Counselors to American’s Small Businesses, Fairfield Chapter
It was the late ‘90s. Like most young women in the free world, I decided to start a handbag business. Because I had no clue what I was doing, the handbag venture sort of fizzled. (I did get to tour creepy manufacturing facilities in New York and Fall River, though, so that was a plus.)
In retrospect, I did two things correctly with my business: 1. Consulted a retired businessman through SCORE, who gave me very helpful advice, 2. Folded.
Given today’s economy, thousands of people are starting their own small businesses. I advise them to consult SCORE for help. (Not to be confused with Scores. Biiiig difference.)
What they do: “SCORE… was established by Congress in 1964 as a nonprofit association dedicated to entrepreneur education and formation, growth and success of small business. … SCORE volunteers use their expertise and energies to implement proven business practices in accomplishing your business objectives.” (website) Counselors offer expertise in almost every skill (IT, General Management, Marketing, PR, Strategic & Growth Planning, etc) and in almost every interest area (Photography, Retailing, Traveling, Gardening, etc.).
Who they are: “The Fairfield County Chapter has 50 volunteer professionals with a very broad mix of senior executive and small business experience. These dedicated men and women include both working and retired executives and business owners.” (website)
Click to read the rest ... "SCORE"
Tuesday, May 31, 2011 • Permalink
A Better Chance
My kids’ weekday morning routine is as follows: wake up at 5:45 AM, rub lotion into the carpet/watch popsicles melt on the kitchen floor/pour my organic toner in the bathtub, spend 45 minutes sprawled at the bottom of the staircase instead of getting dressed, feign illness, pick at breakfast, repeatedly voice preferred breakfast and school snack options, complain about school until school starts.
I daydream about my kids running into my room and jumping on my bed shouting, “Wake up Mommy! It’s a school day and I want to LEARN!” But… that will never happen.
However, there are kids who want to go to school. In fact, the only thing hindering their academic progress is the lack of quality public schools and the financial inability to attend private schools. A Better Chance in Westport and New Canaan has found a way to help.
What they do: “This program selects motivated students of color from educationally disadvantaged areas who demonstrate potential for academic excellence and leadership in life.” (website) Those selected live in town and attend either the award-winning Staples High School or St. Luke’s prep school. They become part of the community and the town, in turn, benefits from the diversity.
Who they are: ABC programs are run by area residents and community leaders. While each town’s program is a discreet entity, ABC is a national organization and individuals are selected from completed applications sent to its headquarters. Therefore, students come from all over the United States.
Click to read the rest ... "A Better Chance"
Monday, May 30, 2011 • Permalink
1438 Post Road, Fairfield
I was, understandably, wary of this store, as the name simultaneously evokes the haunting legacy of ‘80s prep-school “fashion” and its lockjaw vernacular. So I was very pleasantly surprised to discover a jewel of a store with a beautiful collection of flirty party clothes.
Robin’s note: All of these clothes make me desperate for a dazzling party, from Trina Turk frocks to Johnny Was tunics and, of course, the requisite ruffled cardigans.
Their specialty: Colorful day-to-cocktail dresses
What you should buy: Patterned and embroidered tunics.
What you may not know but should: They carry a chic line of affordable jewelry.
Friday, May 27, 2011 • Permalink
6 Forest Street, New Canaan
To kill a mockingbird. Get it? One or two of their margaritas would annihilate our feathered friend or, at the very least, get him completely plastered. But he can hardly be blamed for gluttony, really, because the fresh-lime margs are SO GOOD. Where’s the buzz on these puppies? Honestly.
Now, I’ve heard mixed reviews about the food. I will state here that our meal was wonderful and Roberto, our waiter, was excellent. When I ordered my standard “chicken burrito” he scoffed and said, “No. I get you something better. If you don’t like, I pay for it myself.” (Maybe he had better English. I was drinking margaritas and can’t quite recall.) Well, Rob-o. You win. The sautéed shrimp was outstanding. In fact, everything you recommended was outstanding. Oh – and sorry we didn’t order the $75 tequila shot. Maybe next time… when we’re on an expense account.
Robin’s note: TM is like a party-in-a-box. The festive, over-the-top decor and party vibe makes every dinner a celebration. The margaritas also contribute.
Who you’ll see eating here: Groups of couples ages 30-60 and one or two tame bachelorette parties.
Click to read the rest ... "Tequila Mockingbird"
Thursday, May 26, 2011 • Permalink
670 Post Road East, Westport
359 Greenwich Avenue, Greenwich
Connecticut’s highest-end department store, Mitchells is infamous for their apocryphal $450 t-shirt on sale, spectacular designer frippery, and free M&Ms. While Mitchells focuses on popular designers, Richards, the (larger) Greenwich offshoot, tends toward the classic.
Robin’s note: While shopping for my husband, I overheard Brian Williams encouraging a baffled sales associate to visit Iraq.
Who you’ll see shopping here: Men and women who love clothes and have an unlimited budget, and men and women who don’t care about clothes so entrust a stylist with their unlimited budget.
Their specialty: Aspirational designer clothing.
What you should buy: Just one Missoni or Pucci dress can improve your social life, so if you have the funds, buy the frock.
What you may not know but should:
1. Each season they ship the sales merchandise to the tent sale in Westport and cut off an additional 60%.
2. They now carry a small collection of more reasonably priced clothing (Theory, Vince, Wang, Burch, etc.)
Wednesday, May 25, 2011 • Permalink
Nothing says “I’m a selfless, loving mom” like a solid gold necklace. Putting your children’s initials on a 14K gold (or silver) charm and stringing them around your neck symbolizes your commitment to family and looks great with just about any outfit.
I’m proud of my family and wanted to, for want of a better term, advertise it (public tantrums attract plenty of attention, but not positive attention), so I set out to find my favorite signet-necklace designer. Though I ventured out of Fairfield County, my favorite designer, Tanah Kalb, was right under my unadorned neck in Westport.
A jewelry designer since 1983 and former creative director for Barneys NY and Eileen Fisher, she works in sterling and 14K gold. Her charms have just the right heft, and the initials are beautifully hand-stamped. She’ll customize a necklace with stars, angels, and precious stones and string them on a leather or gold chain. Best of all, the prices are very reasonable, especially given the cost of gold these days. Fortunately, you can’t put a price on motherhood.
Robin’s note: You can see Tanah’s fabulous, understated designs at Dovecote in Westport, or contact her directly to customize necklaces, earrings, and rings.
Who you’ll see wearing her jewelry: Moms, sometimes daughters.
Her specialty: Charm necklaces.
What you should buy: I fell in love with her rectangular pendants on gold chains.
What you may not know but should: Tanah’s jewelry has been featured in many prestigious magazines, including Vogue.
Tuesday, May 24, 2011 • Permalink
15 East Putnam Avenue, Greenwich
19 Willard Road, Norwalk
At first blush, it seems like a typical success story: suicidal drug addict recovers, makes a wad of cash, sells used kitchens. But wait – “used kitchens”?
Who they are: Founder and President Steve Feldman is a drug addict survivor. He began selling used, overstock, and showroom kitchens and appliances in 2005 to give back to All Addicts Anonymous (AAA), the program that saved his life, through Recovery Unlimited. To date, he owns 4 Green Demolition stores in 3 states and hires 37 people, 35% of who are recovered addicts or family members of recovering addicts.
What they do: In addition to kitchen cabinets and appliances, GD sells objects for the entire house: lamps, toilets, sinks, furniture, candlesticks, etc. Pretty much any decent donated item. But mostly kitchens and appliances.
How to donate: If you wish to donate, they’ll send over a truck to pack up your old kitchen, etc. and haul it to the nearest GD store. You don’t have to pay a dime in disposal or moving costs and you get a tax deduction and you get a warm fuzzy.
The good stuff they sell: They do a brisk business with Christian Clive cabinetry and Viking stoves. Their new “Luxury Room” and “Gold Mine” boasts pewter and silver plate accessories, Tibetan rugs, “finer” furniture and that ilk. And if you want a Viking stove, don’t buy it retail: GD gets a bunch of them. But it’s hit or miss, so be prepared to come back regularly to find what you want.
Click to read the rest ... "Green Demolitions"
Home + Garden
Monday, May 23, 2011 • Permalink
1945 Post Road East, Westport
We all know there are far fewer American antiques than European. After all, our country is only a few hundred years in the making and we stopped sweating over fine furniture the moment Frank Lowell’s import business tanked and he pirated the Brit’s designs for textile machines. Or something to that effect.
Fast forward to Leonards, the finest American antique store in New England, possibly in the known universe. Recently they moved across the street and got rid of the silly sled by the front door which, I think, made it look more like Santa’s eerie workshop instead of a fabulous repository of beautiful furniture.
They specialize in heirloom quality antique and reproduction four poster beds. In fact, if you flip through any magazine article showcasing a four poster bed, chances are good it’s from Leonard’s.
You’ll also find gorgeous dining room sets, chests, coffee tables, and side tables. Don’t look for bargains, but every piece is worth the price.
Robin’s note: Now that the economy is tanking, Leonard’s is trying to accommodate the new fiscally conservative among us by offering more, and greater, discounts during the year.
Who you’ll see shopping here: Women ages 35-70. Sometimes men, but not often.
Their specialty: Four poster beds: any bed can be re-sized to your measurements and some components may be re-designed to your liking.
What you should buy: Four poster bed, antique or reproduction, and chests of drawers.
What you may not know but should:
- All antiques are expertly restored and in excellent condition.
- If you purchase an antique, you can return it at any time for a store credit equal to 75% of its original cost, minus necessary restoration charges. If you own a piece for more than 5 years, they’ll offer a store credit of 100% of cost.
Home + Garden
Friday, May 20, 2011 • Permalink
3449 Post Road, Southport
Chances are pretty good you know nothing about S&S Dugout. It doesn’t even look like a diner. It looks more like a luncheteria that old men frequent because they’ve been doing so for the past 60 years. Because, my friends, that’s exactly what it is. But they don’t go there out of habit; they go because it’s damn good.
Practically unchanged since 1950, S&S’s only homages to the 21st century are a vegan burger, an egg-white omelet, and a hand-scrawled “See us on Facebook” note taped to the cash register.
The menu is posted above the grill. For breakfast, there’s toast, bacon or sausage, home fries, and some kind of egg. For lunch, your sandwich can be hot or cold. And that’s about as much choice as you get. Which is SO REFRESHING for those of us who go to Starbucks and order “coffee.”
The staff is friendly and fast, all meals are cooked to order, and the cook never takes his eyes off the grill.
Robin’s note: They make their spicy sausage and mashed potatoes in-house, in small batches. Both are grilled before serving. Even the potatoes.
Who you’ll see eating here: Families, dads with their boys, and old friends.
Their specialty: Breakfast and sandwiches.
What you should order: Eggs over-hard with spicy sausage and mashed potatoes.
What you may not know but should:
- The 98-year old owner, Ed Saloomy, comes in every day to help out with the dishes general upkeep.
- They were voted “Best Diner in Fairfield County” by John Piro. Whoever he is.
265 Greenwich Avenue
UPDATE: Check out “What you may not know but should” for exciting, new information!
The thing about Greenwich is – and please stop me if I’m stereotyping – no one really loses their money. It simply shifts to some other soon-to-be-resident through an intricate web of financial transactions. Now, even though money never actually leaves this town, the tastes change, causing some smaller boutiques to go out of business. But if we’re to believe Greenwich Avenue reflects the town’s predilections, then one thing is clear: rich people love Ralph.
Yes, while tiny retailers routinely wave teary good-byes, Ralph Lauren has snapped up one of the most lavish retail spaces on the avenue, polished it to sparkling, and packed it full of gorgeous, breathtakingly expensive clothes. They don’t stock Lauren (“Oh, that’s only our department store line.”), but everything from vintage gems to runway collection, home, and all the purple, black and blue labels for men and women are at your fingertips. Just don’t leave fingerprints.
Robin’s note: Am I the only one who never noticed his chandelier earrings before? I love the diamond, ruby and oxidized gold made-to-look-vintage danglers. Holy cow, they’re fabulous!
Who you’ll see shopping here: Women ages 40-60 and men with wives or small children in tow.
Their specialty: Labeled collections, assorted by color.
What you should buy: Jewelry or select items from their athletic-inspired RLX line.
What you may not know but should:
1. If you’re shopping, associates are happy to make restaurant or salon appointments for you, walk and feed your pooch, run errands, provide your meals, and keep you caffeinated. They’d probably get you drunk, too.
2. ALERT!!: Sorry, Big Spender: the fabulous earrings on the mannequins aren’t for sale (if they don’t have a price tag.) No, they’re not from Ralph’s personal antique jewelry collection—they’re from Claire’s right down the street for $12.50!
Thursday, May 19, 2011 • Permalink