Cony Castellanos, a waitress at New Canaan Diner, recently graduated the cosmetology course offered at Marinello School of Beauty in Fairfield. “My ambition is right now to pay my loans, of course, and get more experience with hair and then in five years or six years to open my own place. That’s my goal right now. Cosmetology to me is like food: Everybody is going to cut their hair, and everybody is going to eat. Everybody is going to spend money. You go eat, you do your hair. Even if you don’t have money you’re still going to do it.” Credit: Michael Dinan
Chris Kilbane, owner of New Canaan Toy Store, on the oddest thing someone ever asked for on entering his shop: “On occasion people will come in and look for an adult toy, which of course we don’t do.” Credit: Michael Dinan
Doug Zumbach of Zumbach’s Gourmet Coffee, pictured here with Katie Malling (L), a sophomore at NCHS, and Harriet Prior, a freshman at University of Michigan (on break), had an Airedale named Rusty as a boy in Yonkers, N.Y. “Great dog. He was a stray. We picked him up. We looked for the owners and couldn’t find them. We had him for 10, 11 years and then he disappeared again. So he came into our lives as a stray, and left as a stray.” Credit: Michael Dinan
Anna Krolikowski, asked about the strangest request a customer ever made, recalled someone’s misunderstanding about Baskin-Robbins "chilly burgers," which are ice cream sandwiches. “They said, ‘Can I get a ‘chili burger’ medium well?’ I’m like, ‘They’re ice cream sandwiches.’ They said, ‘Oh we thought it was a hamburger.’ Hello? We’re an ice cream store. You see it says Baskin Robbins?” Credit: Michael Dinan
Christy Ryan, assistant manager at Sara Campbell grew up in Davenport, Iowa and came east with her family in the fifth grade when her dad got a job in Bridgeport with Raybestus. Her last memory of Iowa is going to the state fair. “It was really fun. I remember the animals and food. I was really little.” Credit: Michael Dinan
Heidi Burrows, owner of New Canaan Olive Oil, on her pet peeves: “One of my biggest pet peeves is when people leave their blinkers on after they’ve turned or switched lanes. That drives me absolutely crazy.” Credit: Michael Dinan
Jeff Barbour, owner of New Canaan Wine Merchants, grew up in Chicago and once as a 10-year-old got hockey great Bobby Hull’s autograph on a hockey stick he’d brought to a Blackhawks game. “My dad and I were there to watch a game and Bobby Hull was my boyhood idol. He was signing autographs. It was after the game. It was great. I can remember it like it was yesterday.” Barbour still has the stick. Credit: Michael Dinan
Elizabeth Correa, co-owner of Candy Nichols, has a daughter Casey who graduated from Bowdoin College last year with a double major in English and Fine Art. Now, she’s working for a music company in New York City. “It’s what she always wanted to do. She works for a management company that manages rock n’ roll bands. She wants to be a business manager.” Both of Correa's daughters are standout softball players (catchers) who have attended King Low Heywood Thomas in Stamford. Credit: Michael Dinan
Steve Karl of Karl Chevrolet has been dreaming about his vegetable and herb gardens at home. A passion that Homegrown Harvest has helped develop, he grows tomatoes, four different varietals, onions, carrots, and four or five kinds of lettuce. “This year, the beans really took off. They took of so much I had to run strings, I tied four or five strings to the trees up out of the garden and the beans were climbing up the strings. It was amazing.” When they’re ready for eating, he prefers to blanche the yellow string beans, cut them into sections and put a little butter on top. “This time of year, with all the snow, those summer homegrown meals you have with all those vegetables are just what I crave right now. It’s like you are eating sun, it’s so good.” Credit: Michael Dinan
Robby Geriak of Joe’s Pizza, a 2007 NCHS graduate, was known as “Smoke” as a high school baseball player because he used to throw the ball hard. Asked for his most embarrassing memory from the team, Geriak said: “Struck out in a game against a kid that gave up 12 hits. We were playing Staples, at home. I went 0-for three or four and I think they took me out of game.” Credit: Michael Dinan
Chef Luis Lopez on his guiltiest food pleasure: “It’s not what I eat. It’s what I drink: Tequila [Don Julio 1942]. That’s a pleasure for me to drink tequila. You feel guilty. For me, my wife she doesn’t like me to drink. So that’s my guilty [pleasure]. You know, I have a drink and tell my wife I didn’t have it. But she knows.” Credit: Michael Dinan
Phil Williams, owner of New Canaan Music, said the movie he’ll drop everything to watch if it comes on is ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s.’ “I’ll watch it. It’s just a cool movie. I think Jerry Lewis’s role was weird. It’s such an oddly casted role. The movie has all this stuff going on and then all the sudden there’s Jerry Lewis. It’s really bizarre. You think of all the steps they took on that movie and producing it and then they’ve got him. Couldn’t come up with anybody else.” Credit: Michael Dinan
Randy Jahier was in the furniture manufacturing business when, 10 years ago, he entered aquarium ownership as a hobbyist after installing a saltwater fish tank near a desk at home. Now the owner of Life Aquatic on South Avenue, he recalled: “I thought, ‘Oh that would be a great place for an aquarium in there’ and just became completely obsessed,” he recalled. “Ended up with probably 15 tanks, all fish and corals and saltwater animals.” Credit: Michael Dinan
Dan Mulhern, owner of Milestones, is a town resident who has had two girls go through South, Saxe and NCHS. The older girl, Ashley, is taking a degree this May in early childhood education from Miami University in Ohio “but she’s been offered a position in business that she’s going to take. They will put her through an intense training program for 20 weeks and she’ll start in Atlanta, Georgia.” Credit: Michael Dinan
Rinku Ghadiyali of Norwalk, a 1998 Brien McMahon High School graduate and manager at Athletic Shoe Factory for five years, helps organize a men’s basketball league that plays three nights per week in Norwalk. “My buddy and I are always looking to play, but we cannot commit to a team because we have really little kids.” Credit: Michael Dinan
Erika Illescas, a Peru native and hostess at elm restaurant, said the most famous person from her native country is chef Gaston Acurio. “He does have restaurants in New York City, as far as I know, and he has restaurants in Peru of course. Mira Flores, very centric area, it’s very crowded but it’s nice, the atmosphere is nice. When you walk into the restaurant they don’t give you menus. You proceed into the restaurant and the chef will come out and just by talking to you it’s a very tiny restaurant and he will make lunch or dinner for you.” Credit: Michael Dinan
Karen and Andrew Zuckert of Gingerbitz. Credit: Michael Dinan
New Canaanites have plenty of reasons to shop and dine locally, and those reasons go far beyond the fact that the village center has scores of independent businesspeople—retailers, restaurateurs, service providers—who work here and have had a tough go with the weather these past few weeks.
Our owners-on-site specialize in their fields and offer a wide range of expertise. They support most every community event that locals associate with the town—fishing derby, Waveny summer concerts, Santa’s visit, little league, Holiday Stroll, ice cream social, Halloween Parade. It’s hard to find two important community events in a row in New Canaan that aren’t sponsored in some way by Walter Stewart’s, Karl Chevy or both.
Because familiarity breeds conversation and rapport, we can come to know our local small business owners and workers better than we may at, say, out-of-town chains. The slideshow above is a testament to that strong connection—click through to learn more about some of those who make up the economic lifeblood of the business district.