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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

  • Beginner Ballroom & Hustle Workshop

    2014.11.23

    Beginners Ballroom Mix, 2 - 3:00 pm Beginners Hustle, 3 - 4:00 pm PRICE: $20 for one class; $30 for both Enjoy the Ballroom mix of American...

  • "Roots and Culture" and "Dual Visions"

    2014.11.16

     The Stamford Art Association is presenting 3 artists exhibiting their work "Roots and Culture" & "Dual Visions"...

  • Parties at the JCC Center

    2014.09.02

    A place to celebrate birthdays and special occasions. Be a guest at your own party! The JCC offers a wonderful space for you and your guests to...

  • A BILLION BRICKS 2: LEGO® Trains, Planes and Rocket Ships!

    2014.11.22

    November 22 - January 25, 2015 LEGO® returns to the Stamford Museum & Nature Center with its grand opening on Saturday, November 22....

  • "Paper & Stone" an exhibition by Ellen Gordon & Sary Backer at the Loft Artists Gallery

    2014.11.01

    Paper and Stone” An exhibition by Sary Backer & Ellen Gordon November 1 - November 30th Artists’ reception: November 8th from 4 – 6 PM...

  • Sunday Explorers

    2014.11.02

    Sundays, November 2 - 30, Noon - 4 pm Our popular Sunday drop-in programs return for November. Join us for hikes, field studies, live animal...

  • Wheels in the Woods Fall Activity Trail

    2014.11.02

    Sundays, November 2 - 30, Noon - 4 pm Our popular self-guided activity trail returns with new activities. Identify fall birds, do a mini...

  • NFL Specials

    2014.09.17

    Are you ready to spend Football Sunday and Mondays with us at the Whale? Join us for $4 Bud Light Drafts, $8 Signature Bloody Mary’s and...

  • College Football Specials

    2014.09.17

    Calling all College Football fans! Watch your favorite college football team score a touchdown at Sign of the Whale. Drink specials include $4...

  • The Mastersingers Chorus begins on Sept. 3!

    2014.09.03

    Join The Mastersingers Chorus, Fairfield County's newest community chorale group, where singing is our passion!!   Alll voices welcome, come and...

  • Stamford Museum & Nature Center Facility Use

    2014.09.01

    September 1 – December 31, After 5pm For a truly unique and memorable venue, host your event or meeting on the picturesque 118-acre...

  • Restaurant: Family Night | Stamford, CT

    2014.06.05

    Every Sunday evening from 5:30PM - 8:30PM Bring the kids to enjoy our Magician, special kids menu, fun for the entire family!

  • Monday Morning Open House

    2014.06.02

    An advanced workspace, COMRADITY is a GOOGLE-style shared workspace with blistering fast Fiber Optic internet in furnished private and open...

  • JCC Sara Walker Nursery School Registration

    2014.08.11

    Registration for the 2014/15 school Our Nursery School programs are designed to help children learn in an interactive and playful way while...

  • FAll 2014 Semester beginning - Ballet School of Stamford

    2014.09.15

    Our Fall semester begins on September 15th in our beautiful studios at Old Town Hall in Stamford. We offer classes for children age 3 to 18. Our...

  • BU8: DJ Trivia | Stamford, CT

    2014.06.05

    Come test your Wit and skills with TRIVIA. The top 3 teams claim prizes. Great specials and a great time for those who...

  • Harbor Point Turkey Trot

    2014.11.27

  • Neshama Yoga

    2014.09.12

    Fridays Sept. 12 – Dec. 19 (No class Sept. 26, Oct. 10, Oct. 17, Nov. 28), 9 – 10:30 am Neshama Yoga is a fusion of Kundalini...

  • Paella 101 Cooking Class

    2014.11.29

    Join Chef Scott as he demonstrates the steps to achieving a true Spanish paella -- crisp on the bottom with succulent rice, meat and seafood....

  • French Market (Farmers’ Market)

    2014.06.14

    Visit our farmers’ market with vendors offering the freshest fruits, vegetables, flowers, baked goods and more! Straight from the farm and...


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