City Lifestyle

Want to start a publication?

Learn More
Melissa, Doug, and their six children. Photo by Cari Miller.

Featured Article

Melissa Bernstein Lights Up

Melissa Bernstein has worn many hats: wife, mother, toy company co-founder (the eponymous-with-her-husband Melissa & Doug), author, Westporter (since age 16!), and now, the co-founder of Lifelines, a collection of sensory-stimulating, stress-relief tools for folks of all ages. After the duo sold Melissa & Doug late last year, she had the idea for Lifelines when she realized the power that tactile experiences had on grounding her in the present. “For 32 years, I had to put myself in the mind and body of a child,” says Melissa. “The fact that I’m now making products for myself and people like me is indescribable.”

 It might seem like a surprising pivot, but it’s an incredibly purposeful one, explains Melissa. “We never thought we would start another company,” she admits. “In fact, it was the one thing we said we’d never do.” But while working on her 2021 book, also titled LifeLines, which chronicled her experience with existential depression, she also began a healing journey. It led her to realize that engaging her physical senses helped her get out of her head, and that people might benefit from products that helped them do the same. “I went to Doug— my partner in everything I do– and I said I don’t know how to tell you this, but I have this mission that’s bit me so hard and won’t let go. So, um, wanna do it again? We just had to.” Lifelines, which officially launched in October of 2023, features items like textured stones and aromatherapy oils, meant to help you focus on sensation and experience. “I know how much I struggled with untethering from my ruminating thoughts,” she says. “We're not kidding ourselves that our products are going to ease anxiety for people—it's much too big a problem—but our product lines are part of a daily, deliberate practice of wellbeing,” she says. “Your senses are these incredible portals to coming home to the present moment. The idea of using my senses, which are already inside me, was groundbreaking. It has helped me in so many ways. And when I see that others are experiencing a similar interruption of their stress response, it's amazing.” 

She’s gotten great feedback, but even with 30-plus years of running a successful company under their belts, Melissa says that entrepreneurship is never easy. “It’s an entirely different industry now,” she says. “The only thing that hasn’t changed is not giving up. We know that every day will bring challenges, and we have the courage to say ‘How do we fix this?’” One crucial element is having amazing people on their team—Melissa calls them “game changers”— not just in the office, but in their life here in Westport. “Westport is a place that really appreciates creators and entrepreneurs—Doug loves this community more than anything,” she says. And she was moved by the reactions of her neighbors to the vulnerable storytelling in LifeLines: “A surprising number of people  said ‘I’m so glad you shared that, because I’m experiencing this as well.’ If you can crack people open, just a bit, and see their light shine through, I view that as a gift. And I’ve been able to do that with so many Westporters.”

Melissa and Doug are also well-known for another gift of light: their annual support of the Fourth of July fireworks at Compo Beach, held this year on July 2nd. “We always wanted to give back and put our money where it related to children and families,” she says. “When we thought about what our long-term commitment would be, there was no question that it would be the fireworks. Fireworks are so magical, and things that bring delight, play, and fun to families are what we've done our whole careers.” They began supporting the town tradition in 2012, and have loved watching it grow into the camp-out-all-day, beach-chairs-at-8.a.m. event that it is now. “I love walking around and seeing each group with a completely different setup,” she says. “It brings together all the elements of joy and building great memories that we wanted to be part of. And it’s helping PAL, folks who are so critical to our community.”

In a way, observing the fireworks is exactly what Melissa and Lifelines are all about. So if you’re out at Compo this holiday and watching the fantastic display, take a moment to think about the celebration the same way Melissa does: “There are so few things in life where the only purpose of them is to elicit joy. It's purely about the awe and wonder of a moment, to collectively say, wow, isn't it great to just be here and be alive? I can’t think of any better event.”

The PAL Fireworks on July 2 are $50 per vehicle, cash or check only. Tickets at 50 Jesup Road or 260 Compo Road South. Melissa and Doug Bernstein and the Bernstein Family Foundation are the generous sponsors for the event.



 

  • Melissa and Doug Bernstein.
  • At the 2012 July 4th Fireworks, the first ones they sponsored.
  • Melissa, Doug, and their six children. Photo by Cari Miller.
  • The Bernstein family. Photo by Haley Nord.
  • Products from the Lifelines collection.

Things that bring delight and fun to families are what we've done our whole careers.