There was no better illustrator of Westport life than Stevan Dohanos.
And there’s no better time to look back at one of his many Saturday Evening Post works — one that showed our town off to a national audience — than today, a week before Christmas.
The piece is “Christmas in Westport.”
Using a mundane scene — postal carriers (“postmen,” we called them then) heading out to deliver cards and packages, in the snow — he showed both the hard work and joy of the holidays.
If the setting looks familiar: It is. From the 1930s through ’90s, the building that is now Design Within Reach served as our real (non-rinky-dink) post office. The loading dock was on the east side, facing Bay Street — where the patio is today south side, facing the building across the Post Road.
Dohanos — a longtime Westporter who designed not only magazine covers but postage stamps, World War II patriotic posters and more — used artistic license to move the Saugatuck Congregational Church across the street.
No problem. Our postmen knew exactly where to find it — and every other customer on their route.
Friday is October 1. Which means that Fido — and all his 4-legged friends — will once again be allowed at Compo Beach.
For the next 6 months, they can enjoy the off-leash area (south of the pavilion, including South Beach), and the leashed area north of that. They’re prohibited from the pavilion, playground and walkways.
It goes without saying, but Parks & Rec says it anyway: Pick up all poop.
Tyler Hicks is an internationally known New York Times photographer. Fittingly, he just won (another) international prize.
The Staples High School Class of 1988 graduate (and 2-time Pulitzer Prize winner) captured the 2021 Visa d’Or Award for Best Digital News Story. He won for his COVID coverage on the Amazon River.
Hicks spent over a month last summer traveling on a riverboat with health workers, entering villages where the dead were uncountable.
The Visa d’Or international news photography awards are presented in Perpignan, France, after a series of jury reviews.
This is Hicks’ second Visa d’Or News Award. He won in 2014 for his coverage of the Westgate Mall massacre in Nairobi, Kenya.
Click here to see his prize-winning Brazil photos.
COVID in the Amazon (Photo/Tyler Hicks for New York Times)
The Westport Library’s Fall Book Sale returns — live and in person — Friday, October 8 through Monday, October 11.
Thousands of “gently used books” include dozens of categories. A few examples: children’s, literature and classics, fiction, mysteries, sci-fi, fantasy, art, photography, history, math, science, psychology, religion, biography, business, cooking, gardening, performing arts, travel, foreign language and antiquarian. Tons of DVDs, CDs and vinyl records will be available too.
Everything Sunday (October 10) is half-price. On Monday (October 11), you can fill a bag for just $5.
Early bird admission on Friday (October 8, 8 a.m.) is through a pre-paid $15 ticket. It’s sold online only; click here. For more information about the Book Sale itself, click here. To help, email email@example.com.
There’s something for everyone at this Sunday’s “Smart Walk for Smart Kids with LD” (October 3, 12 p.m., Sherwood Island State Park).
In addition to crafts, games, ice cream, music and tai chi, Piglet — the blind, deaf, pink dog with the positive attitude — will make an appearance. And Stephanie Bass will sign copies of her book of pandemic signs, Driveway Showcase.
Child’s Pose Yoga helps youngsters connect their bodies, minds and health. To help, they’re partnering with “mindful expert” Denise Zack on a workshop: “Setting Your Child up for Success with Mindful Skills.”
The goal is to help children develop emotional resilience. Parents will learn specific, useful strategies.
It’s October 8 (10 a.m., 8 Church Street South).
Tickets are $40 each. Registration is required; DM @childsposewestport.
Meanwhile, look what crawled up Molly Alger’s window the other day. It posed long enough to be our “Westport … Naturally” feature.
And finally … on this day in 1836, Thomas Crapper was born. The English plumber held 9 patents, including the ballcock, leading to the invention of modern plumbing. [Insert your own juvenile joke here.]
I arrived at the Westport post office early the other day. They don’t open until 9, but Lou saw me standing beyond the metal gates. He opened them for me, and waved me inside to Rosie’s counter.
I was there to mail a birthday package to a friend in Idaho. I put the box on Rosie’s scale, and she calculated different options. I settled on the cheapest: $17.76 for ground delivery. It would take at least a week to arrive. I told Rosie it seemed expensive.
“Try Priority,” she suggested, and left her spot behind the counter to get the box for me. I asked if she thought my items would fit. She taped up the new box, opened my existing package, and helped me carefully place the items inside the smaller one.
“But what about the stickers?” I asked, pointing to the decorations I had attached to the original box.
“Here.” She tenderly removed the tape from the box that had the stickers attached and transferred them to the new box.
Rosie typed a few things into her computer, then said, “Now it will cost less money and get there faster.”
Wow — that was service!
I was amazed. And grateful. For all of the jibes about workers “going postal” and civil servants being apathetic clock punchers, this experience proved the contrary. And I even got out of there before the official 9 a.m. open!
Thank you, Rosie and Lou, for caring enough to go the extra mile for your patrons, and for taking care of our stuff.
Rosie has worked at the Westport branch as long as I have lived here. I truly appreciate her kindness, knowledge and sticker transferring skills.
Lou and Rosie. (Photo/Tracy Porosoff)
(Do you know an Unsung Hero? Email firstname.lastname@example.org)
A few times in the week following Isaias, I got no mail at all.
I chalked it up to the storm. Either no one was sending anything, or it got delayed somewhere along the way.
But after reading stories like this one about problems with the US Postal Service, I’m wondering if my empty mailbox is part of a larger issue.
Nearly everyone in Westport loves their mail carrier. These men and women are devoted, efficient and friendly. They know their routes, they know us, they deliver the mail with smiles and speed.
Similarly, we love the Westport post office. We may not like its crowded parking lot or cramped confines, but we know we will get excellent service. The clerks answer our questions — from basic to complicated, and often idiotic — with patience and clarity.
Whatever is happening to the US Postal Service has nothing to do with them.
But it’s important to crowdsource this one. So: Has your mail delivery been slower than usual lately? Are there fewer collection boxes around town? (The one near CVS disappeared years ago.) Have you noticed anything else in the past few weeks?
Click “Comments” below. And the next time you see your postal carrier: Thank him or her for their service.
The Westport Downtown Merchants Association and ASF are partnering to raise $10,000 for local businesses hit by COVID. They’re offering a unique Westport design, for hoodies, long-sleeve shirts, t-shirts and tank tops.
For each sale, $10 will be given to a WDMA-backed fund, and distributed ASAP.
But hurry — they’re only available through June 14!
Ready for some exercise? Want to help frontline healthcare workers?
Thanks to Colby Kranz, you can do both.
The 2015 Staples High School graduate has designed a “Half Marathon from Home.” She posts a schedule that everyone follows, with playlists, daily tips and weekly motivational podcasts — but you choose the training routes (and final run, on July 25) that works best for you and your schedule.
Colby — who has 6,000 Instagram followers, for her @livingpurely healthy recipe and lifestyle tips — says that dozens of people have already signed up for the half-marathon. They come from many different backgrounds. Some were training for a race that got canceled. Others have never run before.
All are welcome!
Colby Kranz is in national sales with iHeartMedia. During COVID, she’s working — and training — in Westport.
The latest restaurant to reopen — with new, socially distant outdoor tables — is the Sherwood Diner.
The menu is not as extensive as before. But the most popular items are all there. And 2 more umbrellas are coming soon.
It’s not their biggest graduation of their lives. But every June, the Westport-Weston Co-op Nursery School celebrates its pre-K classes moving on to kindergarten next year with a a picnic on the Unitarian Church lawn, and an end-of-year video. Parents, grandparents and siblings join in.
For the first time in the school’s 65-year history, graduation was upended by a pandemic.
The videos were made by the Co-op’s Staples High School interns, and emailed to families. And instead of a picnic, there was a “car parade.”
But each youngster got a goody bag. There were “Co-op Class of 2020” t-shirts. And there were enough smiles all around to (almost) forget that there was a somber reason behind the new-style ceremony.
On April 8, Governor Lamont ordered all flags in Connecticut to fly at half-staff, mourning all the lives lost to COVID-19.
On May 19, he directed them all to return to full-staff.
The Westport Post Office has not yet gotten the message. The American and POW flags continue at half-staff.
For several years, Design Within Reach had a small Westport store.
Tucked away on Elm Street — behind Klein’s and the back entrance to the YMCA — it was not, CEO John Edelman admits, a great location.
Now Design Within Reach — which calls itself “the largest retailer of authentic modern furniture and accessories in the world” — is back in Westport.
This time, they’re doing it right.
Design Within Reach — a new store in the old post office.
The Stamford-based company has taken over both levels of the 1935 post office building on the Post Road, across from Jeera Thai and Finalmente. They’ve completely renovated the 2 floors — which themselves were redesigned by Post 154, a restaurant that could not possibly need all that space — and made good use of the terrace overlooking Bay Street.
The Bay Street side of Design Within Reach. New entrances lead up from the sidewalk.
It’s one more exciting addition to downtown. With Bedford Square and Jesup Hall restaurant opening nearby, there’s an infusion of energy that hasn’t been felt since the movie theaters’ last picture shows 2 decades ago.
Edelman is excited to return. And he doesn’t just mean relocating the store.
His Westport roots go back to his parents, who got married here 70 years ago. They moved to Ridgefield (more land), but he made regular trips to Gold’s (for Sunday lox and bagels) and Klein’s (for Sally White’s record department).
Eight years ago, when Edelman became CEO, the New York Times did a story. Of all the company’s stores, he chose to be photographed in Westport.
Last week — as guests at an opening party admired the handsome chairs, desks, beds, lighting fixtures, sofas and more — Edelman took time to talk about his sprawling new store.
John Edelman (center), Design Within Reach’s CEO. He’s flanked by Matt Mandell (left, Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce executive director) and Westport 1st selectman Jim Marpe.
As a post office, the building was a typical New Deal project: big and heavy. The Post 154 owners modernized it, but when they closed they left lots of “stuff” behind.
The new tenants created a beautiful space. It’s modern, open, alluring and airy.
Designers kept the center staircase, but that’s about all that remains. They “deconstructed” nearly all the rest. Exposed ceilings and HVAC give the store a hip, contemporary feel.
Dozens of pendant lights hang above the center staircase.
The terrace is a great idea, showcasing relaxed living while drawing customers from the side street.
The store — which really should be called Design Within Reach of Only Certain Zip Codes — does not have many suburban locations. Edelman says. But with 70% of their clientele having graduate degrees, Westport is a perfect spot.
Edelman is back in Westport big time. He and his wife rented a house on the water. He can walk to the train station, and he may buy a boat.
He can’t buy records from Sally White anymore. To mail a letter, he uses the “new” post office.
But he can still get his bagels and lox at Gold’s.
And then, a couple of blocks away, he can watch Design Within Reach help jump-start the renaissance of downtown Westport.
There’s plenty of room on the lower level to show off bedding, and more.
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