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Thursday, August 4, 2011

Serendipity Magazine Stages Casting Call at Fairfield Pinkberry

Serendipity Magazine Stages Casting Call at Fairfield Pinkberry:
Dozens of children line up for a shot at the limelight
By Mike Lauterborn
(Posted to
© 2011. All Rights Reserved.

Fairfield, CT – One and all they came -- boys, girls, triplets, teens – all looking for a shot at fame, or at least to be featured in the pages of a magazine.

Serendipity Magazine that is, a lifestyle publication circulated in Westchester and Fairfield Counties, geared to families with content that includes travel, food, style, health and fitness. This summer, the magazine decided to conduct several casting calls at ice cream and yogurt places in their focus areas. Pinkberry Fairfield, the only Pinkberry in the state, is a client, so it was a given that it would be a stop when staffers came to town Wednesday afternoon.

“This has been a 14-week effort,” said Dana Jevarjian, marketing events director for Serendipity. “Pinkberry and Serendipity go hand in hand in terms of target audience, life, fun and health. It’s a perfect marriage.”

The recruits the magazine sought were girls and boys ages 4 to 16. A photo of each was taken, personal information captured and the details catalogued as ongoing model resources for the publication’s style sections.

“We want to give back to the community and use real kids – our readers’ children,” said Jevarjian. “Our slogan is ‘Your Town, Your Style, Your Magazine.’ This is a perfect illustration of that idea.”

Filling out a form secured to a clipboard near Pinkberry’s front entrance at 1512 Post Road, Fairfield mom Shreya Patel, with her sons Jaden, 5, and Kalen, 4, clutching at her dress, said, “I thought it would be fun for my boys. They have never done anything like this before. I wasn’t familiar with Serendipity, so I’m looking forward to reading it as well.”

Fellow Fairfielder Linda Smith showed with her daughter Madison, 4, saying she’d learned about the event through “Madison is a natural born ham,” Smith said. “She loves to be photographed. I thought it would be a great opportunity… and, who knows, it may be a launching point for a modeling career. Every time I take her to a show, I say, ‘Do you want to go see this?’ and she says, ‘No, I want to be in it.’”

Soon to be a fourth grader at Osborne Hill Elementary, nine-year-old Samantha Galluzzo was ready for her fifteen seconds of fame. “I think I might like to be a model,” she said. “It seems very glamorous.”

Mom Sarah remarked that this was new to Sam and that it was an easy way for her to get some exposure, versus going into the city.

Twenty-three-year-old Anggy Young, who could easily be mistaken for a potential recruit given her girlish look, had brought her six-year-old daughter Angela to the audition after seeing it advertised in the Pinkberry store.

“I’m here three to four times a week, saw the sign, told Angela and she said, ‘ok’”, said Anggy. “She hasn’t done any modeling but is very photogenic, and watches a lot of fashion shows.”

Chirped the youngster, “I love chocolate Pinkberry, with strawberries. It’s so yummy!”

Twelve-year-old candidate Avery Bebon was practically a modeling veteran compared with many of the other children. “I like modeling and acting and I thought this would give me a head start on what I want to do career-wise,” she said. “I tried out for a few acting roles in the past – I was on the Disney Channel for one small contest. It was really exciting. Who knows how this might go? This could be my big break.”

Stepping up to a long table that magazine staffers had set up curbside were four-and-a-half year-old towheaded triplets Dylan, Charlie and Shawn, from Rye, N.Y. Their proud mom had also heard about the event through and figured they had nothing to lose. “This is a good age to try this I think because they are more cooperative than they were when they were little, and they love getting their pictures taken,” she said.

While Serendipity captured great attention, the Pinkberry brand would not be repressed. A comparable line led through the front entry right up to the counter, where Pinkberry fans placed their orders and counter people – correct that, “Goodness Guides” – like Cassie Voley, 19, delivered the goods, passing off delicious concoctions with a “Enjoy your Pinkberry” salutation.

Bravo for Nuvo

Bravo for Nuvo:
Former restaurant owner Mike Constand leads new nightclub venture
By Mike Lauterborn
© 2011. All Rights Reserved.

Fairfield, CT – A native son who earned his restaurant management stripes as a college student in Florida, Fairfielder Mike Constand has put a tough incident behind him to lead operations at one of the hottest new nightlife spots in town.

Keeping watch on the crowd, shaking a hand or two and monitoring bartender activities, Constand, 42, leaned on the long bar at Nuvo, 238 Post Road, on a recent busy Tuesday night and spoke about the fledgling club he oversees and the path that brought him to its door.

Constand’s roots were simple, Fairfield-based and not oriented at all to his career choice. His dad, Bill, was a building manager for Scinto Development, while mom Cheryl ran Trinity Nursery in Southport. He was educated at North Stratfield Elementary and Fairfield Woods Middle School, and graduated from Andrew Warde High School in 1987.

It was his choice of colleges – leastways the location – that was the earliest influencer. “I went to Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton, where I earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Finance, in 1992,” he said. “FAU was in an area very heavily dominated by restaurants and bars.”

To put change in his pocket, he began working at Boston’s on the Beach, a restaurant in nearby Del Ray. “I was a clam shucker freshman year,” he said. “Then I started working all over southern Florida, serving as everything from bartender and doorman to waiter.”

With a developing interest in one day running his own place, he decided, “You have to get this type of experience, from all angles, to be in this business.”

After graduating, he returned to Fairfield, but pursued insurance, as a partner/broker, for Corporate Benefit Enterprises in Bridgeport. At the same time, though, he bartended, over a 10-year period. He worked at Fairfield restaurants Europa (now Bangalore Indian restaurant) and La Cucina (now Sweet Basil), and several places in South Norwalk, like Liquid and Rain.

Around 2003, Constand approached the owners of Rooster’s restaurant, on the Post Road in downtown Fairfield, and proposed that he help them solidify their business by serving as a majority owner and manager. “It was a three-year buyout deal wherein I basically paid off their debts,” he said. “In 2005, I assumed full ownership and sold my insurance business to complete the three-year deal.”

About that period, Constand said, “It was a big gamble to move from a cushy insurance job to a risky restaurant/bar business, but I thought the spot, which was a legend in town as Tommy’s for about 20 years, was ideal. I used to sit in there dreaming of one day owning the space. It was a lifelong dream fulfilled when I eventually did.”

The former owners had already changed the name from Rooster’s to Bravo, a name honoring Peter Bravo, a cop that helped them run out a former owner. “They were so grateful for his help,” said Constand.

New captain Constand put $100,000 into renovations, with a goal of bringing a fun singles environment to Fairfield. “I always felt the town didn’t have any action,” he said. “I wanted to inject a SoNo – New Haven atmosphere, which I did. For three years, on Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday, we were full to the gills with singles, while also serving a family crowd on weekdays and Sundays.”

He said Bravo became very popular quickly, with one of his strongest segments being the college crowd. “I had a college night on Tuesdays,” he said. “We had huge traffic and I was doing my diligence in terms of keeping things safe and fun. But then, on October 22, 2009, on one of these college nights, the Fairfield police and State of Connecticut Liquor Board conducted a raid and, of 200-plus people in the bar, half were caught with fake I.D.’s.”

Constand defends to this day that his door staff had done everything possible to check for underage patrons. “We scanned every I.D. with a video system that allows for comparing the I.D. to the person’s face,” he said.

“I was faced with some tough choices,” Constand reflected. “Do I continue to make a go of it or put it up for sale and check out. I did the latter, completing the sale February 15, 2010, to management that has since reopened the place as Old Post Tavern.”

Part of Constand’s sale agreement stipulated that he turn in his liquor permit, and he was not allowed to own another place for at least one year.

During the post-Bravo period, Constand was approached by Ron Gavern, who asked him to help design and manage his new nightclub Nuvo, formerly Lupita’s Mexican restaurant.

“Drawing on all my club experience, I developed a vision for a place that would appeal to a 21-35 crowd, with dancing and cocktails – an alternative to the basic dive bar.”

Nuvo opened in June 2010, starting with a loyal following from the Bravo days and steadily building on it.

Now, Nuvo showcases different local deejays Tuesday through Saturday, who spin top-40 tunes that fill the loungy space, which features chic pinspots, lighting effects and a New York feel.

“I want to provide a fun, safe place and alternative entertainment for people to enjoy themselves,” Constand said. “I’m committed to Fairfield and hopefully the town is committed to me.”