Barb’s Pizza at 968R Farmington Ave. in West Hartford Center closed its doors Saturday.
By Ronni Newton
A sign on the door of Barb’s Pizza shared news that was met with sadness by those who arrived looking for a slice on Sunday: the West Hartford Center restaurant closed permanently as of Saturday.
But just as the saying goes, when one door closes another one opens, Barb’s Pizza will be opening another door very soon and the door to the West Hartford Center restaurant won’t be closed for very long either.
Barry Arpaia and his business partner, David Tremblay, are primarily restaurant developers, and when they left a space in Cromwell to open the West Hartford space it was because they really wanted to be in the Center.
“I’m not an owner/operator,” Arpaia said Tuesday. He said he had always planned to have someone else operate the West Hartford location.
Barb’s opened in January 2019, and after the business got going Arpaia planned to turn it over to a new owner/operator and return to Cromwell to open the Barb’s location there, which he and Tremblay have been developing at 51 Shunpike Rd.
Then the pandemic hit, and they stayed the course and kept Barb’s open.
Not only was he unable to find someone to run the restaurant, but he was having major difficulties finding staff. “I couldn’t find help,” he said.
As dining operations expand with outdoor spaces as well as the lifting of restrictions on May 19, other area restaurateurs have also voiced the same problem finding employees, with many offering signing bonuses and other perks.
“I’ve been working 75-80 hours a week, doing everything,” Arpaia said. He’s been making pizzas, washing the dishes, and managing the business, while at the same time a virtually-complete Cromwell space, for which he has been spending thousands in rent per month, was unable to open.
“I’m very upset I have to leave,” Arpaia said. “We made a lot of friends here.”
Thankfully, just before Arpaia actually closed, he found an ideal buyer very excited to open the West Hartford space as a family business. He’s not at liberty to provide the name of the buyer yet, but said he comes with experience. “He’s very well versed. He will do a very good job.”
According to Arpaia, the restaurant will be renamed in honor of the new owner’s firstborn child, but that’s the only planned change.
“Everything will remain the same. There will still be slices. Beer on tap, wine,” Arpaia said. The bike rack, that he had put up for the kids in town, will remain.
The pizza place at 968R Farmington Ave. should reopen under new ownership, and with a new name, on June 1, Arpaia said. That’s the same day Barb’s Pizza is scheduled to open in Cromwell.
The Cromwell location is beautiful, he said. “This is the restaurant everyone wants to have.”
Hiring staff in Cromwell hasn’t been as difficult, he said, possibly because there’s less competition from other restaurants, and free parking.
The Town of West Hartford has been great to work with, he said. He praised the assistance of Economic Development Coordinator Kristen Gorski, who assisted in getting lights installed in the alleyway from Farmington Avenue to the Brace Road parking lot to make access to Barb’s safer and more accessible.
“I am so sad. I loved everything about West Hartford, except that we didn’t have help,” said Arpaia.
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