Westport community pitches in to buy beloved Old Mill Store
The Westport community is coming together to save a beloved business and give it a noble new mission.
The little storefront on Hillspoint Road has taken several names since it first opened as Old Mill Store back in 1928.
"People remember it as Dirty Kenny's or Grubb's or the Old Mill Market so there's been a lot of variation. But I grew up with Elvira's," said Emily Zobl.
Zobl says the little coffee shop and snack stand was a staple of her childhood by the beach.
"It was a bus stop for a while for me, it's where we came to get our after-school snacks, it's where we hang out with friends, it's where we would come in the summer to get an ice cream," she remembered.
Jim Hood started a GoFundMe campaign last month for the community to pitch in and buy the business together.
"We've raised over $1.1 million so far, so we have enough to go forward and we will," said Hood.
The shop closed a few months ago because the current owners are moving out of town. They couldn't find buyers aside from developers, so for a while, it was looking like the store would have to be knocked down to build a house or something else. That is when neighbors started collecting funds to purchase the business.
Organizers are still looking for a little over $100,000 more to get Old Mill Grocery open again by the summer.
"We've had donations from people outside of town who don't even live here but remember this as an emotional experience for them, and being here, growing up here, first girlfriend they met down here, they walked down to Compo," said District 1 Westport Representative Town Meeting member Chris Tait.
The new Old Mill Grocery will operate as a nonprofit with a very valuable mission.
"This is going to be an inclusive working environment where people with disabilities will be welcomed to be employed and learn job skills," said resident Marina Derman.
Advocates say employment offers adults with disabilities purpose and independence that are hard to find anywhere else.
"If we can make this part of their life more like the rest of the world, that's good for them - and that's good for the rest of us as well," said Derman.
To donate to the Old Mill Grocery GoFundMe campaign, click here.