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West Hartford Business Buzz: April 22, 2024

Nautical Bowls (345 North Main Street) is in its soft opening phase with a grand opening planned for April 27, 2024. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

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

Business Buzz is sponsored by NBT Bank, and we are very thankful for their support!

By Ronni Newton

I know I say this regularly, but it has certainly been quite the past week. I know when I am averaging just over 5 hours of sleep over the past week (according to the health setting on my watch), that’s not a good thing. Last night was 3 hours and 43 minutes.

Monday started with the marathon hearing followed by the Town Council meeting (6 hours total) and vote on the application for 1700 Asylum, the eastern portion of the former UConn property. I actually started the day in North Carolina but made sure to return in plenty of time to attend the hearing and meeting in person. I’ve been covering the saga of the former UConn campus since the day UConn announced the intention to move to downtown Hartford back in November 2012 – even before we launched the We-Ha.com site. Someone guessed I had probably written 50 or so articles about the property, and that prompted me to look back and I found 65 on the We-Ha.com site since 2014!

There were several ribbon cuttings last week (see below) and other events that I covered – including the Hall vs. Conard baseball game Friday afternoon. Friday night Ted and I attended the Journey Home ’80s Prom fundraiser – dressed in our own vintage clothing from the 1980s. The dress I’m wearing in the photo below was something I wore as a bridesmaid in the 1980s (can’t recall whose wedding), and Ted used to wear that suit to work.

80’s prom attire for the Journey Home gala. Photo credit: Deb Morton

We grand-parented the rest of the weekend – the other reason we are sleep-deprived since a baby’s schedule and my night-owl habits don’t quite jive. It did mean, however, that I was awake early in the mornings to cover both of the fires at Wampanoag, including the incredible devastation caused by the second fire early Sunday morning. I’ve updated that story with some additional photos I took at the site Sunday afternoon, and will continue to follow the investigation into the cause of both blazes.

We were on grandparent duty this weekend, and are teaching him the rules of the road. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

While we didn’t have a chance to go out to dinner last week (a few days I didn’t really even have a chance to eat dinner), we did get a fabulous takeout Yardbird pizza from Zephyr’s on Saturday night.

The Yardbird pizza from Zephyr’s Street Pizza. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

If you’re looking for news about West Hartford in print please note that many stories from We-Ha.com, as well as other local news, is published in the twice-monthly issues of the West Hartford Press.

If you have information to share about local businesses, please provide details in the comments or email Ronni Newton at [email protected].


Here’s this week’s Buzz:

Nautical Bowls is now open at 345 North Main Street in Bishops Corner. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

  • Nautical Bowls, at 345 North Main Street in Bishops Corner,  is now in its soft-opening phase and will have a ribbon cutting with the Chamber of Commerce and town officials on Wednesday, April 24 at 2 p.m., followed by a grand opening on Saturday, April 27 from 11 a.m.-2 p.m. when the first 30 to arrive will receive a free Dingy-sized Signature Bowl. There will be a DJ and visits from Dillon (Hartford Athletic Mascot) and Sonar (the Hartford Wolfpack mascot) with raffle prizes and a Photo Booth area, said Michael Smith, owner of the West Hartford franchise. Nautical Bowls features fresh and healthy plant-based bowls with superfood bases – including açaí, pitaya (dragonfruit), coconut, blue magic, mango, and cacao – and the bowls are intended to serve as a meal substitute as well as a treat. There are signature bowls, as well as the option to build your own bowl with the choice of granola, fruit, dry toppings, drizzle, and a protein. Nautical Bowls also offers superfood smoothies. The menu is non-dairy, gluten-free, soy-free, and although they use natural sweeteners, no refined sugars or preservatives are added to any of the products. “For 23 years I had the good fortune to work at Trinity College serving as their Women’s Soccer Coach,” said Smith, who lives in Farmington. “A wonderful and rewarding experience that was filled with so many blessings but my wife and I are now really excited to embark on this next chapter of our lives.” Smith said Nautical Bowls will also have a large catering and special events presence, and is looking to build relationships with schools and community groups. While employees were training last week, they were offering free bowls to students from various schools – including Hall High School, which was there the day I visited. Hours are Monday through Thursday, 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., Friday and Saturday, 9 a.m. to 8 p.m., and Sunday from 1o a.m. to 4 p.m. For more information, or to view a menu, visit the website.

Nautical Bowls is now open at 345 North Main Street in Bishops Corner. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Nautical Bowls is now open at 345 North Main Street in Bishops Corner. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Nautical Bowls is now open at 345 North Main Street in Bishops Corner. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Nautical Bowls is now open at 345 North Main Street in Bishops Corner. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Nautical Bowls is now open at 345 North Main Street in Bishops Corner. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Nautical Bowls is now open at 345 North Main Street in Bishops Corner. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Nautical Bowls is now open at 345 North Main Street in Bishops Corner. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Nautical Bowls is now open at 345 North Main Street in Bishops Corner. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

  • Americana has closed as of Sunday, and the space will be closed for two weeks beginning Monday – although they will be open on Friday and Saturday, April 26 and 27, for some previously scheduled events – as they make the transition to Salt + Lime Mexican Cantina. Owners Julie and Enrique Rodriguez opened Americana last April, but the restaurant wasn’t nearly as busy as they hoped, and they are optimistic for the success of the new concept. In a phone interview Friday, Enrique said the work that will begin today will include a full repainting and changing the light fixtures and other decor to match the Mexican theme, with plans to fully reopen on May 3 under the new concept. Their social media and website are being updated (the Facebook page has already been changed from Americana to Salt + Lime), and while a Mexican chef has been hired, Enrique is the one developing the menu. Enrique and Julie met at the Cheesecake Factory in West Hartford’s Blue Back Square, where Enrique, a native of Mexico, helped open the restaurant and ultimately served as executive chef. Julie was the general manager. They are also owners of the MofonGo franchise at Parkville Market in Hartford; Las Tortas MX, Fowl Play, and Burrito Loko at Parkville Market and at the Assembly Room in New Britain; and in June 2022 opened Burrito Loko and MofonGo Express near the CCSU campus. Salt + Lime will feature authentic Mexican dishes, Enrique said, “made from scratch – perfect and fresh.” While a few dishes from the Americana menu will remain, like birria tacos (the pork chop and a few other items may not be on the posted menu, but can still be ordered), featured items will include Chile rellenos, ceviche, street corn, and “very good nachos” as well as a variety of “great tacos” made with shrimp, fish, and other items. The menu will also include chimichangas, fajitas, carne asada, enchiladas, and burritos. “I think West Hartford needs some of those dishes,” said Enrique, who added that he always wanted to do a Mexican restaurant and is very happy with the way the menu is turning out. “We want people to know us for Mexican food. This menu is going to set us apart,” he said. The sign is being created this week and should be installed next week, when they hope to begin training new staff. The grand opening weekend is planned for May 3-6 – coinciding with Cinco de Mayo – and will feature $5 margaritas, mojitos, and palomas. “We want people to try us out,” he said. Prices, for the food and drinks, will be very competitive, he said, and there will be an “outstanding” happy hour. The restaurant seats 120 people inside, and the expansive and there is seating for 60 more on the patio which will also be open, weather-permitting. “This is going to be a fresh start. I think people will be very happy with it,” he said.

Rendering of the sign which should be installed to replace the Americana sign at 179 Park Road in about a week. Town of West Hartford website image

Americana, at 179 Park Road, is transitioning to Salt + Lime. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Julie and Enrique Rodriguez are transitioning their restaurant at 179 Park Road to Salt + Lime Mexican Cantina. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

  • Sarah’s Soapy Foam had a very well-attended ribbon cutting attended by family, friends, members of the Chamber of Commerce, and school administrators at The Next Chapter at 13 South Main Street last week – a second-hand bookstore run by West Hartford Public Schools’ post-secondary students that is a great community partner. The dog-shaped soaps, which are the creation of resident and micro-business owner Sarah Kelly, have already been for sale at Good Cause Gifts in West Hartford Center, which is a social enterprise mission of Futures Inc. Kelly loves dogs and enjoys making soaps, and the business was created in collaboration with West Hartford-based Futures Inc., which works to develop the passions of young adults with disabilities in a direction so that once they age out of school-based programs they can establish their own businesses – operations that give them pride as well as some income, based on their own skills and interests. Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Chris Conway congratulated Kelly – and applause broke out as he made her an honorary member of the Chamber of Commerce at the celebration

Soapy Foam ribbon cutting at The Next Chapter. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

West Hartford Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Chris Conway, left, made Sarah Kelly (center) an honorary member of the Chamber. At left is Darlene Borre, who works in collaboration with Futures Inc. to develop micro-businesses. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Soapy Foam – soaps shaped like dogs – are for sale at The Next Chapter. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Soapy Foam – soaps shaped like dogs – are for sale at The Next Chapter. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

  • Congratulations to WeHa Candle Co. on their official ribbon cutting last Wednesday! The business has just relocated from 635 New Park Avenue to 970 Farmington Avenue, and was featured in this column on April 8, just before their opening. They are open daily, 10 a.m. until 8. p.m., and host scheduled candle-pouring parties for those with advance reservations and accept walk-ins who would like to pour their own candles at the bar. They also have some great home decor and hostess gift items available – linens, glassware, barware, charcuterie sets, dip bowls, throw pillows, and currently have insulated water bottles with messages perfect for Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. For more information, including registration for a candle-pouring workshop or booking a private party, visit the website.

Ribbon cutting at WeHa Candle Co. on April 17, 2024. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

  • As part of their Earth Day celebration, Ten Thousand Villages is having a community shopping event for the Clean Water Fund that started Sunday and continues through Monday April 22, store manager Teri Osborn said. “Clean Water Fund is a fellow nonprofit working for community betterment. Clean Water focuses on environmental justice and clean water access. Shoppers can just mention that they’d like to support the fund at checkout, and 15% of their purchase price will be donated at no cost to them,” she said. More information can be found on the Clean Water Fund website, and Connecticut State Director, Anne Hulick, will be stopping in at the store on Monday to share more detail about state initiatives. Osborne also provided the following information about the Clean Water Fund: “Since 1974, Clean Water Fund has helped people campaign successfully for cleaner and safer water, cleaner air, and protection from toxic pollution in our homes, neighborhoods, and workplaces. Clean Water Fund brings together diverse constituencies, supports coalition efforts for a healthier environment, and develops grassroots environmental leadership, community by community. Clean Water Fund’s programs build on and complement those of Clean Water Action, a one million member national organization which has helped develop, pass, strengthen and defend the nation’s major water and toxics laws such as the Clean Water Act, Safe Drinking Water Act, Superfund, and others. Clean Water Fund’s programs build on and complement those of Clean Water Action. Right now, Clean Water Fund is supporting: Efforts to identify and replace lead service lines, so everyone has clean drinking water; our ReThink Disposable campaign to help local restaurants phase out single-use disposable items; and campaigns to help low and moderate income families access money-saving energy efficiency programs.

Courtesy image

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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