Darien’s Swap Shop Opening Delayed Indefinitely After Social Media Stir

Darien Swap Shop (CT Examiner)

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DARIEN – The scheduled Apr. 1 opening of the town’s Swap Shop has been postponed indefinitely until concerns sparked by Social Media are addressed

The Darien Swap Shop, which has been a local favorite as a place to drop off unwanted items and pick up exciting finds, closed on Jan. 14 for repairs and cleaning. The shop was scheduled to reopen this week but a notice on the Town of Darien website indicates that the reopening has been postponed for an “undetermined“ amount of time.

First Selectman Jon Zagrodzky said the opening was delayed to resolve a number of safety concerns and privacy complaints related to a social media account run by a town resident.

“We just need to have well managed volunteers, we need to make sure everybody’s safe and then when people have complaints or concerns that they get addressed in some ways that don’t bother the people who are at the swap shop,” he said. “I’m a big fan of the Swap Shop but those three concerns were at the point where they needed to be addressed.” 

The Instagram account, swapshop06820, showcases notable finds such as a set of Bordallo Pinheiro salad plates, antique lyre-back mahogany chairs and a vintage avocado green Sunbeam hand mixer.  

The posts also document out-of-towners, laden with finds, crossing heavily-trafficked Ledge Road to reach their parked vehicles, raising concerns for their personal safety.  Only town residents with a Darien Transfer Station decal on their vehicles can enter and park at the Swap Shop, providing no safe access for those without decals.   

“They’re running across Ledge Road to come over here to the Swap Shop and then they get whatever they’re going to get and then they come back.  So the problem is that’s creating a hazard,” Zagrodzky said.

He said the town will be planting tall shrubbery between Ledge Road and the swap shop to block off access and discourage visitors from parking along the busy road.  Zagrodzky said the out-of-town treasure seekers are parking on state-owned property which limits the town’s ability to add a crosswalk, stoplight or a stop sign to improve safety.  

“They’re going to put shrubs there and just say, look you’re not supposed to walk across the street to come over here.  They’re supposed to get dropped off and come back,” he said. “What we’re going to do is tell people that we really want you to get dropped off or to make some other arrangements to get your transportation here because it’s not safe to be parking your cars here.”

Swapshop06820, which has 938 followers, also documents the account holder’s tense interactions with Swap Shop volunteers accused of taking items and allegedly selling them online.  

In response, Zagrodzky has launched training for Swap Shop volunteers and new requirements that they display identifying markers such as a vest or name tag.  But Zagrodzky has a clear answer for those questioning whether volunteers have the right to take items from the swap shop.  “I’d say absolutely yes.  Because the whole point of this is to have people drop stuff off instead of throwing it away. And that person can either use it directly or sell it or whatever they want to do,” he said.  

According to Zagrodzky, town officials have also fielded complaints from residents who claim they were filmed by swapshop06820 and felt their privacy was violated.  Zagrodzky said it’s a free speech issue and the town has no power to prevent anyone from recording people who are dropping off or picking up items.  “She’s within her right to do those things but it bothered a lot of people.  We got a lot of complaints about it which is what triggered this whole thing,” he said.

Zagrodzky also received complaints that the Instagram account was displaying the official town seal but he said it has since been removed.

Attempts by CT Examiner to reach the owner of swapshop06820 were unsuccessful.

Despite the environmental benefits and popularity of the Swap Shop, the first selectman said he may have no choice but to shut it down if the problems persist.  

“As far as filming and doing all that, if she does it again and we get more complaints, I’ve been clear that look, we may have to close the Swap Shop because this is not supposed to be a burden.  This is supposed to be a great thing. It’s recycling, it’s repurposing unused materials and not putting it into the waste stream.  This is a positive thing.”

Once the landscaping is completed, the town will reopen the Swap Shop, said Zagrodzky.  The main consideration for him is to ensure that everyone is treated courteously and has an enjoyable experience there. “This is supposed to be a well run operation,” he said.  “This is Darien and we don’t put up with nonsense here.”