Retail Rebirth in Downtown Westport

While the ongoing COVID-19 Pandemic has proven trying for many retail establishments, many businesses in Westport, CT are finding new opportunities amidst the crisis. With retail vacancies increasing over the course of the pandemic and retail rents decreasing, many new shops, restaurants and bars are taking advantage either with a “flight to quality” by relocating to high traffic, high pedestrian locations or opening brand-new businesses in these desirable destinations. This surge is centered on the city’s historic downtown area, with many of the new establishments cropping up along major thorough-fares like Main Street and Post Road East.

While such local favorites as Positano Restaurant and Rio Bravo Tacos and Tequilas- as well as several bank branches- have proved to be Covid casualties, the net gain to the area points to a rejuventaged post pandemic neighborhood. Among the diverse array of businesses that have opened or will soon open in the area, there are restaurants such as the southern-inspired Walrus + Carpenter, Mexican eatery Don Memo, home goods and design stores like Calico and The Tailored Home and a wide range of other establishments including a bookstores, barbershops and a new grocery store. One of the larger downtown projects now underway is the build-out of a local branch of the popular Sundance Store, currently in its latter stages and scheduled for a Summer 2021 opening.

With all the new activity, many people in the community are understandably enthusiastic. According to Danielle Dobin, Chair of the Planning and Zoning Commission, “ More of our residents are working from home, which means more people are coming downtown. The area is attracting young people. There is an undeniable feeling of excitement on Main Street. With the arrival of a new boutique brands like Sundance and Splendid alongside small, boutique mom and pop stores, it feels like Main Street, Westport again”

In March, Westport’s Planning and Zoning Commission extended their streamlined approval process allowing restaurants to maintain their expanded outdoor dining options, for stores to create sidewalk sales and for fitness studios to provide outdoor classes. Steps like these are among the factors encouraging businesses to stretch into the new opportunities presented by the market.