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Saturday, June 11, 2016

Comings and Goings: New Beauty Wellness Has Grand Opening

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New Beauty Wellness, a medical and day spa, has opened at 1137 Post Road East near the intersection of Morningside Drive North. It celebrated its grand opening with a ribbon cutting ceremony.  According to site director Lindsay Cross-Lerou, the spa offers facials, massages, body treatments, injectables and laser treatments. A plastic surgeon, Mark Erlich, a resident of Easton, is a staff member. The business offers six treatment rooms in its 4,000-square foot facility. Pictured- (l-r) Ed Schaufler, principal; Jennifer Efstathiou, lead esthetician; Helen Garten, selectman; Paul Dowicz, principal; Matt Mandell, executive director, Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce; Lindsay Cross-Lerou, site director, and Stephen Dowicz, principal. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for WestportNow.com

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Friday, June 10, 2016

Comings & Goings: Acqua Successor is Boca

By James Lomuscio

Opening up a new restaurant in Westport’s highly competitive atmosphere is undoubtedly daunting. It’s even more challenging if it’s your first time owning one.

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Revisson Bonfim will live the American Dream when he opens his Boca restaurant in space occupied for 20 years by Acqua Ristorante Mediterraneo. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for WestportNow.com

But for Revisson Bonfim, a 42-year-old investment banker who studies emerging markets, the planned opening of his Boca restaurant in August at the site of soon-to-close Acqua Ristorante Mediterraneo at 43 Main St. facing Parker Harding Plaza is the American Dream coming full circle. The restaurant, whose name is Spanish for mouth, will offer dishes from Spain, Italy and France.

“I’m originally from Brazil, and I moved to the United States when I was 16,” said the East Norwalk resident. “My very first job in the United States was working at a restaurant in Greenwich.”

The place was Manero’s, the same company that for decades had an iconic Saugatuck restaurant at the site that is now Rizzuto’s.

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Wednesday, June 08, 2016

Malloy’s Approval Drops to All-Time Low of 24 Percent

By Mark Pazniokas

www.ctmirror.org

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s approval rating hit a low of 24 percent today in a new Quinnipiac University poll, reflecting voter dismay over a chronic fiscal crisis that has come to define his six years as governor, most recently requiring service reductions and state employee layoffs.

“Voters feel Connecticut’s economy is going down the drain, and they are sending Gov. Dannel Malloy’s approval ratings right down the same drain. Even Democrats disapprove of the way he is doing his job,” said Douglas Schwartz, the poll’s director.

The poll is an across-the-board repudiation of Malloy, the first Democratic governor in decades, and a vote of no-confidence in the state’s economy, factors Republicans hope will enable them to shrink the Democrats’ majorities in the General Assembly or even capture control of a chamber.

Overall, 68 percent of voters disapprove of his performance, 24 percent approve and 8 percent have no opinion. He was upside down in every subset of voters, including Democrats, whose disapprove/approve split was 47 percent to 40 percent.

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Comings & Goings: Design Within Reach Goes Postal

The former Westport main post office, occupied until January by the Post 154 Restaurant, will be the new Westport home of furniture retailer Design Within Reach, according to a real estate source.

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Design Within Reach is the new tenant at 154 Post Road East. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for WestportNow.com

The company, which formerly leased space on Elm Street, is expected to occupy the 9,000-square foot space on two floors by the end of the year, the source said.

There was no immediate confirmation from the company.

An investment group with ties to Westport paid $2.35 million for the property in May 2011. (See WestportNow May 23, 2011) The restaurant opened in August 2013.

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Tuesday, June 07, 2016

Library Talk Features Al DiGuido June 14

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Al DiGuido at his Saugatuck Sweets. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for WestportNow.com

Many Westporters know of him from his charity Al’s Angels or his yummy shops Saugatuck Sweets.

But that’s just scratching the surface when it comes to learning about entrepreneur and philanthropist Al DiGuido, who on Tuesday, June 14, at 7 p.m. in the Westport Library’s McManus Room will offer marketing innovator insights into his many business successes, event planners said.

Sponsored by Bernstein Global Wealth Management and Patriot Bank, DiGuido’s free talk is titled “Win Small Battles: 10 Essential Truths on Building & Leading.”

It will focus on the top 10 of essential components for achieving success in a wide variety of endeavors, an annnounement said.

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Friday, June 03, 2016

P&Z Focuses on Site Plan to Defuse 8-30g

By James Lomuscio

Developers of a planned four-story, 94-unit rental property at 1177 Post Road East are willing to adjust their site plan, hopefully to the town’s satisfaction, without using the state’s affordable housing statute 8-30g to override zoning laws, their attorney said.

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An architect’s rendering of the proposed project at 1177 Post Road East. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Contributed photo

Still, 1177 PRE Associates LLC is keeping 8-30g in its quiver via proposed text amendment 714. The amendment adds a new section “Residential-Rental Housing Opportunity/Workforce Zone District” as provided by the state’s affordable housing appeals procedure.

Under state law, 8-30g can be enforced if a town does not have 10 percent of its housing stock deemed affordable, which Westport does not. That opens the door to an aggressive developer riding roughshod over zoning regulations, doing what he or she pleases, something town officials say would jeopardize Westport’s identity and charm.

Christopher Smith, an attorney from the Shipman & Goodwin LLP firm representing 1177 PRE Associates, cautioned the Planning and Zoning Commission (P&Z) of that during a public hearing Thursday night.

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Comings & Goings: Now It’s Vine

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Vine, a charcuterie-style bar and restaurant, will open at 190 Main St. by end of June, according to owner Sammy Alanz. The space was previously occupied by Luxe Wine Bar, which closed in April. (See WestportNow April 12, 2016) Alanz initially announced the name of his new eatery would be Bankside Social, but has now changed it to Vine, a “wine room and charcuterie.”  He also said that the restaurant will feature fresh, organic, local offerings—see http://www.westportvine.com (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for WestportNow.com

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Friday, May 27, 2016

Bond Panel OK’s $22M for Hedge Fund Expansion

By Keith M.Phaneuf

www.ctmirror.org

The State Bond Commission today approved $22 million in financing to help Westport-based Bridgewater Associates, one of the nation’s largest hedge funds, to expand in Fairfield County.

But Democratic state Comptroller Kevin P. Lembo, a potential Democratic gubernatorial candidate in 2018, joined with a prominent Republican state representative to oppose assistance for Bridgewater.

Both Lembo and Rep. Chris Davis, R-Ellington, argued it was imprudent to dedicate scarce state resources to a firm that manages more than $130 billion in global investments.

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, who chairs the 10-member bond commission, countered that Connecticut competes daily with neighboring states for businesses and jobs.

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Terex Shares Plunge after China Deal Unravels

Westport-based Terex Corp.’s talks with a Chinese suitor broke down today after disagreement on terms.

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The breakdown cleared the way for Terex’s planned $1.3 billion disposal of a ports lifting-gear business to competitor Konecranes Oyj of Finland.

Shares of Terex closed down just over 14 percent at $20.89 on the news, after dropping 18 percent at the opening of trading.

Recent negotiations with Zoomlion Heavy Industry Science and Technology Co. hit an impasse over “crucial terms” despite joint efforts to find a solution, the Chinese company said in a statement early today, without giving further details.

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Tuesday, May 24, 2016

State Grant of $22M to Bridgewater Draws Criticism

By Keith M.Phaneuf

www.ctmirror.org

The State Bond Commission is expected to approve $22 million in financing Friday to help Westport-based hedge fund operator Bridgewater Associates expand operations in Westport, Wilton and Norwalk.

That sparked criticism today from House Minority Leader Themis Klarides, R-Derby, who called the grant to the world’s largest hedge fund “dubious,” given the state’s fiscal woes.

But Catherine Smith, commissioner of the Department of Economic and Community Development, said these planned expansions would be an economic win for Connecticut.

“With all that has transpired in the last two weeks, with the state’s budget a mess — and unfinished school construction projects hanging — to make the world’s largest hedge fund a priority, I find it dubious,” Klarides said. “Of course we want to keep highly skilled, well-paying jobs in Connecticut. But we all know that other vital projects will not be funded because we have to curtail our borrowing.”

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Thursday, May 19, 2016

CT Gets Credit Downgrades From Wall Street

By Keith M.Phaneuf

www.ctmirror.org

The new state budget’s ability to mitigate longstanding fiscal problems got poor marks today on Wall Street as two of the four major rating agencies downgraded Connecticut’s credit ranking — probably boosting borrowing costs in the future.

Fitch Ratings Inc. and Standard & Poor’s both lowered their bond ratings in response to the $19.76 billion budget Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and the legislature’s Democratic majority crafted for the fiscal year beginning July 1.

The other two firms, Kroll and Moody’s Investors Service, didn’t change their ratings, but did maintain a “negative outlook.” This represents a warning that they intend to monitor state finances closely over the next year, and sometimes is a precursor to a formal downgrade.

“The message from the credit rating agencies couldn’t be any clearer: It is high time for a sustained commitment to fortify the state’s financial footing, in the midst of persistent economic uncertainty,” state Treasurer Denise L. Nappier wrote today in a statement announcing the downgrades.

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05/19/16 07:05 PM Comments (0) • PermalinkEmail Favicon Facebook Favicon LinkedIn Favicon

CT Jobless Rate Remained at 5.7% in April

By Keith M. Phaneuf

www.ctmirror.org

Connecticut added 3,500 jobs last month, but unemployment remained at 5.7 percent, the state Department of Labor reported today.

The jobless rate is slightly better than the 5.8 percent mark achieved in April 2015. The state has added 20,100 jobs over the past 12 months and 9,800 positions since Jan. 1.

Still, Connecticut is about 23,500 jobs shy of recovering all positions lost in the last recession, which ended more than six years ago.

“Connecticut saw increases in both job counts and labor force participation in April,” said Andy Condon, Director of the Office of Research at the labor department. “As new workers entered or reentered the labor force, the number of unemployed also grew. This explains recent upward pressure on our unemployment rate.”

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05/19/16 05:20 PM Comments (0) • PermalinkEmail Favicon Facebook Favicon LinkedIn Favicon

Comings & Goings: Daly Method Opens

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Daly Method has officially opened at 272 Post Road East. The practice, headed by founder Renee Daly (r) ) offers chiropractic care including “Graston and active release technique, certified sports rehab, functional training, massage therapy, and wellness care.” Among those taking part in the ribbon cutting were First Selectman Jim Marpe and Matthew Mandell, president and executive director, Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Contributed photo

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Friday, May 13, 2016

Measure Strips $1B in Bonded Projects off of CT’s Credit Card

By Keith M. Phaneuf and Jacqueline Rabe Thomas

www.ctmirror.org

The Senate voted early today to rebalance Connecticut’s credit card in the face of shrinking tax revenues, canceling or delaying about $1 billion in financing for a wide array of projects and programs.

Outside of this rebalancing process, the bond package for the 2016-17 fiscal year also authorizes $382 million in new borrowing for municipal school construction, down significantly from financing for local schools approved in recent years.

The Senate enacted the measure 34-2. It now heads to the House of Representatives, which is expected to consider the bill Friday.

The cancelations affect capital projects at public colleges and universities, municipal school districts, economic development programs, social services, housing, recreation and the environment, transportation, and numerous state facilities and information technology systems.

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Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Legislative Wrap-Up? Not Yet

By James Lomuscio

Today’s Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce (WWCC) event at the Westport Library had been billed as a post session wrap-up with area state legislators.

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Connecticut’s yet-to-be completed budget was the main topic at today’s session at the Westport Library. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Contributed photo

However, it was far from over since Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s $20 billion budget with about $1billion in cuts has yet to be passed.

Sen. Tony Hwang (R-28) and Sen. Toni Boucher (R-26) said that they had to convene in Hartford Thursday for a special session to work on and vote on the budget.

Rep. Johnathan Steinberg (D-136), Rep. Gail Lavielle (R-143) and Rep. John Shaban (R-135) said they would have to go back, too, but that it was uncertain when the House of Representatives would meet.

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Sunday, May 08, 2016

Mother’s Day Bonanza

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Westport Florists, 1 Treadwell Ave., reported doing brisk Mother’s Day business today. Said Tina Ahlberg, manager, “It’s the busiest weekend of the year.” (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for WestportNow.com

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Busy, Busy

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Mother’s Day is the busiest weekend of the year, according to Tina Ahlberg, manager of Westport Florist, 1 Treadwell Ave. at the intersection of Saugatuck and Riverside Avenues. Ahlberg said the store’s most popular items this weekend are flower arrangements which range from $20 to $450.  She added, “The busiest day was yesterday, but we’re busy today too, tons of phone calls. We’re almost sold out from a combination of walkins and phone orders. We’re so thankful to the town for their patronage.”  The store, which opened in February and formerly known as Hansen’s Florist located at 240 Post Road East, marks its first Mother’s Day in the new location. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for WestportNow.com

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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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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

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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.

WestportNow.com Image
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

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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

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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

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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.

WestportNow.com Image
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

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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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