We hear it all the time: The labor shortage is killing the economy.
News reports, social media, casual conversations — all repeat the same refrain. From the supply chain to the stockroom, the cook to the cash register, the only thing holding America back is that no one wants to work.
Breno Donatti begs to differ.
The owner of Winfield Street Coffee locations in Westport (Post Road West), Wilton, Stamford, Trumbull, Croton (NY) and Naples (FL) has 27 in-house employees.
Another dozen work as independent contractors (web and brand design, architect, bookkeeper, accountant, electrician, plumber, handyman, garden care, carpenter, PR).
The average wage of his 5 full-time office staff is $32 an hour. In Westport, where 6 people works as store and assistant manager, part-time chefs and part-time baristas, the average is $17.20 an hour.
The pay in his other locations generally ranges from $14 to $16.25 an hour. Some employees earn as much as $22 an hour.
Most employees earn between $1 and $4 an hour in tips. All employees are eligible for paid sick and personal days, and vacation time. Managers and assistant managers can qualify for monthly and quarterly bonuses.
Because of a shortage of qualified restaurant staff, Donatti says, employees can pick where they like to work. Wage in “not top of mind,” he says, though imporant.
“Employees are lookin for an uplifting workplace with good colleagues, good culture and flexibility.” At Winfield, he says, that means frequent meetings to discuss problems, scheduling staff events and parties, and allowing managers the flexibility to provide staff what they need to do their jobs.
Staff are also involved in meal donations and community events, giving them “a sense of purpose.”
Winfield Street’s Post Road West location.
“We have not had major problems with worker shortages, because we believe that prospecting candidates and training staff is an ongoing process,” says Donatti.
They usually hire by word of mouth. Those who come that way usually stay longer than those found via Craigslist or resumes.
Donatti says he is “blessed” with an “honest, hard-working and motivated” staff, who care about the company and their colleagues. He has begun exploring ways to make it employee-owned.
Meanwhile — undeterred by staff shortages — Winfield Street continues to grow. A new coffee shop kiosk will open at 86th Street and 2nd Avenue in New York; 2 other kiosks will follow in the city by February. A large store similar to the Stamford flagship is planned for Rye by spring. Those 4 outlets will require 18 more employees.
“Our staff is the most important part of our company,” Donatti says. “Obviously, customers bring us the revenue to hire everyone. But by having the right personnel, we ensure that every customer is fully cared for — and that improves the chance they’ll return.
“My job, as CEO, is to make sure that my staff is cared for.”
Posted onMay 8, 2021|Comments Off on Winfield Coffee Cruises The Coast
Winfield Street Coffee is a fixture on Post Road West. There are other shops in Stamford and Croton, New York; a delivery service in Wilton, and 4 more set to open this summer in Rye and Manhattan.
But that’s just part of the plan. Owner Breno Donatti wants to expand Winfield’s horizons even more — along with his charitable mission of helping people in need.
A truck — coffee-colored, with “Espresso Yo’self” painted on the back — will soon hit the streets.
Almost ready to hit the road.
Serving coffee, espresso (natch), nitro on tap, bagel sandwiches and pastries, the mobile unit will introduce the brand into new neighborhoods — and states.
It will also expand Winfield’s Giving Back program. Instead of delivering pre-made meals to shelters, they’ll be made fresh, to order. The goal is audacious: 21,000 meals, in 2021.
Breno’s family is in Naples, Florida. There’s a lot of requests for New York bagels and (good) coffee in southwest Florida. So the truck will spend June at Park Shore Plaza. Then it will cruise up the East Coast.
Breno wants to know. If you’re a landlord and want the truck in your parking lot — or if you’d like it to come to your neighborhood — email email@example.com.
Walter Mondale led quite a life. His death yesterday, at 93, resonated deeply with Andy Meyers.
In 1979, the Staples High School senior took part in a Washington internship program created and administered by social studies teacher Dave Harrison. Meyers worked with Vice President Walter Mondale.
He continued his association long after Mondale left the Carter administration. This morning Meyers — now living in Wilton — said, “He should be an inspiration to all of us to dedicate our lives to making the world a better place for humans to live together.”
Andy Meyers (left) and another staffer in Berlin, New Hampshire in the summer of 1983, in the very early days of preparing for the New Hampshire primary. Walter Mondale went on to win the Democratic nomination for president in 1984, but lost badly to incumbent Ronald Reagan.
A Westport native, Staples High graduate and mother of students currently in the Westport schools writes this open letter to town officials:
“I am very very concerned about the uptick in coronavirus cases.
“I have spoken to at least 7 families in the last week that had COVID over the last 2-3 weeks. I have no doubt that with the amount of people who traveled last week and shared photos of all the places they were visiting (and not everyone was fully vaccinated), that we will have a big spike over the next 2 weeks.
“I am concerned about kids playing sports over the next 2 weeks as well.
“The families that caught it have very similar symptoms: fever, weakness, chills, cough for over 2 weeks. It needs to be emphasized by everyone in Westport that we will have another super-spreader again if we continue not adhering to the guidelines, and everyone starts going back to normal. We are not on the other side of this virus yet.
“I encourage you and the town leadership to send emails daily about this rise in cases, and emphasize that people need to get tested and quarantine.”
The Westport Library’s Verso Studios will host 2 film camps for teens this summer. Documentary Filmmaking will be led by documentary filmmaker Mick Davie (National Geographic, Discovery Channel, History, Channel, CNN, NBC), while TV News Reporting is run by former ABC News journalist Jay Schadler.
The 5-week Filmmaking program runs June 21 through July 22. It includes 3 two-hour virtual workshops each week, 1-on-1 virtual sessions with Mick, and additional instruction on editing and technical issues with experts in film and television.
It is limited to 24 students, working in teams of 3 or 4. Their finished products — short documentary films — will be available on the Library’s YouTube channel.
finished product will be a short documentary film that will be uploaded to the Library’s YouTube channel.
The 4-week TV News Reporting camp (also limited to 24 students) runs July 12 to August 5. With virtual and live classes, it culminates in a newscast with video stories found, developed, shot and edited by participants.
Attention all restaurant owners! Winfield Street Coffee owner Breno Donatti sends along news that the Small Business Administration is administering $28.6 billion in pandemic funds to small restaurants, caterers, food trucks and others hit hard by the pandemic.
The Restaurant Revitalization Fund is a streamlined process. Click here for details.
Small restaurants like Winfield Street Coffee are eligible for federal COVID relief funds.
A special webinar this Thursday (April 22, 5:30 p.m.) brings viewers — from anywhere in the world — to Westport. The topic F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald’s summer here.
Robert Steven Williams — director of “Gatsby in Connecticut,” one of the New Yorker’s best films of 2020 — will talk about the author’s background; an overview of Westport in the 1920s (Prohibition was not always prohibitive), and the town’s influence on The Great Gatsby. He’ll share video clips too, and never-before-seen photos of Westport and New York from the ’20s.
Williams hosts a Q-and-A afterward too. Click here for tickets. (They include access to the full replay for one week.) (Hat tip: Dennis Jackson)
1st Selectman Jim Marpe has issued a correction about the state Department of Transportation’s plans for the William F. Cribari Bridge. He says that deputy commissioner Mark Rolfe has not yet reached a final decision on the 5 alternatives under consideration. In addition, the draft Environmental Assessment will not be released mid-March. It is at least a few months away.
Rolfe says, “The DOT seeks to continue the dialogue with stakeholders regarding this project. One potential solution is for the DOT to restore the existing bridge to a state of good repair and then transfer ownership of the bridge and a segment of Route 136 to the Town of Westport.”
Marpe noted that any DOT recommendation — when it occurs — will be subject to further review and approval.
William F. Cribari Bridge (Drone photo/John Videler for Videler Photography)
Charlie Capalbo — the 22-year-old Fairfield hockey player and grandson of Westport writer Ina Chadwick — has been diagnosed with leukemia.
The local Two Oh Three team is helping him, in his 3rd cancer battle.
The Westport-based firm has designed a line of products to raise both funds and awareness. Charlie has collaborated on the design process — a welcome distraction has he undergoes treatment.
The collection — #CapalboStrong — features products that help the community show Charlie that they’re all in this fight with him. Funds from products sold are assist Capalbo’s medical and travel expenses, while at Boston Children’s Hospital.
The collection was launched Sunday, to his network of friends. Hundreds of orders poured in. The Two Oh Three has now launched the custom designs on their full website.
Charlie says, “Seeing people ordering gear with my Capalbo Strong logo makes me feel connected to the outside world– like I know my army of friends and family are with me, even though I can’t see them now due to COVID-19. I’m so excited for this!”
“Our daily FaceTime calls with Charlie have been rewarding beyond words,” says Two Oh Three co-founder and Staples High School graduate Roscoe Brown.
“Constantly updating him on the number products we’ve sold helps remind him just how many people he has fighting along side him.”
Click here for the Two Oh Three #CapalboStrong Collection.
The Staples boys basketball team opened its home season yesterday with a victory over Westhill.
The only way to watch the win was on the livestream. Spectators are prohibited from gyms this winter, in all high school sports.
But the stands were “filled” — with fatheads. That’s the name for cardboard figures of fans. It’s a way to make the gym a little less lonely. It’s also a great fundraiser for the Staples Boys Basketball Association.
How many folks do you recognize in the photo below? Besides (of course) me — directly underneath the “E.”
They lost nearly all their catering contracts too. Breakfast and lunch deliveries to nearby offices had accounted for 30% of the popular Post Road West shop’s revenue.
Owner Breno Donatti made a quick decision. He closed completely, and helped employees get unemployment.
On May 15, Winfield Street reopened. “I couldn’t stay shut forever,” Breno says. “A lot of the staff wanted to get back to work. People were starting to come out from their homes.”
Breno devised a new catering menu. Breakfast boxes came individually wrapped; lunches of wraps, rolls, bowls and salads were separate too.
“People were trickling back to the office. They wanted to be safe,” the owner recalls. “Communal meals, with everyone grabbing something, no longer works.”
At the same time Winfield Street was struggling to stay in businesses, they were giving back. Realizing that people in shelters had less access to good food than ever — donations were down, and helping organizations were themselves hurting — Breno made some calls.
“Our staff was ready to work. And thanks to our wholesalers, we had access to great prices,” he say.
For every customer check of $20 or more, Winfield Street donates one meal.
By the end of December, the deli had provided 6,000 meals to Pacific House, Domus Kids and Inspirica.
Breno is not letting up. His goal for 2021: 21,000 meals. Sparked by a generous donation from former gubernatorial candidate Bob Stefanowski and his wife Amy, he’s well on his way.
Meanwhile, both retail and catering are picking up. For all of last quarter, business was down 40 percent compared to the year before. Last month, that was cut to just 15%.
The other day, the Coleytown Middle School PTA raved about Winfield’s catering for a teacher appreciation event. They delivered 55 breakfasts and 88 lunches.
“Any excuse to make people happy is important,” Breno says. “We need positive stories.”
And Winfield Street is at the top of any list.
(To donate meals through Winfield Deli to area shelters, click here. Special offer: For every 200 meals you provide, you get a $100 Winfield gift card.)
The Westport Library — the town’s savior after tropical storm Isaias, thanks to its life-giving free WiFi available on Jesup Green and in the upper parking lot — reopened yesterday, primarily for device-charging and internet access.
The great space looked different. Users wore masks, and were spaced far apart. Most “touch surfaces” are unavailable.
But it was another godsend for Westporters. No one complained.
The library will be open again today from 12 noon to 6 p.m., for browsing and device-charging. There is curbside service from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
As soon as Breno Donatti’s phone camera alerted him last night that the power was back on at Winfield Street Coffee, the owner hustled to his Post Road West deli.
He and his staff spent hours cleaning the store, and calling vendors to get deliveries this morning.
“We hope customers hang in there. We may not have some items, but we’re replacing all of the food inventory.”
What a year this has been, for small businesses like Winfield Street. And what great lengths they go to serve us, whenever and however they can.
Because of COVID, it was already going to be a smaller scale wedding than expected. Then Isaias blew in.
But love conquers all. Despite the devastation (and lack of power), Tammy Barry’s nephew Nicholas married Audrey here on Friday evening.
It was intimate. It was beautiful. It was “love”-ly.
Life may be dark. But we can always find silver linings.
The other day, “06880” ran a photo of signs at the Colony Road/Pumpkin Hill intersection, pleading for Eversource post-Isaias help.
Yesterday, the signs changed. As the one on the left noted, they are now “signs of happiness.”
Meanwhile, I’m not sure if this sign predates Isaias, or has been up for a while. But its message is powerful.
Posted onMay 25, 2020|Comments Off on COVID Roundup: “Parade”; “Taps”; Restaurant Info; Kelli O’Hara; More
If you’re like many Westporters, missing today’s Memorial Day parade was tough.
If you lived near downtown though, you were in luck.
Neighborhood kids were invited to decorate bikes. They rode — appropriately apart — from Wright Street to Orchard Lane, Ludlow Road and Kings Highway North. Over 40 youngsters (and a few parents) took part.
Spectators stood on their porches, and clapped. There was a street party afterward — still socially distant, but able to celebrate in the new old-fashioned way.
At 3 p.m. today (Memorial Day), a bugler will play “Taps” on the plaza between Saugatuck Sweets and The Whelk. It’s part of “Taps Across America,” a project initiated by CBS “On the Road” correspondent Steve Hartman.
Masked, appropriately distanced residents are invited to attend.
“Taps,” at Westport’s 2015 Memorial Day ceremony.
Todd Pines has been thinking about our dining scene. He writes:
“While restaurants are starting to open with limited capacity, most business is likely to be takeout for the foreseeable future. Ordering through behemoth delivery services (Uber Eats, Grubhub, etc.) takes an enormous split of the tab, further challenging restaurants’ ability to survive.
“Residents should understand the small impact they can make by calling a restaurant directly, seeing if they offer their own delivery staff. You can also consider getting in your own car, and picking up your meal directly. It means a lot to the restaurant owner.”
For a deep dive into delivery services, click here.
PS: Todd adds, “For the entrepreneurial-minded, a lot of college students and high school seniors are looking for work. They could help those restaurants with delivery, pocketing the tips while not forcing restaurants to discount their tab.”
Layla’s Falafel offers great food — and they have their own delivery service. Ordering direct helps them stay in business.
Speaking of which: Winfield Street Coffee is back open, just over the downtown bridge. Hours are 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. for breakfast, lunch and catering. There’s takeout, curbside pickup, delivery, and a few new seats on the sidewalk.
Also new: a “Reserved Parking/To Go Orders Only” sign, right in front. In these times when local businesses need all the help they can get — they’re getting it!
One of the underrated treasures of any Memorial Day is the PBS concert, broadcast from Washington, DC. It’s America at its best.
Last night’s show was different. The pandemic canceled the live show, so musical guests appeared on tape, from all over the country.
And right there among them was Westport’s own Kelli O’Hara. The Tony Award winner delivered a haunting rendition of “Fire and Rain.” Its refrain “but I always thought that I’d see you again” — juxtaposed against scenes of loved ones visiting graves of the men and women they’d lost — provided some of the most powerful moments of the entire evening.
And finally … as the coronavirus kept us apart today, let’s look back on a great Westport tradition. Here’s the Staples High School band in 2013, with their rousing Memorial Day “Armed Forces Salute.”
Comments Off on COVID Roundup: “Parade”; “Taps”; Restaurant Info; Kelli O’Hara; More
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