I first met Sara Swisher-Anderson at an event in NYC where I was admiring the beautiful necklace she was wearing. When she told me she designed and repurposed the necklace and that she moved from Manhattan to Port Chester, I knew I had to interview her. Sara tells us about her move to Port Chester and gives us a glimpse into her life in Port Chester, NY.
Describe your journey to Port Chester. What made you decide to move to Port Chester? What other towns were you looking at?
We knew we wanted to continue the diversity our family experienced having lived in Manhattan for so many years and no other Westchester town felt like it had that in the same way as Port Chester. There are many different nationalities represented in Port Chester, but Hispanic/Latino (mostly South American) make up over 50% of the town. We also fell in love with our house, which sits on an acre of property and was built in 1780. It’s right off one of the main streets that goes through Port Chester, but I’ve met many people who had no idea it existed. Once you pull into our long driveway it’s like a little oasis and we love it.
Did you know anyone when you moved to Port Chester?
We did not know anyone when we moved to Port Chester. With young children entering the elementary schools, we knew we’d find our friends/network. We made our first friends (Ari and Tim) at Coals Pizza on Port Chester’s Main Street before we decided to put an offer on the house. We’ve been visiting Coals Pizza weekly ever since.
Any advice for newcomers on the best way to meet people in Port Chester?
For parents, it will be simpler to meet people because of the schools and the lovely networks within them (PTA, social events, etc). For families without children, we have an incredible restaurant and bar scene in Port Chester. Bartaco is very well known as a big place to socialize. We also have Capitol Theater and there are amazing shows and concerts all year long.
Can you describe your social life?
Our social life is mainly centered around our children so it’s BBQs, events at school, and social gatherings with friends at our house and otherwise. We have an acre yard and a really old charming house…..so we love entertaining. We like to go out to eat often and there are tons of dining options in Port Chester. In the summer we love Oakland Beach in Rye. There’s often karaoke and trivia nights at Westchester Burger (Rye Brook), Clydesdale Pub and Grill (Port Chester) and other local spots.
How old are your kids? What do you like to do with them in the Port Chester Area?
My girls are 10 and 13 years old. Lyon Park in Port Chester is a great place for families with constant activity, baseball fields, etc. and there are food trucks every Wednesday-Friday that are amazing and a great playground. We also take advantage of the Rye Ridge shopping plaza.
How would you describe Port Chester residents?
A mix of very hard-working middle-class families, many lower-income immigrant families (also working very hard) and some upper-middle-class families. A mix I appreciate and chose!
What are your favorite restaurants in Port Chester or in the area?
Coals Pizza (wood-fired pizza and tons of local beers on tap), Bartaco, Colony Grille, Tarry Lodge (Mario Batali’s), Rye House and Sonora (Modern Latin) are my favorite restaurants in Port Chester.
What are your go-to places in Port Chester or in the area?
Rye Ridge shopping plaza in Rye Brook for Chop’t, Chipotle, Dig Inn, CAVA, tons of shops, locally owned services and fitness studios- Rite Barre Method, Soul Cycle, Ripped and Bikram Yoga Rye Ridge Plaza and the shopping center downtown in Port Chester that contains all of the big box stores like Costco, Bed Bath & Beyond, Michaels, Marshalls, etc. It’s so convenient to have all of these important stores nearby.
What are some things you don’t like about Port Chester?
The strange reputation Port Chester has from the neighboring towns (Rye, Greenwich, etc.) for being “less than” because of it’s diversity and mix of multi-cultural people. The Port Chester Board of Education (BOE) politics get very heated and the debate is always between those that don’t want to spend money on the schools and those of us that care deeply for our children’s education. It’s an ongoing battle and very aggravating.
Are you a member of a country club/beach club/yacht club?
Not many Port Chester residents belong to clubs…unless they were born and raised in Rye and then it’s typically Apawamis (in Rye) or Rye Golf Club.
What has your experience been with Port Chester schools?
We send our kids to the public schools in Port Chester and have been very happy. The Middle School is a National Blue Ribbon School of Excellence offering a very extensive curriculum and many extracurricular activities. The town of Port Chester spends a lot of time and effort on their music and theater programs and it shows. Our high school band is just incredible and the musicals that are put on by the drama departments at both Port Chester Middle School and Port Chester High School are nothing short of spectacular.
We have had many friends and neighbors apply and become accepted at Rye Country Day School, Brunswick School, Sacred Heart, Windward, and other private schools. The private school admission process is extensive but they’ve been very happy.
Do you or your spouse commute to New York City?
Yes, both of us have been commuting from Port Chester to NYC for the last few years. Until recently, I used the Metro-North train twice daily and have experienced very few delays or interruptions. The metro-north commute is about 45 minutes during peak hours into Grand Central. The Port Chester station was just renovated and is now much more efficient and effective (with ADA accessibility). My husband drives in from Port Chester every day to upper Manhattan (218th and Broadway) and it can take him as little as 25 mins but can also be tough in traffic. He’s the Head Men’s Soccer Coach at Columbia University.
Where do you park when you take the train from Port Chester Metro-North station?
When I take the train from Port Chester’s Metro North station, I usually park on the street because there is a wait list to get a permit for the limited spots in the main parking lot. I paid approximately $12-$15 per day to park.
Any advice you can give to someone looking to move to Port Chester or Westchester?
Choose a town based on neighborhood, schools and commute if you’ll go into Manhattan. I don’t know very many towns that offer the restaurant selection of Port Chester….people come from all over Westchester for ours. We also have the big box stores in the downtown area that include Costco, Marshalls, Bed, Bath & Beyond, Michaels, Stop n’ Shop, Home Depot and a huge Lowe’s theater. Very convenient and again, neighboring towns depend on these too!
Tell me more about Lennon Harper Designs?
My daughters Lennon and Harper are the inspiration for everything I do, including being an entrepreneur and small business owner.
I have been creating one of a kind statement necklaces made from vintage and new brooches, pins, baubles, buttons, and bits of fancy repurposed jewelry for the last 10 years. I’ve been lucky enough to design and create everything from wedding day statement pieces to necklaces made from family heirlooms of loved ones that have passed, and, many gorgeous pieces just for fun. Every time I wear one of my LHD custom designs, it’s inevitable that someone will ask me, “where did you get that?” and comment that it’s unique, original, and of course pretty!
I have spent most of my professional career working and traveling the country (and world) as a non-profit executive in higher education. Until recently, I found many reasons not to pursue my jewelry business aspirations. When friends would ask why I wasn’t focusing on selling my necklaces, I’d say things like “there’s not enough time,” “work is too busy,” “the kids need me,” “my husband travels all the time,” “we just moved,” “we have a new puppy,” … and the list goes on. These are all true. We have three dogs, a really amazing farmhouse and super busy lives. But, there’s ALWAYS time for creativity, inspiration, and love! And, that’s what LHD means to me.
Any book recommendations for the beach or pool?
I love reading and literally finish one book and start on another….here’s what’s on my nightstand right now for the summer: In the midnight room by Laura McBride, The Glass Forest by Cynthia Swanson, Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens, Dreamland by Sam Quinones, A Spark of Light by Jodi Picoult, Work Inspired by Aron Ain and The Masterpiece by Fiona Davis.
I could read To Kill A Mockingbird every summer, and might actually.
About Sara Swisher-Anderson
Sara Swisher-Anderson is an executive search professional at Lindauer. She also owns a custom design jewelry business, Lennon Harper Designs after her two daughters. She commits her extra time to serve as a board member of the Harlem-based nonprofit, Three and a Half Acres Yoga (THAY). THAY’s mission is to bring breathing techniques, yoga, meditation, and mindfulness to underserved and compromised populations in the Harlem community. Sara lives in Port Chester, NY with her husband, two daughters, and three dogs. Website: Lennon Harper Designs. Instagram and Facebook @lennonharperdesigns
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Suburbs 101 is an online lifestyle guide for the New York Suburbs of Westchester County, Long Island, Fairfield County and Northern New Jersey. Get the inside scoop on what it’s really like to live in the New York suburbs through our interviews with local suburbanites and features on Food, Fashion, Home, Travel, and Local Events. Be sure to Follow Us on Instagram, Like Us on Facebook and subscribe to our Monthly Newsletter.