A round-up of openings, closings, and other news about West Hartford businesses.
By Ronni Newton
As I write this it’s late Sunday night, and I’m back from the second weekend in a row out of town. I love traveling, but I do not travel well; it takes me forever to pack, and to unpack and get resettled. I was only home for three days last week – and they were incredibly busy days with multiple new business openings – and I still feel very discombobulated.
Unlike last weekend, this weekend was not all about a fun party. We were on Nantucket, and it was sunny and relatively warm (defined in Nantucket in April as at least in the high 40s with wind less than 30 mph), and the daffodils are in bloom (next weekend is Daffodil Weekend), but this was a working weekend. My husband and his brother inherited their family’s home just over a year ago, and we spend the weekend with my brother-in-law and sister-in-law getting the house ready for the rental season – involving vacuuming up a winter’s worth of what we’ve always called mealybugs (I think they are not really mealybugs, but I don’t really want to peruse photos of bugs to figure out what they are so I will continue to go with what we have always called them), lots of raking, creating a new compost pile, washing windows, washing bedding, cleaning out closets, painting, etc. We did have two great dinners with my in-laws, and spent about 15 minutes at the beach.
Early in the week I thought I might have trouble finding some good stories for this week, since there was so much business news last week, but quite the opposite. I’ve linked to last week’s exciting stories at the end of this column (Saks OFF 5th, SPoT Coffee, Shake Shack), but there are some amazing surprises in this week’s column, too!
Weather note: Although I thought last Sunday that we were done with snow, and I admit that I was completely wrong. It seemed like it snowed every day last week. But now I am quite sure that we are done with snow for the season. I hope I don’t have to eat my words again.
If you have tips about businesses opening or closing, 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:
- I’m so excited to share the news that Balos estiatorio will be opening in the former Besito space at 46 South Main St. in Blue Back Square! The space has been empty since Besito abruptly closed last July, but George Chatzopoulos confirmed Sunday that he has signed a lease hopes to open Balos estiatorio by late August or early September. Chatzopoulos, who also owns West Hartford’s Simple Greek franchise and the Chip’s Family Restaurant chain, said this will be his first upscale Greek restaurant. While he said he’s still working on the menu, he sent over this description of the inspiration for Balos estiatorio: “Balos in ancient Greek means ‘on top of the sea.’ This is the name given to one of the most beautiful and mystical beaches found on the island of Crete, Greece. There atop the rocky cliffs are revealed a sublime turquoise sea fringed by white sand and a certitude that you are now in the company of the Greek gods. At Balos estiatorio we strive to embody the spirit of Greece through the celebration of its delicious cuisine and its central tenants of simplicity, freshness and healthfulness. Balos offers you the full spectrum of the Greek palette with the freshness from the sea and the bounty from the soil on full display.” The menu will include lots of fresh fish, as well as other dishes like lamb chops and a focus on small plates, Chatzopoulos said, and he is looking for the completely authentic experience by hiring chefs directly from Greece. He said he plans a major renovation to the space. “It will look beautiful. It will look like you are on vacation in Greece, not in West Hartford,” Chatzopoulos said.
- More exciting Blue Back Square news is the planned opening of PokeWorld in the space right next door to the newly-opened SPoT Coffee! Blue Back Square General Manager Robyn Rifkin said that PokeWorld will feature fresh and healthy “build-your-own Hawaiian-style poke bowls with a Japanese influence,” with a broad selection of freshly prepared raw fish/protein in rice or a salad bowl with mix-ins, sauces, and toppings. I consider myself fairly food savvy (it’s hard not to be as a journalist in West Hartford), but I will admit that I wasn’t familiar with a poke (pronounced “POH-keh”) bowl, but apparently it’s been ubiquitous in Hawaii for years and is now one of the hottest food trends to hit the mainland U.S. Essentially it’s cubed and seasoned raw fish, eaten either on its own or on top of sushi rice, another grain, or greens. PokeWorld is expected to open in late summer/early fall, Rifkin said.
- REI closed its Blue Back Square store on Sunday at 4 and will be closed on Monday, but will reopen in West Hartford on Tuesday across town in its brand new space in The Corbin Collection. It should be a relatively seamless tradition because as of last week, it appeared from the window that the new store was already full of merchandise. REI is having a huge celebration of its new store this Friday through Sunday. According to REI’s Facebook event, there will be REI classes, activities, food, music, door prizes, and more each day. There’s also a collaboration with Hanging Hills Brewery, involving a special new beer (Old New England Trail), and door prizes to the first 250 people (ages 18 and older) who come through the door each morning. The outdoor social event actually begins at 8 a.m. each day and runs through 1 p.m., while the store opens at 10 a.m. on Friday and Saturday, and 11 a.m. on Sunday. RSVP to the Facebook event to be updated with any new details.
- Harvest Wine Bar (64 LaSalle Rd.) removed the wooden barriers that have covered its windows for many months, and is getting very close to opening. Owner Vincente Siguenza said they are aiming for the first week of May! I’m very much looking forward to a sneak peek.
- More exciting restaurant news is the reveal that family-owned Brazilian steakhouse Texas de Brazil will be opening in Westfarms. There’s no press release yet and I don’t have any opening date estimates, but according to its website, Texas de Brazil is “an authentic Brazilian steakhouse as bold as Texas. That’s why all of our meats are cooked the gaucho way – over an open flame with natural wood charcoal.” As of now, Westfarms spokesperson Amanda Sirica could only confirm that “We have three brands coming,” which brings me to the next bullet point …
- Kate Spade will also be opening at Westfarms, as will Cinnabon! I’ll provide more details as soon as I can get them.
- The second We-Ha-HA Comedy Night at World of Beer in Blue Back Square is this Tuesday, from 5:30-7 p.m., and featuring local comedian Paul Gregory, Mike Racine, and other stand-up comics that he has booked See the Facebook event and this post for more information – and do it by noon Monday! There’s a post about the event, and liking it by noon on April 23 will give you a chance to win a VIP four-pack of tickets, which includes admission, VIP seating, and VIP appetizers.
- If you like Business Buzz, you’ll want to attend the Chamber of Commerce’s Economic Development Luncheon on Thursday, from 11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m., at the newly-renovated Wampanoag Country Club. Director of Community Development Mark McGovern will essentially bring Business Buzz to life with details about new businesses that have opened over the past year, what’s about to open, and plans for the future. Click here for details and the link to RSVP.
- Cinépolis USA (located at 42 South Main St. in West Hartford) has announced “happy hour” priced movie tickets of $7 for shows on Monday-Thursday from 3:30-5:30 p.m. In addition, Happy Hour concession offers (also from 3:30-5:30 p.m., and including Fridays) with 40 percent off all drinks and a selection of food options, including the Ultimate Nachos, Loaded Pork Fries, Chips & Queso and Jalapeno Poppers for $5 or less.
- As I mentioned, last week was a huge week for business news. In the ICYMI department, I covered the opening of Saks Fifth Avenue OFF 5th on Thursday (click here for the full story and photos), the first retailer to open in the brand new Corbin Collection in the former Sears building.
- Also on Thursday, and also in The Corbin Collection, I interviewed the management team for Shake Shack, which will have its official opening on Friday in the former Sears Automotive Center building. Click here for full details and photos of the interior! I’ll share some food photos after the official media preview on Wednesday.
- In more Blue Back Square news, SPoT Coffee opened last Tuesday at 69 Memorial Rd., bringing a great vibe and new community gathering space to the area. Click here for the complete story.
- There was even more business news last week! Click here to see other stories.
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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