Back in the day — the early 1830s — there was a kerfuffle over what to name the new town being carved out of already-existing Norwalk, Fairfield and Weston. The early favorite was Saugatuck. But a local politician thought it sounded too much like “succotash,” so Westport won. Which is why nearly 200 years later, ABC-TV did not name a new comedy show “The Second Fattest Housewife in Succotash.” I mean, Saugatuck.
It may be a very popular ice cream shop, but I can’t think of a poorer name than “Sunny Daes.” Supposedly a pun on “sundaes,” it does not exactly melt on your mouth.
On the other hand, you’ve got to love “Le Rouge” by Aarti. That’s the shop featuring handmade chocolates and cakes, tucked below what used to be Sally’s Place on Main Street just past Avery Place. The black (chocolate) and red (rouge) theme works wonderfully. And Aarti — who has a very interesting back story — is truly an artist.
Another place worth visiting is Indulge by Mersene. It’s the kind of store Westport used to have tons of, but has now vanished from just about every town in America. “Eclectic, funky and fun” does not do Mersene’s merchandise justice. Her Railroad Place space is crammed with gifts and goodies, and she knows exactly what you need before you even open her door.
Around the corner, there’s a different scene. If I had never been to Westport in my life and got off Interstate 95 Exit 17 northbound, I’d sure wonder what all the hype was about. The condition of the old Arrow restaurant — in later years, Jasmine and Blu Parrot — is truly embarrassing. Nothing says “Unwelcome to Westport” more than underbrush, overgrown grass and a cracked parking lot.
I’ve asked this before, but I haven’t gotten a definitive answer: Green’s Farms or Greens Farms? The answer depends on how many Green families we’re talking about, and that has been lost in the swirls of history. There should be little dispute though about Hillspoint Road (which of course runs directly through Green’s/Greens Farms Road). The land originally belonged to a Mr. Hill , so the correct (but never used) punctuation is actually Hill’s Point Road.
What about Parker Harding Plaza? Westport’ s municipal lot — the one built on landfill behind Main Street stores, and which (if you think about it) has prevented generations of folks from enjoying riverfront breezes and views — is named for town officials Emerson Parker and Evan Harding, who built the thing in the go-go 1950s. Unfortunately for them, their names have been twisted into the ironic (but true) nickname “Harder Parking.”
Which brings us to the downtown Starbucks (no apostrophe). A while back, they renovated the place. Finally, I thought, they’ll fix the ridiculous design error that relegated the tables all the way back, in a dark area with an unappetizing view of the Post Road. At last, I figured, Starbucks will capture the river views they should have highlighted in the first place. No such luck! It’s still as poorly laid out as any coffee shop I’ve ever seen.
Meanwhile, a few miles east, the other Starbucks is getting ready to move across the street. It will take over Arby’s, which, among other amenities, includes a drive-through window and a parking lot that will actually be big enough for all their customers. Should be cause for rejoicing, yes? No. Morning regulars worry with all the Post Road traffic and no light, they’ll never be able to make a left turn out of the lot to go downtown. Like many of the items I mention here, that’s a first-world problem for sure.
Continuing east, there’s continuing confusion about two restaurants in the same plaza. Bravo was here first, taking over the former Munson’s Chocolatiers. Then came Rio Bravo — a Mexican restaurant (part of a small chain), with absolutely no connection to the first Bravo. I’m no marketing guru, but wouldn’t you think that would lead to unwanted confusion for both places? Breaking news: It has.
I thought I knew a lot about Westport street names. But only recently did I hear the history behind two roads near Compo Beach. Roosevelt Road is named for Theodore, and adjacent Quentin Road is named for TR’s son, killed in battle during World War II.
That’s cool. But neither holds a candle to my favorite street name in all of Westport: Dr. Gillette Circle. No one remembers Saugatuck’s favorite doctor, but he endures. Title and all.
Dan Woog is a Westport writer, and his “Woog’s World” appears each Friday. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. His personal blog is www.danwoog06880.com