valuable contributions and services they provide.
Town officials, in turn, expressed gratitude for the Muslim community’s thanks.
Town officials and Ismaili Muslim community representatives, on Thursday.
Two Westport pizza restaurants are looking for new owners.
Ignazio’s — which after many delays opened in November 2019, just 4 months before COVID struck — is one.
A description on BizBuySell reads: “Fantastic opportunity to take over a well executed and furnished Pizza restaurant. Casual and contemporary interior with a wood fired Pizza oven as the center piece makes for a great setting. Keep the existing, highly acclaimed concept….
“Capitalize on this highly trafficked corridor on the Post Road E. in Westport with great visibility, easy access and a parking lot that can accompany 30+ cars. Indoor seating capacity of 60 plus outdoor seating.
“Seller will stay on to train incoming buyer on all operations and recipes. Add a driver(s) to your staff to capitalize on delivery. Target marketing and added delivery will definitely bolster the bottom line.”
The asking price is $275,000. Rent is $8,000 a month. Ignazio’s lease runs through 2028.
The other restaurant is Golden Pizza, in the Westfair strip mall. Less information is available; the price for this business is $85,000. Click here for details. (Hat tip: Tony Litman)
Janette Kinnally sends this obituary for her mother, Janet Kinnally, who died last week at 80.
“She was a loving, kind soul that cared deeply about her family and friendships. I don’t think I ever met a person who did not remember her with great affection and fondness.
“She grew up in London, during the war, and her family of 5 girls was displaced. She lived in a convent for 5 years. When she returned back home, her father suddenly passed away when she was 15. She needed to make money and worked in many jobs, including as an usherette. She met the Beatles. She worked in England until she moved to the States to help her sister, who had moved to Connecticut.
“While on a work visa, she met my father at an insurance company at the age of 23. It was love at first sight for my father. They dated for several weeks until she told him she had to go back to England. My father wrote and said he would like to visit. He went to England, but bought 2 tickets back to the States. He asked her to move back and stay with his family.
“They got married in 1967. They had a true love story. The ones you read about in books, that you wish you had; that was their love and affection for each other. They held hands and walked every day at the beach or her favorite place, Sherwood Island, until my mom could no longer walk a few months ago. They were married for 55 years. She was my dad’s one true love.
“My mom and dad moved to Westport in 1967 and gave birth to me in 1969, her one and only child. We had a special bond. She said I taught her what true unconditional love was. I understand what she means, now that I have 2 boys (ages 16 and 11) of my own. She loved her two grandchildren, Mikhail and Andrew, more than anything.
“My mom was also a lifelong health and wellness pioneer. She sought out Eastern and holistic healing modalities throughout her life. She worked for a chiropractor, a naturopathic doctor and as a caregiver for end-of-life patients. She loved nature, gardens, the ocean and animals, and was a dog walker. She loved helping others. She was truly an amazing woman who inspired me daily.
“My mom and dad enjoyed traveling around the world. Every year they met up with her sister and brother-in-law to travel to a different destination around the globe. They had many stories to share of their adventures and the amazing people they met around the world.
“I moved back to Westport in 2012 with my husband Andrey and my two boys, wanting to be close to my parents as my mom’s health declined from dementia/Alzheimer’s. We lived together until the end of her life.
“I feel grateful that we had the last 10 years together, so she could spend time with me and my children. We have many special memories together, but the ones I remember most are singing at the dinner table and afterwards dancing to the music from the ’50s and ’60s, or doing karaoke at our house during the holidays with our extended family.
“My mom will be greatly missed by our family every day, but her love and her life lessons and generosity of spirit will live on in us forever!
“Please make donations in her honor to the Westport Senior Center or alz.org, an organization providing support, care and research for Alzheimer’s.”
A memorial service and reception to celebrate the life of Joel Hallas is set for Saturday, May 21 (2 p.m., the Memorial Garden of Saugatuck Congregational Church). A reception will follow also in the garden.
The Westport Inn has always been a weird part of Westport.
Built as a motel in the early 1960s to serve travelers on nearby I-95, it morphed into a slightly more upscale place — though hardly an “inn” — in recent years.
It was a place for guests to go when we didn’t want them in our homes, and where high school reunion-goers stayed. But there we never thought about the ballroom for banquets. We did not patronize its succession of restaurants, which opened and closed in dizzying fashion. It was in Westport, but it was never really of it.
If a longtime Westporter has his way, all that may change.
Jim Randel has practiced law here for 40 years. He’s also president of Rand Real Estate Services, which invests in underutilized properties in Connecticut and Florida.
His initial venture was the abandoned Factory Store by the East Norwalk train station. He turned it into the Factory Outlet Center, the first such urban development in the US. Rand real estate has done 40 or so projects since.
The 117-room Westport Inn is one of those properties.
Its most recent owner was Bridgewater. When Randel asked the hedge fund’s facilities manager if they’d sell, the answer was yes. The deal closed last November.
He’s now the lead partner in WI Associates. The other investors are also Westport residents. They were not sure what they’d do with the 3.8-acre property. But it’s a great location, and they knew they could be both creative and constructive with it.
After conversations with hospitality and housing experts, and neighbors, they had an idea. It’s not yet complete. But the outline is intriguing.
Working with the Greenwich Hospitality Group — owners of the Delamar hotels in Southport and Greenwich, and operators now of the Inn at Longshore and La Plage restaurant — they plan to take down the original, front building.
The 42 rooms in the rear building — built 25 or so years ago — would be upgraded. The ballroom would become a restaurant and conference areas. There would be outdoor seating and gardens. But 1 1/2 acres behind — a dedicated conservation area — would not be touched.
In addition, 16 to 18 units would be built, nearest the Willows Pediatric building. They would be unlike anything in Fairfield County: “condo-tels,” or condos with access to all hotel services, including concierge, housekeeping, room service, security, and the pool and fitness center.
At 1,700 to 1,900 square feet, Randel says they would appeal to empty nesters, Florida snowbirds, and people their older parents living nearby, among others.
To help meet Connecticut’s 8-30g housing regulation, the developers are targeting 20% of the condo units as “affordable.” They’ll do that by building 3 or 4 of them off-site. They’re looking at several potential options.
All of this is subject to zoning approval.
It’s also not a slam dunk economically. As Randel notes, COVID has rocked the hotel industry. But, he says, “if we provide quality hospitality, housing and a restaurant — at prices comparable to the Delamar, which has been successful even during the pandemic — we are very optimistic.”
The next step, says engineer Rick Redniss, is filing a text change application with Westport’s Planning & Zoning Commission, and conversations with neighbors.
“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?”
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