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Monday, September 11, 2017

Bipartisan CT Budget Talks Run Out of Steam Again

By Keith M. Phaneuf

www.ctmirror.org

Sputtering bipartisan state budget talks, which hadn’t produced any unified plan over the past four months, appeared to have broken down for good — around the same issues that have plagued them in recent years.

Republican legislative leaders said today that their Democratic counterparts effectively ended any bipartisan talks by meeting Sunday with Gov. Dannel P. Malloy — a meeting to which the GOP wasn’t invited.

But Democratic leaders have questioned openly for months whether Republicans ever would support the hard choices needed to close major deficits in the next two-year budget. And the GOP had sharp criticism for the compromise proposal Malloy, a Democrat, unveiled on Friday.

“If you don’t invite somebody to a room to have negotiations, you can’t have negotiations,” Senate Republican leader Len Fasano of North Haven said during a mid-day press conference. “It seems to both of us they’re not interested in having those conversations anymore.”

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Dems Shy from Sales Tax Increase in Effort to End Budget Impasse

By Keith M. Phaneuf

www.ctmirror.org

Democratic legislative leaders and Gov. Dannel P. Malloy made progress over the weekend toward a new plan to end the state budget standoff by week’s end — one that would abandon efforts to raise the primary sales tax rate of 6.35 percent.

The leaders said it was premature to say whether they also could avert any sales tax surcharge on restaurant transactions, but compromises proposed by the governor late last week have helped push lawmakers toward a consensus.

“I think we’re actually closer than we’ve been in a long time to actually having the possibility of closing this and having a product we can pass and the governor can sign,” said Senate President Pro Tem Martin M. Looney, D-New Haven.

The General Assembly begins the week just four days away from a potential budget nightmare. If a deal is not struck by Thursday, the Senate’s schedule may not accommodate another gathering until after Oct. 1 — when Malloy, absent a new budget, would impose huge cuts on municipal aid.

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Comings & Goings: Williams Sonoma to Bedford Square

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Confirming widespread rumors, developer David Waldman said today that Williams Sonoma, the upscale chain offering high end cookware, house label kitchen accessories and gourmet goods, will relocate from 136 Main St. to a space in the newly constructed Bedford Square development in early 2018. He said the 8,000-square foot space in Bedford Square will be approximately double the store’s current location. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for WestportNow.com

09/11/17 05:05 PM Comments (0) • PermalinkEmail Favicon Facebook Favicon LinkedIn Favicon

Comings & Goings: 190 Main to Main Street

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A new eatery, 190 Main, opens early next month at Westport’s 190 Main St., next to Joe’s Pizza. The space was previously occupied by the Vine Wine Room that closed in July and the the Luxe Wine Bar, which closed in April 2016. Owner Steve Garrett (above), a Branford resident, said the new restaurant will offer a small plates menu, featuring seafood tapas. Garrett said he is a career restaurateur who operated Chao on Whitney Avenue, New Haven and another Chao in Sandy Hook, both featured Thai cuisine. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for WestportNow.com

09/11/17 10:39 AM Comments (0) • PermalinkEmail Favicon Facebook Favicon LinkedIn Favicon

Friday, September 08, 2017

Report: Bridgewater to Amass Huge Investment Fund in China

Westport’s Bridgewater Associates is poised to amass a huge investment fund in China, giving its founder, Ray Dalio, the kind of clout that has largely eluded Western financial firms in the world’s second-largest economy, The Wall Street Journal reported tonight.

With Chinese government approval, Bridgewater plans to use a new unit based in China to raise billions of dollars domestically to buy and sell assets in the country, the report said. The achievement reportedly has been three decades in the making.

According to the Journal, Bridgewater already manages billions of dollars invested outside China by Chinese institutions and the government itself. It also won rarely granted access to trade directly in local Chinese financial markets.

Dalio, 68, has been fascinated by China since his first trip there in 1984, the report said. 

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Malloy’s Latest Budget Plan: Sales, Hospital Tax Hikes to Restore Town Aid

By Keith M. Phaneuf and Jacqueline Rabe Thomas

www.ctmirror.org

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy today proposed a major increase in state taxes on hospitals to leverage federal dollars, along with a modest sales tax hike, in a compromise intended to end a budget impasse that’s in its third month and has left Connecticut as one of the last two states without a budget.

“It has inflicted more harm than should be tolerated by any of us in positions of leadership, Democrat or Republican,” Malloy said of the impasse in outlining his plan. “The time for compromise is now and the proposal I put forward today represents just that.”

Revenue from these tax changes, a new sales tax surcharge on restaurant transactions and a series of smaller spending cuts, would enable Malloy to greatly scale back what has been a major point of difference with legislators: A plan to cut municipal aid and shift big teacher pension costs onto cities and towns.

But the governor still is insisting that the next two-year state budget redistribute education aid to help poor communities.

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Thursday, September 07, 2017

Malloy Would Ease Cost Shift Onto Towns by Nearly $775M

By Keith M. Phaneuf

www.ctmirror.org

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy announced today he would ease proposed municipal aid cuts and other cost-shifts onto cities and towns by nearly $775 million in an effort to end the state budget standoff that has extended 10 weeks into the new fiscal year.

Malloy, who will issue another revised two-year budget plan — his third — on Friday, released a few details one day earlier.

The governor, who said this week he would curtail his proposal to transfer teacher pension contribution costs onto municipalities, now wants communities to pay $92 million this fiscal year and $190 million in 2018-19. That’s $547 million less over the biennium than Malloy originally sought.

He also agreed today to scale back his proposals to reduce municipal aid considerably, restoring $137 million in the first year and $89 million in the second, or $226 million over the biennium.

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Wednesday, September 06, 2017

Deal or Not, House Democrats Pledge Budget Vote Next Week

By Mark Pazniokas

www.ctmirror.org

House Democratic leaders said today they intend to call a vote on a budget next week with or without a deal with Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and the Senate, a ploy to force wavering lawmakers to decide between an imperfect spending plan and the “cataclysmically worse” choice of forcing Malloy to slash municipal aid by executive order.

House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz, D-Berlin, said the arrival of Oct. 1 without a budget would guarantee cuts in municipal aid that would ripple through every public school in the state, instantly transforming a budget impasse into a full-blown fiscal and political crisis — with the blame laid at the feet of every lawmaker.

“We’ll make it very clear on the House floor, and I’ve said this before, If you are not part of the solution, you are voting for the executive order,” said House Majority Leader Matt Ritter, D-Hartford. “That’s the reality. That’s what’s going to happen.”

But missing from the scenario outlined by Aresimowicz and Ritter was a key element: What exactly would be in the budget up for a vote next week?

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09/06/17 07:50 PM Comments (0) • PermalinkEmail Favicon Facebook Favicon LinkedIn Favicon

Comings & Goings: The Bar Method Opens

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The Bar Method Westport has opened at 25 Sylvan Road South. The studio boasts strength training low impact classes at the ballet barre that promises long, lean muscles and stretching. Visit http://www.westport.barmethod.com or call (203)557-6737 for more info. Introductory offer: $100 for 50 days unlimited. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Bob Eckman for WestportNow.com

09/06/17 12:15 PM Comments (0) • PermalinkEmail Favicon Facebook Favicon LinkedIn Favicon

Tuesday, September 05, 2017

Malloy Offers Big Compromise to End CT Budget Gridlock

By Keith M. Phaneuf and Jacqueline Rabe Thomas

www.ctmirror.org

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy has offered a major compromise to end the state budget standoff, scaling back his proposed shift of teacher pension costs to cities and towns by half.

Malloy, who originally suggested communities cover one-third of the fastest-growing expense in the state budget, told The Mirror today he would accept their contributing only the costs tied to present-day teachers.

The massive-and-rapidly growing unfunded liability — compensating for decades’ worth of contributions not made by past governors and legislators — would remain the state’s responsibility.

And while the governor said he remains committed to a new, two-year state budget that does not “lead with revenue” to close major projected deficits, he is willing to discuss revenue options to hasten an agreement.

Click HERE for more of story

09/05/17 04:40 PM Comments (0) • PermalinkEmail Favicon Facebook Favicon LinkedIn Favicon

Party Harty Ribbon Cutting Party

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Sue and Jackie Marshall, owners of Party Harty, the Westport-based 28-year-old party supplies business, celebrated the grand opening today at their new location, 578 Post Road East with a ribbon-cutting ceremony. Participants included (l-r) - First Selectman Jim Marpe, Sue Marshall and her daughter Jackie, staff member Michele Bloch, and property owners Joan and Doug Hyde. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for WestportNow.com

09/05/17 02:48 PM Comments (0) • PermalinkEmail Favicon Facebook Favicon LinkedIn Favicon

Saturday, September 02, 2017

Chamber Launches Business Networking Breakfasts

The Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce (WWCC) has announced the launch of breakfast business networking meetings, the first one set for Tuesday Sept. 12 from 7 to 9 a.m.

Tentatively called the Chamber Morning Meet, the meetings will be held at Terrain Garden Café, 561 Post Road East, and are open to WWCC members and nonmembers, according to Matthew Mandell, WWCC executive director.

“We’re trying to give business people an opportunity to find synergies and an outlet to discuss what’s up with their company, the business climate, the town and even the state,” said Mandell.

“The goal is to find how to make our town even better for business and foster new collaborations while doing so.”

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Friday, September 01, 2017

‘Fairfield County Five’ Aims to Recruit New Businesses, Residents

Westport is now a member of “The Fairfield County Five,” a five-municipality cooperative designed to promote the area’s commercial and residential appeal, First Selectman Jim Marpe announced.

The economic development group comprises Stamford, Greenwich, Norwalk, Fairfield and Westport. Among its aims, Marpe said, are business outreach sessions to highlight real estate opportunities within the area; hosting tours[ and educating outsiders about the business and residential environment within the five localities.

According to Marpe, a primary goal is to attract service, marketing and emerging technology businesses to the area.

To that end, he and Matthew Mandell, executive director of the Westport-Weston Chamber of Commerce (WWCC) are scheduled to attend in the group’s first business recruitment showcase in New York City on Nov. 2.

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Thursday, August 31, 2017

Weighing in on Amazon Whole Foods Purchase

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Westport Selectman Avi Kaner, whose day job is running New York’s Morton Williams supermarkets, was on Bloomberg Television today discussing the Amazon purchase of Whole Foods. Much of the conversation centered on the cost of avocados and compared the new Whole Foods price, much lower, to competitors, including Morton Williams. Kaner said there was no doubt the new Whole Foods has super buying power backed by Amazon, but said his company can compete by offering competitive pricing on many products — not just a few highlighted by Whole Foods — in addition to good customer service. CLICK TO ENLARGE) Photo from Bloomberg.com

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Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Higher Income Taxes for CT’s Wealthy May Still be in Play

By Keith M. Phaneuf

www.ctmirror.org

Increasing taxes on the wealthy — a solution in several state budget crises — seemed off the table this year.

But the discussion may not be over yet.

With the state budget standoff about to enter its third month — and with towns about to lose hundreds of millions of dollars more in state aid — at least one moderate Democrat wary of taxing the rich is taking a second look.

And sources say other moderates that still oppose raising taxes on the wealthiest households — a nonstarter for Gov. Dannel P. Malloy — have approached legislative leadership to discuss the option.

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How Many CT Towns Face Insolvency? Malloy Begins Counting

By Keith M. Phaneuf

www.ctmirror.org

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s administration is polling cities and towns to determine how many will run out of operating cash by this spring — or earlier — if the state budget standoff continues.

Office of Policy and Management Secretary Ben Barnes, Malloy’s budget chief, wrote to municipal leaders today asking them to provide information.

“I know that many towns would face solvency issues next spring if January and April ECS (Education Cost Sharing grant) payments continue at the executive order level,” Barnes wrote. “… I encourage any municipality that believes it will lack cash on hand to pay bills in 2017 to contact my office.”

In the absence of a state budget, Malloy has been running state finances by executive order since the new fiscal year began on July 1. With income and other tax receipts declining and retirement benefit and other fixed debt costs surging, the administration has said it has no choice but to dramatically reduce funds for municipal aid.

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Town Leaders Fight Back Against Budget Cost Shifts

By Keith M. Phaneuf

www.ctmirror.org

Municipal leaders today pushed back against Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s proposals to shift costs onto cities and towns.

During a news conference at the Capitol, the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities also contested a Malloy report earlier this month that aid to communities has surged 21 percent during his tenure.

“It’s naive to say that a cut in local government isn’t a property tax increase,” Coventry Town Manager John Elsesser said. “The plan that’s on the table is a major property tax increase.”

The governor’s plan to help close projected deficits of $1.6 billion this fiscal year and $1.9 billion in 2018-19 includes reducing major statutory grants to cities and towns by about $320 million per year.

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Friday, August 25, 2017

Comings & Goings: Party Harty Relocating After 28 Years

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Party Harty, the party supplies store next door to Westport Hardware, is moving from its current location at 616 Post Road East to the space formerly occupied by Dress Code, a women’s apparel store at 578 Post Road East, which closed last month. According to Jackie Marshall (above), 30, her mother, Sue Marshall, opened Party Harty 28 years ago and has operated in the same location for the duration. “We felt is was time for us to make this kind change and the opportunity presented itself so we acted on it,” she said. A grand opening celebration is planned for Sept. 5. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for WestportNow.com

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Thursday, August 24, 2017

Malloy Defends His Track Record on Aiding Cities and Towns

Keith M. Phaneuf

www.ctmirror.org

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy today tried to defend his efforts to shift more costs onto cities and towns, releasing a report asserting that municipal aid has grown 21 percent over the last five years.

The administration also said it would release a follow-up analysis soon on the financial health of Connecticut’s 169 cities and towns, including information on mill rates, budget reserves, bond ratings and the value of taxable property.

“As a former mayor, former member of local boards of finance and education, and as a father who raised three children here, I know just how important state funding is for every city and town in Connecticut,” said Malloy, who was mayor of Stamford from 1995 through 2009. “That’s why my administration has been highly protective of municipal aid over the past six years, as this report makes clear.”

Keeping a promise he made during the 2010 gubernatorial campaign, Malloy refused to cut municipal aid — as his counterparts in New York and New Jersey did — during his first year in office in 2011 as the region climbed out of the Great Recession.

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Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Leifer, Waldman Buy Sconset Square for $5 Million

Sconset Square off Myrtle Avenue, the tucked away commercial center marked by a signature flagpole that had been the mast of a yacht owned by the mall’s late owner B.V. Brooks, has changed hands for $5 million.

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Sprucing up of Sconset Square was underway today, one day after its $5 million sale was completed. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) WestportNow.com photo

Westport real estate owners and developers Roger Leifer and David Waldman, for years commercial real estate neighbors, teamed up for the first time, recording the sale Tuesday at Town Hall from Sconset Square LLC.

Sconset Square LLC is owned by the Frazer family, the children of Kathryn Frazer Brooks, Brooks’ widow who died in November at 82. Brooks was former publisher of the Westport News, which had an office at the square.

“It’s a very successful shopping center as it is,” said Waldman, who developed and co-owns nearby Bedford Square on Church Lane.

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08/23/17 05:32 PM Comments (0) • PermalinkEmail Favicon Facebook Favicon LinkedIn Favicon

House Democrats Offer Modest Town Aid Shift in New Budget

Keith M. Phaneuf and Jacqueline Rabe Thomas

www.ctmirror.org

Majority House Democrats today unveiled a new budget that matches the town aid proposed by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy while redistributing education funds more modestly from wealthy and middle-income towns and into poorer communities.

But the House Democratic plan, which still features a sales tax increase and surcharges on restaurant and hotel transactions, avoids taxing hospitals and billing cities and towns for teacher pension costs as proposed by the governor.

The caucus proposal also would reduce income tax credits for middle-income families and for the working poor, and defer a third consecutive income tax break for retired teachers.

Democrats, who hold a 79-72 edge in the House, say their plan would reduce overall municipal aid in the budget by 5 percent to help close major projected deficits in each of the next two fiscal years.

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Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Legislators to Propose New Budget Plans to Break Gridlock

Keith M. Phaneuf and Jacqueline Rabe Thomas

www.ctmirror.org

With the state budget standoff nearing two months, Democrats and Republican legislative leaders announced plans today to unveil revised budget proposals soon.

Majority House Democrats remain focused on a sales tax hike to mitigate severe hits to cities and towns proposed by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, and will unveil their latest budget plan Wednesday, said Speaker Joe Aresimowicz, D-Berlin.

And GOP leaders in the House and Senate, who were unable to block a labor concessions deal they still argue will hurt Connecticut in the long run, said they’re also developing a new budget that accepts the labor savings.

But after a nearly two-hour, closed-door meeting, top lawmakers said that while they still were working with the goal of adopting a new, two-year budget during the week of Sept. 11, they didn’t express any optimism this would happen.

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Comings & Goings: Romanacci Pizza Bar to Railroad Place

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Romanacci Pizza Bar will open at 50 Railroad Place in late September, according to Graziano Ricci, co-owner with his brother Maurizio.  The brothers currently own two eateries in Norwalk, Osteria since 2009 and Romanacci Pizza Bar since 2012. Since then, the Ricci brothers expanded to Monroe and Trumbull over the past two years. Graziano said the Westport shop, at the beginning, will offer pizza only on a delivery or takeout basis and said commuters can text order from the train and the pizza will be ready for pick up. “We are applying for a beer and wine license,” he said. The space, formerly occupied by Grana Pastificia fresh pasta, is connected to its neighbor Winfield Deli giving customers the convenience of picking up a morning coffee and, according to Breno Donatti, Winfield Deli owner, “selecting a breakfast pizza to complement the coffee that I serve.”  Graziano said Romanacci specializes in Roman pizza alla palla, square and crisp. Romanacci General Manager Anthony Devivo said the pizza will be prominently displayed in the window of the Railroad Place facility so that commuters can view its specialties. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for WestportNow.com

08/22/17 04:06 PM Comments (0) • PermalinkEmail Favicon Facebook Favicon LinkedIn Favicon

Monday, August 21, 2017

Main Street Retailers Remind It’s Tax-Free Week

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Athleta, 107 Main St., was among Westport Main Street retailers reminding shoppers today that this is tax-free week in Connecticut. The 17th annual tax holiday began Sunday and runs through Saturday. Most clothing and footwear priced under $100 is exempt from Connecticut’s sales tax of 6.35 percent. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for WestportNow.com

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Thursday, August 17, 2017

Comings & Goings: Japanese Gastropub to Vigilante Firehouse

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Chef Brian Lewis, owner of The Cottage in Colonial Green, today announced plans to open a second eatery in Westport at the landmark former Vigilante Hose Co. No. 3 firehouse, 6 Wilton Road. Lewis describes the cafe as “a modern Japanese Izakaya meets Omakase restaurant.”  Izakya is a type of informal Japanese gastropub that are casual places for after-work drinking. Omakase is a Japanese phrase that means “I’ll leave it up to you” (from Japanese “to entrust.”) Lewis said it is slated to open in late fall. The space was formerly occupied by Neat Coffee and Craft Cocktails, which closed in January. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for WestportNow.com

08/17/17 02:18 PM Comments (0) • PermalinkEmail Favicon Facebook Favicon LinkedIn Favicon

On the Job With: Sandy Cooper, Cooper’s Auto Parts

By James Lomuscio

For 44 years, seven days a week, Sandy Cooper has come to his same shop in the same location, opening at 6 a.m. and using the same cash register.

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Sandy Cooper: on the job every day since 1973. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for WestportNow.com

The register at Cooper’s Auto Parts at 1763 Post Road East across from Stop & Shop was a gift from a friend the night before he first opened Sept. 1, 1973.

“I was ready to use a shoe box,” he recalled, adding that his friend who had owned a gas station had an old McCaskey register.

Though some of the register’s keys saying gas, tires, ethyl and tubes have never been used, Cooper says it’s served him well. So has the narrow, tight parking strip mall that houses his business.

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Saturday, August 12, 2017

With Municipal Aid on Chopping Block, a Cordial Chat

By Mark Pazniokas

www.ctmirror.org

Evidently resigned to a shrinking pool of state aid, leaders of two municipal associations pressed Gov. Dannel P. Malloy on Friday about granting Connecticut’s cities and town flexibility in dealing with public employees to achieve off-setting efficiencies, long a politically fraught topic at the State Capitol.

Malloy’s approach to closing a remaining $1.6 billion state budget shortfall for this year would hit municipalities on at least two fronts: requiring them to contribute to a teacher pension system now wholly financed by the state and teacher conttributions, and writing a new formula to distribute what the governor says must be a reduced budget for education aid.

Given that municipal aid and teacher pensions have been major points of contention in budget talks, the governor’s joint press conference with the executive directors of the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities (CCM) and Council of Small Towns (COST) was surprisingly cordial, even if some of their comments had the cautious tone of a diplomatic communique.

“I believe that we had a productive meeting,” Malloy said after his closed-door meeting with Joe DeLong of CCM and Betsy Gara of COST. “That doesn’t mean there were any final products to be produced today, but I share a great many of their concerns and, quite frankly, their goals. I expressed that.”

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Friday, August 11, 2017

Comings & Goings: Ryan John Barbershop Opens

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Ryan John Barbershop has opened at 235 Post Road West, near Sylvan Road. According to owner Ryan Recupero, “Our luxury barbershop offers precision haircuts for men, children (even a few women), hot lather straight razor shaves, and men’s hair color.” Recupero, a Trumbull resident, also owns and operates a full service salon in Fairfield since 2005. “I chose Westport because it’s a beautiful family town, and I wanted to join the many great businesses that serve the residents and tourists,” he said. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for WestportNow.com

08/11/17 06:42 PM Comments (0) • PermalinkEmail Favicon Facebook Favicon LinkedIn Favicon

Comings & Goings: Steven Alan Closes Westport Store

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Steven Alan, the men’s and women’s casual clothing and accessories store at 100 Post Road East, has closed. The store opened in February 2013. Store manager Magda Thompson, said, “Customers have come in to say how sad they feel that we’re closing.” Landlord Rob Haroun said the company is closing around 10 stores around the country, with the store in Greenwich among them. Alan said in April he planned to refocus his energy away from being a specialty multi-brand store and onto his own label. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for WestportNow.com

08/11/17 05:14 PM Comments (0) • PermalinkEmail Favicon Facebook Favicon LinkedIn Favicon

Wednesday, August 09, 2017

Comings & Goings: New Locations for Sports Attic & The Flat

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Two businesses, Sports Attic and The Flat, which opened on Railroad Place less than one year ago, are relocating to new spaces on the same block. Sports Attic, 26 Railroad Place, is relocating to 24 Railroad Place, currently occupied by The Flat. The Flat will relocate to 40-42 Railroad Place previously occupied by Saugatuck Grain and Grape, which has moved to Post Road West. Sports Attic features new and used sporting goods and gear while The Flat offers home furnishings, accessories, contemporary lighting and vintage furniture. Pictured are Becky Goss (l), owner of The Flat, and Greg Dilenge, owner of Sports Attic. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for WestportNow.com

08/09/17 08:25 PM Comments (0) • PermalinkEmail Favicon Facebook Favicon LinkedIn Favicon

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