I know what you’re thinking Bridgeport, CT: WOOF. I had the same feeling when my girlfriend Marcella invited me to her home for the weekend. Wait, let me start from the beginning of how we met. We met last Summer while we were on a kayaking trip to Bannerman Castle near Cold Spring, NY (read more here). The kayak group consisted of my sister Sarah, yours truly, Marcella, her husband Luke and another couple from the city. Sarah and I ended up bonding with Marcella and Luke because of how ridiculous this couple was. They had never kayaked before even though it was a prerequisite for this more rigorous kayaking trip, they were hung over, super late, and worst of all, they were hogging all the food that the lovely tour company provided for us. Marcella ended up finding me on Instagram and the rest is history. So, back to Bridgeport…the only things I’ve ever heard of the city was well, for lack of a better word, ghetto. Marcella was selling Bridgeport to me hard. She was confident I would change my mind about it and would end up loving it. I accepted her invitation because a) I love her b) she lives right on the water and c) she promised me donuts.
After work on Friday, I arrived in Bridgeport, CT an hour and a half after my departure from Grand Central. Not bad for a weekend getaway but a little too long for a daily commute into the city. There are however, plenty of people who make the trek every day. Since it was a Friday night, we decided to have wine and cheese in her backyard. Backyard?! This was already a nice change of pace for me because if we were in the city, we would be meeting at a crowded bar or squeezing into a small apartment. The good news is in Bridgeport, you can buy a beautiful brownstone by the water in your thirties. The row of brownstones where she lives was once owned by PT Barnum who founded Barnum and Bailey Circus. The bottom floor of the home was used by the maid and butlers for cooking and cleaning; hence the name of their cute apartment Maid & Butler. This was my humble abode for the weekend. When I was walking through her house, I couldn’t help but be envious of all the space. When she took me out to her backyard, it looked like it was right out of a Pinterest board. We ended up talking, laughing, and drinking wine until midnight. Because Marcella is a designer, the apartment is impeccably decorated, so comfy and inviting. By the way, she designed my blog. Find more info about her work (here). When I went down to my room, I found flowers, chocolates, and a little book about the house and Bridgeport which of course Marcella designed herself. I was already warming up to Bridgeport during the first four hours of my stay.
I woke up the next morning to a text from Marcella saying that we were heading to the Black Rock Farmer’s Market to get those famous donuts she’s been talking about. So 2 things to note here. I’ve been to a lot of Farmer’s Markets especially the big one here in the city at Union Square and I’ve tasted a lot of donuts in my life. Probably some of the most famous ones out there. So, I was intrigued by this excursion. The farmer’s market is really small but cute and quaint with a dozen stalls. My friend Marcella is a celebrity. Everyone stopped to say hello. She knows EVERYONE in Bridgeport. I quickly realized how lucky I was to have the unofficial mayor of Bridgeport showing me around. First stop was the donuts because apparently, they sell out before 10am. You can’t miss Whisk and Brush’s stall because it’s the only one with a huge line. Betsy who is one half of the duo behind Whisk and Brush was taking orders while Becca was still in her kitchen making the donuts. The vanilla donut was the best donut I’ve ever had in my life and it was so good I ate a 2nd one. You could taste the freshness because they were just made and still warm. I’m still getting goosebumps thinking about those donuts. There were other notable mentions at the farmer’s market like the coffee from Source Coffeehouse and the pickles from Jane’s Good Food. I loved Becca and Betsy’s story of how they started making donuts. You should watch their inspiring video to learn more about how they started their dream business on their kick-starter page for their donut truck (here). I’m praying that their truck comes to Manhattan.
I decided to ride my bike along Seaside Park to burn off the donuts. Marcella completed her The Seasides art project just this past August. She took a photo every day at The Seasides for a year (see here). The beach at Seaside Park is the Long Island sound so you don’t get ocean waves but there’s still a beach with sand and lifeguards. I spent a glorious hour snapping photos and riding my bike. After a delicious vegetarian brunch at Bloodroot (I needed a veg real bad), we met up with Marcella’s friends Ruben and Liz for some wine and weaving. When Marcella told me we were spending the afternoon weaving, I thought she was joking. I mean, who weaves anymore? We pulled up to Seaside Park and found a dozen weaving looms on picnic tables, Liz weaving away, and Ruben pouring us wine. I knew I was going to love this activity immediately. Ruben studied textile design and became a weaver and Liz is a screen printer. Again, I’m blown away that all of Marcella’s friends have creative jobs and are making a living for themselves. Weaving is one of the most relaxing and meditative things I’ve ever done. It was so fun to see the scarf I was making come to life. Wine and weaving is going to be the new wine and painting.
For dinner, we went to the Walrus and Carpenter for BBQ with Marcella and Luke’s friends Amy, Ben and Faith. We ordered the notorious P.I.G (get it?) which consisted of appetizers like fried oysters, poutine, chicharrones nachos, and pork belly. The main course was friend chicken (the best), ribs, sausages, mac n’ cheese, coleslaw, and cornbread. The dessert was chess and walrus pie; both were so good. To say we were in a food coma afterwards would be an understatement. It was the perfect spot for really good food, really great new friends, and a lively scene. I think the greatest thing about having your own house is to be able to invite them all over to hang out in front of the fireplace. Gosh, this is something that I’m aspiring to. As if we needed to eat more; for breakfast the next day, we went to Harborview Market which looked like the Sunday morning hub for Bridgeporters to get their coffee and breakfast. I loved the feeling of this place because everyone knew each other and were casually hanging out.
After spending the weekend in Bridgeport, I can describe it as Williamsburg 10 years ago. It’s still industrial and rough around the edges but there’s a budding creative and entrepreneurial community here that probably wouldn’t exist anywhere else. I think the thing that fosters this type of creativity and the ability for the younger generations to pursue their dreams is that there’s such a strong sense of community. Everyone helps each other to grow their business and every single person plays a huge part of its success. Marcella designs the business cards that’s printed by her friend Callie from Hartford Prints that will be used by the Whisk and Brush team to promote their business. I think this is where the saying “it takes a village” comes from.
Have you ever met people for the first time and instantly knew this was your tribe? Your spirit animals? This is exactly how I felt with this crew. It just confirmed in my mind that nothing is a coincidence; we’re meant to meet people in our lives for a reason. Because if Sarah and I had not been on that kayak trip, I would never have met Marcella. I would never have met her awesome friends and the awesome community she comes from. They all proved to me that if you have a dream like weaving or making donuts, you can make a living out of it. One way to get there is to surround yourself with positive people who foster your success. Finally, I would never have discovered such a unique city like Bridgeport. A city with so much grit and heart.