On May 4, the Greenwich Arts Council launched this year’s Art to the Avenue event with a massive street festival that ran from 5:30 to 9 p.m., featuring bands, dancers, performers, vocalists and more. On opening night, most participating retailers held special receptions in their stores for the artists and the public, on Greenwich Avenue and on surrounding side streets. The popular event brings together 100 downtown retailers and over 125 contemporary artists in a month long joint festival of the visual arts. Art works are prominently displayed in store windows all along Greenwich Avenue and they are offered for sale, to benefit both the artists and the GAC’s arts outreach education programs. The purpose of the GAC is to promote the visual, performing and literary arts in our community by supporting artists and building audiences for the arts. The largest collaboration of retailers and artists in the area, this event brings thousands of visitors to Greenwich.
Laura Davidson, founder and president of LDPR, has been running her business for 25 years and shows no sign of slowing down. Her company, a leading New York-based public relations agency that specializes in travel and lifestyle clients, is known not only for getting results for clients but also having a top-notch staff with real longevity (rare in the travel PR world). Her reputation is such that she’s never had to cold call to get clients; instead friends, colleagues and clients have referred business to her (and 80% renew when the contract is up). “We are passionate about all our clients, and I am lucky to work with the best brands in the world,” says Davidson, whose clients include Abercrombie & Kent and Resort at Paws Up in Montana. Here, her secrets to success:
How has social media changed the travel industry?The travel industry has evolved along with the digital revolution. Every year something disrupts the way we do business, and causes us to shift strategies, get more creative, and think more like marketers. I think we are a more effective business today because of it (but we all work harder for less—a common theme in many industries!)
The biggest change has been social media and working with influencers. It makes everything more immediate, which is both good and bad depending on how you position it. What hasn’t changed is that consumers will always travel and the more information available at their fingertips, the more they will need their trusted advisors to guide them—be that travel agents; their favorite bloggers, or their favorite magazines. And as the media has become so short-staffed, editors need their PR friends more than ever.
What’s your secret to hiring and retaining good employees? A hotelier long ago gave me the best advice about hiring—you can always teach tasks and functions, but you can never teach attitude. I hire people for their energy and their attitude. I have a really good gut instinct about people, and if they are willing to learn I am willing to spend hours teaching. We have one of the best retention rates in the business with our employees. I find it easier to get new business than to get new employees.
One of the reasons I retain people over time, is that I focus on nurturing my staff of 20 by treating them with respect, developing them professionally (including junior staff) and allowing them to flourish personally as well. I provide coaching for each member of my team so they are able to grow to their fullest potential. I empower them to find the next great thing and give them the freedom to explore new avenues. I also let them know it’s okay to fail—it’s important to take risks. I try and create an environment of honest and open feedback. My team is my extended family. It makes coming to work a pleasure.
Do you focus more on new business or existing clients?I focus on my core customers and fill in with new business. So many PR firms are new business factories and both the internal staff and existing clients suffer. The more you can develop and nurture your existing clients, you will see business grow organically. And they become your best references. Of course, it doesn’t hurt business when the media notices you. This year we got two amazing accolades: 10 Best named us one of the top three travel PR firms in the world and the NY Observer named us one of NY’s top travel PR firms. I’m very proud.
What’s the best way to grow a company? I have grown the company slowly over the years and I think this has led us to have a terrific culture at LDPR. We value our existing clients, many of whom grow their business organically with us. And we turn away more new business than we take (all those referrals give me a lot of friends in the business). We go after the clients that we think are the right fit, that are exciting for the staff, good companies with good values and integrity, and I have to say, places I want to visit!
What inspires you about travel? When I was a little girl I had a great aunt who traveled around the world and brought me a doll from every country she visited. I remember having the growing collection on shelves in my room and telling my mom that when I grew up I wanted to go to all those places that Aunt Anna visited. The fact that I have a job that allows me to do that is the best gift I could ask for.
I absolutely love the travel industry. Let’s face it, you have to love what you do to show a genuine passion for it. I just came back from an Australia Tourism Summit and it was more of a reunion of friends from inspiring places than a typical convention.
Greenwich Land Trust celebrated Earth Day with a day of action on Saturday, April 22 at their Louise Mueller Preserve on Round Hill Road. Greenwich Land Trust works every day to protect our community by conserving and caring for open space, but Earth Day is a special day when the organization rallies the whole community for the cause. With the help of more than 70 volunteers of all ages, 800 wildflowers, 250 saplings, 9 grand evergreens, and 500 square feet of vegetable gardens were planted. Wildlife in Crisis, a Westport-based animal and land conservation organization, joined the celebration and released a red-tailed hawk to its new natural home. Lunch was provided by Whole Foods Market.
These smart tips from teaching professional and television personality Debbie Doniger will help any golfer take a few points off their scorecard this season.
1. Get A Good Grip: The handle of the club should be mainly in the fingers of each hand, as if grasping a steering wheel. Be sure not to put too much force into it. “Most people grip the club way too tightly,” says Doniger. Arms should stay relatively soft, like you are swinging a rope.
2. Take A Solid Stance Weight: should be centered at the set up of a shot. “Then, bend at the hips, not at your waist. Your lower back should be flat,” says Doniger. Your stance will get progressively wider as the club gets longer (so while using a pitching wedge feet will be under the hips, a driver will dictate a wider stance). “When you don’t get to hit a lot of balls or you’re a beginner golfer, a bad setup is very hard to recover from,” says Doniger.
3. Swing Your Hands and Arms First: A golf club has a center of mass, a sweet spot. The goal is to hit that area every single time—and that starts with your hands. “Your hands are your only connection to the golf club. You can learn to hit the ball really well if you understand how your arms and hands should swing to hit the back of the ball, the sweet spot. It is much easier than thinking about turning your hips in a certain way,” says Doniger.
4. Know How Your Club Face Should Feel: If a player is not hitting the ball square, shots will be inconsistent at best. Doniger suggest spraying your club face with Dr. Scholl’s foot spray. “As soon as you hit the ball, it will make an imprint on the club face and it’ll show you where you hit it. Do chips and start playing around with the club face. Close it and open it and watch it go left and right. You’ll become aware of what those orientations feel like.” This is a tip Doniger gives to even advanced players, particularly those struggling with inconsistent drives.
5. Have An Impeccable Short Game On: the same note, while a reliable, strong drive is crucial, it doesn’t matter if a player is Jordan Spieth or a 15 handicap—a good short game can make up for a multitude of sins. Particularly if that player is not driving the ball 300+ yards. “If you can get up and down in two you will absolutely lower your handicap,” says Doniger. If you have a half hour to practice, spend at least 15 minutes in the short game practice area. “Work on five footers, chipping and pitching from 10 to 20 yards,” says Doniger.
6. Commit 100%, But Swing 80%: This is one of Doniger’s favorite tips from her old coach Jim McLean. Commit completely to hitting a target—for instance, aiming at a tree—but then swing freely and with 80 percent effort. Visualize the shot (and if possible, play one you’ve practiced before) but then just swing. “You can overthink things,” says Doniger.
7. Stop Caring What People Think: This is easier said than done—especially for beginners or those playing with a lower handicap group. “To me, it’s like walking into a SoulCycle class with women who have their own bikes and you don’t even know how to set it up. But the people in the class will help you set up the bike and you just spin at your own pace,” says Doniger. Expending mental energy on who is watching and what they’re thinking will only take away from what you should be thinking about—like your posture and stance. “Just know the etiquette, play fast and then nobody will watch or judge,” says Doniger.
8. Let It Go: Whether you’re playing in a member-guest tournament, club championship or at the U.S. Open, bad shots happen. Take a hint from that ever-popular Frozen flick and let it go. “There’s nothing you can do about it. Golf is an imperfect game,” says Doniger. Take a moment to analyze what went wrong—and then move on, says Doniger. “This is where golf mirrors life.”
Meet our Expert
Greenwich native and Director of Instruction at GlenArbor Golf Club in Bedford, NY, Debbie Doniger teaches her students these fail-proof tips every day—many from her mentor of more than 20 years, famed coach Jim McLean at Quaker Ridge in Scarsdale, NY. They clearly worked for her, as Doniger was a star at Greenwich High School and at the University of North Carolina. She also has been repeatedly named to Best Teachers lists in Golf Digest and is a media darling, having worked in television as a commentator and expert for Fox Sports, the PGA Tour Live and The Golf Channel. She’s spent the past 13 years building the popular women’s program at GlenArbor and coaching junior players working towards college scholarships. Whether you’re a scratch golfer who plays a couple times a week or a double digit duffer who can count your rounds in a season on one hand, hopefully Doniger’s tips will help you decrease your handicap and increase your enjoyment of the game.
After a chance meeting in college, Ashley McCormick’s career has been on a steady climb ever since: She has unwaveringly grown her jewelry brand, ASHA by Ashley McCormick, since its launch in 2005, and she now sells her pieces at Bergdorf Goodman and Saks Fifth Avenue, online at Moda Operandi and Orchard Mile, and in more than 80 boutiques. At 34, she has a new light-filled showroom on Greenwich Avenue where she designs and sells fashion, fine and bespoke jewelry. So how’d she do it? With a little luck, a healthy dose of hard work, some gutsy decisions, and a go-big-or-go-home attitude.
While studying at La Sorbonne in Paris during college, Ashley McCormick was seated next to the head of Chanel fine jewelry by chance at a dinner. When he offered to introduce her to a goldsmith who could execute her jewelry designs, she seized the opportunity. “I look back and marvel at how naïve I was,” she says, “[It] was kind of a huge asset because I didn’t realize what I was getting myself into…I figured out things as I went along,” she says. “Other people might argue it’s critical to build a base at another business and learn, and then spin off and do your own thing. My way has been to navigate on the bow.”
That gutsy, no-holds-barred decision-making has clearly been one of the keys to McCormick’s success: In the early days of her business when she returned from Paris, Betteridge offered to help her find production for her collection, and she set out by cold-calling buyers for large retailers. “I somehow was able to get appointments with Saks Fifth Avenue, Henri Bendel and Calypso,” she says, “and I opened those accounts among others. I made it my mission to connect with the buyer. I think I called every 30 minutes,” she says, laughing.
After a decade designing, McCormick, a Greenwich native and Greenwich Academy alum, has stayed true to her brand vision. “Wanderlust and travel are a big inspiration for me,” she says, referencing collections inspired by Cuba, Zanzibar and Paris. “There’s also a hint of exoticism. My aesthetic is classic modern— so, casting a modern veneer over classic inspiration and roots, but with a fresh, bold take.” Like, for instance, her bespoke oversized signet ring, which is an updated version of a royal cypher, or her zodiac collection, which includes customized mother of pearl zodiac sign bracelets and pendants paired with colored leather cord.
The ASHA showroom—which is both a creative atelier workspace and a retail space (located at 409 Greenwich Avenue above East End Restaurant)—is an extension of McCormick’s breezy-but-sophisticated vibe. You can work directly with the designer on a one-of-a-kind piece or browse the penthouse jewel box while you enjoy a glass of champagne. Next up, McCormick has, as usual, a lot on her plate: She plans to grow her fine jewelry business, which includes a variety of 18K gold and diamond designs. She’s also launching Little ASHA for girls ages 5 to 12, inspired by her 5-year-old daughter, Annabel. The collection features sweet enamel charm necklaces and adorable mini stud earrings.
These late spring and early summer months are the perfect time to exercise your green thumb, and the nursery team at Terrain in Westport, CT, is ready to help. According to their expert staff, planning, the most essential step, helps to both create cohesiveness and allow for creativity. Before you begin, consider a color palette, whether you want a formal or natural look, what will work best for your type of soil, and when everything needs to be planted (the folks at Terrain can help with this!). Finally, browse their selection of garden structures (from pyramids to spheres to bird baths) to accent your finished beds.
“Our annual gala, Experience Nature, celebrated the beauty of nature and highlighted Audubon’s programs to educate and protect birds and other wildlife,” said Stewart Hudson, Executive Director of Audubon Connecticut. Real birds and bees brought nature alive for guests at the organization’s annual fundraiser, held at the Belle Haven Club in Greenwich, CT on April 12, 2017. Camera feeds—including live osprey and fox den cams—ran throughout the evening so guests could watch nature in action while raising funds for feathered and furry friends.
Photographs from noted artist Melissa Groo, wildlife photographer, writer, and conservationist, filled the room. Groo also received the Katie O’Brien Lifetime Achievement Award. Local, sustainable, and organic food was provided by Back 40 Farm Group; owners Lesley & Bill King of Back 40 Farm group. The Kings received the Audubon Connecticut Corporate Award. Finally, former U.S. Environment Protection Agency administrator Gina McCarthy was recognized with the Environmental Leadership Award; she is known for her role in arranging a global agreement on climate protection.
Auctioneer George McNeely led the silent auction to benefit Audubon CT’s incredible work for the environment and conservation throughout the state (from the inner city to rural areas). An upcoming conservation-minded fashion designer displayed an Audubon-inspired dress, showing a stylish interpretation of the cause. “It was a great evening which generated significant support for these programs, and reflected our community’s commitment to preserving nature at home, and across Connecticut.”
Audubon Connecticut is the state office of the National Audubon Society. It works to protect not only birds but other wildlife and their habitats through various initiatives, including education, research conversation and legislative advocacy.
Every inch of this modern lakeside home has views of rolling hills and Heron Lake. Built in 2002 by David Abelow of AbelowSherman Architects in New York City, the home has a mid-century modern style with lots of natural light and natural materials. “It’s a terrific, livable, comfortable, modern house and it has this amazing setting on a lake,” said David Turner, realtor with Houlihan Lawrence. “Water is a big element. It fills your view in every room.”
Swimming and boating docks, fishing, ice skating and hiking trails are all privately accessible from the property. Or, you can simply sit and admire the view from two tiers of terraces or the outdoor firepit.
An original 1950s guest house with two bedrooms and two baths was renovated during construction of the main house and includes restored St. Charles cabinets from the main house.
Area Francophiles don’t need to hop on a plane (or even head into the city) to view new, critically acclaimed French films. The annual Focus on French Cinema event brings cutting edge international films right to them, presented by the Alliance Française of Greenwich. This year the film festival, held March 27th through April 2nd, showcased a diverse selection of the best premiere French-language films from around the world. L’escale restaurant hosted a cocktail party for the opening, followed by the screening of It’s Only the End Of the World (Juste la fin de monde), a celebrated and award-winning film with a huge following in France and Québec. Vive la France!