Ladies Who Love Local

A Conversation with Suzanne Brennan and Amanda Gabbard

Article by Ashley Alt

Photography by New Light Creative Services

Originally published in Ridgefield Lifestyle

Few people have a way to people's hearts as soon as they meet you. Individuals who possess that charismatic "it" factor that instantly brings a smile to your face and a warm and fuzzy feeling in your heart because they make you feel like you belong, no matter what your background is, where you came from or where your passions lie.

Suzanne Brennan and Amanda Gabbard are two women who have just that. Suzanne has Ridgefield running deep in her veins as she grew up here, full of wisdom, love and warmth that can only be seen on the most genuine of persons, while Amanda comes to us from New York City, bringing her wit, charm and infectious personality with her, bustling with happy energy no matter where you find her.

We are overjoyed to introduce you to these two women who are shaping Ridgefield into the amazing community that it is—and has been—for years and years—bringing a renewed sense of freshness while keeping the community's classic style of ingenuity and rich history intact.

Suzanne Brennan, if she needs an introduction, is the Executive Director of Lounsbury House. If you know her, you know she is much, much more than that. She is a fierce advocate for all things community, helping individuals thrive in their small businesses not because it's her job to do so, but because she simply enjoys seeing others succeed.

"I'm a BIG advocate for supporting local," Suzanne says. "Keep Ridgefield vibrant and support those businesses that give back to our non-profits, sports teams and fundraisers. They are the heartbeat of the community."

As a multi-generational Ridgefielder, her love for the town is "deeply ingrained" in her heart. Serving as Executive Director of Lounsbury House and as past President of the Chamber of Commerce is all about giving back to the community, she says, that has given her so much in return. 

"To think I may help shape its future in some small and meaningful way is very humbling," she says of Ridgefield. "Lounsbury House is so much more than just a building to me. It's a beautiful symbol and reminder of Ridgefield's past—a gift for all of us—and one that I work hard to protect and preserve for future generations, too."

Her relationships with Ridgefield's business community, plus her role as a board member with Compassionate Ridgefield, further deepen her connections within the town, driving an even greater understanding of what it means to support local. 

"As we enter the season of St. Valentine, the joy I feel as a mom is the driving force behind everything I do," Suzanne says. "It compels me to be the very best version of myself and to celebrate my gifts of love and learning."

A few of Suzanne's favorite things:

  • Favorite room in the Lounsbury House: Today's "Crystal Room," which once served as Phineas' and Jennie Lounsbury's "Music Room" (from 1896-1925), when dinner parties were popular and the Lounsburys entertained many of their wealthy New York City friends there. "Back then, Ridgefield was considered a summer resort for rich and prominent New Yorkers," Suzanne says. "I am DELIGHTED at the thought of all the different people and personalities that may have visited and adored Lounsbury House."

  • Favorite chocolate: Raspberry truffles rolled in chocolate curls from Deborah Ann's Sweet Shoppe or chocolate-covered potato chips

  • Favorite wines: Juve & Camps Gran Juve Gran Reserva and Villa Jolanda Saint Valentine, I Love You Prosecco

If Suzanne is the heart of Ridgefield, Amanda is the beat.

Amanda Gabbard is an award-winning makeup artist and beauty expert who has painted the faces of Kamala Harris, Brooke Shields and Al Pacino, just to name a few. Hailing from New York City where she spent several years as a professional actress and singer, she realized her love for the artistry of makeup surpassed her love (and talent) for acting—things her life centered around since she was a little girl.

"[I've been into makeup] literally since I could walk and talk," Amanda says. "Give me a few pieces of my mom or grandmother's old makeup, a jar of Ponds cream and a giant powder puff and I was in heaven! When I started to get an allowance as a kid, I'd go straight to the makeup section in the drugstore and contemplate for hours on which Wet 'n' Wild, Coty and Bonne Bell products to get...palms sweating...biggest decision of my life!" she jokes. "I can't remember ever not being obsessed with makeup."

One thing is for certain: she thrives in the entertainment industry. Whether she's working on a TV show or during fashion week, collaborating with photographers or hosting as an on-air beauty expert, the multi-talented Amanda "feels very fortunate" to have combined both her passions. 

"I became successful with my makeup career by incorporating the exact same steps as one does to be seen for acting roles," she says. "It's the same school of thought—networking, putting yourself out there, developing a thick skin where rejection doesn't even phase you, making and maintaining solid relationships, word of mouth, showing up, looking the part and HUSTLING. The hustle is real. No one is going to come knocking on doors asking if we'd like a job doing what we love. It's up to us to make it happen."

Being in Manhattan for 23 years, buying a home in Connecticut where her husband (Michael McGuirk) knew no one, wasn't ever something on their radar. "But thankfully, the planets aligned and here I am!" Amanda says. "When Ridgefield began to slowly open up after the pandemic, I was floored with the thriving culture here. From the art world to the theater scene, I immediately started to work beside so many creative and dynamic people.

Now working frequently with ACT of Connecticut (who asks Amanda to "glam up" their guests), collaborating with RPAC/D. Colabella Gallery on projects that bring celebrity photographers and designers to Ridgefield (including Udo Spreitzenbarth and Christian Siriano) is keeping her just as busy here as she was in New York.

"In addition to the makeup application for any and all occasions where I have met some amazing people and friends, I also hope to continue creating and collaborating with professionals from all different backgrounds who are looking to raise the bar," Amanda says. "Whether it's needing an updated makeup or skincare look, branding their business, wanting to better themselves or most importantly, wanting to take what they bring to the table to the next level."

"In all honestly,” she continues, “What Ridgefield has brought to my husband and me is priceless. A new life in an enchanting town filled with wonderful humans and a lifestyle that we have fully embraced and that in turn has embraced us? We truly are the lucky ones."

A few of Amanda's favorite things:

  • Favorite restaurant in town: A tie between Lucs and Gallo

  • Favorite dessert shop: Stacey's Totally Baked

  • Favorite makeup product brands: Cinema Secrets, Makeup by Mario and Yonka

Amanda's recommendation for a perfect Valentine's Day? A massage and a blowout followed by cocktails and appetizers before seeing a show, ending with a late dinner out and then home for some Netflix.

"I'm a BIG advocate for supporting local. Keep Ridgefield vibrant... support those businesses that give back to our non-profits, sports teams and fundraisers. They are the heartbeat of the community." - Suzanne Brennan

"The hustle is real. No one's going to come knocking on doors asking if we'd like a job doing what we love. It's up to us to make it happen." - Amanda Gabbard

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