Blame it on the chocolate covered cookie dough balls called “Bonnies”. After trying the Bonnies, I knew I had to look up the company that makes these delicious gluten-free, nut-free, dairy-free, vegan treats. I normally stay away from gluten-free products because I think they don’t taste as good but with Bonnies, you can’t even tell the difference.
When I found out Stephanie Norton, the owner of freedgoods, is a local Greenwich, CT mom, I knew I had to interview her. She took some time off her very busy schedule to talk to Suburbs 101. Stephanie talks about her life in Greenwich and why she loves living in Old Greenwich, CT.
Describe your move to Greenwich, CT. What made you decide to move to Greenwich? What other towns were you looking at?
We moved to Stamford first, coming from NYC. I had just left my job as in-house counsel for a major NYC real estate developer. We had a 2 year old and a 3 month old when we first moved to Connecticut.
Because I had grown up in Fairfield County, I never really considered living anywhere else. To humor him, I let my husband check out some towns in New Jersey but I was fairly intent on living in coastal CT – and here we are!
You live in Old Greenwich. Why did you decide to live in Old Greenwich? What do you love about Old Greenwich?
Once our kids started school, we knew we wanted to be in the Greenwich school system so we moved to Old Greenwich. We love being part of a small community, walking and biking to school, the beach, town, and the train.
We also love the good and bad parts about everyone knowing each other, looking out for your family and kids. It’s a special and beautiful place – kind of like Mayberry – but with a lot more Teslas.
When you moved to Greenwich, did you know anyone?
No, we didn’t know anyone when we moved to Greenwich.
How did you make friends?
In Stamford, it was really hard to meet people and there were not a lot of moms in the neighborhood we first moved to. I got involved with the local Jewish Community Center (JCC) but it still felt pretty isolating – especially after coming from NYC where we had many friends in our building and living close by.
We moved to Old Greenwich and enrolled our daughter at Temple Sholom preschool, which opened up our whole world. Until then, I was actually going back to NYC weekly to see friends and even grocery shopping at my favorite Upper West Side stores.
Once our daughter started preschool I made a whole new circle of friends, got very involved in the school, ran their annual fundraiser, and really started to connect with my community.
Any advice for newcomers on the best way to meet people in Greenwich, CT?
Get involved. Be it a temple, a church, or a swim/tennis club – whatever. If you have young kids, places like that will become the roots of your social circle. Everyone wants a community and Greenwich has so many sports and activities available where young families can connect.
For families with older kids or without kids, I would suggest moving to a place like Old Greenwich where there are so many close neighbors out and about, it’s hard not to be thrust into a group of new friends pretty quick.
Can you describe your social life in Greenwich?
Our social life when the kids were little was very centered around preschool parents. I actually still socialize with many of the same people today and our kids have close friends extending back to preschool.
As our kids grew, so did our social circle. We had sports and I got involved in the UJA/JCC as well. Even today, our friendships tend to be with parents we’ve met through our kids’ various schools, teams, etc.
Our neighbors are also a very tight-knit group – often having block parties and impromptu gatherings. Again, Old Greenwich is a pretty ideal place for making friends.
How would you describe Greenwich residents?
I suspect it’s fairly diverse. However, from a social perspective, our experience, in large part, has been limited to the Old Greenwich/Riverside communities. In the summer, we find ourselves at the beach on Friday evenings where families congregate, kids play, parents enjoy BYOB cocktails and food.
Also, my friends and I are planners and we are always planning some new event. About four years ago I started an inspiration group with eight women; we try to do something that inspires or enlightens us monthly – most recently, our group learned to make sushi and origami. We are now exploring a comedy night to raise money for Friends of Greenwich Point. Always something to do. Something to plan.
Do you have kids? How old are they? What do you like to do with your kids in the area?
We have a 14 year old boy and (an almost) 16 year old girl. We spend a great deal of time doing water activities – be it the beach, community sailing, paddle boarding, or boating. Also, we recently joined the Greenwich Water Club where my daughter rows for the varsity Greenwich Crew team.
My son is finishing up eighth grade at Eastern Middle School and plays soccer and tennis and my daughter is finishing up her sophomore at Greenwich High School. Tennis is another sport we all like to play.
What are your favorite restaurants in Greenwich or in the area?
We love Le Fat Poodle in Old Greenwich, my husband is a big fan of Louie’s in Cos Cob, and we tend to frequent other spots like Kira Sushi, Harvest, and Douro in Greenwich, EOS in Stamford, and Famous Greek Kitchen in Greenwich.
What are your go-to places in Greenwich or in the area?
I would say the beach and on the water is where we spend our time.
What are some things you don’t like about Greenwich?
As much as we love Old Greenwich and Greenwich, we worry that the extreme wealth and privilege our kids are exposed to comes with a lot of success stress and a skewed perspective. Neither my husband or I grew up in an environment like that and we do what we can to keep our kids grounded. I am happy to say I think they are.
Are you a member of a country club/beach club/yacht club?
Long ago, we belonged to Bailiwick Club, it was perfect when the kids were little, they went to Camp Gan on Lake Avenue and it was down the street. When we settled in Old Greenwich, it was too far to travel and the members were mostly Westchester families.
We considered many clubs but due to our daughter’s crew team, it was a no brainer to join the Greenwich Water Club. We have the gym, our boat and my husband is now on the masters adult crew team. It just checked all the boxes.
What has your experience been with Greenwich schools?
We were very happy with Temple Sholom, we were also involved with Greenwich Chabad, where our kids attended religious school. I do not have experience with any other nursery school. We are also very happy with the Greenwich public school system.
Do you or your spouse commute to the city? What has your experience been with the commute?
My husband takes the train into New York City every day. He loves the downtime of the commute and seeing his friends. He takes the train from Old Greenwich station – which takes about an hour into New York City.
He can walk or park at the Old Greenwich train station. It took about two years to get off the waiting list for a parking permit at the Old Greenwich Metro North train station.
Any tips/advice you wished someone had given you when you were looking to move to the suburbs?
Rent first to see if you are in the right community for your family.
Tell me more about freedgoods?
I loved baking and when I found out I was gluten intolerant, I stopped baking for years. When my son developed gluten intolerance I started playing around trying to find a way to recreate my old recipes, making them gluten-free. I didn’t want him to miss out on homemade treats and I wanted to bake again.
Once we were able to recreate my old recipes, I decided to share my treats with local stores. There was real interest so I decided to try to sell my treats. I started looking for sources for packaging and a name. One of my friends helped me create the name and the packaging; she was a graphic designer and was instrumental in helping me pull it all together.
Ten years later, I am still at it. I started small, with little stores and then I picked up a few distributors and have been going ever since. It is a tough business. Margins are tiny and there is always a new treat coming out.
When I started I was one of the only gluten-free brownies out there, now there are dozens. This year we came out with a gluten-free vegan treat, dark chocolate covered cookie dough that we call Bonnies. It has been a huge hit. Everyone wants vegan but not all vegan is good and /or gluten-free, this hits it all and amazingly you cannot tell anything is missing.
About Stephanie Norton
Stephanie Norton is the founder of freedgoods. She was a corporate lawyer, turned stay-at-home mom, turned small-business woman. When Stephanie learned that the chronic headaches, digestive ailments, and cold symptoms she was experiencing were actually caused by intolerance to wheat, gluten & yeast, she was stunned.
What’s more, Stephanie later learned that the years of infertility she had been suffering through could also be related to an immune response to wheat and gluten. so, saddled with health issues and frustrated with the cardboard-like, gluten-free options, she set out to create good tasting alternatives that anyone could enjoy. When she surpassed her own expectations, she knew she had to share her creations with others and freedgoods was born.
The freedgoods story doesn’t end there. After being blessed with children of her own with the help of fertility treatments – but with little other support, Stephanie dedicated herself to helping couples struggling with infertility. For this reason, 5% of freedgoods profits go to infertility support, education, awareness, and advocacy. Stephanie lives in Old Greenwich, CT with her husband and two children. Website: freedgoods, Instagram and Facebook: @freedgoods
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