Lauterborn Blog Search

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

SHU Hosts Bridgeport Rescue Mission Walk for Homeless

SHU Hosts Bridgeport Rescue Mission Walk for Homeless
By Mike Lauterborn
(for Sacred Heart Univ.)

Fairfield, CT – They were on a mission, a mission from God… to raise funds to continue their good work serving the hungry, homeless and addicted of Fairfield County.

Mid-morning Saturday, September 10, over 250 people – young, old and in between – gathered together on Sacred Heart University’s 5151 Park Avenue campus to literally “Walk A Mile” loop to benefit the Bridgeport Rescue Mission (BRM) at 1088 Fairfield Avenue in the Park City. Each walker pledged a certain dollar amount and sponsors kicked in more monies to help fund the Mission’s operations. At the same time, through creative dramatic depictions of homelessness staged along the route, participants learned more about the deep-rooted problem in Connecticut.

BRM Pastor Harry Carrillo said SHU was an ideal host “in part because of its Jesuit mission and the school’s concern for the City of Bridgeport.” Carillo added that planning for the Walk had begun several months ago, with Director of Development Jennifer Jump helping map the route and plan the various installations. The theme was “The Road to Homelessness”. To that regard, Carillo said, “Homelessness can affect anyone – the wealthy man on Wall Street, someone who’s lost a job like a single mom who can’t make the mortgage… it’s not just drug addicts and alcoholics. It’s a sad condition.”

Terry Wilcox, BRM’s director, expanded on the pastor’s thoughts. “The issue of homelessness is not just about putting a roof over someone’s head,” he said. “There are reasons why someone is homeless.”

Take, for instance, the case of Tom Romatizick. “Tom was a young man with great promise, who spent a lot of time in addiction,” said Wilcox. “He came to the Mission, got rehab and went back to independent living.”

Sadly, the story did not end there. “Not long after, about three years ago, he was supposed to meet his mom to go to church,” began Wilcox. “When he didn’t show, she went to his place to see what happened – the fear was that he’d relapsed. They found him at home, dressed for church, Bible open and in his lap, dead. People that had known him thought he’d overdosed but an autopsy showed no drugs or alcohol in his system. It was a heartattack. He was only 39.”

Wilcox continued, speaking about some of the specific activities of the Mission. “In the last three years, we’ve seen people at our shelters that you’d never dream of seeing,” he said. “Last year, we gave away 580,000 meals, largely in Bridgeport and South Norwalk. Last Thanksgiving alone, we gave out 7,000 coats and jackets. We offer an addiction recovery program for men and women, which has 45 participants. Those people get three meals a day, shelter, clothing, work assignments. We run two shelters, both in Bridgeport, a women’s and a men’s. Most nights, we have 15 to 19 women and 26 to 40 men sheltered.”

Wilcox expressed thanks for the university stepping up as host of the Walk and commended participating students. “Our relationship goes back many years before,” he said. “Students volunteer every week to serve meals at the shelter. I was telling the university president that students have such a great attitude. They smile, are pleasant, talk with clients. They’re not there because they have to be.”

Added Linda Casey, BRM’s Director of Development, “They were right here at 8 a.m. ready to go, and even brought us coffee and tea.”

Speaking from a participant’s perspective, Kathy Hitchcock of Norwalk, who was walking with Allysa Barnett of Trumbull, “We are employees of a local accounting firm, which participates in a pedometer program through United Healthcare. We were informed about today’s event through United’s website – United is an event sponsor. We thought it would be a productive way to spend our morning, while benefiting the homeless. The stats we read along the route were surreal and we’re startled homelessness is so widespread through Connecticut, here in suburbia. We’re fortunate to have what we have.” 

To learn more about the BRM and its work, call 203-333-4087 or visit

Westport Playhouse 80 Years Young

Westport Playhouse 
80 Years Young:
Gala fundraiser celebrates musical theater, looks to future
By Mike Lauterborn
(for Westport News)

Westport, CT – Elegance and finery with a 1930s flair was the defining look as Westport’s A-List gathered together at a resilient institution to celebrate a long history of musical theater. And while they recalled the past, the group looked to the future as well. In fact, their very presence ensured there would be one.

Monday evening, about 500 supporters of the arts, philanthropists, staff and alumni artists convened at Westport Country Playhouse, 25 Powers Court, for the leading gala fundraiser of the year. Titled “Playing Our Songs: Celebrating 80 Years of Musical Theater”, the event featured a welcome cocktail reception, performance by Broadway friends, tribute to actress Bernadette Peters for her dedication and service to the American Musical Theater, dancing, dinner and a silent auction.

Setting the tone for the night was the cocktail welcome, held in the area encompassing the theater’s patio through to the Lucille Lortel White Barn. The outdoor stretch was sheltered by a high-peaked white tent, with uptilt lighting creating splashes of color on its ceiling and the perimeters lined with 32 silent auction items. The latter included exclusive wines, Playhouse memorabilia, Broadway tickets, a MoMa lunch hour, spa package, shopping spree, villa stay and sports treats like a Yankees fan package and Joe Torre-signed jersey.

The auction was limited to 100 tickets at $100 a pop, with all monies collected helping to fund Playhouse operations. Westport’s Lux Bond & Green added to the intrigue, raffling modern rock candy gem drop 18k gold earrings and matching bangle, with a combined value of over $6,000.

Dressed in abbreviated uniforms that accented their stunning “stems” (as 30s lingo would refer to a woman’s legs) and circulating through the crowd were Kristen Murcott and Kim Maresca. A former Playhouse Special Events Associate, Maresca is now an actress and will soon appear in the Playhouse’s production of “Twelfth Night” as one of lead character Olivia’s attendants.

Responsible for the floorplan and accents of the gala event was Joanna Heimbold, who was a picture in a long blue dress and on the arm of her dashing escort Gianluigi Longinotti Buitoni, in a complementary blue suit. Also a standout was Sandra DeFeo, a lady in red for the evening and the Chairman of the Board for the Playhouse, who appeared with her tuxedoed husband Neil.

Playhouse Managing Director Michael Ross looked dapper as ever, as he buzzed from patron to patron extending a warm welcome. Equally stunning was a quintet of ladies, headed by Kim Harizman, on the Playhouse’s Board of Trustees and the Gala’s co-chair (with husband Niv), which included Amy Katz, Donna Slavitt, Melissa Shein and Nancy Wilson – Westporters all.

A Westport event wouldn’t be complete without First Selectman Gordon Joseloff, nor Westport Arts Center’s Helen Klisser During, putting in an appearance. Camera in hand, During stepped back and forth over the paparazzi/guest line, snapping as many photos of attendees as press on hand.

Drawing the patio set into the White Barn were both auditory and olfactory sensations – the auditory supplied by a swing jazz trio nestled in the corner and the olfactory generated by sumptuous hors d’oeuvres supplied by Diane Browne Catering of Darien. Servers peddled such palate pleasers as smoked chicken quesadillas, spinach and artichoke gratine, and soy marinated salmon. Stationary crudite and cheese also beckoned.

In this room, the feathered boas and silk wraps were more apparent, the wine and champagne flowed a little more freely and the glitterati met and mingled. There was Westporter Bill Scheffler, who just completed another successful year conducting his Concours d’Elegance classic car event at Fairfield County Hunt Club, with wife Ann Sheffer. Scheffler said he and Ann met in 10th grade homeroom – their names followed each other alphabetically so they were always placed together in lines and photos. A life long townie, the car enthusiast said, “I’ve been coming to plays here for 45 years. The Playhouse is an invaluable cultural resource. I’d do anything to support it.”

Beside him, another star, Playhouse Artistic Director Mark Lamos. “This is a very important event,” Lamos said. “Private funding is an essential part of keeping us going. Many non-profits have had a rough time over the past year. We’ve been lucky to have great supporters. Subscriptions are up. This is the penultimate night of the year.”

Adding even more dazzle to an already dazzling evening was Actor James Naughton, who appeared in nine Playhouse productions in the years 1999 to 2008 and is a member of the Artist Circle. On his heels was Larry Luckinbill, with three productions, 1981-1995, to his credit, and his wife Lucie Arnaz, daughter of Lucille Ball, with two Playhouse production credits. Luckenbill and Arnaz appeared together in 1981’s “Educating Rita”.

This group was high on glamour, up on glitz and focused on the preservation of a rich tradition of musical performance and its enduring homebase. Here’s to another 80 years Westport Country Playhouse.

“Riding Along in My Automobile, with No Particular Place to Go”

“Riding Along in My Automobile, with No Particular Place to Go”
Patch takes the back seat for a ramble in Parker & Gwen Ackley’s 1915 Dodge Brothers Touring Car
© 2011. All Rights Reserved.

Fairfield, CT – Chuck Berry’s “No Particular Place to Go” fairly sums up the relaxed approach Parker and Gwen Ackley take whenever they roll the old girl out of the garage. No destination is required – half the fun is just driving her, along with the buzz and interest she creates as others encounter her.

The “old girl” in this case is a 1915 Dodge Brothers Touring Car the Pepperidge Circle couple adopted 12 years ago. The family addition has literally changed their lives as they’ve taken on the simple, relaxed ways – and even attire -- of the era when the classic auto rolled off the assembly line.

You could feel the love between man and machine as Parker waxed poetic about the auto. “Dodge was the first low-cost car to have an electric starter and electric lights,” he said, as he backed her out into the driveway on their quiet suburban Fairfield street. Then came the particulars: 4-cylinder, flathead, 212 cubic inch engine, 24 horsepower.

Parker said he was no mechanic when he bought the car, and still isn’t. At that time, he was a volunteer at Rhinebeck Aerodrome, in upstate New York, at the WWI Aviation Museum and in battle reenactments the facility would conduct. Parker often played a German henchman, while Gwen played “pretty much every female part there was, including Trudy True Love. We were there from 1980 to 2003, though we lived in Fairfield. We would make the two-hour trek every other weekend during the summer. As we got older, we backed off a little on the hours,” Parker, 60, said. (Gwen is 55)

Since the aerodrome, Parker worked as an electronic engineering tech for different companies and is now a quality assurance tech at Ashcroft. Gwen is a senior designer at Easton Press, Deluxe Leather-bound Books, Norwalk.

Parker recalls the first time he experienced the car. “I got in, sat down, and put my hands on the steering wheel. It just felt right.” Gwen added, “I bought it for him as his mid-life crisis sports car. Corvette’s are so common.”

How do they while away the time behind the wheel? “We do a little of everything,” said Parker. “During the summer, we take her out as often as we can, only in good weather. A typical trip is 10 to 15 miles. We maybe go to dinner, go along the shore, go to friends’ houses. We try to do touring with car clubs, relatively close within the limitations of what the car can do. In one club, the cars are mostly from the 30s, with a couple of antiques. Another club is all muscle cars. It’s hard to tour with them. We’ll do cruise nights, too, and occasional club dinners.”

Off we trundled along local roadways and, soon enough, the cries began. “Cool car!” one passing motorist called out. “Nice ride!” exclaimed another. “It’s like being in a parade all the time,” said Gwen.

“Older folks are delighted as they are reminded of younger days, but most looks and reactions are from young to middle aged women. It’s a chick car. I can’t explain it,” laughed Parker.

Drilling down a bit more with regard to their motivations, Parker said, “We’re trying to present living history – not only with the car but our outfits – often we wear period attire. Our focus is 1890s, the Victorian period.”

This love of history was gradually acquired, not innate, said Parker. “I wasn’t interested in history at all as a kid. It was really the aerodrome. Cole Palen founded it and we stumbled upon it. In 1980, Gwen and I were dating and looking for date spots and daytrips. We went up there, took some pictures and couldn’t remember the names of the airplanes, so we went back up again.”

Parker continued, “We were sitting along the fence and a pilot saw us looking at our pics. These included one of Dave Fox’s last flights. He was killed a week after our first visit, in a test flight of an experimental aircraft. The pilot said we have to show our photos to Cole. We tracked him down, and he looked at them and wanted copies. We decided to put a booklet together and make another trip up and Cole said he’d give us a ride in one of the planes.”

“We went back up with the album… the weather was miserable, damp and cold,” said Parker. “It was the end of the season. We got hold of Cole but he said, sorry, there’s nothing flying today, but be sure to come back next year. We saw him later and he said he was having a get together and to come over to the house. Well, barnstormer Johnny Miller, in his 80s, was there, and four WWI pilots, and us, sitting around a huge table, telling war stories.”

“That was real living history,” said Gwen, who picked up the story. “Cole wanted me to be a model in a vintage fashion show and also to be an audience member who’s a victim of the antics of the Evil Black Baron. That’s how it started.”

Nearby, in Red Hook, was Roger Hoffman’s Antique Barn, from which the Ackleys purchased the touring car, for $7,500. “It needed a new top and the wheels varnished,” said Parker. “It hadn’t run in 20 years. He sent his son out for a new battery and a can of starting fluid, and it started right up – on 20-year-old gas! It spent its first week at the aerodrome. Then our friend George Dragone, who owns Dragone’s Classic Motor Cars, came and got it for us. He transported it in a closed trailer.”

Once the car was safe in Fairfield, there were additional steps to be taken. “The first order of business was to drain the oil and put in fresh,” said Parker. “I drained everything really well. Then I got an Early American registration and a 1915 CT plate from eBay. Connecticut had just passed a law stating that you could feature an antique plate.”

Over a brown ale and downtown salads at Southport Brewing Company, spin through Southport Village, trundle by Sasco Beach and stop at Sunnydae’s ice cream shop, Parker described the joy the car brings him and Gwen. “It’s an escape from reality,” he said. “It goes back to a more romantic, slower time. It is a lot of work at times, and things go wrong, but the fun factor is exponential. And we get to meet so many terrific folks. The neatest thing about it is that people just start smiling, and they don’t even realize it!” 

Concours d’Elegance C’est Magnifique!

Concours d’Elegance 
C’est Magnifique!
Hunt Club hosted automobile extravaganza attracts thousands over the weekend
By Mike Lauterborn
(for Westport News)

Westport, CT – Marvelous machines, crafts for kids and gadgets for gearheads. There was something for everyone over the two-day run of one of the most prestigious automobile shows around.

Held September 17 and 18 at the Fairfield County Hunt Club, the Concours d’Elegance attracted car club members, racing fans, families, classic car collectors, auto dealers, machinists, car restorers, memorabilia seekers, art appreciators and more. White tents around the Club’s perimeter housed new car displays primarily, while the infield featured row upon row of rare and classic cars, motorcycles and even a 1960s-era British Racing Team Mobile Tech Support bus.

A highlight Saturday was the Nutmeg Tour for Autism wherein show cars took to the beautiful country roads of Fairfield County. On the field, various car clubs gathered to show and brag, while Bonhams auction house previewed autos on the block and conducted seminars about car restoration. Sunday, participating cars were judged in over three dozen categories from Most Elegant Closed Vehicle to Car We’d Most Like to Ride Home, as well as Best in Show in the domestic and international car sets. The culmination of the weekend was Bonhams Automobile Auction, wherein 70 cars – from barn finds to the most exquisite rides – came up for review and sale.

Slipping into a McLaren MP4-12C, tagged with a base price of $231,000, Sarah Steenbergen of Easton remarked late Sunday morning, “The car just hugs you when you sit inside.” With a wink, her boyfriend added, “And the price suffocates you!”

True, there were some expensive vehicles on the lot and all the more reason for the services of Soon Hagerty, of Hagerty Collector Car Insurance. A partner in the California-based business, Hagerty said that, besides insurance, she offers roadside assistance for garaged collector cars. “The show is fantastic,” she remarked in general. “It’s a great niche. There are true car enthusiasts here and the atmosphere is quite relaxed. You see as much as you want to see and as fast as you want to see it.”

One exhibit over, a white, Simpson full-face racing helmet, circa 1984, was displayed in a glass case. It was covered with signatures from leading Indy drivers of the time like the Andrettis, Unsers and Bobby Rahal. The helmet was one small part of racing and classic car memorabilia being shown by Mat Tavares of Tavares Motorsport, out of Carlisle, MA.

A true hub in town, the Rotary Club of Westport was on hand conducting a silent auction, one of two major fundraisers the organization holds during the year. Featured were 50 items donated by local businesses and individuals – everything from a literary luncheon with author Jane Green and restaurant certificates to racing-themed artwork and gift baskets.

For the kids, a Children’s Zone, anchored by the Westport Historical Society and Westport Arts Center, provided scavenger hunt opportunities, car-themed temporary tattoos, duct tape jewelry and Squinkies (the hot new collectable for the under seven set). There was even a large molded plastic car that children could take a stab at painting.

Among vehicles, standouts were a 1969 BMW R60/2 Polizei motorcycle on loan from Nettesheim Museum in Germany. Dennis Nicotra of Dennis Nicotra Classic Cars of Fairfield was showing a 1935 Rolls Royce Phantom II, with a $500,000 value, that actor Nicolas Cage had owned and driven in the movie “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice.”

The new Fiats attracted a lot of attention, due to their bright color, PEZ-like size and fuel economies. A yellow Fiat 500 Gengras appealed to Amy Winfield of Chatham, NJ, who shared, “My father’s a big car buff. We go to shows in New York and Palm Beach. This is the first time we’ve been to a show in Connecticut. I like the beauty of the cars… they’re like artwork.”

The 2012 Cadillacs were a hit with many young men, who were dazzled in particular by the new CTS-V Coupe’s advertised acceleration, as well as a line of classic Jaguars. One couldn’t miss a yellow 1961 Ferrari 250 GTE, antique autos like a 1909 Stevens Duryea, a 1914 Flying Merkel single-engine motorbike or a light blue 1967 Austin Healey BJ8 MK111. A Formula One pen contained several sleek racecars.

In the Winner’s Circle by the Clubhouse, there was much pomp and circumstance mid-afternoon Sunday as Concours Co-Founder and Chairman Bill Scheffler and Concours Co-Founder and President John Shuck bestowed the exceptional vehicle awards. Stars were a 1929 Stutz, with a body by Hibbard and Darren, owned by Ralph Marano of Westfield, NJ, who collected the Best in Show for domestic vehicles. Frank and Milli Ricciardelli of Monmouth Beach, NJ captured the Best in Show for international vehicles for their 1926 Hispano Suiza touring car. Some more modern flash was provided by Michael Bowen, with his orange-colored 1969 Porsche 911-S, from the passenger window of which his toddler daughter Leighton broadly grinned.

To be commended were vehicle owners that not only showed their rides but also dressed the part. Of note, Bill and Christine King, of Redding, CT, donned period wear to show their 1939 Rolls-Royce Wraith, which received 1st place judging honors from the Classic Car Club of America the day prior. The car, which includes a built-in tool compartment with a full set of tools, was once owned by U.S. Open Golf champion Gene Litteler. Richard Abramson, of Southport, went hog-wild showing his 1960 Harley-Davidson FLH Duo-Glide.

Other infield stars were Mark and Karen Milosky, showing their 1962 powder blue Buick Skylark, around which they had composed a period picnic scene. Mark, who is the president of the 150-member Connecticut Seaport Car Club, said, “We have a lot of fun with the car and it’s fun to go back to the era.” Added Karen, “For us, it’s about the people and camaraderie.”

Frank Wismer and Pat Coller got into the act, too, displaying their 1921 Brewster double-enclosed drive, once owned by Jackie Kennedy’s step-grandmother. “We’re living history,” said Frank, adding, “This past Monday this car was on the set for filming of an episode of ‘Boardwalk Empire.’”

Of course, a spectacular afternoon highlight was the Bonhams auction, in which approximately 150 bidders participated onsite, with several more by telephone. Three vehicles commanded particular notice: a 1969 Velocette Thruxton motorcycle, as it was the only motorbike among the 70 vehicles in the auction – it sold for $21,000; actor Jerry Seinfeld’s 1977 Volkswagen Type 1 Beetle Sedan, painted in Porsche silver and with just 150 miles on it – sold for $21,000; and a 1935 Dusenberg Model J Sedan, which went for a whopping $430,000. The buzz and excitement in the tented area was palpable, made all the more thrilling under the expert yet witty management of Brit auctioneer Rupert Banner.

Standing at the back spectating, Dani Zorzy of Brooklyn spotted a 1964 Studebaker that she fancied and offered, “Now that’s my style! The guy who buys that is going to be my next boyfriend.”

The outcome of that proclamation was uncertain, but there was no doubt a grand time was had by all. Adieu Concours d’Elegance, until next year.

Salon D’Automne Brings World Class Art to Small Town Setting

Salon D’Automne Brings World Class Art to Small Town Setting:
Fairfield Arts Center Juried Sale delivers “wow” factor
By Mike Lauterborn
© 2011. All Rights Reserved.

Fairfield, CT – Splashy. Brilliant. Expressive. These were some of the appraisals overheard as one strolled the gallery at the Fairfield Arts Center Friday evening Sept. 9 as the downtown institution kicked off its three-day Salon D’Automne Juried Art Sale.

Ushered in with a well-attended cocktail reception, the event, held at FAC’s 70 Sanford Street homebase, pulled work from some of the finest regional artists and set it out for collectors, enthusiasts and the art curious to inspect, admire and, with luck, purchase.

One featured artist was Loren DePalma, showing two very vibrant acrylic, layered paintings of fruit, titled “Jewels” and “Ripe”. DePalma explained, “I experiment and explore a lot. I took photos of fruit and then painted from them, then I gave them a phosphorescent appearance.”

Derek Leka, a West Haven artist, was as happy to show as he was to appreciate the work of his fellow craftsmen. In particular, he, and sidekick Sheila McLaughlin of Sandy Hook, liked two miniature-sized paintings of dogs titled “Best Friends” by Carla Devens. “It reminds me of our own dogs,” he said.

Leka’s own work, for which he won a “Best in Show” award from Juror John Kandalaft, a professor at the Shintaro Akatsu School of Design at the University of Bridgeport, was on the opposite side of the spectrum from the canine theme. Titled “Metatron”, the large acrylic work focused on electricity and power and man’s relationship with circuitry, a theme he has pursued since 2004. “The lightened cobalt background adds a lot of luminosity,” he commented.

On the wall to the right of his work hung two more exemplary pieces – “Silvery Moons” and “Many Moons Ago” – which were created by Toby Michaels and captured “Honorable Mention” accolades.

Argentina-born Carolina Guimarey, looking spectacular in a simple yet elegant tomato red dress, was excited to exhibit her pieces “Forgotten Roses II” and “Breaking the Emptiness”. She shared, “I explore the visual paradox of the disconnection between our perceived social interaction and the existential isolation of our times in an abstract, post-minimalist approach.” To that extent, her mixed-media compositions use a limited color palette to emphasize texture, materials and geometric forms. “Red is one of the few colors I allow myself to use,” she added.

Sporting funky red-rimmed glasses, perky artist Kristine DeMarco offered “Art Basel Miami”, an oil and acrylic piece on canvas that might be described as colored flecks on a pea soup background. It was inspired by what she said was a “much more expensive piece” she saw at the Florida-based show of the same name. “This is my own interpretation,” she commented, “conveying energy and a journey. I own a holistic health center and listen to people talk about pain all day, so this is a good release.”

As excited as the artists were to be showing was Harry Laurie, an art collector from Black Rock and former student of Burt Chernow’s. Laurie’s personal collection includes artwork by Picasso, Miro, Tapies and Warhol. “When I look at art, it brings me a thought,” he said. “This changes every day, the vibration. Burt was an incredible teacher who started the Housatonic Art Collection, which features museum quality artwork.”

Westport painter Kim Porio was proud to show “Tulips”, an oil-based piece showing red tulips in a white vase. “This is a piece I did last year,” she said. “It was winter and I was yearning for spring, so this anticipated the season.”

The most junior, though no less competent, artist was Fairfielder Megan Garbe, 23, who was showing “Bronze Horse”. “I found a bronze horse at a white elephant sale at Assumption Church,” she said. “Whenever I see an object that’s very interesting to me, I like to isolate and showcase it.”

Garbe had a built-in support team comprised of her mother Mary, sister Molly and exchange student Paloma Lafitte. “We really love events that highlight local artists,” said Mary. “It’s important for communities to showcase local talent. It brings us all together.”

As splashy and energetic as her paintings was Iranian-born Westport artist Sholeh Janati, who was featuring her acrylic works “Matador” and “LeCirque.” Janati’s formative years, she explained, were spent in a repressive culture in which there was no appreciation for art or creative expression. When she came to the United States, in 1988, her long-suppressed artistic talents were awakened. Since then, she has painted in all mediums and subjects including nudes, portraits, abstracts, landscapes and still life. “The vibrancy of the colors in my work is intended to reflect my naked vision of the passion and angst of modern life,” she commented.

Sportsplex Adds New Flavors to Lineup

Sportsplex Adds 
New Flavors to Lineup:
Cinch Gourmet Market and 
The Stand Juice Company 
open in Fairfield center
By Mike Lauterborn
© 2011. All Rights Reserved.

Fairfield, CT – If Sportsplex of Fairfield wasn’t already a great convenience for parents-on-the-go who have kids with diverse sports interests, now the center features a juice bar for refreshing juice drinks and a gourmet market where a nutritious tasteful dinner can be grabbed on the way home.

With wine glasses clinking, live music, balloons and local folks milling about and visiting with each other, Cinch Gourmet Market and The Stand, which are located side-by-side in the 85 Mill Plain Road complex, celebrated their debuts Saturday evening in what has become one of the hottest multi-use destinations in Fairfield.

Technically, The Stand already opened – a soft opening on Thursday, Sept. 8 – and Cinch doesn’t officially open until Tuesday, Sept. 20, with a ribbon cutting ceremony planned for 10 a.m. But that didn’t stop the two food establishments from throwing open their doors to Fairfielders to give them a chance to sample and gain information about their various products and services.

Sporting a flirty yellow cocktail dress, The Stand owner Carissa Dellicicchi, a Stratford resident, buzzed about her space being the accommodating host, passing off brochures and making sure all that visited had a shot of her delicious organic juice concoctions. These sported names like the Greenie (kale, collards, celery, cucumber), The Nasty (all greens, garlic, ginger, cayenne) and the Freshie (cucumber, apple, lemon). They were served up by staffers like bubbly Mae Farrell, who manages this location, and Amy Holomakoff, who manages the original sister location at 31 Wall Street in Norwalk.

In addition to the juices, The Stand offers milks (strawberry, almond, chocolate), salads, smoothies, some baked goods, soup and sandwiches that satisfy. The juice company also provides a five-day all-liquid detox cleanse program, to awaken the body and flush the intestines.

Anabella Duca, enjoying wraps with friend Sweta Patel, was especially glad to welcome The Stand. “I work in the pilates studio in this complex, heard about the opening and came over. I live this food lifestyle. This is beyond great for Fairfield!”

Next door, Cinch had taken on the appearance of a neighborhood block party and, indeed, many of the attendees were acquainted. They wore a path to the wine bar, rocked in place to tunes laid down by the New England Brewery Band, noshed on passed hors d’oeuvres and inspected the meals-to-go tucked neatly in refrigerator cases inside.

In one case, there were 16-ounce containers of cheese tortellini, gnocchi, cavatelli and ravioli. In another, packages of marinated chicken, chicken marsala and chicken sorrentina. Sauces – marinara, Bolognese, roasted tomato – filled another case.

The star of the evening was Shawn Russell, head chef and owner, who said Cinch was a “dream realized.” He explained that he had owned a parking and security company for 20 years and decided to go to culinary school, at the Institute for Culinary Education in New York. At the same time, he freelanced with TV food personality Rachel Ray. Cinch was the culmination of his efforts.

“The selling point of Cinch is meals to go for busy parents who want good quality, fairly priced, healthy products,” he said. “We make everything on premise.”

Sharing the spotlight with Russell was Hal Fischel, the owner and developer of the Sportsplex complex. Without his vision and keen business sense, the site may have remained a disused former rubber factory – the eyesore that it had once been, instead of a vibrant center of town life.

“With all the activity that the place had generated, a food element was needed,” Fischel said. “This and The Stand round out the facility. They meet the needs of kids and busy moms… very complementary businesses. All we need now is a bigger parking lot.”

The Stand: 203-873-0414, Hours - M to F 8am-7pm, Sat. 9am-7pm
Cinch: 203-256-1156, Hours – Tues to F, 10am-7pm, Sat. 10am-5pm

“Little Italy” Lives On in the Hearts and Minds of Residents

“Little Italy” Lives On in the Hearts and Minds of Residents:
Saugatuck recalled during area walking tour
By Mike Lauterborn
(for Westport News)

Saugatuck, CT – First it was the railroad that muscled its way into town, then the Connecticut Turnpike. With each intrusion, the tiny enclave suffered losses. But, like a stubborn weed, it would not disappear. Now former residents are spotlighting it, introducing others to its charms and sharing many colorful memories.

Less than a half-mile square, the Saugatuck neighborhood of Westport is defined by the Saugatuck River to the east, the New Haven railroad line on the south, Saugatuck Avenue on the west and the join of the aforementioned with Riverside Avenue to the north. Its earliest residents resisted the arrival of the railroad, which chugged through in 1848 and actually brought new jobs to the infant community and helped the area thrive. Many of the workers that first arrived there were Irish. Later, workers from southern Italy appeared, and settled permanently, and Saugatuck took on the nickname “Little Italy.”

The area thrived, until 1958, when again it was literally bisected, this time by Interstate Highway 95. Buildings and homes – even a church – were demolished to make way for the asphalt, concrete and steel behemoth. The community, though intact, would not be the same and, while it retained its name, was swallowed up into the new town of Westport.

“The train’s leaving in two minutes,” announced Helen Klisser During, Director of Visual Arts at Westport Arts Center (WAC), addressing a couple dozen people that had gathered late Saturday afternoon in the lobby of the Saugatuck train station. All had come to enjoy a tour led chiefly by Loretta Santella Hallock and Allen Raymond. Hallock, now in her 60s, was born in Saugatuck around the time the new highway was being built, while Raymond summered locally for many years. They were both walking archives of information about the buildings, people and happenings in this special riverside hamlet. WAC, the Westport Historical Society (WHS) and The River House restaurant collaborated to bring them together and make the event possible.

Hallock was a genuine native daughter, the brother of Lou Santella, who was president of the Westport Sons of Italy, and a first cousin of the late police chief Sam Luciano, for whom Luciano Park is named. “The joke at town hall – where I’ve worked for 30 years – is that I’m related to everyone,” she said.

Hallock’s recollections were many. “When I was young, I would attend the Feast of St. Anthony,” she said. “My mother, Elizabeth, a Capasee, was born in Saugatuck, on Franklin Street, one of nine children. My father, John Santella, was a barber who came here from Italy when he was 20. They married, purchased Riverside Barber Shop and raised seven kids in a big Victorian home (located where the overflow lot for the train station now is). When I-95 came through, the state moved our home to Gillette Circle, named after Dr. Gillette, my doctor. Dr. Gillette was a great man. When it came time to pay, he would say, “Give me whatever you have… a dollar? Two?”

She continued, “I would sweep the floor of my father’s barbershop and he would give me a few quarters. I’d go to Franny’s soda shop. My mother’s cousin owned Mario’s (at 36 Railroad Place), which is still there. Singer Martha Rae used to hold court there. I went to school with Michael Douglas and Martha Rae’s daughter… I have so many stories my mom told me, of trolley cars, the Franklin Market, which my grandfather owned, and Luciano Park, which was a great place to play.”

Stepping from the train station, built around 1880 in an Italianate style, Hallock passed the tour baton to Raymond. Eighty-eight years young, he told the group that, though he was born in Buffalo, New York, he had spent every year of his life in the Saugatuck area, beginning with summers at Compo Cove in 1923, the year he was born. “I remember huge town meetings with the president of the railroad (N.Y. Central) when they were raising the commuting rate from $15 to $18 a month,” he said. Now the rate is $380/month. “None of the parking lots by the station were here – there weren’t that many commuters. A bunch of guys and me that rode the train – we called ourselves the Beefeaters – would go over to the Arrow Restaurant (near Charles Street). Jimmy Melton, an opera singer in New York City, stored all his antique cars on the second floor of the grain building (at the corner of Railroad Place and Franklin). The cars went up there in the grain elevator… Saugatuck was a wonderful community, no chichi stuff like now… the beginning of this town. I-95 changed it a lot,” said Raymond.

The group wandered up Franklin Street, and gazed over at the new Tarry Lodge enoteca pizzeria, at 30 Charles Street. In the 1920s, it was the site of Esposito’s, a vendor of gas, provisions, tobacco, tires and ice cream, as well as being a taxi stand. The group trod on, passing under the massive supports for I-95, which shadowed a few of the remaining neighborhood homes, which were showing their wear. A building that had once been home to St. Anthony’s Hall spurred Hallock to recall, “On Friday night, the women of St. Anthony’s Society would make pizzas and sell them.” Raymond added that the hall was a place “where Italians had parties and dances and hosted a parade. Everyone would go.”

Hallock explained that her “mom and dad spoke to each other in Italian, but discouraged us from speaking it. They wanted us to be American.” Nick Zeoli, a peer of Hallock’s, said the children in that immediate area would go “into any house on the street and were treated as part of the family. They were mothered by all the mothers.”

A surprise drop-in on the tour was Peter Romano, who lives at 31 Franklin Street and is a partner in Land-Tech Consultants, environmental scientists and engineers. “I grew up down the end of the road, on Ketchum Street,” he said, standing on a rise looking down on Riverside Avenue, the Saugatuck River and Saugatuck Hose Co. Romano spoke about the Gault family’s much-publicized project to level the road where he stood and erect 21 townhouse units by the first quarter of 2012. The Gaults had already revamped the waterfront, replacing popular DeRosa’s restaurant with a multi-use commercial property and boardwalk.

Another assault on poor Saugatuck some wondered, as Hallock recalled sliding down the fire pole at Saugatuck Hose. More likely the introduction of a new generation of industrious families who would one day share their own happy memories of life in this unique neighborhood.

Preservation Committee Shines Light On Cause

Preservation Committee 
Shines Light On Cause:
Campaigns to take ownership of 
Penfield Reef Lighthouse
By Mike Lauterborn
© 2011. All Rights Reserved.

Fairfield, CT – The weather outside was frightful, but inside it was so delightful as several dozen people braved blustery, bone-chilling conditions to gather at Penfield Pavilion for an evening soiree Thursday hosted by the Penfield Reef Lighthouse Preservation Committee. All had come to support the noble cause of acquiring the lighthouse, which sits less than a mile off Fairfield Beach and just beyond the reach of Penfield Reef. For a minimum donation of $25, attendees enjoyed wine, beer, hors d’oeuvres and a silent auction. All donations are tipped into a general fund set aside to make the purchase.

The Committee was formed earlier this year through the efforts of co-chairmen Sandye Mann and Bill Sapone, with support from former acting first selectman Sherri Steeneck. Its mission is two-fold: (1) Investigate and review whether the Town of Fairfield should seek to acquire the Penfield Reef Lighthouse, which has been declared surplus by the General Services Administration, and will be sold according to the National Historic Lighthouse Preservation Act. (2) If successful in acquiring the Lighthouse, the Committee will restore it, returning it to its aesthetically pleasing and historical character and honoring its unique coastal position in our town, state, and country on the waters of Long Island Sound.

“In a town like Fairfield, we have a heritage going back hundreds of years,” said First Selectman Michael Tetreau. “The Lighthouse is part of who we are and it’s important to save. We’ve got a great turnout of private citizens coming together out of deep respect for this heritage and wanting to maintain it for the next generation. It’s the ultimate act of generosity. Long after we’re all gone, the light will shine on.”

Former Fairfield Police Chief Dave Peck, who served in that capacity from 1979 to 2010, said he was asked to be on the Committee. “As a third generation Fairfielder, I thought it important to preserve the icon of our town – the alternative is to knock it down and put up a pole with a beacon. It is mandated that there be a light there, as a navigational aid, but this has been here since 1874.”

The initial reason for the construction of Penfield Light, according to literature featured at the evening event, was the increase in shipping activity in Bridgeport Harbor after the Civil War. Penfield Reef jutted out dangerously close to the route of steamers and schooners operating between Bridgeport and New York and numerous vessels were lost or grounded as shipping traffic grew. In a petition to the House of Representatives July 27, 1868, shipowners, captains and pilots urged Congress to establish a light station at the outer part of the reef. The lighthouse was built at a cost of $55,000 and is, today, on the National Register of Historic Places.

Peck explained that the auction has been an online process and the minimum bid was $5,000. He said the land under the lighthouse (known as “bottom land”) is owned by the state of Connecticut and that a long-term lease would have to be negotiated or the land would have to be deeded over. “The successful bidder would then have to abide by certain state historic commission guidelines,” he said. “We’ve gotten an estimate from the Town Engineer and Town Facilities Manager, of close to $250,000 in necessary work.”

Peck stressed that no tax dollars were being spent and that all funding was derived from private donations. “Tonight’s dinner helps us reach our goal, with the cost of individual dinners, private contributions and silent auction bids,” he said.

Silent auction items – 75 in all -- included lighthouse birdhouses, sea-themed clocks and clocks, paintings, books and hats with lighthouse imprints. These and much more were donated by businesses and individuals. “Everyone has been very supportive,” said Committee member Deanna Hoffman.

Perhaps one of the greatest supporters, however, is Craig Smith. Born and raised in Fairfield, the former blacksmith, tool & die worker, welder and union carpenter created woodcarvings, that included depictions of the lighthouse, and was selling them for the cause. That is to say, they would become the property of the individual or individuals who successfully acquired the lighthouse for the town. “I was inspired by everyone trying to preserve the lighthouse and started the carvings,” he said.

The Penfield Reef Lighthouse Preservation Committee is currently accepting tax deductible donations to its fund to preserve the Lighthouse for future generations.

Donation categories are:

Lighthouse Keeper $25.00

Petty Officer $50.00

Ensign $100.00

Lieutenant $250.00

Commander $500.00

Captain $750.00

Admiral $1000.00

Fleet Benefactor Above $1000.00

Tax deductible donations can be made out to:

Penfield Reef Lighthouse Preservation

Mail to:
Penfield Reef Lighthouse Preservation
Independence Hall
725 Old Post Rd.
Fairfield, Connecticut 06824

In the event that the Town of Fairfield does not assume ownership of the Penfield Reef Lighthouse, all donations will be returned. Anonymous donations will be donated to a charity.

For more information, contact Sandye Mann at or Bill Sapone at

Paul Newman Remembered with Aspetuck Preserve Dedication:

Paul Newman Remembered with Aspetuck Preserve Dedication:
Thirty-nine acre Bayberry Lane tract to be known as Newman Poses Nature Preserve
By Mike Lauterborn
(for Westport News)

Westport, CT – “My dad was not a bronze bust kind of guy,” said Lissy Newman when the Town of Westport asked what they could do to honor her father, the late actor, director and philanthropist Paul Newman. Being remembered for a favorite tract of land, which the two had often hiked, seemed more in keeping with his character.

Late Wednesday morning Sept. 14, Lissy, First Selectman Gordon Joseloff, members of the Aspetuck Land Trust (ALT), adjacent neighbors, friends and media all came together near 307 Bayberry Extension to officially dedicate 39 acres of land as open space that will be owned by the town and maintained by ALT. Going forward, it will be named the Newman Poses Nature Preserve. The tribute recognizes Paul Newman’s support of local civic causes, including the ALT. Over the past year and a half, the organization worked closely with the town and Newman family to ensure the land will be retained as open space for the public and not be developed. The Land Trust has made improvements, with parking and trail enhancements.

Newman lived near the property, which is bordered by the Aspetuck River, and donated a large portion of the land to the town. The parcel also includes land sold to the town by Lillian Poses, a neighbor and friend of Mr. Newman’s who worked on the New Deal in Franklin D. Roosevelt’s administration and was one of the first women to graduate from NYU Law School.

About the parcel, Lissy, flashing the trademark Newman blue eyes, said, “I grew up here. My desire to preserve the land came from the ground up. I moved around a lot and this really became an anchor. I had no desire to own it necessarily and wanted to give back what it gave me.”

Lissy took special care to thank Mary and Eddie Warburg, a banking family, and the Poses, who had formerly owned the land. “They let us (Lissy and her younger sister Clea Soderland, who lives in the Fairfield Beach Area and is the director of development for non-profit Giant Steps) run around like it was our property.”

The Newman family bought eight acres when the Warburgs moved away and offered that same land to the town, which now owns that land but holds it in privacy for Lissy’s mom, actress and philanthropist Joanne Woodward.

“I remember walking along the trails with my dad – he was quixotically practical – who said we can’t go on preserving our land forever,” said Lissy, a mother of two boys and board member of the Hole in the Wall camp, which Paul founded. “I was the one who suggested we donate it. So now I’m basically finishing the process he started.”

The land, at one point, had been in jeopardy, said adjacent neighbors Jean and Dick Denholtz. “The town was going to put in a waste disposal site – a place to take brush and dump it here, about six or seven years ago,” said Jean. “We did a direct mail campaign and got it voted down. This has turned out to be a perfect thing for everybody.”

Indeed, according to ALT Executive Director David Brant, the space represents a “great partnership between the town and Land Trust.” Brant thanked neighbors, including Mrs. Barbara Rothenberg, whose sons, like Lissy, played on the parcel. One son, David, at the age of 16 in 1978, was inspired by the open space to write a short book called “Walking in the Woods.” He has since gone on to become a serious musician, professor of philosophy and accomplished author.

For his part, First Selectman Joseloff said the Land Trust was a “godsend”, as it allowed the town to “do right by the property in tough economic times.” Lissy thanked Joseloff for being “so amenable to something that reaches out into the community.”

As a brief hike, more or less self-led, around a defined loop of the dedicated space commenced, Lissy accepted the gift of a painting created by Jay Petrow, a Westport artist and landscape designer. The artwork depicted a grassy meadow and crossing within the preserve – a keepsake Lissy said she would hang in her home.

Of course, nothing beats the real deal and Lissy bounded along the trail munching a donut and sharing insights. “There are a bunch of coyotes here,” she remarked. “That’s an important reason to keep dogs on a leash. They’re mostly nocturnal, but we should respect their neighborhood.”

Spotting a familiar plant, Lissy said, “Jewel Weed is one of my favorites. If you put the leaves under water, they reflect silver, and they pull out dry. They have tiny little flowers, like orchids, and seeds that pop open when you touch them.”

The group came to a spot by the river where a sandstone bench had been dedicated to Lissy. She playfully draped herself across it and spoke about its creator, Pasquale Pilatos of Pilatos Artscape. “I asked if he was a stone mason,” she said. “He said he’s a ‘stone artisan’. He gave me a red-tailed hawk feather he had found.”

Approaching a cluster of pines, with brown needles carpeting the ground around them, Lissy recalled, “I had a British nanny named Duffy. Dad named a dog after her. She only drove a motorcycle. She was stocky, and toured Spain by herself. We were walking here one time and saw a bow hunter up in a white pine. He looked at us, we looked at him, and we just kept going…. I used to climb these trees with my sis, and would build tree forts. The last one was to impress a guy. I made igloo shapes and didn’t use anything from outside. That guy was one right before my husband,” she laughed.

So many memories related to this land… and so many new memories to be made.

Visit for more details. Aspetuck Land Trust is a member supported, non-profit organization dedicated to preserving open space in Easton, Fairfield, Weston and Westport. The Land Trust maintains 42 trailed preserves on over 1,700 acres.

Viewfinder: Families Bond at the Beach on 9/11

Viewfinder: Families Bond 
at the Beach on 9/11
Locals remember 
in a tranquil setting
By Mike Lauterborn
© 2011. All Rights Reserved.

Fairfield, CT – As the 10th anniversary of 9/11 approached, many wondered how to appropriately mark the occasion. Try and be onsite at Ground Zero? Attend a church service? Visit a local memorial?

For many, the answer was to simply spend quality time with family and appreciate all the blessings and freedoms we enjoy due in part to the sacrifices of others. A popular destination on the anniversary morning was Penfield Beach, which could not have looked more pleasant or provided a greater environment for personal meditation, reflection and togetherness.

One threesome that had retreated to the sandy paradise was the Daley’s, of Fairfield – Donald and Pat and their grandson Henry. Don and Pat sat in beach chairs with the morning paper while Henry ran about and chased seagulls.

“My daughter was working at Coach on 34th Street and saw one tower come down,” said Don. “My son was living across the river and could see jetfighters flying over Brooklyn.”

For his own part, Don was teaching at what was then Fairfield High School. “A student came into my homeroom and said, ‘I think a plane flew into the World Trade Center.’ I said, ‘Nah.’ Of course, it was all history from that point on. It was an attack on New York but also on the nation and everything we stand for,” Don said.

Nearby, Vivian Sweedler, 5, being monitored by her live-in nanny Yohanna Nogueira, 22, made little sand mounds and practiced gymnastics, tumbling and doing cartwheels without a care in the world. It was a carefree playtime that we older Americans had engaged in when we were kids and an attitude we had carried before the horrific and tragic events of 9/11.

The Andrews, from Easton – Bill, Beth and their two-year-old son Ryan – were relaxed like the Daley’s and offered their thoughts as well. “I had a meeting in Manhattan that morning and Beth called me on the phone saying a plane flew into one of the towers,” Bill said. “I thought it was a small plane, and then got to Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street. From there, I could see straight down and both buildings burning. I went to the meeting, which was at 9. We got through about 20 minutes as people kept going in and out. Ultimately, we just decided to try and get home.”

By about 10 or 10:30 a.m., Bill recalled, “All you could see was a huge cloud of dust and smoke. I caught an express bus up to the Bronx. As we drove north, you could see the plume of smoke on the horizon.”

Mom-daughter pair Valerie Charles and Olivia, 6, of Fairfield, had set themselves up in beach chairs and each was reading a consumer magazine. It was encouraging to see this focus, as someplace else in the world there might be the same set-up but with bomb-making manuals as literature.

Walking along the water’s edge was Kristy Gray, wearing a Jets jersey, Braeden Purser, 6, Siobhan Purser (carrying 14-week-old son Kamden), all of Fairfield, and dogs Harley and Brodie. The events of 9/11 touched Kristy very personally.

“My brother’s girlfriend, Candace Williams, was on the first plane that flew into the World Trade Center,” Kristy said. “He’s in the city right now with Candace’s brother.”

She related the events of that day. “I knew Candace was leaving from Boston for California,” she said. “I had a feeling that she was on that flight as soon as I knew where the plane had come out of, which was Logan. It was pure panic – the Internet, phones, nothing was working, and confirming things was very difficult. I was working at GE and there was only one TV there. My mom called to say the FBI had called and confirmed the worst. I started to freak out and scream and smash my phone. Someone picked up my stuff and drove me home.”

Most heart-breaking was when Kristy’s mother told her brother. “I thought he was going to die,” she said. “The sound that came out of him. She was his first love. She was only 20 years old.” 

Hit and Run on Reef Road

Hit and Run on Reef Road:
Elderly female bicyclist struck by vehicle in front of Bud’s Deli
By Mike Lauterborn
© 2011. All Rights Reserved.

Fairfield, CT – An elderly woman bicycling on Reef Road near Bud’s Deli was struck around 12:15 p.m. this afternoon by a vehicle that left the scene. Police have a potential witness and are following leads.

According to police, the victim, a female believed to be in her 60s, was knocked to the ground by the impact and sustained a head injury. She was also disoriented, police said. She was rushed by ambulance to Bridgeport Hospital.

Ed Colacurcio, the owner of Bud’s Deli at 714 Reef Road, in front of which the accident occurred, called 911 after a customer he had just served came back inside to inform him of the occurrence. “I was waiting on people when he came back inside and said, ‘Call 911, someone just got hit by a car,’” said Colacurcio.

The bike, a women’s TREK, gray in color, was in the middle of the street, which was apparently the point of impact, said police. An officer at the scene said he did not know if the motorist stopped momentarily or just kept going. The victim’s bike helmet and a sandal were left at the scene. The bike appeared to be undamaged with the exception of a broken reflector affixed to the handlebar.

Police have termed the incident a hit and run and are conducting further investigation.

S.O.S. from Fairfield P.D.: Crossing Guards Needed!

S.O.S. from Fairfield P.D.: 
Crossing Guards Needed!
Department seeks 
qualified applicants
By Mike Lauterborn
© 2011. All Rights Reserved.

Fairfield, CT – Fairfield Police Lt. Jim Perez has issued an A.P.B…. for Crossing Guards that is.

“There are currently 15 posts and we need three stand-bys and one full-time Guard to adequately cover our needs across town. Three guards just left us suddenly,” he said, speaking to members of the press this week at 100 Reef Road police headquarters. The Crossing Guard program is a police responsibility.

“The economy might be bad, but school Crossing Guards are still in demand,” he said. “We need responsible people to help kids get safely from home to school and back.”

Perez explained that every school gets a Guard and that currently there were shortages at Holland Hill, Mill Hill and Stratfield. “There’s no age limit, you should have no record, you must be reliable and loyal, and have an understanding of the complexities of dealing with children and/or parents,” he said.

Perez introduced Tony Gamberdella, who is the coordinator of the Crossing Guard program and was himself a Crossing Guard for about 11 years. Now he handles the screening of candidates, assignments and payroll. “Guards are doing more than just crossing kids,” Gamberdella said, “they’re keeping them safe.”

The coordinator said, “I knew every kid on a first name basis. We take our role very seriously. People take us for granted but Guards are an integral part of the community. And you get to love these kids, you see them grow up. They come back to visit you when they get to high school. It’s rewarding as hell.”

Crossing Guards are paid a day rate of $50 – a “day” is roughly two hours. To apply, go to Fairfield Police headquarters, to the Special Services Division (the Parking Tickets window). Ask for the Town of Fairfield Employee Application.

ShopRite Opens its Doors in Fairfield

ShopRite Opens 
its Doors in Fairfield:
“Family” celebration 
precedes public debut
By Mike Lauterborn
© 2011. All Rights Reserved.

Fairfield, CT – Aaah, there’s nothing like that new store smell. Or a whole lot of family sharing a celebratory moment.

Those two elements came together early Tuesday evening when ShopRite supermarket, at 1975 Black Rock Turnpike, held an in-store party on the eve of its opening to the public, scheduled for 9 a.m. on Wednesday, September 14. About 250 ShopRite employees – most hired to work the new store, the balance from the chain’s other area stores – members of the Cingari family (who own the chain), Fairfield Chamber of Commerce staff and media all gathered to enjoy wine, cheese, hot food and other goodies. The food and drink was set up at several stations in the north end of the spanking new store, which gleamed from floor to ceiling, with everything neatly stacked and presented.

Among the employees attending was Bianca Whitaker, a cashier, who explained that at least 25 people will be working the new store at any given time of the day. This includes cashiers, baggers, front-end managers, a store manager and representatives for each of the departments, which include bakery, produce, seafood, deli, meat, haba (non-food), floral, groceries, point-of-sale and maintenance.

“I was part of one store launch before, in Shelton,” Whitaker said. “It’s very exciting to see a new store open. At the same time, a lot of hard work goes into it – cleaning, price tagging, scheduling, calling employees.”

Francisco Tavarez, who works at sister store Grade A in Shelton said, “It’s interesting to meet all these people from all the stores. It’s like one big family – we’re a family company. I’ve been with the store for 11 years. It keeps growing and growing.”

ShopRite co-owner Joe Cingari, who was milling about near a food station of fresh mozzarella balls, crackers and sharp provolone, gave some background about how the chain first came into being. “My grandfather, Salvatore, started the business in 1943 and family has followed – his sons Dom (Joe’s dad, who recently passed), Rocky and Sam; grandsons Chip, Tom and myself; and now great-grandsons Dominick and Tom, Jr. We are truly a family business,” he said.

The first store actually wasn’t a store at all, but a bus. “From the bus, which was in Stamford, my grandfather sold eggs that came from a chicken coop, vegetables from Grandma Rose’s garden and some Italian groceries,” Joe said. “The first actual store was on Shippan Avenue in Stamford. It was called Grade A and opened November 10, 1943. The Fairfield store is our 10th store, under the name Grade A ShopRite, and is part of the ShopRite Co-op, which consists of approximately 45 families with 250 stores. Together, we take advantage of buying and advertising efficiencies to offer customers the best prices.”

Joe imagined Salvatore was looking down and saying “Good job, boys.”

Dominick Cingari, looking dapper in a tan suit, expressed that ShopRite will have everything Fairfield shoppers are seeking. “We have natural and organic products, gluten-free, as well as fresh fruit and vegetables, seafood delivered daily seven days a week, and baked goods made fresh every day,” he said. “In terms of customer service, no one does it better. We really pride ourselves on taking care of our customers. We even have carry-out service. So, in the rain, that escort will see you out with an umbrella.”

ShopRite is also unique in that it has a dietitian, Jamie Lee McIntyre, on staff – the only supermarket company in Fairfield County to have one. “There are three parts to my position: Associate Wellness, Customer Nutrition Education and Community Outreach,” she said. “I’m based out of Stamford and serve communities across the county.”

For bubbly Sasha Rosario, a new cashier, the store launch was a thrill. “I think it’s awesome to be part of something like this,” she said. “I’m excited for the experience. The Cingari’s are great. They have great hearts.”

Standing beside Rosario, bookkeeper Diana Zapata said, “I’ve worked for the Cingari’s for six years. In fact, I got married in the ShopRite store in Commerce Park, Stamford.” You couldn't get a better example than that of the store’s family orientation!

Welcome to Fairfield, ShopRite! Long may you be part of our community!

Locals Flip for Chip’s

Locals Flip for Chip’s:
New Fairfield location grand opening celebrated
By Mike Lauterborn
© 2011. All Rights Reserved.

Fairfield, CT – Though it was three o’clock in the afternoon, almost everyone in the place had a short stack of pancakes in front of them and was heartily enjoying it. Of course, that’s the attraction of Chip’s, the family restaurant founded in Orange that serves all types of flapjacks all day. Now, Fairfielders are enjoying the fare that has served the business well since its inception in 1966.

Standing at the entry to his new location Friday, at 525 Tunxis Hill Cutoff, owner George Chatzopoulos spoke about the history of the restaurant and its mission. “I have owned the Orange restaurant for the past nine years,” he said. “My goal is to franchise them. We had a soft opening here three weeks ago. This is a family place. We work as a team, and I train my staff to satisfy customers’ needs. Pancakes are most popular, though we do serve lunch and dinner, too.”

Gathered in the sunny, 4,600-square-foot, street-side location for the Grand Opening were more than 100 people, including First Selectman Michael Tetreau, Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch, Selectman James Walsh, Chamber of Commerce President Patricia Ritchie, Fairfield police officers, State Representative Tony Hwang, Town Clerk Betsy Browne, property owner Paul Lenoci and many friends and local residents. Of course, there were also the Chip’s waitresses, about a dozen of them, all looking radiant and dressed in colorful “I Love Chip’s” t-shirts.

Fairfield Police Officer Jay Valle, known more commonly as “Officer Friendly” and who had parked his D.A.R.E. car out front, was especially glad to be on hand, given his role in supporting the opening. He not only contributed the ten color photographs that adorn the walls of the restaurant, but he shot the photos himself. All depict scenes from around Fairfield.

“I was an art director for an ad agency before becoming an officer, responsible for photos for ads,” Valle said. “It has remained a hobby. I’m just starting to show them; in fact, I had a one-man show at the Walsh Gallery at Fairfield University just recently. When this restaurant was being designed, I wandered in and asked about the d├ęcor. They wanted photos of Fairfield, I offered mine, they said fine. It gives me an opportunity to show my work.” (Each print is for sale for $125)

Keeping watch over operations, General Manager Adam Kindilien said, “Restaurant work is all I’ve ever done, and Chip’s is a dream find for a career restaurant person. Goerge has the exact formula for how to be successful in the business. He spent the last decade at the Orange restaurant, every day. He’s not an absentee owner, and is always making improvements. He has a genuine interest in his customers. I’m lucky to be a recipient of the success he’s already had. The challenge is to maintain it.”

Formally addressing the gathering, Glen McDermott, Creative Director at Red Rock, a brand building agency and a consultant for Chip’s, echoed and expanded upon Kindilien’s comments. “George has a special approach to the restaurant business,” he said. “He has a unique way of integrating food and community, family and business, knitting a social fabric.”

Piling on more accolades, like pads of butter on a short stack, Steve Glick, of Chamber Insurance Trust (CIT), which maintains an office next door to Chip’s in Orange, said, “You have to have guts and vision. I’ve seen George take challenges. When others go left, they go right. He gives back to the community. Providers of services in Orange go there, and they don’t go anywhere else. I’m also proud to say that there’s a sandwich here called the CIT – I make 10% on every sale That Mercedes out there is because of him. He’s a real true entrepreneurial story.”

And if Glick’s words weren’t enough to convince the group of Chatzopoulos’ upstanding nature, Orange First Selectman Jim Zeoli stepped up to add, “Chip’s is a great community supporter – it’s how they’ve built their business. George and Dina (Bajko, George’s sister) do an outstanding job. Good luck in Fairfield!”

Chip’s Restaurant, at 525 Tunxis Hill Cutoff, Fairfield, is open seven days a week, from 6:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. For more information, call 203-332-3370 or visit

Lt. Col. Bill Tetreau’s Name Added to Honor Roll

Lt. Col. Bill Tetreau’s Name 
Added to Honor Roll:
Ceremony puts spotlight on 
Wall of Honor Program
By Mike Lauterborn
© 2011. All Rights Reserved.

Fairfield, CT – He was proud to honor his brother but as committed to focusing attention on an important memorial program that he feels lacks visibility.

First Selectman Michael Tetreau officially recognized Tuesday morning the placement of his brother Lt. Col. William Tetreau’s name amongst those on the Fairfield War Memorial Honor Roll at the front lip of the grounds of Town Hall Green, 611 Old Post Road. The brothers were joined for the ceremony by their mom and dad, Fern and Rowena, brother Jack, the Lt. Colonel’s wife Cheryl, and long-time family friend Rita Bradtmuller. Also in attendance was RTM Minority Leader Cristin McCarthy Vahey and State Representative Kim Fawcett as well as representatives from the various local military veterans organizations.

While the Lt. Colonel thanked “town veterans and all the veterans on the wall” and was honored to be listed with them, his thoughts were also on his unit of 40 men back on base in Kabul, Afghanistan, from which he is on a two-week leave from active duty. “The base was attacked earlier today,” he said. “I haven’t heard reports of any casualties. It’s a great concern for me.”

Dressed in his fatigues, the Lt. Colonel explained that he’d been commissioned as a lieutenant in 1979. “I’ve been a reservist for the bulk of the time, though after 9/11, I was deployed several times – Iraq twice, Afghanistan for two years, central command in Tampa and at the Pentagon. I was promoted in 2001. I’m now on the main base in Afghanistan’s capital, where General Allen, the commander of all the forces in Afghanistan, is headquartered. My group supports military intelligence with supplies, construction projects and security for some buildings. An attack like this is rare.”

The officer said one of the most intense experiences in his time of service was in Iraq in 2004. “The base was rocketed and mortared,” he said. “It’s scary to have a big kaboom near you and more coming in. It’s hard to remove yourself from that danger.”

Prior to enlisting, Lt. Col. Tetreau had sold internet access to small and mid-sized businesses. He said there’s an obvious contrast between that work and his currently military involvement. “I could drive to work without worrying about I.E.D.s (improvised explosive devices). It’s the little things, and no one died,” he half-joked.

He said there’s a great feeling of camaraderie amongst his unit. “When something happens with your group, you go to help,” he remarked. “A rocket hit a trailer in Iraq. You go and check on everyone.”

The Lt. Colonel said he was glad to have his parents witness the morning ceremony and that he exchanges emails with his brother, the First Selectman, on a daily basis. “I send out a personal newsletter, with a little fun in it, every day to my family and friends. Like to say, ‘we’re out of vanilla ice cream!’”

Getting serious for a moment, as a cool breeze made the American flag flap at the peak of the Honor Wall flap, he said it’s important to remember the veterans from this town who have served. The First Selectman echoed that sentiment, suggesting that the Honor Wall is one of the great ways we can honor our veterans.

“I had discussed the Wall with Nancy Fray, on my staff, and asked her if you had to pass away to be honored. She said no and I started exploring it more,” First Selectman Tetreau said. “The town has done this since 1945 and the only requirement to apply to be included on the Wall is that you must be a resident of Fairfield when you enlist in the service. It’s a way for people to honor veterans.”

The First Selectman said the process for incorporation is a little detailed. “DD214 paperwork, which is a soldier’s permanent record in the military, is necessary. That gets reviewed to see if criteria is met. It has to be approved by the related veterans organization.”

First Selectman Tetreau added, “The town should know more about this. It’s how we show our respect for our men and women that have served in the military. There are more opportunities out there.”

If you have a family member that may qualify to be listed on the Honor Wall, contact Nancy Fray in the First Selectman’s office at 203-256-3030. Fray will then connect a caller to the appropriate veterans organization.