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West Hartford Business Buzz: April 19, 2021

ArtSparks, a mission of Harc, has opened a studio and artisan space at 16 LaSalle Rd. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

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

By Ronni Newton

Two steps forward, one step back.

That’s what the weather seems to be doing these days with a beautiful Sunday and a few more beautiful days ahead to almost make up for the cold and nasty rain (thank goodness not snow in West Hartford) on Thursday and Friday.

Ted got to try out his new toy – an EGO electric lawn mower (purchased from Larsen Ace Hardware in the Center). Millie barked her approval, but since it’s much quieter than the gas-powered mower we had before, she wasn’t as upset about its intrusion in her backyard space. And Ted definitely gives it the thumbs up.

EGO lawn mower. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Connecticut seems to be making good progress against COVID, with a few days of positive results (positivity in the 2% range, declines in hospitalizations) reported at the end of last week. In West Hartford, according to data released by the state, 63.1% of the population has received at least one dose of a vaccine as of April 15.

I saw photos of lots of people traveling last week for spring break, so hopefully that won’t lead to a step (or two) back.

A few business items before getting to the Business Buzz …

I’ve heard from quite a few people about ads overlapping and partially obscuring the editorial items in the newsletter, and wanted to let everyone know that we are looking into this problem. It doesn’t happen with gmail, and it doesn’t happen on cellphones or tablets. It seems to only be associated with an older version of Outlook, and updating to the most current version should hopefully solve the problem. We are continuing to research it as well.

One other note: If you get an email from [email protected] (or anyone else from that “organization”) with the following message: “You were recommended to us for inclusion in The Best of West Hartford directory. The Best of West Hartford features only 1 business per category. So once the category is filled, none of your competitors can get the spot! It is only $99 for the entire year ! Includes everything!” please know that it has NOTHING to do with We-Ha.com, West Hartford Magazine, the actual “Best of West Hartford,” or any other organization associated with us, and we believe that it is a scam.

Ted and I had a great dinner at Meçha Noodle Bar on Saturday night! The restaurant was relatively full when we arrived, and General Manager Juan Reyes said they had invested heavily in plexiglass barriers to allow for more seats to be used inside.

Saigon Egg Rolls from Mecha Noodle Bar. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Beef Noodle (beef and garlic, cold rice noodles, herb salad, peanuts, nouc cham dressing) at top right, and Shoyu Paitan (chicken ramen, black garlic, nori, scallions, egg, menma, corn, chashu) from Mecha Noodle Bar. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Sea Hag IPA and the Dais Attack (rum blend, rhum agricole, green chartreuse, banana, cane sugar, lime). Photo credit: Ronni Newton

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We hope you’ve been following our Keeping it in the Community feature, which is a collaboration with the West Hartford Chamber of Commerce and the town’s Economic Development Department.

Including the tip and spotlight was making this column very long and we have decided that going forward it will be a standalone feature appearing in the middle of the week, and we will still include the link to the spotlight in Business Buzz each week. Click here to see the most recent tip and read the spotlight on The Fix.

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Please continue to support our local businesses, and please wear your masks if you are in public places, and stay safe and healthy.

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].

Here’s this week’s Buzz:

Artwork and jewelry for sale at ArtSparks, 16 LaSalle Rd. in West Hartford Center. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

  • The space next to SockStarz on LaSalle Road served as a holiday pop-up for the social enterprise business, but 16 LaSalle Rd. is now serving another purpose as the home to Harc’s long-standing innovative arts initiative, ArtSparks is intended to integrate the people Harc supports into the environment in a more inclusive way, offering classes in jewelry-making, paper crafts, and tie-dying, with the final products offered for sale either at the studio or through Etsy or other avenues. “We opened this about a month ago, and the artists are honing their craft, building up their skills and talents,” said Harc President Ken Cabral, who was there when I stopped by to visit during a jewelry-making session last Friday. Cabral said the goal is to help the Harc participants learn skills that can help them earn some income, and the plan in the future is to also include guest instructors from the business community to offer sessions on marketing and merchandising. Naomi Tussin Lerner of Naomi Jewelry in Avon, teaches at the studio every Friday morning, and last week Harc participants were learning how to make beaded bracelets which are now for sale at ArtSparks. Cabral said he hopes to eventually have the program even more integrated into the West Hartford community, with others being able to learn jewelry making, card making, and other crafts. A news release about ArtSparks noted that as the studio establishes itself, Harc staff will prioritize the interests and talents of the people who participate. “It is important for us to learn how our artists work and how they experience the studio. It’s all about what they like,” said Taylor Tardy, Harc/SockStarz staff member, and teacher at the studio. There are many artistic projects in the works, the release stated. In celebration of Harc’s 70th anniversary, the artists created a commemorative bookmark (see above), with a uniquely designed background. They’re also working on individual signatures to be added to created designs so that customers know exactly who made their product and who they are supporting. The studio is open five days a week from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. More photos can be found at the end of the column.

Aroma Body and Foot Spa will open at 970 Farmington Ave. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

  • Aroma Body and Foot Spa should be opening in this summer at 970 Farmington Ave., in the space that was formerly Silver Dahlia and most recently served as a temporary location for several departments of Lux Bond & Green while the LaSalle Road store was undergoing renovation. “I’d like to open before July 1,” said Sharon, who owns the business with her husband, Vinny. They already have a location in Watertown, and the West Hartford spa will provide the same services, specializing in aromatherapy and reflexology. According to their website, “Aromatherapy massage is massage therapy with essential oils added to the massage oil or lotion. Some of the health benefits of aromatherapy include its ability to reduce anxiety, ease depression, boost energy levels, speed up the healing process, eliminate headaches, boost cognitive performance, induce sleep, strengthen the immune system, reduce pain, improve digestion and increase circulation.” Reflexology involved applying pressure to the reflexes on the feet, with the goal of promoting overall good health, improving circulation and reducing swelling, improving mood, and according to the website, “if done carefully, it treats pains and aches such as headaches, migraines, neck pain, lower and upper backaches.”

Vape N Cigar will soon open at 11 Sedgwick Rd., West Hartford. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

  • There have been several spaces available for least along Sedgwick Road right near the intersection with South Main Street, and according to Mike Mahoney of RLM Co., the space at 11 Sedgwick Rd. has been leased to a tobacco and vape shop called Vape N Cigar. No details are available at this time about an opening date.

Electra is launching an environmentally-friendly ride sharing service. Courtesy photo

  • Thursday, April 22 is Earth Day, and the area’s new zero-emissions start-up Electra (at least one of the owners is from West Hartford) will be making a [clean] splash, partnering with GastroPark to offer rides to and from the food truck park. According to the event posted by GastroPark, “Electra is a zero emission ride service heavily focused on community involvement. Their mission is creating an easy, safe, and eco friendly way for people to get around!” Electra utilizes a small fleet of Teslas, which are also equipped with extra COVID-safe precautions to ensure an extra-clean ride. “On Earth Day, Electra will be offering free zero-emission rides to or from the Gastropark to those within a 15 mile radius of the park! They will also be hanging out all day at the park with some cool merch, and are looking forward to meeting you all!” the event page states. To schedule a ride, download their app by clicking here. On Earth Day, GastroPark will also feature “GMonkey Mobile to help you Gather and Graze in a greener way!!” GMonkey’s menu is 100% vegan and gluten-free, focusing heavily on farm fresh and in-season foods, and even the truck runs on biodiesel made from vegetable oil. The full Earth Day food truck schedule at GastroPark is: noon-3 p.m. Craftbird; noon-8 p.m. GMonkey; and 4-8 p.m. East West Grille and Sultan Kebab. For more information about Electra, visit their Facebook page or follow on Instgram (@electradrives). I stopped by GastroPark on Sunday afternoon to take some new photos, and it looked great – a good-sized crowd, lots of dogs, and everyone was smiling!

Electra will be launching its start-up business and will be offering rides to and from GastroPark on Earth Day, April 22, 2021. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

  • At the end of April, Pachanga Empanadas will be closing the doors of the storefront the business has occupied at 280 Park Rd. for the past two years. The move will present an opportunity for more, much-needed quality family time. The following is a a message Pachanga’s owners, Andrés and Karin Montiel, shared with We-Ha.com: “It has been a great pleasure and joy to be part of the West Hartford Park Road community for the last 2 years. Even though more than one full year was spent adapting to and enduring a global pandemic, the community (and beyond!) was amazing. Pachanga was busier than we could have ever hoped for, and thankfully has been able to grow and thrive. Sadly, we have been unable to reach a mutually beneficial agreement with our landlord and are taking it as a positive sign that it is time to step back, reflect, and adjust our business model. It is our hope that in the very near future we will again be able to offer you the empanadas you have come to know and love – so keep in touch. Please like and follow our Facebook page and Instagram account for upcoming announcements. If you text us at 860-995-8025 with your name, we can also communicate updates to you that way. We have been blessed with such a loyal, kind and appreciative following! You have made every day, order, and event a sincere delight. So, from the deepest, most sincere place in our hearts – thank you all, nos vemos pronto! (we’ll see you soon!)” Pachanga will be open regular hours this week (Wednesday and Thursday from noon-7 p.m. and Friday and Saturday from noon-8 p.m.) but the following week, in preparation for closing, will only be open on for one last day – on Wednesday, April 28, from noon-7 p.m.

Pachanga Empanadas will close its location at 280 Park Rd. at the end of April. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

  • The Hartford Foundation for Public Giving has announced the restructuring of its development team in order to “distribute more dollars to the community, further engage donors in its strategic work, and steward the charitable assets it manages,” and West Hartford resident Francesca Borges Gordon has been named director of Development – Outreach and External Relations. The redesigned team will continue to be led by Deborah Rothstein, who serves as vice president for development and is responsible for the overall executive direction of the department as well as the newly created Development Leadership Team, comprised of her and three Directors, the organization announced in a news release. Together, they will lead efforts to refine the Foundation’s suite of philanthropic solutions to be more reflective of donor needs and objectives; grow Foundation assets; build a diverse pipeline of new donors; and enhance donor engagement opportunities to boost learning and foster collaboration. In her new position, Borges will be part of the Development Leadership Team, and lead outreach and external relations for the department. Gordon joined the Foundation in 2016 as a member of the donor-advised team, working to cultivate major gifts, and previously held senior roles in corporate and non-profit arenas, including banking, higher education and area hospitals. Gordon is a member of the Connecticut Women’s Council and serves as president of the Trinity Club of Hartford. Other promotions include Ryan O’Halloran to senior development officer and Chari Anderson to development officer

Francesca Borges Gordon. Courtesy photo

  • Welcome to Donnelly Phillips, a new law firm which opened its doors in West Hartford on April 12. Donnelly Phillips, LLC specializes in state and federal criminal defense, civil litigation, appeals, and real estate, said Jeremy Donnelly, a resident of West Hartford. Partner Bethany Phillips lives in West Simsbury. Together they have more than 30 years of experience, Donnelly said. The firm is located in the Spaces building at 71 Raymond Rd., and can be reached at 860-414-3700.

University of Saint Joseph photo

  • Awarding-winning news anchor and University of Saint Joseph Visiting Fellow Dennis House will lead “Camera Time,” a free virtual workshop on Tuesday, April 20, from 7-8 p.m., that will help participants improve their on-camera for television interviews. The workshop will be held via Zoom. Dennis will provide tips for improving your look in front of the camera (web, TV or video), preparation for the best on-camera appearance and lighting and make-up that everyone on camera needs. Participants will also learn how to identify and articulate key messages and anticipate and prepare for questions. The event is free and open to the public, and anyone interested or already working in public policy, sports, communications, or public relations is encouraged to attend. RSVP to [email protected] to receive the virtual workshop Zoom link.
  • ICYMI, plans are being finalized for the deployment of expanded outdoor dining in West Hartford Center and Blue Back Square the first week of May. Click here for the full story.
  • The dining corrals will be enhanced by ArtBarrier Murals this year, and those plans are being formulated and a crowdfunding campaign has just launched. Read more here.
  • Elmwood will be blooming again this year, and the goal is to have more planters than ever before. The full story can be found here.
  • The schedule for Art at the GastoPark, which begins in May, can be found here.
  • Welcome to Sharon O’Brien who has been named wellness director at the JCC. Click here for the story.

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

Artwork and jewelry for sale at ArtSparks, 16 LaSalle Rd. in West Hartford Center. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Jewelry making in progress at ArtSparks, 16 LaSalle Rd. in West Hartford Center. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Jewelry making in progress at ArtSparks, 16 LaSalle Rd. in West Hartford Center. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

A participant shows off the bracelet she made at ArtSparks, 16 LaSalle Rd. in West Hartford Center. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Artwork for sale at ArtSparks, 16 LaSalle Rd. in West Hartford Center. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Jewelry making in progress at ArtSparks, 16 LaSalle Rd. in West Hartford Center. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Jewelry making in progress at ArtSparks, 16 LaSalle Rd. in West Hartford Center. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Artwork and jewelry for sale at ArtSparks, 16 LaSalle Rd. in West Hartford Center. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Jewelry for sale at ArtSparks, 16 LaSalle Rd. in West Hartford Center. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Artwork and jewelry for sale at ArtSparks, 16 LaSalle Rd. in West Hartford Center. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

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