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West Hartford Business Buzz: April 13, 2020

A couple stands together, and others stand at least 6 feet apart, as people wait to enter Hall's Market the day before Easter. Photo credit: Ted Newton

A round-up of openings, closings, and other news about West Hartford businesses. 

By Ronni Newton

Happy Easter and Happy Passover to all who celebrate these holidays. I hope everyone was able to find a way to enjoy the holidays despite not being able to join together in large groups for either religious observances or dinners with family and friends.

Despite the sadness around us, springtime has arrived and the grass is turning green, trees are budding, and flowers are blooming. As I take my solitary runs, or walk the dog with my COVID-19 pod (my husband and son), it is beautiful and the reduced traffic makes it very peaceful.

During this time, when the COVID-19 pandemic has brought many businesses to a standstill, We-Ha.com has been hard at work bringing you local news that you can trust. I am very thankful that we have an arrangement with the Connecticut Mirror so that we can share their content, and for the collaboration we have also done with CTNewsJunkie.com.

Our work doesn’t come without cost, however, and even before this crisis our revenue had been virtually flat for a few years and as managing editor I have been continuing to work for a fraction of the cost of what a full-time journalist should earn.

In the past month the quantity of content on We-Ha.com has increased greatly, and our page views have just about doubled (we have had more than 350,000 page views in the past 30 days, from more than 140,000 unique visitors. We have worked hard to bring readers not only the hard news about COVID-19, but also positive news through the “Silver Lining” series and a new series called “Making Lemonade” that debuted its first story (a drive-in wedding) on Saturday.

We-Ha.com is thankful to our loyal advertisers. We know it’s tough for most businesses right now – although if you can advertise and keep your name out there, many people will see those ads.

In the upper righthand corner of the We-Ha.com site you’ll see our new “Be a Supporter” button.

If We-Ha is to continue to publish we need the support of the West Hartford community. The community of independent, digital, news organizations are increasingly moving to a mixed model of reader contributions along with ad sales because honestly, it’s the only way we can survive. We welcome any assistance you can provide.

If you have information about businesses changing their operations due to COVID-19, or doing something worth sharing, please provide that information in the comments or email Ronni Newton at [email protected].

Stay safe and healthy.

Here’s this week’s Buzz:

Eric Feeney announces raffle prize winners at a fundraiser at Donut Crazy earlier this year. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

  • Congratulations to West Hartford nonprofit organization Friends of Feeney, the recipient of a “Cash Back to the Community” donation from American Eagle Financial Credit Union (AEFCU) participatory funding program. Friends of Feeney, along with Early Childhood Collaborative in Southington, Furry Animals Being Saved Rescue in Tolland, each received $6,847 for earning the most votes in the first quarter of the Cash Back to the Community program. “As a grassroots group that started in 2016 and then formally becoming a nonprofit 501(c)(3) in 2019, all of our funds have come from person to person contact fundraising. Being awarded this donation from American Eagle Financial Credit Union will allow us to reach and support so many more of our community’s children and families during a time when the need to help each other is so great,” said Eric Feeney, founder of Friends of Feeney. “This generous donation will allow us to set up an ‘emergency request for support’ system designed to quickly reach as many friends of our community as possible.” For more information about Friends of Feeney, visit https://www.facebook.com/FriendsOfFeeney. According to a news release from AEFCU, nearly 160 organizations were nominated and 1,410 total votes cast from AEFCU members and the general public for this quarterly giving philanthropic effort. Throughout 2020, AEFCU is donating one percent of its credit and debit card interchange income to three nonprofit and/or 501(c)(3) organizations each quarter through the Cash Back to the Community program. Funding for the program is generated each time its members use an American Eagle Financial Credit Union credit or debit card. At the end of each quarter, one percent of the total interchange income – the fee paid for credit and debit card transactions – is being distributed to the three top qualified nonprofits as voted on by a combination of the Credit Union’s members and the public. “We created Cash Back to the Community to invite our members and public to play an active role in our philanthropic efforts. Little did we know then how vital these funds would be to nonprofits during the current COVID-19 pandemic,” said Dean Marchessault, president and chief executive officer of American Eagle Financial Credit Union.  “As Connecticut’s largest community-focused credit union, we are always concentrated on making the places where we live and work better, and responding quickly during critical times,” added Marchessault. West Hartford-based Friends of Feeney, Inc. was recognized for their work focused on supporting local children and families who need assistance after experiencing heartbreak and/or tragedy. Nominations and voting for second quarter recipients for Cash Back to the Community will take place April 27-May 17. American Eagle members and public voting for the second quarter recipients of Cash Back to the Community goes from June 8-21, via American Eagle’s website or social media sites, including Facebook, Twitter,Instagram and LinkedIn.
  • It’s pretty hard to find good business news these days, but there is some. Triumph Group Inc., located off Flatbush Avenue in West Hartford, has been awarded a $17.3 million contract by the Defense Logistics Agency to manufacture parts for U.S. Army helicopters. Read more about it in this article by the Hartford Business Journal’s Sean Teehan.

    SOMA Movement’s virtual pilates classes using the Reformer that the owner had delivered to clients’ homes. Submitted photo

  • Some businesses easily can adapt to a virtual format, but West Hartford pilates studio SOMA Movement (276 Park Rd.) didn’t appear to be one of them until innovative owner Mary Badon, MD, found experts too literally carry the load. “My Pilates practice utilizes specialized, expensive equipment that facilitates correct movement and alignment. The equipment is called a Reformer – which people don’t tend to have in their homes largely because of its cost,” Badon said in an email. She was able to find a trucking partner, who was able to respect social distancing, and started carrying the load for her clients – delivering Reformers to her clients’ homes so that she could later, and regularly, instruct them through a virtual, online platform. “My outreach has returned some sense of regularity to the lives of people I care about whether they are in my studio or in their homes. Exercise is so critical for mental as well as physical wellbeing. It’s why some of my clients refer to my ‘invention’ as a lifeline in these difficult times,” Badon said. “My clients are used to attention and precision, so anything besides the Reformer would fall short and interrupt the great strides they are making in their Pilates practice.” To keep her business financially afloat during the current shutdown, Badon charges monthly rentals of her commercial Reformers and props. Rentals come with an online, class commitment, and are first come first served. “The program has been a great success. I have four to six students per class and I can see all of my students through the Virtual platform and provide verbal corrections to their form in addition to instruction.” Badon’s studio employs multiple instructors, so her efforts are helping to keep others financially stable in the short term. For more information, visit www.somamovementstudio.com, or contact Mary at [email protected], or call 860-470-6683.

    DORO email

  • My family has been purposely getting takeout at least once a week from restaurants that have remained open to do our part to support local businesses. Many West Hartford restaurants, however, have decided to close their doors temporarily but are asking for donations to support funds for their employees who have been furloughed. Among the groups that have set up fund for employees is DORO Restaurant Group, which is soliciting donations for meals for their employees as well as meals for healthcare workers. Thus far, DORO has fed 2,000 healthcare workers. Click here for more information. Millwrights (owned by West Hartford resident Tyler Anderson) and other area restaurants are also collecting for family meal that they are serving to unemployed restaurant workers. Click here for details.
  • The Village has some excellent resources for those struggling with mental health issues at this time. Click here for their searchable COVID-19 resource page.

    Signs of the times at Hall’s Market on Park Road. Photo credit: Ted Newton

  • ICYMI, along with extending the date that brick and mortar schools must remain closed, Gov. Ned Lamont last week also extended the date that restaurants (for on-premise dining), movie theaters, and other businesses deemed “non-essential” must remain closed. For businesses that are open, physical distancing must remain in place and grocery stores must limit the number of people who are in the store at any time. Click here for further details.
  • We’ve been keeping our list of restaurants offering take-out and delivery updated regularly, and it includes details about more than 90 West Hartford restaurants – whether they are open, offering takeout or delivery, phone number, website, etc.). I’m confident it’s the most comprehensive list you’ll find anywhere, and welcome any updates if there need to be any further changes. Click here for all of the information.
  • The West Hartford Chamber of Commerce has put together an excellent outline of resources for businesses in need of assistance during this unprecedented time. Click here for details on their website. The Town of West Hartford’s Economic Development webpage on the town’s website also has a great list of resources that can be found here.
  • It appears that Brio at Westfarms has closed permanently – not just during the prohibition of on-premise dining. The company has filed for bankruptcy, and while 21 of their former 92 locations will remain open, the Westfarms location is not among them.

Remember, if you have any business news to share, add it in the comments section below or email Ronni Newton at [email protected].

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