This week on 0684-Radi0, our free podcast (subscribe here in the iTunes Store), we talk to town resident and Planning & Zoning Commissioner Phil Williams, owner of New Canaan Music. The Main Street fixture, like so many of our local businesses, has been through the ringer in 2020—with a forced closure followed by a restricted reopening and new operational requirements. As a retailer (instruments) as well as a service provider (lessons), New Canaan Music has been through as much as any of our local merchants. Here are recent episodes of 0684-Radi0:
What follows are responses from town resident Phil Williams, owner of New Canaan Music on Main Street, to our Q&A on how the local business is navigating the COVID-19 emergency here. New Canaanite: What has the past week been like for you and New Canaan Music? Phil Williams: This is a very trying time and like many local merchants, we are feeling the hardship of the situation. We have been doing everything we can to keep life as close to normal as possible but this is an unprecedented crisis. A lot of what we are going through right now is new to everyone. The health and well-being of our families, employees, customers, and the community is what is most important to us. We are also mindful of our moral obligation to help out our instructors. Our instructors are all pro musicians and with no public gatherings, their gigs have all been cancelled and therefore incomes have been cut significantly. We are hoping to help keep them working and get through this while providing a safe environment for our students to continue their lessons.
The idea for the musical invention he recently patented came Mark Pires in 2011.
The New Canaan High School graduate had recently retired from touring as an actor and singer-songwriter and obtained his real estate license in order to support his new and growing family.
Yet Pires continued to nurture his talent and love of music during monthly acoustic gigs at the Georgetown Saloon in Redding. One night when his drummer was unable to make the show, Pires—energetic son of a builder—decided he would make his own box drum or “cajón” so that he’d have live percussion superior to slapping his guitar or using a beatbox. A one-man-band, Pires quickly realized that the traditional Peruvian cajón didn’t suit him because its boxy shape made it awkward to tap underneath him while he played. “I realized then, what if I built something that came through my legs like a horse and its wider at the back and more narrow at the front?” Pires recalled on a recent morning from the retail floor of New Canaan Music on Main Street. “The first one I built in a couple of hours and that night I realized it didn’t work, so then I went and built another the next day.
We commend the New Canaan Planning & Zoning Commission for its responsiveness, diligence and care in updating the rules that say what types of businesses can occupy street-level commercial space in the downtown. More than one year in the making and with contributions from individuals within and outside the appointed body, P&Z’s work culminated in two changes recently that commercial property owners are hailing as proactive and timely. First, following several months of discussions, P&Z voted unanimously in April to update the New Canaan Zoning Regulations so that service businesses in the “Retail A” zone—the very heart of the downtown, including Elm and Main Streets—may occupy first-floor spaces so long as there’s a retail component facing the street. The idea for the text change came to the Commission because P&Z actively sought ways it could help the downtown. Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Tucker Murphy advised a P&Z committee led by Secretary Jean Grzelecki, and the Zoning Regulations amendment went into effect in May.
Nearly one year after announcing its plans, vegan and vegetarian foods provider Organika Kitchen officially opened Monday in downtown New Canaan. The eatery, well-established in Southport, soft-opened at 96 Main St. in the morning and welcomed its first customers into the newly remodeled, clean and well-lit space throughout the day. “It’s a long time coming—very long time coming,” said Dimitri Pantzos, a partner in the business who is overseeing the New Canaan location day-to-day. “But we are open now so that’s all that really matters.