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The Insider's Guide

Eight locals share favorite Stamford shops, eateries, Ways to Give, must-do’s, bars and fun facts totalling 125+ personal picks

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Lynne Colatrella

Stamford Downtown

Though the skyline, population and prominence of her native city have reached new heights, Lynne Colatrella says Stamford has always been anchored by a sense of community and civic life. “My grandparents came from Italy and at that time, people helped each other,” recalls Lynne, who is vice president of events and marketing for Stamford Downtown. “In those days, it was [neighbors helping neighbors.] In this city now, we are involved in every neighborhood.”

A 1974 Rippowam High grad who cofounded Curtain Call, Lynne lives in the Vine Road home of her childhood and is active in arts, philanthropy, education and politics. To her, Stamford’s master plan was created so that the city “doesn’t become a big-box corridor. I think it’s allowed the community to stay more intimate.”

As an example, Lynne points to the first block of Bedford Street north of Broad—a retail hub in her childhood that lost business after the mall opened but has recently launched a comeback. “It’s the restaurants and bars that really brought the street back to life, and now there’s some beautiful retail,” including Russ Hollander Master Goldsmith (“He has a workshop and makes gorgeous handmade jewelry”), Fleet Feet Sports and Fernando Luis Alvarez Gallery. “If you go out on any warm afternoon or evening, it’s really an incredible feeling out there, with all the nightlife and young people that come here,” she says.

Neighboring mom-and-pops, including Lynne’s go-to amenity, the venerable Wolfe’s Cleaners, reinforces the street fair atmosphere. At the mall is Hakky Instant Shoe Repair, which she has been known to use for a quick fix. Lynne stays downtown to get her hair done at Salon Shahin, and although she’s driving a new Volvo now, she depends on the A&K Gulf on Newfield for auto repairs.

Asked for a single snapshot in the city that captures the spirit of Stamford, Lynne points to the crowd at the Parade Spectacular; because strong winds grounded the balloons last year, those who lined the streets found new appreciation for the talent on the ground, including the Locust Performing Arts Center and Center Stage Dance Studio dancers, and Stamford's high school bands.

The parade route passes Summer Street mainstay Dairy Queen, and Lynne remembers when fall and spring were defined by DQ’s opening and closing. Due west is another Stamford fixture and Colatrella family favorite, Pellicci’s, where she will order the Gorgonzola and cheese pizza on a Friday night. “You see everybody you grew up with. You see Anthony, and he’s been there forever.”

Ernest Lamour

Stamford Family YMCA

After arriving in Stamford from Haiti when he was eight, Ernest Lamour recalls, his father allowed him to go to just three places in the city: church, school and the YMCA. “My Creole is still good but my French is comme ci, comme ça,” says Ernest, now thirty-four and the CEO of that same Y (officially the Stamford Family YMCA.)

Or maybe not quite the same. Since taking the reins in 2010, Ernest has led an effort to take the Stamford institution, then deeply in debt and facing closure or relocation, and refocus its mission on programming and making it a safe haven for Stamford youth.

The change represents a giving back for Ernest, whose path in Stamford—from Davenport Ridge, Turn of River and Westhill High (class of ’98), to Southern Connecticut State University and the University of West Virginia—has been lighted by caring, vigilant adults. “I’ve had some impactful people in my life, people who really saw the best in me and pushed me to do better in life, not just on a ball field or court,” he recalls.

Ernest’s strategy at the Y focuses in part on partnerships, such as a new initiative with Stamford Hospital, in which a nutritionist meets with Y children twice a week to discuss healthy eating, while a Y personal trainer covers fitness and exercise.

According to Ernest, it’s one of several program-specific options for Stamford youth. There’s also the Locust Performing Arts Center. Owner Jimmy Locust’s “love of music and how he treats children of all ages that come through his studio is amazing,” says Ernest, who also points to the Boys & Girls Club of Stamford and Chester Addison Community Center, the latter now run by Domus and overseen by Mike Duggan. “He is one of my mentors and someone I can talk to about anything,” Ernest says. “What Domus does is beyond anything else that the Stamford community can offer. They pretty much get the kids that the Stamford Public schools [can’t help] and educate them, at times feed them and clothe them.”

One program that Ernest calls a gem is the Stamford Peace Basketball Club. “It’s an in-house basketball training program that is just terrific. The emphasis is not on basketball itself—playing is a privilege—it’s on how you treat your peers and family.”

The city’s Recreation Department brings varied sports offerings too, he adds. Programs such as Orcas Swimming at the Italian Center or Sharks Swimming at Westhill—or tennis lessons at Chelsea Piers—bring together Stamford’s public and private school children in an atmosphere that strengthens bonds.

One long-term goal of Ernest’s is to help prepare all Stamford kids for the Young Mariners Foundation sailing program by teaching them how to swim at the Y. “That’s my next mission, to make sure that we’re doing it individually and working with partners to teach each public-school child how to swim.”

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Stamford Agenda

  • Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer: The Musical


    Saturday, Nov. 28 at 3:00 pm Saturday, Nov. 28 at 7:00 pm   First airing in 1964, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer has become a beloved...

  • Paper Space Exhibition at The Lionheart Gallery


    Contact:          Cindy Clarke                         203.613.9163   For Immediate Release   Fairfield...

  • Black Friday/Saturday Book Sale


    Admission is free. All Sale proceeds support Pequot Library's 700+ annual programs for adults and children, serving over 100,000 participants a...

  • Stamford Museum & Nature Center Facility Use


    January 2 - December 31, After 5pm For a truly unique and memorable venue, host your event or meeting on the picturesque 118-acre former estate...

  • Leo Fuchs: Photography from Hollywood's Golden Age


    KMR Arts: Gallery in Washington Depot, Connecticut, Showcases Established and Emerging Photographers “Leo Fuchs photography exhibited at Trovare...

  • A Billion Bricks: LEGO® Galactic Travels


    November 23, 2015 - February 7, 2016, Mon.- Sat. 9am-5pm, Sunday 11am – 5pmThe amazing LEGO® universe returns to the Stamford Museum & Nature...

  • New Exhibition. Bjørn Okholm Skaarup: Carnival of the Animals


    October 31, 2015 - January 3, 2016 New Exhibition. Bjørn Okholm Skaarup: Carnival of the Animals Carnival of the Animals is Danish sculptor...

  • Daniel Nault; Performing Live at Table 104


    Daniel Nault- Musical Performer Acoustic Singer  Table104  203-388-8898

  • Family Fun at Advent Worskhop


    Join in the fun at the Round Hill Community Church’s annual Advent Workshop on Sunday, November 29 at 4pm.  Families and friends gather at the...

  • Swimming Activities At The JCC


    Swim School at the J Mondays, Wednesdays or Sundays, September 9 – December 23, 2015 Grades K – 5. Where young children get a...

  • Sunday Explorers


    Sundays, November 1 - 29, Noon - 4 pm Our popular Sunday drop-in program returns for November. Join us for crafts, hikes, and animal meet & greets...

  • Retired Men’s Club


    Mondays, Oct 12 – Dec. 28, 10am – 1pm Do you enjoy stimulating discussions about politics or finance, or just getting together and sharing the...

  • Sara Walker Nursery School registration is in full swing!


    Community. Caring. Respect. The JCC Sara Walker Nursery School offers preschool programs for children ages 2 to 4 and pre-K, with flexible...

  • Blood Pressure Screening


    1st Tuesday of the month, Nov. 3, Dec. 1  9:45 – 11:15 am No appointment necessary. Conducted by a registered nurse. Compliments of...

  • #RaisingTodaysKids- Lecture by Josh Levs


    Lectures for parents and educators of children birth-10 years, focusing on the issues encountered while raising children in today’s world. Join...

  • Terrific Tots!


    Wednesdays, Nov. 11 – Dec. 16, 9 am – 12 pm 15 – 22 months. Introduce your toddler to his or her first “drop-off” class experience....



    Uncork your creativity and let go with Masters and Mixers, the first paint and sip party host in Fairfield County! Adults who want to learn to...

  • Wonderful Ones


    Thursdays, Nov 12 – Dec. 17, 9:15 – 10:15 am 1 – 2 years. Join us for this Mommy/Daddy and Me Class led by Sandi Waldstreicher, JCC Sara...

  • Neshama Yoga


    Fridays, Sept. 11 – Dec. 18 (no class on Nov. 27), 9 – 10:30am Neshama Yoga is a fusion of Kundalini Yoga and Jewish spirituality....

  • Shabbat with Sandi


    Fridays, Oct. 2, Nov. 6, Dec. 4, 9:15 – 9:45 am Birth – 2 years (with parent). Come celebrate Shabbat with Sandi Waldstreicher,...

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