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West Hartford Business Buzz: April 27, 2020

Street view of New Park Avenue. Courtesy image (we-ha.com file photo)

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

By Ronni Newton

Last week I included a long list of thank yous, and while I don’t want to be repetitive, I want to reiterate my profound thanks to all who are caring for others, who are helping our community get through an unprecedented time in our lives.

And an extra 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.

Look for a photo gallery of hearts and signs, but I couldn’t wait to share this one! Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Sunday’s weather wasn’t very nice, but it seemed like there were more cars in the Center than there had been in recent weeks. A few restaurants that were closed have reopened for takeout (see below) and Starbucks is back open for mobile orders. Fleet Feet was providing curbside drop off of merchandise, and families were out and about.

We have made it to the end of April.

On April 1 it seemed the month was going to last forever, like the posts on social media that said something like this leap year there are 29 days in February, three months in March, and five years in April (that’s probably not exactly what it said because I am terrible at remembering jokes, but the general idea is correct). It does seem that weeks have run together – my days a blur of days sitting at the computer, punctuated by walking the dog or maybe taking a run, and of course the governor’s daily press briefings. I last bought gas for my car in the middle of March, and since then have driven only about 75 miles.

I did have one amusing highlight this week – when my puppy, Millie (she’s now 11 months old!) decided to jump on my lap and start licking my ear in the middle of a Facebook Live forum that John Lyons and I were having with Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Chris Conway and CT Association of Realtors Vice President Carl Lantz. There are about 3,000 views so far of the video, which can be seen here. (The incident is about 21 minutes into the video!)

We have made it to the end of April.

School buildings have been closed for six weeks, and students have spent four of those weeks engaged in distance learning. I’m pretty sure my son has just one more week left of online classes at UConn before finals and the anticlimactic graduation-less (at least right away) end to his college experience.

Gov. Lamont and other state leaders have sounded a bit more optimistic for the past few days, as one of the key metrics – number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients – continues to trend downward, even in Hartford. As of information released Sunday at 4 p.m., hospitalizations decreased by another 44 patients, and the largest decrease (a drop of 17) was in Hartford County.

I’m hoping that we are on the backside of the curve now – which doesn’t mean we can let down our guard, but it does mean that the sacrifices we are all making are working, and perhaps we can soon see where the twists and turns of this tunnel are going and see the first glimmer of light at the end.

It may still be quite a while before I can go to the grocery store without feeling like I am skulking around, engaged in some sort of illegal activity even as I try to properly follow the directional arrows and stand precisely on the tape marking 6 feet of distance from others in the checkout line, hiding behind my mask and avoiding even making eye contact with people.

As we head into May, we will at least know that a plan is coming, a plan for moving forward. I am sure the “new normal” will be very different from our BC lives, at least for a while, but I, for one, at least feel like we are looking at things getting better.

In the meantime, please keep physically distancing, 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:

  • The Home Design District of West Hartford has rebranded and is now the Design District of West Hartford, a name that more appropriately encompasses the ranges of businesses that will continue to lead the resurgence and rise of transit-oriented development in West Hartford’s New Park Avenue corridor. “Over the past two to three years, we’ve seen the huge surge of businesses opening in the District,” said Chelsea O’Donnell of Journey Communications, who has been assisting the Design District with marketing for the past several years. While the area is still being touted as a one-stop shop for home design, and O’Donnell said there is a great sense of pride in that reputation, there has gradually been an evolution toward more diversity, as waves of other types of businesses have also moved to the town’s funky and industrial neighborhood, including fitness studios, pet care businesses, unique retail shops, and New Park Brewery. “Every one of these businesses deserves an association that serves all,” she said. “We have seen major changes in the Design District over the past few years and we wanted to be sure that the businesses who were getting started in the District felt represented and could get involved with a group of seasoned business owners who have been here for decades,” said Design District President Dave Chmielewski. “Design” remains in the name, O’Donnell said, “to pay homage to the businesses that have worked so hard” since the home design and remodeling businesses first banded together to form the association 15 years ago. “There are so many interesting and cool businesses,” she said, and while right now operations for most have to be modified, even for the remodeling companies that are offering curbside pick-up of samples and virtual design, the Design District looks forward to welcoming customers in whatever way possible. “The business owners who collaborated to form and further the mission of the Home Design District have really worked to put this area on the map,” said West Hartford Economic Development Specialist Kristen Gorski. “It is now not only a popular destination to patronize the variety of shops, eateries and gyms, it continues to be a more and more attractive place to open for business. When joining the Design District, you are immediately connected to a network of professionals who are passionate about helping your business and the area succeed. With a renewed focus on supporting members from all industries, the sky’s the limit.” For more information, visit the rebranded website designdistrictct.com or follow on Facebook and InstagramThe Design District is now welcoming applications for membership and invites all prospective members to join their monthly meeting on May 13th at 8:30 a.m. via Zoom. Prospective members can find out more information here.

    Ignite Fitness owner Kim Zengerle (left) and her partner, Alex Boscarino. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

  • West Hartford’s Ignite Fitness has been offering virtual training sessions to their clients since having to close their studio due to COVID-19, and in addition has started hosting the occasional front lawn fitness class! The workouts are open to anyone, all ages, all abilities, and there is no cost to participate. I was invited to attend one last week on Wettleson Avenue – and it was so much fun! A group of area residents set up their mats (not mandatory, but helpful) on lawns and in driveways, on both sides of the street, with plenty (like 20 feet or more) between disparate groups of people, and followed the lead of Ignite Fitness owner Kim Zengerle and her partner, Alex Boscarino, who took the group through a 40-minute workout. Zengerle said the first one was held on Argyle Avenue, where she lives, and was such a success she decided to hold another and plans to continue. More photos are below. To enter to win a front lawn workout, click here.

    Zohara, Treva, and the DORO Marketplace are offering takeout at 991 Farmington Ave. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

  • DORO Restaurant Group had some big news this week – the reopening of Zohara (991 Farmington Ave.) And, from Zohara as its headquarters, they are also serving items from the Treva menu – and some items from the DORO Marketplace are also being offered as well! Zohara is open Tuesday through Saturday from 4-8 p.m., and in addition to the takeout menu (click here) you can find King Arthur flour, mezze + salatim, cacio e pepe, and “our famous toilet paper for curbside pickup.” DORO has also been among the local restaurant groups providing meals to healthcare workers and to date have provided thousands of meals to employees at Hartford Hospital and St. Francis Hospital. They are collecting donations to continue this mission, and more information can be found here on the DORO website.

    Photo credit: Ronni Newton

  • Also back open as of this weekend is Savoy (32 LaSalle Rd. in West Hartford Center) offering takeout, no-contact curbside pickup, and delivery.
  • I’ve been trying very hard to keep up with the status of West Hartford’s restaurants, and at least every few days there is a major update – such as the reopening of Zohara and Savoy – to be made to the list of places open for takeout and delivery. Please note that if there is a question about a place be open or closed, I will always err on the side saying a restaurant is open, because you’re going to have to call or order online anyway, and I don’t want to be the one driving business away. You can find the updated list of restaurants here.
  • Last week this column featured GastroPark, and although GastroPark owner Tate Norden will continue to be able to offer takeout food from his Iron and Grain food truck, town officials rescinded approval for any food truck to vend at 637 New Park Ave. (the future site of the under-construction GastroPark) after learning that additional trucks had been invited to also vend there along with Iron and Grain. Norden said the owner of the property next door at 641 New Park, BodyRoc, has given him permission to use their parking lot and Iron and Grain was there this past Saturday and plans to be open there on weekends for the foreseeable future. The up-to-date menu can be found weekly on the Iron and Grain Facebook page.
  • If you’re getting takeout from West Hartford restaurants, don’t forget to save your receipts and enter the “Eat Local-Win Local” contest to win a $25 gift certificate to a local restaurant. Winners are selected weekly and to be eligible you need to order takeout or delivery from at least two West Hartford restaurants and spend at least $15 each time, and then email your receipts to be part of the contest. Details can be found here.

    PhysicanOne Urgent Care employees bring a completed test into the building at 12 South Main St. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

  • West Hartford’s PhysicianOne Urgent Care hosted a drive-through COVID-19 testing event on Sunday, offering tests to anyone with symptoms as well as asymptomatic essential workers who had previously registered through the urgent care’s pre-screening process. The event was supposed to run from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m., but by 11:30 a.m., according to a spokesperson for PhysicianOne who said the company has the capacity to do 200 tests per day at their West Hartford site, they had run out of allocated tests.
  • American Eagle Financial Credit Union, which has a location at 1245 New Britain Ave. in West Hartford, is offering nearly 30 free online financial education lessons to schools, organizations and families in celebration of National Financial Literacy Month in April, the business announced in a news release. “National Financial Literacy Month is an opportunity for people of all ages to improve their financial wellness through this online resource offered by American Eagle,” said Dean Marchessault, president and chief executive officer. “When schooling, working, and learning from home is so important during the uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic, this platform provides real-life, real-time lessons that benefit everyone in our community.” Topics, which take less than 10 minutes per lesson, cover various types of accounts, credit cards, credit scores, budgeting, paying for college, buying a home, and – particularly timely – “Financial Wellness in Uncertain Times.” For more information, visit americaneagle.org/financialeducation.
  • The Seniors Job Bank is still operating – in virtual mode – and has opportunities for people over age 50 to find employment with essential businesses. Click here for more details.

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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Ignite Fitness front lawn workout. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Ignite Fitness front lawn workout. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Ignite Fitness front lawn workout. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Ignite Fitness front lawn workout. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

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