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West Hartford Business Buzz: April 20, 2020

The Iron & Grain Food Truck, and a rotating group of other food trucks, will be operating at the future Gastropark site at 637 New Park Ave. Working there Sunday were (from left) Hilary Brooks, Jess Tyburski, and owner Tate Norden. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

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

By Ronni Newton

Today I want to say “Thank you.”

Quahog the frog is hanging out on his bench in Nantucket, appropriately wearing his mask. Courtesy photo

Sometimes I wake up with an overwhelming feeling of sadness. I’ve been working really, really long hours, and sometimes the stress of the news I have been reporting gets to me. I am sad when I see the doors to my favorite stores and restaurants closed and locked, the lights turned off – perhaps permanently. I’m sad that so many are unemployed and struggling financially. I’m sad knowing that there are so many people who are sick, or worse, and that many are not able to be comforted by other family members during this time of need and loss.

All I can really do, when the worry and the sadness get to me, is remember that so much of what I am worrying about is out of my control, that what I need to focus on is what I can control.

Running helps me a lot, and it’s been my saving grace for many years, a time when I can get my thoughts organized and allow the endorphins to improve my outlook. This past week I had back spasms, and I wasn’t able to run; in fact for a few days I could barely bend down enough to put my shoes on. It was a very good thing I wasn’t going anywhere most days so slippers were all I needed.

On Sunday my back finally felt better, and I was able to get out for a run, and I decided that this column needed to be as positive as possible.

I want to thank all who are caring for others, who are helping our community get through an unprecedented time in our lives. Some of my thank yous are general, and others are deeply personal.

Thank you to all of our first responders, healthcare workers, and essential employees at grocery and drug stores and other businesses who put their lives at risk just by going to work every day. We could not be surviving without you.

Thank you to our town leaders, for being true leaders, for getting our schools up and running in virtual mode, for handing out food to those in need, for making sure that the town continues to operate and serve our ever-increasing needs.

A special thank you to Mayor Shari Cantor for her heartfelt reminders that we need to take care of each other.

Thank you to Mother Nature – not for Saturday’s snow but for Sunday’s beautiful spring weather, for the flowers that are now blooming and the grass that is greening, giving our senses a sign of hope.

Thank you to my husband and the rest of my family for putting up with my extraordinarily long days and nights, and the constant stream of texts and the omnipresent laptop. I promise, the earphones are not permanently attached to my head.

Thank you to my physical therapist daughter for correctly identifying my back problem and giving me exercises and stretches that over the course of a week brought me from agony to being able to run again.

Thank you to the professionals who are keeping my father safe in his rehab facility in Florida, for providing him with excellent therapy so that he may someday return to his home, to his wife whom he has not been able to see for more than a month since the facility has been in lockdown.

Thank you to the staff at the Nantucket Cottage Hospital for taking great care of my mother-in-law, who was hospitalized for several days with pneumonia but thankfully tested negative for COVID-19. And thank you to my father-in-law for caring for her when she returned home a few weeks ago, and to the staff where they live for ensuring that everyone remains safe. (Quahog the frog, pictured above, used to be in our Nantucket yard, and when my in-laws moved to their current residence he came along. Thank you to whomever decorated him with flowers, a scarf, and a mask, and shared the photo.)

Thank you to all who have submitted ideas for “Silver Lining” stories. We will be writing as many of them as possible over the next several weeks. I think we need as much good news as possible.

Thank you to my neighbors with sewing skills, Patty and Elizabeth, for making masks for my family.

Thank you to those who have publicly expressed their thanks for my work. You’ve embarrassed me, but I truly appreciate your words of kindness.

Thank you to Millie, my wonderful puppy, who makes me laugh every day and knows when to put her head on my lap or her paw on my leg, who brings such unadulterated joy into every aspect of daily life.

Thank you to all who have contributed to We-Ha.com, who continue to support our mission through your generous support. Our official thank yous are on the way. (And if anyone else wants to be a supporter, there is a button at the top right and below this column.)

Thank you to all whom I inadvertently left off this list.

Thank you for reading, and for listening.

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:

Construction is underway on the permanent structure that will be part of GastroPark, but for now there will be food trucks parked at the site, at 637 New Park Ave., on weekends. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

  • Even though the permanent structure was still under construction, the season was supposed to launch in March with onsite events at West Hartford’s first-ever food truck park, but then COVID-19 hit, and everything changed. After many discussions with town officials, however, there is activity taking place at GastroPark! At what will ultimately be the food truck park – where the community can “gather and graze” as the GastroPark’s tagline states, trucks are setting up on the weekends (Friday through Sunday, with exact hours posted on Facebook and Instagram @theGastroPark) and people can pick up food to go. GastroPark owner Tate Norden, who is also the owner of the Iron & Grain Food Truck, said there were originally multiple events planned for April, while the structure itself was still under construction, and when the pandemic led to the suspension of on-premise dining he reached out to the West Hartford-Bloomfield Health District, which had no problem with allowing food trucks to park at the site and offer take-out. There were a few bumps to work out related to zoning (food trucks are supposed to be an “accessory use” but there was no business operating on the site to which they could be an accessory), but those were worked out last week, and on Friday the food trucks were permitted to operate. “While the state is shut down, I can at least support my own business and other small businesses,” Norden said. The entire industry has been decimated, and the catering that food trucks are usually hired to provide is virtually non-existent while gatherings are not permitted. “GastroPark is now doing its part, trying to help these businesses,” Norden said. “It’s a safe vending place for a variety of trucks to operate if they have the right license, a way to keep the lights on,” said Norden. While ultimately, when GastroPark actually opens, there will be a revenue sharing arrangements, right now there are no fees for food trucks to set up – just the availability of a designated location. “It’s affordable food, delivered in a way with safe, social-distancing practices. It’s so needed right now,” Norden said, adding that people really care about supporting local businesses during this trying time. Friday was very busy, particularly during the dinner hour, Norden said, but they decided to have a snow day on Saturday. Sunday saw a steady stream of customers, including some who came by bike via the Trout Brook Trail. The Skyscraper Sandwich truck. joined Iron & Grain both days. Food trucks will be permitted to park at the site through May 20, and Norden said numerous other trucks have indicated an interest, but what happens next depends on the way in which the state’s economy reopens. Construction on the permanent structure that will be an integral part of the GastroPark operation is continuing, and I can’t wait until the business is fully operational!

    Chick-fil-A donated lunches to Hospital of Central Connecticut last week, one of many donations the West Hartford restaurant has made. Facebook photo

  • Singer Meghan Trainor has been donating lunches to healthcare workers, teaming up with local restaurants, and last Thursday West Hartford’s Chick-fil-A was one of the teammates – for a total donation of 344 lunches to workers at the Hospital of Central Connecticut through the “feed the hero” campaign. Chick-fil-A owner/operator Daryl Jackson is extremely generous, and has also been donating lunches on to other hospitals as well. Visit their Facebook page for more information.
  • In an effort to “help those who are helping us,” AAA has created a “local heroes” program that significantly discounts membership for all first responders and health care workers to ensure they have reliable transportation as needed. “Helping those in need, when they need it, is at the heart of what we do,” said AAA spokesperson Amy Parmenter. “And, right now, that means giving our first responders and health care workers peace of mind as they come and go from work at all hours of the day and night.” The Local Heroes Membership program is available through May 1 through AAA Greater Hartford (based in West Hartford) to any first responders or health care workers living in Hartford, Middlesex, New London, Windham, or Tolland Counties. For more information call 860-570- 4372 or email Lisa Badgley at [email protected].
  • “As April approached and the COVID-19 outbreak spread I started to think about how each of us could make an impact on others while staying home to stay safe,” said West Hartford resident Greg Hammond in an email. “On April 1st I started ’30 Days of Impact,’ a daily idea I am sharing on how to impact the life of someone during this challenging time. Each day I post my idea on Instagram and Facebook at @GregHammondImpact. Where possible I provide links and information to make each day’s action easier.” The many ways, large and small, to make an impact include making signs, getting takeout to support local restaurants, donating blood, or just saying a prayer. Thanks to Greg for sharing this initiative!

    Pilates Defined Zoom class. Submitted image

  • Many fitness businesses have been offering virtual classes or other online programming, and while one might think that Pilates doesn’t easily lend itself to a virtual platform, Pilates Defined (1143 New Britain Ave.) has found a way to do it. “Although remaining physically apart we are staying connected to our Pilates community … offering various mat Pilates classes for all levels and fitness abilities. While we are all in this state of stress response, that fight-or-flight mode necessary for survival it is important to provide as much normalcy as possible. With a virtual schedule our mission to provide quality instruction in safe and effective movement practices has not changed, only the environment has,” owner Jessica Fritz-Peters said. “Right now our work feels more important, and satisfying, than ever. When we open a session or start a class and a client takes the first deep breath, we breathe a little easier too. One client said, ‘Your voice has been the only normal thing in the past month.’ We are grateful for the opportunity to be part of your health and wellness especially at such a critical time.” For more information, visit the website www.pilates-defined.com or contact Jessica at [email protected].

    Robin Nielsen. Submitted photo

  • YHB Investments (29 South Main St.) announced that Robin Nielsen joined the company in February 2020 as an Operations Assistant coordinating the firm’s compliance testing and review process. In addition, she will be assisting with the administration of the YHB Charitable Endowment accounts. Nielsen graduated with a bachelor’s degree from Brigham Young University and prior to joining YHB she worked in the South Windsor school system. Nielsen spent 11 years volunteering as an administrator for the Boy Scouts of America and has volunteered for Builders without Borders and the Humanitarian Effort for Youth. She currently serves as the president of a regional children’s organization covering over 10 different communities around the state.
  • American Family Care (AFC) one of the largest providers of urgent care and primary care, is now offering COVID-19 testing and AFC TeleCare, its telemedicine platform in several Connecticut locations including in West Hartford at 1030 Boulevard. “The process is simple and begins by pre-registering for an AFC TeleCare virtual appointment at this link:  https://bit.ly/2wfRpDv An AFC Provider will assess patients and if the appropriate criteria are met the provider will schedule an appointment for a curbside visit and testing. The process should only take a few minutes with results provided within 24-48 hours,” AFC said in a news release.
  • Like hotels across the state, the Delamar Hotel in West Hartford is closed to regular guests, but available to host first-responders, government workers, and healthcare professionals on the front lines of
    COVID-19 crisis on an as-needed basis. The hotel is donating 50% of the proceeds from the sale of gift certificates to a relief fund for laid off employees. Visit the website for additional information.
  • ICYMI, props to the Max Cares Foundation for their generous donation of groceries to unemployed hospitality workers. More than 500 bags were distributed at Max Burger in West Hartford on Thursday. Click here for details.
  • A group of Conard juniors have formed an initiative– WeHa At Your Service –  to assist elderly residents with tasks such as grocery shopping. Click here for more information.
  • Finally, the Town of West Hartford and the West Hartford Chamber of Commerce have teamed up for a contest – which begins today – to encourage the community to support local restaurants. Click here to learn more about the “Eat Local-Win Local” campaign.

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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In addition to Iron & Grain, the Skyscraper Sandwich food truck was parked at GastroPark over the weekend. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

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