Bargain-hunters descended on New Canaan in droves starting Saturday morning for the Village Fair & Sidewalk Sale, running through 4 p.m.
Parts of Forest, Main and Elm Streets were closed to pedestrian-only traffic for the major annual event, organized by the New Canaan Chamber of Commerce. “It’s going awesome,” the Chamber’s Laura Budd said as the Sidewalk Sale got into full swing. “It’s a beautiful day. The vendors are up and running and people are already shopping. We love to see it.
For locals Jeff and Beatrice Mellick, the sustained heat of late June and July has delivered more than drowsiness, discomfort and thirst. The founders of Beachmate say the “dog days” have been advantageous for the growth of their young company, now in the midst of its first summer. With predominantly online sales of their all-in-one beach system for families, the Mellicks say they are building a following through social media platforms including Instagram, Facebook and “Mommy Bloggers.” Seventy percent of sales are local to the tristate area, according to Jeff Mellick, a 1993 New Canaan High School graduate—with the balance scattered across the nation. Two of the most popular products are Beachmate itself ($98.50) and the Turkish Towels ($38), he said.
The alpacas of Crajah House on Oenoke Ridge Road on Tuesday were shorn of their thick winter coats—see photos above. Their owner, New Canaan’s Debbie McQuilkin, tells us the process for each “blanket” includes picking out sticks, hay and straw, then going for the secondary areas of the neck, backside and legs. The material is sent to a fiber mill where it’s washed, cleaned again and dyed or made into a yarn that McQuilkin herself chooses—fine knitting or heavy weaving for rugs. It also can be sent back for hand spinning or felting, McQuilkin said. The alpaca fleece is hypoallergenic and contains no lanolin, and it’s naturally fire-resistant.
In a way, New Canaan’s Beatrice and Jeff Mellick have their first-born to thank for the idea that—as of Wednesday afternoon—became a public-facing, live retail enterprise. Now a West School first-grader, Phoebe was four years old on the afternoon in August 2013 when, on the beach near the Mellick family’s longtime summer home in Charlestown, R.I., she asked her dad to make a “huge hole,” “big huge sandcastle” and a “moat that goes all the way down the water,” Jeff Mellick recalled. He dutifully said “Of course, sweetheart,” drove his pickup truck to a hardware store, bought a garden shovel, headed back to the beach, finished his project in 20 minutes and “actually got to sit down and relax for 30 minutes straight as my daughter, Phoebe, and my son, Emmett, played for 30 minutes straight—which had never really happened before.”
“And so after that, every day, three or four different dads would come up to me on the beach and ask to borrow my shovel,” Jeff Mellick said on a recent morning from an office in downtown New Canaan. “So the light bulb went off.”
It went off and this week—after two-and-half years and countless hours of hard work, creativity, anxiety, focus groups, searches, frustration and excitement—that light bulb yielded The Beachmate System. Hands-free, lightweight at less than eight pounds and with a stylish design that experts say lends itself to an expanded product line (more on that below), Beachmate includes a set of durable ABS plastic buckets and shovels as well as a cooler, all wrapped in a tote bag (insignia optional) with a shoulder strap.