The Home Team / Three cheers for the Black Duck
“The Black Duck, a staple of Westport, is set to close, the bar’s owners announced on Facebook on Tuesday. ‘It is with a heavy heart that we announce our closing. We’ve had an amazing 40 years here in Saugatuck/Westport, and we are grateful for every friend we’ve had the pleasure to serve and entertain along the way,’ the Oct. 30 post on the Black Duck Cafe Facebook page read, noting the establishment will officially close Nov. 4.” — Westport News online, by Sophie Vaughan, Oct. 31, 2018
“The Black Duck is rising from a near-death after announcing on Tuesday the 40-year-old riverfront restaurant would close. ‘We are beyond pleased to announce that after many days of discussions with our creditors, landlord, and investors, the Duck has been able to secure a financial package which will allow us to continue operations (hopefully for the next 40 years!!),’ a note posted on the Black Duck Cafe Facebook page Friday morning read.” — Westport News online, by Sophie Vaughan, Nov. 2, 2018
Phew! Close call!
Though my family moved to Westport in 1987, “the Duck” (nobody I know ever refers to it as “the Black Duck”) didn’t really become part of my life until some eight years later, when our two older sons were playing Staples football. Their days with the Wreckers spanned the 1995 through 2001 seasons, and during that time, my wife and I went to the Duck virtually every Saturday night during the football season to celebrate Staples victories (the Wreckers did quite a lot of winning in those days).
Chris Aitken was a teammate of our oldest son, and Chris’s dad Pete was — and still is — the Duck’s owner. Coach Mike “Wolfie” Connors, who since, sadly, has passed away, was working behind the bar. And raising glasses with us on the tilted floor were the Devitos and the
Coppolas and the Allens and the Dupays and the Lorraines and the Landises and the Wynnes and the Vromans and the Stefkoviches and tons of other proud and happy parents. Coach P and his staff would put in token appearances, and be hailed as conquering generals.
By the time our youngest son played for the Wreckers (seasons 2007 through 2010), the devotion to the Duck tradition had waned among the younger generation of parents, who preferred more variety in their evening destinations. Sometimes we still celebrated at the Duck, but just as often it would be one of the newer, trendier spots that were springing up like weeds all over town.
When our third son and his buddies graduated in the spring of 2011, I felt the need to keep the connection with Wreckers football — and with the Duck — alive. I recruited three families from his crop of friends — the Gaus, the Pajoleks, and the Yeagers. We styled ourselves “The Duck Eight,” and we continued the tradition by getting together for dinner quarterly — fall, winter, spring, and summer.
For the first few years these “reunions” were held exclusively at the Duck; since then, we’ve branched out — but the Duck connection remains strong. All eight of us have Black Duck ballcaps, courtesy of Debbie Yeager. We were even on the verge of getting “Duck Eight” tattoos engraved on some discreet body part, until cooler heads prevailed.
And then came the bad news: Westport’s Black Duck restaurant to close after 40 years.
Followed closely by the good news: Black Duck in Westport to remain open.
Oddly, the near demise and last-minute save seemed to spark renewed interest in the Duck, especially among the young crowd to which I’m closest. It seems lately whenever I ask our youngest son and his mates from SHS class of ’11 where they spent the previous evening, the answer, quite frequently, is “the Duck.”
And over the holidays, Robby, who is adamantly opposed to T-shirts with corny slogans, was seen wearing a brand new one that said “Black Duck Cafe: Ruin your liver down by the river.”
Three cheers! The Duck is back!
“The Home Team” appears each month. You can also keep up with Hank’s adventures on his blog, “Beagle Man,” on the Westport News website, at: http://blog.ctnews.com/beagleman/ To reach Hank, e-mail him at DoubleH50@gmail.com.