Wednesday, January 19, 2022
Chez 180, an eatery at 180 Post Road East specializing in bakery products including made-on-the-premises pastries, breads and artisanal desserts as well as an all-day menu for breakfast, lunch and evening, has closed permanently, not having reopened from its closure during the early stages of the COVID-19 restaurant guidelines. The business opened in early February. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for WestportNow.com
Spooky Town, a Halloween superstore pop-up, returns to Westport for the sixth consecutive year. This year it is located 403 Post Road East in the Compo Shopping Center in the space previously occupied by Olympia Sports, which closed in January. Spooky Town, a New Haven-based business, is owned by Bobby Levine. He said his enterprise also operates at pop-up locations in Orange and Stamford. The Westport shop is open every day, 10 a.m. – 7 p.m. Monday-Saturday and 11 a.m. – 7 p.m. on Sunday. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for WestportNow.com
The Capuli Restaurant will open at 143 Post Road East in the space formerly occupied by Westport Pizzeria, a town mainstay for 51 years. The new restaurant will feature California-Mediterranean cooking. Westport Pizzeria operated at 107 Main St. from 1968 to 2012 before reopening at the Post Road East site in 2014 and finally closing in January 2020. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for WestportNow.com
Positano Ristorante, 27 Powers Court, adjacent to the Westport Country Playhouse, closed and according to window signage, will be replaced by Gabriele’s of Westport later this fall. A mainstay at 233 Hillspoint Road, its Compo Mill location, for 15 years, Positano closed on December 31, 2014 and reopened next to the Westport Country Playhouse in July, 2015. The Powers Court space was previously occupied by The Dressing Room restaurant, the culinary venture of the late Paul Newman and Chef Michel Nischan. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for WestportNow.com
The Westport Downtown Merchants Association (WDMA) said it will hold its first Fall Fashion & Beauty Day on Saturday, Sept. 26 from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Merchants will be moving merchandise, tables, and fixtures to the sidewalks and streets to create more space for shopping.
“While it’s called Fashion & Beauty Day because we have so many fashion and beauty retailers, all downtown merchants are invited to participate,” an announcement said. Some merchants will feature sidewalk sales, while others may choose to highlight current products.
Main, Elm, and Church Streets will be closed from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Merchants with stores not located on one of these streets will set up at empty store spots downtown. Masks and social distancing rules still apply.
Brooks Brothers, 136 Main St., one of many Westport businesses that closed as a COVID-19 preventative measure, has reopened for the first time since its March 13 closure. The chain filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in July. At the time, the company said it planned to close 51 stores. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for WestportNow.com
“We regard the coronavirus outbreak as a social risk under our ESG framework, given the substantial implications for public health and safety,” the announcement added.
“The coronavirus crisis is not a key driver for this rating action. We do not see any material immediate credit risks for Westport.
“However, the situation surrounding coronavirus is rapidly evolving and the longer term impact will depend on both the severity and duration of the crisis. If our view of the credit quality of Westport changes, we will update the rating and/or outlook at that time.”
“I think there’s a real effort to look at the monopoly power these companies have,” Himes said, among elected officials in Washington, D.C., with questions also under examination regarding tax advantages for such large businesses.
Himes did much more listening than talking, however, though he shared some reflections relating to insights he also heard from Julie Cook, manager of Savannah Bee Company, and Bill Taibe, owner of Don Memo Restaurant — the two other spots he visited.
“We are all adopting to the pandemic because we don’t know when the end is going to be,” said State Rep. Jonathan Steinberg, who joined in the tour alongside First Selectman Jim Marpe, State. Sen. Will Haskell, Sal Liccione, District 9 Representative Town Meeting member, and Randy Herbertsen, president of the Westport Downtown Merchants Association.
“So, any opportunity for people to get together and figure out how to help is appreciated,” he said.
Himes noted that it must be a “strange negotiation” for commercial property owners to work through arrangements with tenants like Taibe, who rents space for his Don Memo eatery at 90 Post Road East, the old town hall.
While he has suffered the pandemic’s impact to his business and its income, property owners also have mortgages and taxes facing them, he said.
“It does them no good if this space goes empty,” Taibe said, who is also looking ahead to cold weather when his 60 outdoor seats are no longer viable and he has to make due with 50% indoor occupancy only, which is around 35 customers.
“I’m really concerned with what’s going to happen a few months from now, what that’s going to look like,” he said.
Taibe, who also owns The Whelk and Kawa Ni in Saugatuck, said overall his business is down 20 to 30%, though he’s been able to bring in more employees since the initial shutdown in March.
“You learned who your essential workers were in a pandemic,” he said.
Taibe said, however, that some employees have chosen to not even come back because of economics.
“They said to me, candidly, ‘I make more money staying home. Why would I want to come back,’” he reported.
Norton, meanwhile, has been surprised to receive so many unemployment claims in her small business, including from people who were only with her a couple of weeks during the holidays.
“I’ve heard that a couple of times,” Himes said, questioning the system at large.
“ I don’t understand why unemployment isn’t simple wage replacement … I don’t quite get why the system isn’t that way,” he said.
Ironically, both Norton and Taibe expressed significant gratitude for the states of their individual businesses, and both shared concerns for others who haven’t had the advantages they enjoy.
“There are some restaurants outside of this area that are doing far worse than we are,” Taibe said, noting the local community has been supportive.
Ironically, Cook said business has picked up considerably in the last couple weeks.
“People seem to be getting a little more courageous about coming, and they’re being safe about coming,” she said, respecting the mask guidelines.
“We really want to stay here,” she said of Westport, noting most of the company’s other 12 stores are throughout the south. “We love this town.”
Bill Taibe (r), owner of Don Memo Restaurant, 90 Post Road East, and others, today briefs officials on his businesses, including, from l., First Selectman Jim Marpe, Randy Herbertsen, president of the Downtown Merchants Association, State Rep. Jonathan Steinberg, and U.S. Rep. Jim Himes. They toured downtown businesses to see how they were doing during the pandemic and after the tropical storm. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Jarret Liotta for WestportNow.com