Tag Archives: Westport Wash & Wax

Unsung Heroes #113

Another day, another lineup of cars at Westport Wash & Wax.

And for the popular Post Road East business, that means another day of helping the community.

Every organization in town, it seems, benefits from owners Scott and Laila Tiefenthaler’s generosity. Need proof? While waiting for your vehicle, read the letters of thanks that fill the bulletin board. (You won’t have time for all of them. But you’ll get the idea.)

One of the most grateful recipients is Homes With Hope. Over the past 18 years, the local housing service has received nearly $100,000 from the car wash.

Homes With Hope CEO and president Jeff Wieser (in jacket) with (front, from left) Laila, Scottt and Craig Tiefenthaler, plus dedicated employees, at one of the many “Good Neighbor” ceremonies.

This Friday (August 30) is Westport Wash & Wax’s 19th annual Good Neighbor Day. Once again, the Tiefenthalers will donate  100% — you read that right — of the day’s car wash proceeds to Homes with Hope.

Many businesses generously donate a percentage of sales, to plenty of organizations. But it’s extraordinary for one company to so consistently donate all proceeds from a full day’s sales.

And to help nearly every other cause that asks, in some way, shape or form.

Scott and Laila Tiefenthaler — and their entire hard-working, friendly and efficient crew — are the sparkling recipients of this week’s Unsung Heroes award.

Westport Wash & Wax: A Clean Upgrade

If you’ve noticed a large number of dirty cars in Westport lately: Don’t worry.

Westport Wash & Wax is open again.

Our town’s favorite car wash — okay, our only one, but it still rocks the universe — shut down for 11 days recently. It was the first time since they opened, in 1999.

The reason: upgrades.

“Just like with a car, at some point you need new things,” owner Scott Tiefenthaler — a longtime community benefactor — says.

“This is a 365-day-a-year business. But for this overhaul, we had to close completely.”

Lookin’ good, inside Westport Wash & Wax.

Electric components have been replaced by a hydraulic drive. State-of-the-art components move Westport Wash & Wax “far beyond everyone else in Fairfield County,” Scott says.

The modernization may not be visible to customers, as they wait for their cars to come out clean.

But, Scott says, “Our machine has always done the bulk of the work. This allows it to do even more. Now our guys can pay even more attention to the details.”

He and his crew are happy to see customers again.

And — just in time for the holidays — we’re happy to see fewer dirty cars on the road.

Pic Of The Day #374

Who doesn’t love Westport Wash & Wax? But someone should tell them that no one has retractable radio antennas anymore — or “car phones.” (Photo/Sandy Rothenberg)

Like A Good Neighbor, Westport Wash & Wax Is There

It’s a Westport tradition: getting your car clean at Westport Wash & Wax.

Everyone does it. And while they wait, everyone reads the many notes of thanks tacked to the bulletin board. Every organization in town, it seems, benefits from owner Scott and Laila Tiefenthaler’s generosity.

One of the most grateful recipients is Homes With Hope. Over the past 16 years, the local housing service has received more than $80,000 from the car wash.

Tomorrow (Friday, September 1), Westport Wash & Wax holds its 17th annual Good Neighbor Day. Once again, 100% of the proceeds — all day — go to Homes With Hope.

“For nothing more than the cost of a car wash, you can help end homelessness,” says CEO Jeff Wieser.

Thanks, Westport Wash & Wax, for your continued generosity, and commitment to our town!

Westport Wash & Wax is very generous — and very, very good!

End Of An Era: Safe Rides Shuts Down

SafeRides has saved its last life.

The program — which ran Saturday nights from 10 p.m. to 1:30 a.m., providing free, confidential transportation home to any high school student in Westport — will not reopen in September.

Directors cite 2 reasons: lack of volunteers, and Uber.

SafeRides began in May, 2009. It was the inspiration of Staples High School senior Alex Dulin — a 1-girl tornado who had recently moved here from suburban Seattle. Just 5 months later, she received the 2009 Youth Leadership Award from the Connecticut Youth Services Association.

For nearly a decade, SafeRides thrived. A board of directors — all high school students — organized volunteer drivers. It was a lot of responsibility, with plenty of training.

SafeRides volunteers, waiting for calls.

But it was fun too. Working in a room donated by Christ & Holy Trinity Church — and munching on pizzas delivered free every week by Westport Pizzeria — dispatchers and drivers ferried teenagers too drunk (or otherwise incapable or unable) to get in a car, from parties or friends’ houses back home.

There was plenty of support. The Westport Police Department backed the program. Kiwanis Club provided an insurance policy. And Westport Wash & Wax offered free cleaning to any driver whose passenger got sick. (It happened a few times.)

But starting last year, numbers — of volunteers and riders — dropped drastically.

A year ago there were 7, 10, 12 calls a night — with 12, 15 or 18 riders. Now there were just 1 or 2 calls, with 2 or 3 riders.

Several times this past school year — lacking enough volunteer supervisors, dispatchers and drivers — SafeRides did not operate.

“The kids on the board tried hard to keep it going. A lot of people tried,” SafeRides president Maureen Coogan says. “There just weren’t the numbers.”

She noted that  SafeRides collected users’ cell numbers — and would only drive teenagers home, not to another party, the diner or McDonald’s.

Uber has none of those requirements. It often arrived quicker than SafeRides.

And — by using a parent’s credit card — Uber seemed as “free” as SafeRides actually was.

“It’s sad for kids who don’t have their parent’s credit card,” Coogan says. “What are we showing our kids — that it’s okay to take their parent’s credit card and do whatever they want?

“And for the community, it’s sad. My daughter had a blast volunteering with her friends. It’s sad that kids will grow up without that sense of giving up a couple of Saturday nights, to volunteer.”

There’s no way of knowing how many lives SafeRides saved. But Westport has not had a teenage traffic fatality in many years. It certainly worked.

Now saving lives is Uber’s responsibility.

Building Proposal Raises Affordable Housing, Traffic Questions

It’s a long-neglected property. A developer hopes to tear down the tired old building, clean up the land and build a new office/retail/food store complex, as well as residential retail units.

There are 16 or so affordable units there now. They’d be gone. They don’t count toward Westport’s state-mandated 8-30g affordable housing number, however, because they were built (long) before 1990.

The new plan includes 14 units. Only 3 would be “affordable” — but they would apply toward our total number.

Those are some of the issues surrounding a proposal heard by Westport’s Planning and Zoning Commission recently for 785 Post Road East. It sits unobtrusively between Westport Wash & Wax and New Country Toyota — and it has for many years.

785 Post Road East, between Westport Wash & Wax and New Country Toyota.

785 Post Road East, between Westport Wash & Wax and New Country Toyota.

In recent years, the rear of the property has been used as a dumping ground. The house fronting the Post Road is not in dire shape, but it’s sure not distinguished either.

The new plan includes a 2-story building for office space, plus retail and that convenience or food store. The rental units would be part of 3 separate 2 1/2-story buildings. Ten would be 2-bedrooms; 4 would have 1 bedroom. There would be parking for 49 cars.

A “Notice of Intention to Demolish” sign already hangs on the existing building. Another one promises “Leasing Available.”

If the P&Z decides in an upcoming meeting to approve the project — or if they okay another development down the road — one thing is certain: Traffic on the Post Road will get even worse.

Right now mornings on that stretch — including the merge from Long Lots Road — are brutal. When there’s an accident on I-95, nothing moves.

So the next time you’re stuck there, take a look to your right. If you never noticed 785 Post Road East before, you will now.

A side view of 785 Post Road East.

A side view of 785 Post Road East.

Oh My 06880 — Photo Challenge #89

Nearly every town has a car wash.

But only Westport has Westport Wash & Wax.

In addition to great attention to detail (pun intended), these guys truly understand what it means to be part of a community. They support every town organization, fundraiser and what-have-you that asks for help. And they do it both generously and joyfully.

For the purposes of our photo challenge, they’re also one of the few car washes anywhere that provides a handsome bench where customers can wait.

With flowers.

Susan Schmidt, Edward Bloch, Anne Delorier and Virginia Tienken recognized where last week’s photo challenge was. (Right near the exit, by the Post Road.) Click here for that image.

This week’s challenge is different.

(Photo/Bob Weingarten)

(Photo/Bob Weingarten)

Please don’t say “It’s a plaque honoring Nevada Hitchcock.”

We know that. What we’re looking for is:

  • Where in Westport would you find this?
  • Who was Nevada Hitchcock?
  • Bonus question: What’s up with that first name?

Click “Comments” below to show off your knowledge of Westport history.

Westport Wash & Wax Covers All The Details

Who doesn’t love Westport Wash & Wax?

Our town’s only car wash is clean and green. They support every organization, cause and fundraiser that asks. They do fantastic work, and are always friendly.

This being Westport, they’ve probably worked on every vehicle ever produced.

But this may be the first time they — or any other car wash — ever detailed a kayak.

(Photo/Howard Silver)

(Photo/Howard Silver)

Randy Herbertson’s Very Local Visual Brand

Randy Herbertson is a Midwesterner. His wife grew up in California — where she had no idea that ancestors named Barlow and Hurlbutt had roots in this area dating back centuries.

In 1997 Herbertson — a talented, creative marketing executive — was transferred east by Conde Nast. He lived in Westport and commuted to New York, where for many years he owned a branding agency.

In 2013 he had a revelation. “Am I stupid?” he asked himself. “Why can’t I work in Westport too?” (His wife — the lead designer at Terrain — already did.)

Randy Herbertson

Randy Herbertson

He and his business partner, fellow Westporter Geoff Shafer, opened their multimidia design and promotion firm, The Visual Brand, downtown. In the 2 years since, Herbertson — who makes his living observing consumers’ behavior — has saved hours of commuting time each day.

He knew that would happen. What he did not expect was that he’d become part of a flourising, fun downtown community.

Operating out of reclaimed space on Church Lane — a building behind SoNo Baking Company — Herbertson and Shafer have found plenty of local clients. They hang out in cool places.

Herbertson has joined local business organizations. He’s hired Connecticut designers. “I’d never even heard of Western Connecticut State University,” he admits. “But they’ve got a great program, with really good people.”

Herbertson and Shafer found other businesses founded by former New Yorkers. Neat coffee and cocktails and Luxe Wine Bar are two. Westport Wash & Wax and Quality Towing are 2 more. Not everyone aspires to work in New York forever,” Herbertson says.

The Visual Brand office: inside and out.

The Visual Brand office: inside and out.

From his office — the mail sorting room of the very first Westport post office — Herbertson watches Bedford Square rise.

“It’s a bit of a pain,” he says of the construction. “But it’s exciting. It will be very good overall.”

His marketing eye has been caught by Anthropologie, which will do “some very cool stuff” with their repurposed space.

But, he says, “it’s important to keep the local element downtown — not just the big corporations.” He cites SoNo Baking as “very focused on what this community needs.”

His vision is stirred by the possibilities across the street. A choir member of Christ & Holy Trinity Episcopal Church, Herbertson would love to find an investor, buy the adjacent Seabury Center, and turn it into a performing arts center like the Ridgefield Playhouse.

“I’m really bullish on downtown,” he notes. “We have an opportunity to be really creative. My son lives in West Hartford. They’ve done some pretty cool stuff up there, in an area that used to be not so good. I hope we can do it better.”

This photo on the very intriguing home page of The Visual Brand's website was taken just a couple of miles from the firm's office.

This photo on the very intriguing home page of The Visual Brand’s website was taken just a couple of miles from the firm’s office.

After 2 years, Herbertson says, he’s found “no downsides” to working in Westport. (He still has clients in the city. They’re just a train ride away.)

“It’s completely possible to do everything we did in New York — at a fraction of the cost.”

Plus, there are all those wine bars, coffee shops — and maybe even a performing arts space — just steps away.

 

Citgo Closes; Great “Details” Lost

Similar businesses often congregate in the same area.

There are the diamond and garment districts in Manhattan. The food shops of Arthur Avenue.

And the car detailers on Westport’s Post Road, near Bertucci’s.

For years there were 2, separated only by 4 lanes of whizzing traffic. Everyone knows Westport Wash & Wax; it’s a big operation, with a large sign.

For the past 23 years though, Ken Paolini has built a loyal following in the Citgo station across the street. He’s been there ever since he asked then-owner Gloria DeMattia if he could use 1 bay.

Ken Paolini gets the DARE Hummer looking good, after a rough winter.

Ken Paolini helps the DARE Hummer sparkle, after a rough winter.

He and a couple of employees do it all: full detailing, vacuuming, door jambs, trunks, hand washing. (Occasionally, if there’s no time for the hand wash, they send business across the street.) Ken charges $25 $140 for cars, more for SUVs.

Over the years — relying only on word of mouth — he’s built a great base of customers. He’s loved them, and they return the favor.

But now the station has been sold. The service bays are becoming one more convenience self-serve fast-food store, and Ken will be gone. He’s looking for a new spot, and may end up in Fairfield. (A few customers are scouting locations for him.)

In the meantime, he’s got 4 to 6 months left.

The good news: With the Citgo station closed, he’s using all 3 bays.