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Wednesday, May 04, 2016

CT’s Top Taxpayers Took a Big Earnings Hit Last Year

By Keith M. Phaneuf

www.ctmirror.org

Connecticut’s 50 largest state income tax filers reported nearly $3 billion less in quarterly earnings this spring than they did one year ago — which resulted in a $217 million hit to the state’s coffers, the legislature’s nonpartisan fiscal staff reported today.

That drop represents a 30 percent plunge in earnings, a trend that sparked fierce debate within the Finance, Revenue and Bonding Committee as members approved a revenue schedule for next fiscal year’s state budget.

“If we’re losing $3 billion (in adjusted gross income) the impact is going to be across the whole budget,” said Sen. Stephen T. Cassano, D-Manchester, who first questioned nonpartisan analysts about the revenue trend.

Connecticut’s income tax, which provides nearly half of the revenue needed to support the annual budget, gets about 60 percent of its receipts from paycheck withholding and about 40 percent from quarterly filings.

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05/04/16 06:06 PM Comments (0) • PermalinkEmail Favicon Facebook Favicon LinkedIn Favicon

Dems Abandon Plan to Adopt Budget in Regular Session

By Keith M. Phaneuf

www.ctmirror.org

Majority Democrats in the House of Representatives conceded late today that they would not adopt a new state budget before the legislature’s mandatory midnight adjournment deadline.

In a joint statement, House Speaker J. Brendan Sharkey, D-Hamden, and House Majority Leader Joe Aresimowicz, both said it would be unfair to force a vote in the session’s waning hours.

“As a matter of democracy and fairness to all the members of the House, it is not possible to do a budget this evening,” the House Democratic leaders said.

“The time it took to reach an agreement, combined with the challenge of staff to physically get a printed bill to the floor, and then achieve passage, would likely require a cutoff of discussions. That scenario would not be fair for the purpose of allowing a complete and reasonable debate, and at this point would be a disservice to House members and the public they represent to move forward tonight.”

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Tuesday, May 03, 2016

Democrats, Governor Strike Budget Deal

By Keith M. Phaneuf and Mark Pazniokas

www.ctmirror.org

Democratic legislators ended a tense day of negotiations today by announcing a deal on a new state budget that the General Assembly will race to adopt Wednesday before the constitutional adjournment deadline of midnight.

Passage will require the cooperation of the Republican minority, an uncertain prospect after House Speaker J. Brendan Sharkey, D-Hamden, and Senate Minority Leader Len Fasano, R-North Haven, exchanged insults outside the Capitol press room.

Sharkey and Senate President Pro Tem Martin M. Looney, D-New Haven, largely glossed over the spending cuts necessary to balance the budget, focusing instead of positive aspects: No tax increases, more money for transportation funding and revenue-sharing with towns, albeit at lesser amounts than originally planned. It also avoids tapping Connecticut’s emergency reserve.

Each said they have votes for passage in the House and Senate.

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Saturday, April 30, 2016

Tesla Sales Ban in Connecticut Stands

By Mark Pazniokas

www.ctmirror.org

The effort by Tesla to win legislative approval to directly sell its electric cars to consumers in Connecticut has failed for the second consecutive year in the face of opposition from car dealers and competing manufacturers, a Senate leader said early today.

“I think the car dealers and others have been very effective in lobbying in their favor,” Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff, D-Norwalk, the sponsor of this year’s Tesla bill, told the Connecticut Mirror. “We’ll come back again and try in another year.”

A similar bill passed the House last year, but never came to a vote in the Senate. Duff signing on as lead sponsor this year gave Tesla an influential ally in the upper chamber, but Duff told The Mirror his caucus was divided.

“I didn’t go into this to twist arms to pass it that way,” Duff said. “My job is to protect the caucus and the interests of the state.”

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Friday, April 29, 2016

Malloy Says Budget Talks Have Hit the Wall

By Keith M. Phaneuf and Mark Pazniokas

www.ctmirror.org

A somber Gov. Dannel P. Malloy declared late tonight that budget negotiations with legislators “are hitting a wall,” and he predicted the General Assembly would adjourn Wednesday without adopting a budget he could sign, thereby failing to avert a nearly $1 billion deficit.

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Gov. Dannel P. Malloy assesses the state of budget negotiations tonight. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Ctmirror.org photo

And unlike recent statements when the governor warned he would force lawmakers into special session indefinitely until they agreed to cut spending, Malloy struck a more uncertain tone about Connecticut’s fiscal future.

“Unless something changes dramatically in the next few hours, I supposed what I’m saying is I don’t think we can get to a negotiated settlement” on the budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1, the governor told reporters in his Capitol office.

“In which case,” Malloy continued, “folks can either decide to come back to the table or take whatever steps they need to take.”

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Cutting the Ribbon at Serena & Lily

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Westport First Selectman Jim Marpe (c) is joined today by Lily Kanter (purple) and Serena Dugan (beige) at the official opening of the Serena & Lily store in the former Kemper-Gunn house at 35 Elm St. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for WestportNow.com

04/29/16 10:47 AM Comments (0) • PermalinkEmail Favicon Facebook Favicon LinkedIn Favicon

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Serena & Lily to Open at Kemper-Gunn House

Though not exactly the Mom & Pop shop that the town had hoped to woo to the restored and relocated Kemper-Gunn house at 35 Elm St., town officials are nonetheless bullish about Serena & Lily, the national home furnishings, bedding and decor outlet opening there on Friday.

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The Serena & Lily store in the Kemper-Gunn house on Elm Street officially opens Friday. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for WestportNow.com

In fact, the town is so pleased that First Selectman Jim Marpe will be part of the ribbon cutting ceremony set for Friday at 9:30 a.m.

“We are very excited that Serena & Lily found a home in Westport,” said Marpe. “We welcome them and wish them much success.

“Serena and Lily’s presence in the downtown location, coupled with the unique circumstances surrounding the move and restoration of the Kemper-Gunn House, can be attributed to the dedication of many Westporters,” he added. “I want to extend my sincere thanks to all the people who helped make this happen.”

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Getting Ready for Opening

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Jill John, director, brand marketing/communication. Serena & Lily, shows off the store opening Friday at 35 Elm St. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for WestportNow.com

04/28/16 10:37 AM Comments (0) • PermalinkEmail Favicon Facebook Favicon LinkedIn Favicon

Ready for Customers

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One of the rooms ready for customers at the Serena & Lily store opening Friday at 35 Elm St. in the relocated Kemper-Gunn house. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for WestportNow.com

04/28/16 10:32 AM Comments (0) • PermalinkEmail Favicon Facebook Favicon LinkedIn Favicon

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Comings and Goings: Lucy’s Opens Thursday

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Lucy’s, a high-end women’s boutique, opens Thursday at 23 Jesup Road in the space formerly occupied by Lynne Scalo Design, according to owner Lisa Savone. A Westport resident, Savone said she is not new to the Westport fashion scene, having previously owned and operated Lucy’s around the corner at 48 Post Road East, next to Tiffany, from 2004 to 2013 when she closed the business to raise her family. The Post Road space is now occupied by Joie, a designer clothing store. Savone also owns Lucy’s in Ridgefield for the past 10 years. She said the name of the business originated with her childhood nickname which, she said, was also her mother’s and grandmother’s nickname. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for WestportNow.com

04/26/16 05:26 PM Comments (0) • PermalinkEmail Favicon Facebook Favicon LinkedIn Favicon

Monday, April 25, 2016

Chamber to Honor Joseloff, McDowell

WestportNow editor-publisher and former First Selectman Gordon Joseloff and Tony McDowell, executive director of Earthplace, will receive First Citizen Award honors at the Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce’s (WWCC) June 14 gala, WWCC Executive Director Matthew Mandell announced today.

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Gordon Joseloff (l) and Tony McDowell: to be honored June 14. Contributed photos

“These are two very deserving people of this award,” said Mandell. “Each year the board looks for one nonprofit and one traditional business, and these fine individuals stood out and represent what is best in our town for their work ethic, generosity and how they approach business.”

Joseloff, who served two terms as first selectman from 2005 through 2013, founded WestportNow in 2003. The online news site, which has since won dozens of excellence awards from the Society of Professional Journalists Connecticut Chapter, remains the only locally owned and produced news source in town.

“I am deeply grateful to be honored by the Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce this year,” said Joseloff, “I know well the importance of having a vibrant and successful commercial presence in our community. It is something I have strived to promote throughout my Westport career.“

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Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Comings & Goings: County Bank Set for Mid-May Opening

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First County Bank opens mid-May at its new location, 1135 Post Road East, at the intersection of Morningside Drive North, according to Coastal Construction Project Manager Brian Steinhauer. The bank, currently at 1260 Post Road East, at the intersection of Turkey Hill Road South, will relocate to the first floor of the building facing Post Road East.  (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for WestportNow.com

04/19/16 07:11 PM Comments (2) • PermalinkEmail Favicon Facebook Favicon LinkedIn Favicon

Thursday, April 14, 2016

CT Unemployment Rate Rose Slightly in March

By Keith M. Phaneuf

www.ctmirror.org

Connecticut’s unemployment rate rose two-tenths of a percentage point in March, climbing to 5.7 percent, as job growth essentially remained flat, the state Department of Labor reported today.

The state has added 5,600 jobs since the start of 2016, but still has not fully recovered from The Great Recession. Through the most recent report, Connecticut has regained 91,400, or 76.7 percent, of the 119,100 jobs it lost during the last economic downturn.

“Although the rise in the unemployment rate this month was unexpected, there are some positive aspects to the move,” said Andy Condon, director of the Office of Research for the Labor Depatment. “The rise in unemployment occurred in a growing labor force, meaning it was driven by more people entering the labor market looking for work rather than a decrease in the number of employed. Job growth is occurring, but not fast enough to employ all of those recently entering the market.”

Six of the state’s 10 major industry super-sectors sdded jobs in March led by trade, transportation and utilities, which gained 1,300 positions. Gains also were recorded in: leisure and hospitality, government, professional and business, information, and education and health services.

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04/14/16 04:18 PM Comments (0) • PermalinkEmail Favicon Facebook Favicon LinkedIn Favicon

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

WSJ Spotlights Westport Ice Cream Truck

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Today’s Wall Street Journal features a story about Westport’s Phil & Tom Ice Cream and how Tom Topalian, 29, a nurse and co-owner of the business, operates it with his family’s 1967 Good Humor truck. After recounting the history of the truck and the business, which he began with his older brother Phil, he said: “These days, my brother is serving in the Marines in Japan, and I have a full-time job, so my parents help out. They couldn’t be happier. The truck is one of the family now. It’s like a third brother.” (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Jess Neider for The Wall Street Journal

04/13/16 10:14 AM Comments (0) • PermalinkEmail Favicon Facebook Favicon LinkedIn Favicon

Monday, April 11, 2016

Comings & Goings: Alegre Opens

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Alegre, described by store manager Grace Brescia, as “trendy, chic clothes for smart shoppers,” has opened at 180 Post Road East, next to the AT&T store at the corner of Post Road East and Bay Street. According to Sheryl Blit, co-owner with her husband Eli, the store introduces “a new concept in women’s trendy apparel.”  Pictured are Brescia (l) and Mia Lupo. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for WestportNow.com

04/11/16 02:33 PM Comments (0) • PermalinkEmail Favicon Facebook Favicon LinkedIn Favicon

Friday, April 08, 2016

Hiawatha Lane Project Not 8-30-g

By James Lomuscio

Developer Felix T. Charney, who wants to build 155 rental units on Hiawatha Lane off Exit 17 in Saugatuck, got support at Thursday night’s Planning and Zoning Commission (P&Z) pre-application hearing from an unexpected source—the Westport Housing Authority (WHA). 

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Felix T. Charney: developer is 1972 Staples grad and former P&Z commissioner. File photo

It has also been learned that the development proposed this time around will not be an 8-30g project, a state affordable housing law initiative that allows a developer to skirt local zoning laws.

Carol Martin, WHA’s executive director, gave her nod to the Summit Saugatuck plan becuase it includes a separate development that will offer 70 affordable units.

Because it is a separate development, Planning and Zoning Director Steven Palmer pointed out that 8-30g, which allows a developer to override local zoning laws if a municipality does not have 10 percent of its housing stock deemed affordable, cannot be used with this application.

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Thursday, April 07, 2016

Promoting Tourism to Westport Area

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About 50 persons from the Westport area today attended a Town Hall event to promote tourism in the area. It was sponsored by the Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce and featured a Connecticut Office of Tourism officicial to explain the COT’s revised website intended to attract greater tourism to the state. First Selectman Jim Marpe welcomed the guests and showed off the plaque when Westport won the 2014 Fan Favorite award for its tourism documentary. With him were Matthew Mandell, the Chamber executive director, and Westporter Felicia Lindau, marketing consultant for Connecticut Tourism, whose daughter Sutton was one of three sixth grade girls who created the award-winning Fan Favorite documentary. (See WestportNow Sept. 2, 2014) She outlined how the new website was designed and how businesses can participate and take advantage of it. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for WestportNow.com

04/07/16 12:19 PM Comments (0) • PermalinkEmail Favicon Facebook Favicon LinkedIn Favicon

Wednesday, April 06, 2016

Getting Ready for Opening at New Location

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The Brownstone Boutique celebrates its grand opening Thursday at its new location, 142 Main St., second floor. (See WestportNow March 17, 2016) Owner Victoria Schallert (r) invites the public to a celebration reception 6 to 8 p.m. which follows normal shopping hours. Pictured with her is co-manager Mariana Hurtado. The Brownstone is one of three ground floor businesses -– the others are Shoe-Inn and Bobby Q’s Restaurant -– which have relocated following sale of the 36-42 Main St. building in November 2014 for $9.2 million by Drew Friedman, who died in February.  (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for WestportNow.com

04/06/16 02:23 PM Comments (0) • PermalinkEmail Favicon Facebook Favicon LinkedIn Favicon

Another 8-30g Proposal, This Time a ‘Green’ One

By James Lomuscio

Another planned, multi-unit housing development that aims to skirt the town’s zoning regulations via the state’s affordable housing statute 8-30g is in the works, its developers announced today. This time it’s at 1177 Post Road East.

WestportNow.com Image
Plans call for construction of a new four-story building in the existing parking lot adjacent to the current 1175 Post Road East office building. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for WestportNow.com

The proposed 94-unit, four-story, 42,000-square-foot building proposed for the 1.96-acre parcel is planned as a green, adaptive reuse of a commercial office building for the local workforce, say principals of 1177 PRE Associates, LLC.

The announcement says plans have been submitted to both the Conservation and Planning and Zoning departments.

The development company is a joint venture of local real estate developers Phil Craft and Stephen Lawrence. They said that 30 percent of the studio, one-bedroom and two bedroom units would be listed as affordable.

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Saturday, April 02, 2016

‘Scout & Molly’s Cuts the Ribbon

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Scout & Molly’s, the new apparel boutique for women at Playhouse Square, celebrated its grand opening today with a ribbon-cutting ceremony. (See WestportNow March 16, 2016) Participants (l-r)  Matthew Mandell, executive director, Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce,  First Selectman Jim Marpe, owners Genevieve Bouchard and her husband Brian, and Bouchard daughters, Katy, 9, (l) and Solenne, 7. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) TYPE NAME for WestportNow.com

04/02/16 12:20 PM Comments (0) • PermalinkEmail Favicon Facebook Favicon LinkedIn Favicon

Friday, March 25, 2016

Comings & Goings: Steam Closes at Saugatuck, Still Open at GF

By Dave Matlow

The coffee, bakery and sandwich shop Steam, located at the refurbished stationhouse on the eastbound side of Metro-North’s Westport station in Saugatuck, has closed.

WestportNow.com Image
Bob Glaser is still operating the Steam shop at the Green’s Farms station and hopes to continue.  (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for WestportNow.com

The closure comes less than a year after its revival last June when loyal customers rallied additional support to keep the business running. (See WestportNow, June 28, 2015)

Meanwhile, the Steam shop at the Green’s Farms train station remains open under an agreement between the owner, Chef Briana, LLC , and Bob Glaser who, with a partner, assumed the rights to operate Steam at both locations, according to Glaser. 

“There’s been a huge outpouring of support from customers of the Green’s Farms location to keep it open,” he said. “They’re saying ‘please stay here.’ ”

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Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Comings & Goings: Serena & Lily Opens Next Month

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Serena & Lily, a California-based lifestyle and home décor brand, will open its flagship store, Serena & Lily Design Shop, at 35 Elm St. on April 29, according to spokesperson Betsy Baron. She said the store will occupy all four levels of the 3,000-square foot Kemper-Gunn House, built in 1889, that was slated for demolition to make room for the Bedford Square development but was eventually relocated from Church Lane in November 2014 to its present location. Baron said the privately owned business, headquartered in Sausalito, Calif., opened its first store in the Hamptons in 2013, in San Francisco in 2014, and then in Los Angeles in 2015. Westport is its fourth location. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for WestportNow.com

03/23/16 06:10 PM Comments (1) • PermalinkEmail Favicon Facebook Favicon LinkedIn Favicon

Monday, March 21, 2016

Comings & Goings: Alegre to Post Road East

WestportNow.com Image
Alegre, a women’s apparel store, opens the first week in April at 180 Post Road East, next door to the AT&T store at Bay Street. According to Sheryl Blit, co-owner with her husband Eli, the store introduces “a new concept in women’s trendy apparel.” (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for WestportNow.com

03/21/16 07:10 PM Comments (0) • PermalinkEmail Favicon Facebook Favicon LinkedIn Favicon

Friday, March 18, 2016

Oops, State Error Costs Taxpayers $12 Million

By Mark Pazniokas

www.ctmirror.org

Kevin Sullivan, the state commissioner of revenue services, issued a public apology today for an agency error that caused about 120,000 taxpayers to overstate the value of a property tax credit, resulting in about $12 million in underpayments to the state.

The goof means lots of taxpayers can expect a letter telling them they’ll need to refund a portion of their refund.

“When we make a mistake, we own it and fix it immediately,” Sullivan said.

A statement about the apology went out at about 4:30 p.m., three hours after Rep. Vincent J. Candelora, R-North Branford, issued a press release publicizing the error.

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03/18/16 07:19 PM Comments (0) • PermalinkEmail Favicon Facebook Favicon LinkedIn Favicon

Comings & Goings: Westport Florist Reopens

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Westport Florist has reopened at 1 Treadwell Ave, adding a bit more color to Saugatuck. The business was located at 240 Post Road East for the last five years, but its lease ran out. Westport Florist took over from Taylor Florist, which had been established in 1935, making the business one of the oldest in Westport at 81 years. It has three other locations in Fairfield County. Taking part in a ribbon-cutting were (l-r) Bruce Minhoff, owner; First Selectman Jim Marpe; Tina Ahlberg, store manager; Matthew Mandell, executive director, Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce, and Sandra Harris, general manager. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Contributed photo

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Thursday, March 17, 2016

Comings & Goings: The Brownstone Moving

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The Brownstone boutique, 42 Main St., will relocate to 142 Main St. second floor, where it will open April 1, according to owner Victoria Schallert. The space was most recently occupied by Addison Wells, a luxury handbag, shoes and accessories store. The Brownstone is one of three ground floor businesses – the others are Shoe-Inn and Bobby Q’s Restaurant – which are relocating following sale of the 36-42 Main St. building in November 2014 for $9.2 million by Drew Friedman, who died last month. Shoe-Inn moved across the street last month to 21 Main St., and Bobby Q’s is closing March 31 and is moving to 11 Merwin St., Norwalk. The 36-42 Main St. building will be demolished and a new structure built in its place, according to a real estate source. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for WestportNow.com

03/17/16 11:47 AM Comments (0) • PermalinkEmail Favicon Facebook Favicon LinkedIn Favicon

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Comings & Goings: Scout & Molly’s to Playhouse Square

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Scout & Molly’s Boutique, a women’s apparel, accessories and shoe store, has opened at 283 Post Road East in Playhouse Square between Organic Market and She La La. According to Stamford resident and owner Genevieve Bouchard, (r) a grand opening celebration will take place on April 2. Founded by Lisa Kornstein, the first Scout & Molly’s opened in Raleigh, N.C. in 2002. Its stores now include one in New Canaan which opened one year ago. Bouchard describes the 1,200-square foot Westport store as “having a fun atmosphere, friendly and upbeat, with something for everybody.” Pictured with her is store manager Jessica Kimsey. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for WestportNow.com

03/16/16 06:24 PM Comments (0) • PermalinkEmail Favicon Facebook Favicon LinkedIn Favicon

Monday, March 14, 2016

Comings & Goings: Blue Lemon Closing

After 13 years, the Blue Lemon restaurant at Sconset Square will close Saturday, April 9, chef-owner Bryan Malcarney announced tonight.

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Bryan Malcarney: “Time to move to another stage of my life.” Contributed photo

The announcement followed other Westport restaurant closings or announced closings. Post 154 across the street on Post Road East closed in January. Bobby Q’s on Main Street, is shutting down at the end of the month.

“Running the Blue Lemon has been an extremely rewarding experience, both personally and professionally,” Malcarney said.

“After 13 years and careful consideration, I have decided it is time for me to move into another stage of my life, and close the restaurant.”

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Sunday, March 13, 2016

Grand Opening for Sola Salons

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Sola Salons, located on the ground floor at 495 Post Road East adjacent to the Steinway store, today celebrated its grand opening with an open house reception and tour for beauty professionals seeking a turnkey salon setup for their business. Owned by Westporters Rich and Holly Bobrow, the 6,000-square foot facility offers 26 studio units available for entrepreneurial beauty professionals. (See WestportNow Feb. 9, 2016) (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for WestportNow.com

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Saturday, March 12, 2016

Comings & Goings: Organachs Opens

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Organachs, a natural and organic products and holistic facial services business, has opened at 15 Post Road West in the space between Art’s Deli and Age of Reason. Owner Siobhan McKinley, a Ridgefield resident, said the store specializes in “farm to skin” natural products and offers facials and make-up applications. She said appointments for facials will begin next month. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for WestportNow.com

03/12/16 06:27 PM Comments (0) • PermalinkEmail Favicon Facebook Favicon LinkedIn Favicon

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