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West Hartford Business Buzz: April 29, 2024

Mimosa flight and vegan breakfast burrito at The Friendly Toast, which will be opening in West Hartford. Courtesy of The Friendly Toast

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 put a lot of pressure on myself when writing this column, and while I always try to find some interesting news, sometimes there are weeks when when there’s just very little going on and I hate to disappoint. This week is just the opposite – and I have been eagerly awaiting the publication of this column because there is so much great news to share – so much that I even decided to break out one of the pieces of news into its own story!

Last week did seem like a long week – with more fire-related news about the Wampanoag clubhouse, and another fire that – because it was only about half a mile from my house – I arrived at not long after the fire department did, and while there was still a flurry of activity.

I was at the Town Council meeting Wednesday night when they adopted the FY25 budget, and you can read my story with all of the details here.

I’m always glad when budget season is over, and with the arrival of May this week (Happy 26th Birthday to my son, Sam, on May 1!) and a weather forecast that looks spring-like, I’m hoping for plenty of sunshine and positive news.

Sometimes I try to look at and appreciate West Hartford through the eyes of a tourist, rather than someone who has lived here for 26 years, and this really is such a beautiful town. I went to Elizabeth Park (don’t tell me that’s really Hartford, because I was in the tulip garden and that is physically in West Hartford), and it was spectacular. Walking around over the weekend, I also captured some other (in my opinion) cool photos.

Tulip garden in Elizabeth Park, April 26, 2024. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

First Church at night. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Blue Back Square courtyard. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

The photo of First Church was taken when walking through the Center after Ted and I enjoyed a delicious dinner at Harvest Wine Bar on Saturday night.

Passionfruit martini and Sancerre rose at Harvest. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Spicy salmon tartare at Harvest. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Grilled rainbow trout with chipotle aioli, asparagus, peas, corn, mushrooms, cherry tomatoes & pineapple mango slaw at Harvest. Photo credit; Ronni Newton

Sweet pea ravioli with brown butter thyme sauce, corn & parmesan cheese at Harvest. 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:

The now-vacant Division West space at 36 LaSalle Road in West Hartford Center will be home to The Friendly Toast. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

  • One of the pieces of news I have been bursting with excitement about is that all-day brunch restaurant, The Friendly Toast, is going to be taking over the former Division West space at 36 LaSalle Road! I spoke with co-owner Scott Pulver, and he said the company had been searching for a space in West Hartford for about the past eight months for what will be their first foray into Connecticut. Why West Hartford? “I know it’s a foodie town, and West Hartford has great customers,” said Pulver, who was familiar with West Hartford staples like bar taco and Barcelona, and has been guided in part by his longtime friend Rich Rosenthal, the now-retired founder of Max Restaurant Group. “Our broker has been on the streets, looking all over town,” he said, including looking at the vacant CVS space on Farmington Avenue (no tenant for that yet, as far as I know), and he was excited when the Division West space became available after the restaurant closed for good on Jan. 18 and was later ordered to vacate. The space is a typical size for The Friendly Toast, and they will employ roughly 70 people, and plan to also feature outdoor dining as soon as they open later this year. In 2014, Pulver and co-owner Eric Goodwin bought The Friendly Toast, which was founded in 1994, and according to their website “has long been one of the most popular brunch spots in New England. Since our humble beginnings in quaint Portsmouth, New Hampshire, we’re proud to have grown to serve benedicts and mimosas in additional locations in New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Vermont, and Maine. Wherever we go, we’re committed to serving quality meals from scratch in an environment that will make you smile.” Pulver said they hope to open “late summer at best,” following some renovation of the space to make it “more toasty” – in their distinctive style. The bar area will be rebuilt, some changes will be made in the kitchen, and in general there will be some sprucing up and “toast-ifying” to match the brand’s eclectic and distinctive blend of vintage and modern decor. The menu is a mix of classic breakfast sandwiches as well as creative brunch dishes like churro bites, “Some Like it Tot,” and breakfast egg roll appetizers; chicken and waffles, hash quiche, and “Doughnut Stop Believin” entrees, and an array of “bennys” including a spicy chorizo benny that includes avocado and fire-roasted poblano corn. There are also hand-helds, bowls, omelets and scrambles, and “sweet stuff” – aka pancakes, waffles, and French toast. Vegan and gluten-free dishes are highlighted on the menu. Mimosas – which can be served in flights – and Bloody Marys, highlight the bar menu. The West Hartford menu will be mostly the same as in their other locations, with the exception that they will be serving Baronet Coffee, a nod to Pulver’s existing relationship with good friend and owner Bruce Goldsmith. Construction work should begin in the next 30-50 days, Pulver said, and they can’t wait to be open. They also plan to stay open for late-night service in West Hartford on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights. “That’s where we’re going to start,” Pulver said. “We’re going to wow you. The food is just fantastic,” he said. The company also has a commitment to giving back to the community, and look for them to be involved with local nonprofits and fundraisers as well.

The Friendly Toast will be opening in West Hartford. Courtesy of The Friendly Toast

Caramel Macchiato Pancakes. Courtesy of The Friendly Toast

Churro Bites. Courtesy of The Friendly Toast

Chorizo Benny. Courtesy of The Friendly Toast

  • Thanks to a site plan shared with me by The Connecticut Scoop, I followed up on the tip that Jersey Mike’s Subs and Teriyaki Madness would be opening in Prospect Plaza, where the Town Council last August approved an amendment to the Special Development District for construction of a Chipotle with a “Chipotlane” (drive-through) as a separate outbuilding. “We will have a new building housing all 3 brands,” Michael St. John, the senior vice president of marketing for property owner DLC, confirmed to me via email. “We believe [the] West Hartford market is trending positively given the desirability of having these tenants at the center, and that we see upgrade in the types of tenants being attracted to this center/market continuing to move in the right direction moving forward.” I absolutely agree that these will be great additions to town. Jersey Mike’s, which touts itself as being “a sub above,” and has several locations in the state and a few more slated to open soon, is a business that is often cited as something West Hartford is missing. Teriyaki Madness, known for “fire-grilled” fresh bowls, is just beginning an expansion in the state (the West Hartford location is already included in their “coming soon” locations at 54 Kane Street). Chipotle will occupy 2,469 square feet, while Jersey Mike’s will have 1,295 square feet and Teriyaki Madness will have 1,119 square feet. The construction has already started with fencing up and site clearing underway. (I promise I didn’t trespass, I just held my phone through a gap in the fence for the second photo!)

Construction is underway for an outbuilding in Prospect Plaza, which will house not only a Chipotle with a drive-through but also a Jersey Mike’s and Teriyaki Madness. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Construction is underway for an outbuilding in Prospect Plaza, which will house not only a Chipotle with a drive-through but also a Jersey Mike’s and Teriyaki Madness. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

  • I stopped by GastroPark on Friday and there are many great things happening there as the spring season gets underway. Look for a full story tomorrow about the return of a vegan favorite (hint in one of the photos below), but in addition, as of May through the end of October, GastroPark will be open seven days a week. “We’re excited for this year and the new season. We’ve got some familiar food truck faces [like Hindsight BBQ and Craft Bird] and we’ve also got a bunch of new operators that we’re sprinkling in like Grassroots,” said GastroPark owner Tate Norden. “I think this is going to be the best year in terms of having something for everybody at GastroPark, whether you want a chicken sandwich, barbecue, or you’re vegetarian, vegan, or you just want to scratch that little sweet itch.” Grassroots, a family-owned, family-operated business that launched at the Granby General Store and has locations in Simsbury and New Milford, is offering a variety of artisanal. ice cream flavors from their truck that will be at GastroPark Wednesday through Friday, at least through the summer months. I *may* have sampled all of the ice creams in the photo below – and that includes one of the non-dairy flavors. Beginning in May, the in-house kitchen – which offers items that aren’t on the food trucks such as smash burgers, hot dogs, and melts (new item, using vendor Small State Provisions’ milk bread) will also be open until 10 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. “People can really get a bite to eat at GastroPark, whether it’s pastries, coffee, lunch for the food trucks, grabbing drinks from the GastroPark bar. … It’s all a big complementary eco-system here. Everybody’s got something different to offer.” For the full GastroPark schedule, visit their website or follow on social media (@thegastropark).

GastroPark on Friday afternoon. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Salted caramel is one of the flavors Grassroots ice cream truck, which will be resident at GastroPark for the season. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Clockwise from left: dairy-free strawberry, salted caramel, and double Oreo from Grassroots ice cream truck, which will be resident at GastroPark for the season. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

The Grassroots ice cream truck will be resident at GastroPark for the season. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

GastroPark on Friday afternoon, April 26, 2024. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

The Grassroots ice cream truck will be resident at GastroPark for the season. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

  • Tempur-Pedic has opened a second local store, located on the upper level of the Nordstrom wing at Westfarms. It’s managed by Karin Montiel, a West Hartford resident who also manages the Blue Back Square store and has been with the company for six years, and said she is very excited to manage the newest flagship store, which opened on April 5. “This new store is gorgeous. It is calming like a spa and the details and graphics give a sense of being outside, even though it is in a mall. Everyone who walks in is blow away by it,” she said.  “The ActiveBreeze 2.0 up front is a real attention grabber.” The Westfarms store, like the Tempur-Pedic store that also just opened in Naples, includes the latest design concepts including “lift and shift elements.”

Tempur-Pedic is now open at Westfarms. Photo courtesy of Karin Montiel

Tempur-Pedic is now open at Westfarms. Photo courtesy of Karin Montiel

Tempur-Pedic is now open at Westfarms. Photo courtesy of Karin Montiel

  • We mentioned in last week’s column that the transition of Americana to Salt + Lime Mexican Cantina was getting underway, and it’s progressing for the grand opening weekend of May 3-6 – coinciding with Cinco de Mayo – when they will feature $5 margaritas, mojitos, and palomas. They will also be giving free nachos during the weekend when people sign up to receive email newsletters through this link or directly from the website. A few photos of items from the new menu (they provided these pics – but I’ll personally sample as soon as I can!) are below, and you can find the menu here.

The transition to Salt + Lime at 179 Park Road should be completed in time for the Cinco de Mayo weekend grand opening. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Salt + Lime Mexican Cantina is scheduled to open May 3, 2024. Courtesy photo

Salt + Lime Mexican Cantina is scheduled to open May 3, 2024. Courtesy photo

Salt + Lime Mexican Cantina is scheduled to open May 3, 2024. Courtesy photo

Salt + Lime Mexican Cantina is scheduled to open May 3, 2024. Courtesy photo

  • The sign leading to the parking lot and the sign on the side of the building of what will be the Iron Horse Sports Pub (14-16 Oakwood Avenue) have been installed, and the sign on the front of the building should be up shortly now that the Park Road Pasta Kitchen sign has been taken down. I had touched base with owner Bob Mercer about two weeks ago, and he said at the time he was hoping to have the space open for delivery within a few weeks, and the interior ready a week or two after that. Much more to come!

The sign for Iron Horse Sports Pub has been installed at the parking lot entrance. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

The sign for Iron Horse Sports Pub has been installed on the side of the building. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Future Iron Horse Sports Pub at 14-16 Oakwood Avenue. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Progress of the construction of the Starbucks with a drive-through at Corporate Center West on South Main Street, April 2024. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

  • I recently had a follow-up conversation with Gina Luari of The Place 2 Be regarding the status of The Bakery by TP2B, following legal action taken by the owners of Blue Back Square, and she said that her company has come to an agreement and online court documents (visible here) indicate a revised rental agreement that begins as of May 1, with outstanding rent due by April 30. The planned opening date will be delayed until September 2024, Luari said, because Blue Back will be doing some interior construction to update the elevator shaft to accommodate a tenant moving into the space above them, reducing their space by 200 square feet and requiring The Bakery to relocate its walk-in freezer. “We can’t comment on the specifics but we hope to have an update soon,” said a spokesperson for Blue Back Square.

Future location planned for The Bakery by The Place 2 Be in Blue Back Square. Photo credit: Ronni Newton (we-ha.com file photo)

  • Congratulations to Nautical Bowls (345 North Main Street, Bishops Corner) on their official ribbon cutting with the Chamber of Commerce and town officials on Wednesday, April 24, and their grand opening held on Saturday. I had the bowl I’m holding in the photo below for lunch on Wednesday and it was so … good. I am looking forward to trying some of their other options very soon!

Nautical Bowls had a ribbon cutting April 24 and is now fully open in Bishops Corner. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Interior of Nautical Bowls in Bishops Corner. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Blue magic and pitaya topped with granola, almond butter, and coconut flakes at Nautical Bowls. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Nautical Bowls has had a grand opening and is now fully open in Bishops Corner. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

  • Registered yoga teacher Cynthia Wolcott shared that she will be reintroducing in-person All Levels Yoga classes in the Fireside room of the Westminster Presbyterian Church, 2080 Boulevard, starting Wednesday morning, May 8 from 9:30 to 10:45 a.m. The room is accessible through a door from the patio, adjacent to the parking lot; no need to walk through the church. “After having moved all classes to Zoom during the pandemic, many existing students requested local in-person classes once again, and I’m delighted to be returning to West Hartford,” she said. The cost is $20 per class (sliding scale available to make it accessible for all), and participants at all levels, including beginners are welcome. There will be no class Wednesday, May 29, but otherwise classes are ongoing. Questions: call or email Cynthia at 860-324-7051; email [email protected] or visit the website www.joyah.net.

Cynthia Wolcott will be reintroducing in-person yoga at Westminster Presbyterian Church. Courtesy of Cynthia Wolcott

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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1 Comment

  • The Elizabeth Park rose garden may be in West Hartford, but it is still a Hartford park, and for those of us who are taxpayers in Hartford, it would be nice if more people in West Hartford realized that.

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