Westchester Chronicles

Surviving the shrink’s August vacation, breaking down boredom by the numbers, bidding goodbye to summer and hello to end-of-season buys, toasting a new local vineyard, and more.



Westchester Chronicles

 

A Good-Humored Kind of Guy

 

For more than 50 years, one man has made hot days in Westchester a little cooler...

and he doesn’t plan to stop any time soon. 

 

By W. Dyer Halpern

 

 

For any kid who grew up in Greenburgh or White Plains, Saturdays and Sundays from April until September were accompanied by a familiar noise—the ringing of a school bell that signaled not, thankfully, the beginning of another day of math and science, but rather the presence of a familiar truck and a familiar face. “Good Humor Joe” had arrived, and a trip to the window of his bright, white, traveling ice cream store meant that it was going to be a good day.

 

Even Willy Wonka would be impressed with Joe Villardi’s commit-ment to confections. For a record 61 years, Villardi has been sweetening the lives of kids of all ages with Choco Tacos, Creamsicles, chocolate éclair pops, and King Cones. The man who started as a push-cart vendor at Yankee Stadium in the 1940s has patrolled the streets of central Westchester for 54 years. And Villardi is strictly old-school. He believes in courtesy and honesty above all else. “Many of the other guys focus on the money,” he says. “I believe in making people happy.” But he does have rules. He won’t, for instance, sell to kids who “run across the street in front of the truck.”

 

The biggest change in Villardi’s career took place in 1977. It was then that Good Humor stopped operating the trucks (the company still sells the ice cream in supermarkets). Now, all drivers—there are 40 to 50 in the country—are independent contractors. While Villardi, who lives in Southern Westchester, boasts that the ice cream he sells is still great, he admits that there was a time, before Good Humor cut its motorized salesmen loose, when the company would provide drivers with weekly specials and novelty flavors such as apple pan dowdy, lemon chiffon, and baked Alaska. “That was when Good Humor was Good Humor,” he says nostalgically.

 

Villardi holds the record for tenure with the company and is one of only two drivers left in the county from the time when Good Humor owned and managed the trucks (the other is Bill Sherman of Scarsdale).

 

“Two of my favorite customers,” Villardi recounts, “are a one-hundred-year old who still waits for me every day and a ninety-year old who waits on her porch from twelve to three until I stop by. She thinks that the Good Humor in the stores is soggy, so the ice cream she eats has to come from my truck.” And with Villardi’s more than half-century of service comes generations of stories. “I had a forty-two-year-old detective come up to me and tell me that I deprived him of ice cream once when he was a kid because he ran across the street. He remembered that lesson the rest of his life. Maybe that’s why he became a cop.”

 

Villardi has been profiled on the Food Network, in the New York Daily News, in the New York Times (twice, he notes), by the Associated Press, and in various publications worldwide. He has no plans to retire—“I keep saying I will but, if I stay at home, I’d go crazy, and I’d miss seeing all my friends.” And
what makes him happiest of all? “Strawberry shortcake ice-cream bars.” But, of course.

 

 

Bargain Homes in Not-so-Bargain Communities

 

Think a tony address in a place like Bronxville, Chappaqua, Rye, or Scarsdale is out of reach? Think again. While these half-million-dollar-babies are, to be kind, modest, they do offer entry to the cachet of these pricy communities and their attendant school districts.

 

 

$489,500 Rye

1927 Colonial; 3 BR, 1 full and 1 half bath; 1400 sq ft; .07 acre; no garage (park in driveway); Rye City schools. Taxes: $3,800

 

 

$499,000 Chappaqua

1917 Cottage; 2 BR, 2 baths; 1313 sq ft; .10 acre; detached one-car garage; Chappaqua schools. Taxes: $8,637

 

 

$545,000 Scarsdale

1989 Colonial; 2 BR, 1 full bath and 1 half bath; 1086 sq ft, .10 acre; no garage (park in driveway); Scarsdale schools. Taxes: $7,604

 

4 New Store Openings

BARK & MEOW 9A S Broadway, Tarrytown (914) 524-7373 www.barkandmeowinc.com

Pet boutique featuring “Sexy Beast” animal apparel, organic foods, toys, and grooming products.

 

BEADWORKS 96 Westchester Ave, White Plains (914) 437-7666 www.beadworkswp.com

A bead store offering make-your-own jewelry instruction.

 

JAMES 21 Babbitt Rd, Bedford Hills (914) 514-8981 www.jamesny.com

Boutique and gallery featuring fine art, home furnishings and accessories, semi-custom clothing, and jewelry.

 

PAWS ON PALMER 1993 Palmer Ave, Larchmont (914) 630-4646

A pet boutique offering all-natural pet products, organic premium pet food and treats, fashionable dog wear, leashes and toys.

 

 

How Vodka Was Infused into Westchester

 

Born in northern westchester­, Herb’s, the little-vodka-that-could, is starting a new trend in the spirit world.

 

 

Pam Tonery, an avid gardener from South salem, accidentally dropped a rosemary sprig into her martini while cooking dinner. She took a sip anyway—and liked what she tasted. Which got her thinking: maybe others would like herb-infused vodkas too.

 

“It takes several millions of dollars to launch a vodka,” says former Seagram’s CEO Marty Bart. Pam Tonery had $10,000—and lots of pluck. She mixed different herbs at different temperatures for different amounts of time, and tested her different mixtures on a “focus group” she organized at The Horse & Hound Inn in South Salem. After months of searching for the perfect mixture of spirit and sprigs, she settled on four: rosemary, dill, cilantro, and fennel, and set out to market them beyond the walls of her hamlet.

Again, she was enterprising. She called on friends—close and not so. “A patent lawyer from down the street did all the complex legal work, and he didn’t even charge me,”

 

Tonery says. Tim Nicholls, a friend from North Salem developed a marketing campaign. David Sandbank, a local filmmaker, helped build the website. “I even had my dad take the photos that are on the website,” Sandbank says. Together, the team designed a sleek-looking bottle, came up with a catchy name for the company—The Garden Variety Vodka Company—created the “punny” name, “Herb’s Aromatic,” for the drink itself, and set out to get their vodka into the right hands.

 

Still, the vodka market was saturated. “People roll their eyes when they think they’re being pitched ‘just another vodka.’ We had to show people we were more than that,” Sandbank says. 

 

Coincidentally, Jeff Weinstein, one of Tonery’s investors, is friendly with the son of Marty Bart. “After a ton of pleading and crying” Sandbank says, the group got a meeting with Bart. “He smelled it, tasted it, and loved it”—and not only agreed to be CEO of the company but convinced his old friend, Jerome Hyafil, a retired Seagram exec, to join the company. “I never thought I would have gotten out of tennis and fishing for a vodka,” says Hyafil. The two signed on Charles DeGunzburg, the grandson of the founder of Seagram, who became the project’s primary investor. In a few short months, the group had found almost everything they needed to launch; all they needed was a distributor.

Enter Harvey Chaplin, liquor distributor extraordinaire, who was impressed with the vodka. In June of 2006, Chaplin signed a national distribution agreement with Herb’s Aromatic Vodka. “It was like getting a publishing contract,” Sandbank says.

 

The vodka that was born in a Westchester kitchen is now available in some of the finest restaurants around the county and beyond. The Fish Cellar and Crabtree’s Kittle House have drinks made with the spirit on their menu, as does Tao in Manhattan. Herb’s is also spreading to wine stores throughout the region including Cross River Wine Sellers in Cross River, Mount Kisco Wines and Spirits in Mount Kisco, and The Wine Connection in Pound Ridge. The vodka that appeals to “foodies and wine lovers alike,” as Hyafil says, is making its way across the county and soon, with luck, into a bar or restaurant near you.

                                                                                          —W. Dyer Halpern

 

 

By the Numbers

A numerical look at boredom

 

c. 500 – 1400AD: Time period during the Middle Ages when “acedia”—today defined as ennui or boredom—was considered a sin. Sloth, its modern-day equivalent, is considered one of the seven deadly sins in Catholicism.

 

1852: Year the actual word “boredom” was first recorded, in the novel Bleak House by Charles Dickens

 

1999: Year British psychology professor Dr. Richard Ralley embarked on a boredom “study,” postulating that boredom in children is a “purposeful emotion.”

 

40: Number of things to do with kids in Westchester, according to the book Let’s Take the Kids! Great Places to Go in New York’s Hudson Valley by Joanne Michaels, which might get them to stop saying “I’m boorreedd.”

 

41: Percent of teenagers who dropped out of high school because they were bored (the reason most frequently given by dropouts for leaving school).  10: Percent high school dropout rate in the U.S. each year.  1.5: Percent of Westchester high school students who drop out of school each year.

 

74: Average number of summer vacation days 

 

30+: Approximate number of private four-week day camps for kids in Westchester, which will hopefully alleviate their boredom.

 

$1,500: Average cost of a day camp, nationally.

 

$160: Approximate cost if you and your child went to see all eight of this summer’s major movie blockbusters.

 

55: Percent of Americans workers who say they are bored at work. 

 

192: Approximate number of YouTube videos you can watch during an average 8-hour work day, which might alleviate some of the boredom.

 

—Marisa Iallonardo

 

 

Super (End of) Summer Sales

 

Say goodbye to summer and hello

to good end-of-season buys 

 

By Carrie Schmelkin

 

 

Escape the dog days of August and soak up some of that awesome air-conditioned air (and great bargains!) in these Westchester stores offering up sensational summer sales.

 

KIDS/TEENS FASHIONS

Candy Nichols Inc.

59 Purchase St, Rye 

(914) 967-2288

Pop into this popular preppy children’s boutique to freshen up your little fashion plate’s swimwear wardrobe for the sizzling hot end-of-summer pool party season. You’ll find hot brands like Roxy, Quicksilver, and Florence Eiseman at a cool 50 percent off.

 

Fiersons Young Fashions

48 Ponfield Rd, Bronxville

(914) 337-0475  www.fiersons.com

Stop here for 25 to 45 percent off kids’ classic summer clothing, for newborns to children size 16.

 

Neil’s

1132 Wilmot Rd, Scarsdale

(914) 472-8120

195 N Bedford Rd, Mount Kisco

(914) 244-7010

Say bye to summer and hello (read: hallelujah!) to back-to-school time with 10 percent off everything in the store, including some already-discounted school must-haves such as The North Face fleeces, leggings, tunics, sweatshirts, and sweaters.

 

New York Dolls

32 Main St, Mount Kisco

(914) 244-3655

www.newyorkdolls.net

For a last-gasp splurge, this special-occasion boutique is featuring summer dresses and tops from such hip designers as Betsy Johnson, Shoshanna, and Nanette Lepore at 30 to 75 percent off.

 

 

WOMEN’S FASHIONS & ACCESSORIES

Coast 2 Coast

The Westchester, White Plains

(914) 328-2039

www.nysurfandskate.com

While there’s still time to show off that sun-kissed tan, cruise over to Coast 2 Coast for marked-down ladies’ swimwear brands such as L*Space, Sofia, and Volcom.

 

Fiamor Boutique

27 Cedar St, Dobbs Ferry

(914) 478-3898

What could be more perfect than a designer dress at discount? Fiamor Boutique is offering 50 summer gowns from Giovanni Fashions originally $300 to $400 marked down to $100 throughout the month. Added bonus: everything in the entire shop is 20 percent off.

 

 

FASHION ACCESSORIES

Pink On Palmer

1907 Palmer Ave, Larchmont

(914) 833-8955

www.pinkonpalmer.com

Head here to snag warm weather-perfect tote bags and cosmetic purses from Sally Russell and Jelly Fish at 50 percent off. The South Beach line of bath and body products and some candles also will be marked down.

 

Excessorize

1885 Palmer Ave, Larchmont

(914) 833-0304

Since costume jewelry lasts through every season, stop in here for up to 50 percent off items from vendors such as Judith Jack, Crislu, and Gerard Yosca. Excessorize also offers 40 percent off dressy handbags from Lette and Zoe, 30 percent off watches, and 50 percent off summer scarves.

 

 

SPORTSWEAR, MEMORABILIA & ACCESSORIES

American Legends

1107 Central Ave, Scarsdale

(914) 725-2225

www.amerlegends.com

Desperately seeking an autographed NBA plaque? A signed celebrity photo? Or a free NBA goody bag with any purchase of trading cards? Visit American Legends and reap discounts now through mid-November. American Legends will be holding a series of weekly and daily promotions in honor of the various sports leagues, offering items such as baseball cards, sports memorabilia, baseball clocks, and hockey jerseys at 15 to 50 percent off.

 

Hickory & Tweed Ski & Cyclery

410 Main St, Armonk

(914) 273-3397

www.hickoryandtweed.com

Stop here to get a head start in leasing your skis and snowboards while saving 15 percent. You’ll be king of the mountain when you hit the slopes while others are spending precious skiing time in the rental line.

 

Sportech

124 S Ridge St, Rye Brook

(914) 934-0001

You’ve spent all summer hitting the tennis courts with friends and exercising at the gym. Your reward? New athletic apparel. Visit Sportech for a summer clearance of 30 to 80 percent off selected footwear and athletic apparel including tennis and aerobic clothing, as well as athletic clothing brands such as Nike, Adidas, Puma, Moving Comfort, InSport, and City Lights.

 

 

SKIN CARE

Via Michelle

49 S Moger Ave, Mount Kisco

(914) 244-7000

Visit Via Michelle during the month of August for an hour-long, deep-cleaning facial marked down from $90 to $75.

 

 

 

When The Shrink’s Away

 

Shrink in Sedona? Analyst in Antigua? Don’t even think about dialing his “emergencies-only” cellphone number!  Here’s what you need to stay sane until September.

 

1. Your hands. According to WebMD, self-massage can relieve tension and improve mood. So knead away. And if worse comes to worse, call a masseuse. Even at $100 an hour, it’s probably cheaper than your therapist.

 

2. Your Rolodex. According to healthyplace.com, “understanding, patience, affection, and encouragement” from friends and family are important factors in making a person feel better. See, all the Christmas cards you sent are finally going to pay off.

 

3. Your mind. When we feel down, we go to the one person guaranteed to boost our spirits: Oprah. And Oprah’s website tells us that “dedicating some time to meditation is a meaningful expression of caring for yourself.” We figure if we listen to the Queen of the Talk Show, we might end up with one of those new cars she’s always handing out.

 

4. Your Amazon account. Amazon lists 80,337 books under the keyword “mental health.” Our favorite: Clinical Psychopharmacology Made Ridiculously Simple. Seriously, if you can’t trust yourself for a prescription, whom can you trust?

 

5. Your pet. The Westchester Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) claims that pets are great at “helping to chase loneliness away” and “making people feel better.” We agree, and we support any therapist that lets us kvetch for 45 minutes, doesn’t judge us, accepts payment in Milk Bones, and doesn’t make us feel awkward for getting a kiss on the way out.

 

—W. Dyer Halpern

 

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