Person of the Week: Paul Newman

The actor, entrepreneur and philanthropist Paul Newman is taking on another role, that of restauranteur -- but not for the usual reasons.

Newman and chef Michel Nischan want to bring back the small-town feeling to Westport, Conn., by opening the "Dressing Room," an organic restaurant.

"I came to Westport 45 years ago, and it has changed," Newman said. "Hopefully, this will help us change a little bit back to the way we were."

"Anywhere you have bedroom communities," Nischan added, "it becomes, you know, strip malls and large corporate shopping."

But how does a restaurant save a community?

"I thought we ought to put a really good restaurant in here," Newman said, "and it will serve to subsidize the theater."

The theater Newman is helping to subsidize is the Westport Country Playhouse, a piece of American history. The centuries-old converted country barn was once a professional home to many greats from the 1930's, including Ethel Barrymore, Jose Ferrer and Henry Fonda.

A farmers' market in the theater's parking lot also is drawing people together. To encourage community, Nischan teaches customers about the importance of organic and locally grown foods.

"For me, it's a belief system," Nischan said. "The choices that we make, the food that we buy and the people that we support have everything to do with the outcome of our community."

"The whole sense of how people eat," Newman added, "becomes important to more and more people, so it seemed a natural."

But they have even more in mind.

"We want to have go-carts, fashion show, wine tasting," Newman said. "We want to use that parking lot as a way that the community can engage members to do all that stuff."

"And," added Nischan, "have fun and be good neighbors. Those are all great endeavors."