Tag Archives: Westport-Weston Chamber of Commerce

Selectmen Candidates’ Debate On Thursday

If you were underwhelmed by the presidential debates of 2016, your long national nightmare is over.

On Thursday (October 12, 11:30 a.m. to 1:3o p.m., Westport Library), the 4 candidates for 1st selectmen face off. It should be informative — and substantive.

Republican Jim Marpe, Democrat Melissa Kane and independents John Suggs and Timothy J. Elgin will discuss business-related issues. There’s a good reason: The debate is sponsored by the Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce.

Moderator Jay Sandak will lead the discussion in areas like the town’s business environment, jobs and taxes.

The event begins with a chance to meet the candidates. At that time, attendees can submit written questions for the debate.

Green Marine

Falls seems like it’s finally here.

Last week though, temperatures soared into the 90s. And Staples High School students Abi Genser and Michael Lederer dropped in on downtown businesses whose wide-open doors spewed air conditioning onto the (large empty) sidewalks.

Excuses ranged from “the head office says it increases business” to “I’m not the owner. I don’t make those decisions.”

Abi and Michael were not impressed. They’re members of Westport’s new Earth Guardians group. Along with the Westport Green Task Force, Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce and Downtown Merchants Association, they encourage businesses to keep doors closed when the air conditioning — or heat — is on.

Of all the stores they visited — accompanied by Earth Guardians founder Carla Paiva and Green Task Force member Pippa Bell Ader — only one had its door closed.

Kudos to Marine Layer!

To be honest, I’d never heard of this store before Pippa emailed me.

But their closed door will make me more — not less — interested in checking it out.

Slicing Up Saugatuck

The 6th annual Slice of Saugatuck was the best yet.

Perfect late-summer weather; a record number of 50-plus restaurants and businesses, and a large, relaxed crowd enjoyed an afternoon of strolling, eating, music, eating, shopping, eating, kids’ activities, and eating.

Thanks go to the Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce, plus the Slice’s many sponsors.

And congrats to the Gillespie Food Pantry: recipient of some of today’s funds.

Here’s what the Slice looked like, starting and ending at Bridge Square:

Owner Bill Taibe (right) and his Kawa Ni staff served Japanese delicacies (and drinks).

Firefighters at the Saugatuck station promoted fire safety (and offered a seat in their very cool truck).

The Whelk offered some delicacies …

… while a few feet away on the riverfront plaza, the Silver Steel Band played.

Matt Storch dished out fries. The Staples High School graduate’s new Match Burger Lobster restaurant opens in 2 weeks.

Socks — a face painter — came from Norwalk.

The Funicello family’s Tutti’s is always a Slice of Saugatuck favorite.

Mersene — owner of the very popular Indulge by Mersene — welcomed Railroad Place Slice-goers with her typically funky goods.

Every kid loves a bounce house.

A tae kwan do place lured passersby with this inflatable guy.

The Slice included Saugatuck Avenue too. Here’s the mouth-watering scene at Dunville’s.

All roads led to the Slice of Saugatuck. If you’re reading this before 5 p.m. — there’s still time. After 5, several restaurants extend the fun with specially priced menus.

Slice Of Saugatuck Returns September 9

Saugatuck keeps growing. Every day, it seems, there’s something new and exciting in what was once our original town center.

There are new restaurants and stores. There’s new life and activity (like “Tuesdays at the Train”).

And — on Saturday, September 9 — new businesses will participate in the Slice of Saugatuck.

From Bridge Square to Railroad Place — and everywhere else — Slice of Saugatuck is packed. (Photo/Terry Cosgrave)

Six years ago, the 1st street festival drew 27 participants, and a few hundred people.

This time, 54 establishments have signed on. A crowd of more than 2,000 is expected to stroll the streets, nibble food, listen to live music at 6 venues, and enjoy kid and family activities like an obstacle course, bouncy houses and Maker Faire area.

The list of attractions includes 31 restaurants and 23 merchants. They’ll put tables outside, open their doors, then let the fun begin.

Slice of Saugatuck also boasts 2 beer gardens with wine), and specialty drinks at many venues. After the festival, a Saugatuck Happy Hour keeps the celebration going.

The “Slice” name comes from the street fair’s shape. Ranging from Riverside Avenue on one side and Saugatuck Avenue on the other, narrowing to Railroad Place, it resembles a pizza slice.

Of course, for many years Saugatuck was a heavily Italian neighborhood. There are still plenty of premier pasta-and-pizza places there — along with restaurants specializing in seafood, steaks, Mexican and Thai cuisine and more.

But you know that already. Saugatuck is a favorite destination for Westporters, and everyone else in Fairfield County.

It’s a little slice of heaven, right here in town.

(Tickets for the Slice of Saugatuck — $15 per adult; 2 for $25; children under 13, $5 — go on sale on-site at 1:50 p.m. the day of the event; cash only. Proceeds help fund the Gillespie Center’s food pantry. The Slice is sponsored by the Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce. For more information, including a map and list of participants, click here.)

 

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.

Tuesdays @ The (T)rain

Call it a “dry run.”

Except a sudden, unexpected thunderstorm sent dozens of commuters, parents, kids and random Westporters scurrying for the safety of tents set up by food vendors, local organizations and the sponsoring Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce — while knocking out the live music that had just kicked in.

And except for a storm-related Metro-North overhead wire problem that created delays of up to 30 minutes, and caused trains to shuttle back and forth between Westport and Rowayton.

Apart from those glitches though, the 1st-ever “Tuesdays @ the Train” event went swimmingly, at Luciano Park next to the station.

The sun came out. There were games and eats. Everyone relaxed, went with the (still-wet) flow, and had a great time.

Mark your calendars for the next 2 Tuesdays @ the Train: July 18 and August 8.

First Selectman Jim Marpe checks out the “Tuesdays @ the Train” tents in Luciano Park.

Kids played in a variety of ways.

Meanwhile, all around town, a rainbow lit up the skies. Here’s a sampling:

Compo Beach (Photo/Rich Stein)

Burying Hill Beach (Photo/Nico Eisenberger)

The downtown view, from iFloat (Photo/terry Stangl)

Tuesdays @ The Train

One of the enduring images of postwar Westport was Mom rounding up the kids, tossing them in the back of the station wagon, and driving down to Saugatuck to pick up Dad as he stumbled off the bar car — I mean, got off the train — after a hard day of work.

Times have changed. Mom now commutes; Dad works from home. One-car families gave way to 2 (or 3, or 4); the “station car” is now likely to be a BMW or Tesla. The bar car went the way of the 59-minute train ride (it’s now 68 — at least).

But the Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce pays homage to those days. Starting this Tuesday, June 27 — and continuing July 18 and August 8 — they’re sponsoring a new event.

“Tuesdays @ the Train” are family-friendly (and free). From 5:30 to 8:30 p.m., you can meet Mom (or Dad) at the train, then cross under the tracks to Luciano Park (for 25 years the home of Festival Italiano).

There will be live music; food for purchase from Dunville’s, Tarry Lodge and Viva’s, plus Phil and Tom’s ice cream; a beer-and-wine garden, and games like bocce, bean bag target toss and badminton.

Chamber of Commerce executive director Matt Mandell built 2 giant Jengas and a Giant Kerplunk.

There’s a playground right in the park too, with a basketball hoop.

NOTE: You don’t need to be a commuter — or have a family — to enjoy “Tuesdays @ the Train.” Local workers, those who drive to work or work from home, retirees — and singles, divorced, flown-nest and childless couples — are warmly welcome too.

(For more information on Tuesdays @ the Train, click here.)

First Citizens Of Westport

One man revitalized downtown Westport with a building project. The other revitalizes lives, providing homeless people with buildings to sleep in.

Both men — David Waldman and Jeff Wieser — will be honored as “First Citizens.” The Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce presents the awards on Tuesday, June 13, at a dinner at the Boathouse restaurant.

Waldman is principal of David Adam Realty. Under his leadership, Bedford Square — the former Westport YMCA — has been transformed into a lively retail/restaurant/residential complex.

That’s just the latest achievement in Waldman’s 26-year commercial real estate career.

David Waldman proudly shows off the Flemish brick used in Bedford Square.

A near-native, he arrived here in town age 1. His father — a marketer — moved here because Westport was “the marketing capital of the world.” He built buildings to house his business. He sold the company, kept the buildings, and a real estate firm was born.

David attended Coleytown Elementary and Junior High. He graduated from St. Luke’s and Syracuse University, then returned to Westport in 1991 — just in time for a real estate downturn.

Waldman persevered. His initial project — renovating the Art’s Deli block on Post Road West, including apartments above — provided him with his first understanding of “process, politics and zoning.”

He and his wife Yvette — “the one who grounds me and gets me through life” — have 3 children: Rachel, Jacob and Ava. He calls them “my greatest accomplishments.”

Yet Bedford Square — created in conjunction with several partners — is not too shabby either. By developing adjacent Church Lane and Elm Street, Waldman has “tried to make positive change. We’re taking the town where the world is moving — a little more walkable and connected.”

David Waldman (center), at the opening of Bedford Square.

He calls himself “blessed to live, work and play in the same town. Sometimes that’s difficult. But it’s nice to see people enjoy our work.”

Now he’s turning his attention to nearby Sconset Square, and the former Save the Children site across the river.

“I’m only 47 years old,” Waldman notes. “It’s nice to have public recognition. But at the end of the day, the product on the ground is what I’m proudest of.”

Waldman’s fellow First Citizen honoree Wieser represents the non-profit sector. In 7 years as CEO and president of Homes With Home — Westport’s supportive housing umbrella — he has nearly doubled the number of beds, added new services, and engineered a merger with Project Return (the North Compo residence for teenage girls and young women).

Homes With Hope is believed to be one of only 4 such organizations in a town like Westport in the nation.

Jeff Wieser

This is Wieser’s 2nd career. A New York banker with stints in Australia and Hong Kong, he and his wife Pat moved here in 1985.

Their choice of Westport was happenstance — they just wanted a “commutable suburb” (a town-owned golf course and beaches were added attractions) — but it soon became home.

With 2 young children, the Wiesers quickly met lifelong friends.

Wieser served on the Homes With Hope board for 15 years. He had not thought of working there. But when founder Rev. Peter Powell retired, and several people asked Wieser to step up, he realized that after 30-plus years in banking, he was ready.

His wife said, “This is something you wanted to do all your life.”

She was right. “It’s been a wonderful change,” he says.

Wieser is proud that his organization has been supported so well — and so long — by town officials and private citizens.

Jeff Wieser (Homes With Hope CEO) and a lobster. The event was a “build a sand castle” fundraiser for Homes With Hope.

“Westport cares about our neediest neighbors,” he says. “Homes With Hope is a model for all suburban communities.”

Wieser hopes to keep it growing. “There’s still plenty to do,” he notes. “We’re getting chronic homelessness under control. The much bigger challenge now is affordable housing.”

Waldman and Wieser are not the only 2 Westporters to be honored by the Chamber of Commerce. “Young Entrepreneurs” Aishah Avdiu, Remy Glick, James O’Brien and Phoebe Spears — from Staples and Weston High Schools — will be feted too.

Westporter David Pogue — technology columnist/Emmy-winning TV personality/author/musician/New York Times, CBS News, Scientific American, Yahoo Tech and PBS star — is the keynote speaker.

We can’t all be First Citizens. But it’s clear — and the Chamber of Commerce recognizes — that Westport is blessed with far more than one.

(Tickets for the June 13 dinner are $80 each. Tables of 10 are also available. For more information, click here.)

Every Dog Has Its Day

Hundreds of dogs celebrate their day today.

Seen at the 2nd annual Dog Festival at Winslow Park:

Kids and their pets…

… dogs of all types …

… dog photography …

… a canine obstacle course …

… and plenty of Winslow Park regulars, like Roger Wolfe.

The Dog Festival — sponsored by the Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce — runs through 4 p.m. today. Click here for details.

It’s A Dog’s World

Turns out you can teach an old dog new tricks.

Winslow Park has always been Westport’s 32-acre, right-near-downtown park. It’s big, beautiful, hilly, wooded and — let’s face it — dull.

Sure, dogs romp. Their owners walk, throw balls and socialize. It’s a wonderful place. But not much really happens.

Last year, the Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce sponsored the 1st-ever Dog Festival there.

It was the greatest thing since flea collars.

The 2nd annual Westport Dog Festival is set for Sunday, May 7 (10 a.m. to 4 p.m.). I can already hear Fido and Spot pawing at your door.

Demonstrations include police dogs, emergency rescue dogs, guide dogs, hunting dogs, and and agility and training exhibitions.

Earth Animal offers prizes for best tail wagger, best dressed, best kisser, best trick, best lap dog over 50 pounds, and dog that looks most like its owner. Judges include some very important humans: Selectmen Jim Marpe, Avi Kaner and Helen Garten, and state legislators Toni Boucher, Gail Lavielle and Jonathan Steinberg.

There’s an obstacle course too. The winner gets a year’s supply of dog food.

Surrounding the main activities will be dozens of pet-related vendors, rescue/ adoption opportunities, vet seminars, caricaturists and giveaways, plus food trucks (for humans).

Choice Pet is the lead sponsor. TAILS — the local spay/neutering group — is again partnering with the Chamber.

There’s plenty of parking at the Westport Country Playhouse. Proceeds from the entrance fee ($10 per person, $25 for a family of 4) benefit non-profit organizations. Last year, the Chamber of Commerce donated $5,000 to deserving groups.

Dog owners can register for the competitions online, or at the festival. Click here for more information.

Arf!

Roger Wolfe’s small dog enjoyed last year’s large Dog Festival.