A round-up of openings, closings, and other news about West Hartford businesses.
By Ronni Newton
As I start writing this column on Sunday morning I’m still mourning the Duke basketball loss to Carolina late last night. I attended Coach K’s first game when I was a student, and every home Duke vs. Carolina game – as well as every other home game (many with my then-boyfriend, now my husband of many years) not played during a break other than one where I got stuck at an event and the student section filled up before I could get there.
I grew up in Stamford, but a guy who lived on my street and was a few years ahead of me in high school went to Duke and that sparked my initial interest in the school, and even before applying there early decision I started following college basketball, and honestly one of the reasons I applied to Duke was because I loved the spirit the students showed for their team. I was still a high school student, but clearly remember watching (on TV) the infamous Duke vs. Carolina game, in the pre-shot clock days, where UNC played four corners defense and the score was 7-0 at halftime (with Duke leading what was an eventual victory).
I’m wearing my UConn sweatshirt on Sunday as I prepare to root with my heart and soul for the UConn women in the championship game. (And for the record, I started rooting for the UConn men once my kids became students there – against any opponent except Duke.) Sadly, another Carolina team was again the winner.
I was morose on Saturday night after that Duke loss, but in the light of day I know it was only a basketball game (well not really, but life does go on), and it really has been a great March Madness tournament overall on both the men’s and the women’s side, and my daffodils are blooming, and I’m looking forward to an actual vacation in a week (sans computer, more on that in next week’s column). Today I’ll just say thanks to Coach K for being an integral part of the lives of so many people, and for 42 years of greatness. And here’s to many more years of greatness to come under Jon Scheyer.
Segueing to West Hartford dining, two of my dining experiences last week are covered in bullet points below. (Yes, the eating really is part of the research!) However, we also ordered some delicious takeout from Nummy on Saturday night to eat between Final Four games – to be sure we wouldn’t miss any part of a game.
The universal indoor mask mandate was lifted in West Hartford as of Thursday, Feb. 10 (click here for the details) as of today masks will be optional in schools, libraries, and other town buildings (click here for details). Some business owners, however, may still ask that their customers wear masks. And many people will choose to wear masks in a variety of settings. Please have patience with each other and our choices, continue to look out for each other, support our local businesses – and stay safe and healthy.
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:
- John Green is unable to contain his excitement about the launch of a new brand. On Wednesday, Store 52 will have its soft opening at 52 LaSalle Road in West Hartford Center, and while it’s technically next door to Lux Bond & Green‘s flagship store at 46 LaSalle Road, the spaces aren’t physically connected, nor do they share any designers in common. “This is a very approachable jewelry store,” said Green, who is the president and CEO of Store 52. While people consider Lux Bond & Green a “fancy” jewelry store, and that can be intimidating, Store 52 is anything but, Green said. The style of the store itself is decidedly and purposely Soho chic, with a painted brick wall and hand-tiled mirror setting off the black and white theme, and Green said the space is designed for people to “gather, relax, and shop.” Store 52 will be open later than many West Hartford Center stores (hours are noon-7 p.m. on Wednesday through Saturday), and while they are closed Mondays and Tuesdays, they will be the only jewelry store at this time open on Sundays (noon-5 p.m.). Prices start at $25, and there is “something for the whole family,” said Jason Zaino, one of the sales associates. He showed off handbags that can be custom-made to honor a favorite pet. (Ruby, the Green’s dog, was a willing model to provide an example.) Sales associate Fushya Bennett said the Dean Davidson collection is her favorite. “They do a lot of gold, and it looks so luxurious but it’s very affordable,” she said. “It makes a statement, but it’s not overwhelming.” The pieces, which are gold plate over sterling, and have a lifetime warranty, range from $100-$250. Manager Maria Rodriquez pointed out the estate jewelry, which some of which has been collected by Lux Bond over the years, but other items procured more recently. Green noted that they will be buying as much as they will be selling, and to qualify as “estate jewelry” it needs only have been previously owned. Previously owned watches, such as Rolexes and Hamiltons, will be part of the collection as well. Sales associate Sue Chon said one of her favorite items are the charms, which start at $25, feature images or sayings, and can be made into necklaces or bracelets. There are boxes made in India, and Irish vs. Scottish chess sets from Dublin that come with a whimsical story about the battle of the Leprechauns and the Brownies. “We’re trying to make this all fun,” said Green, who noted that the staff was hand-picked because of the customer service he knew they would provide. “There’s nothing like it in the Center,” said Green, who hopes the opening of Store 52 is the launch of a new brand that will expand beyond West Hartford. Green said the idea for the new brand had been something he had been thinking about for a while, and when he found out that Gene and Rosie DeRobertis would be retiring and closing DeRobertis Jewelers last spring, he decided to take the next step. Store 52 will be open at noon on Wednesday, and a grand opening will be held in a few weeks. The website is still being finalized, but social media is up and running and you can follow on Facebook and Instagram (@shop_store52). A few photos are directly below, and there are more at the end of the column.
- “It’s a new episode, a new chapter,” said Sandy Sanchez, who, along with her husband, Juan Salazar, are now the owners of Frida at 1150 New Britain Ave. in the Elmwood section of West Hartford. Xiomara Zamudio, who partnered with Sanchez to open the restaurant in December 2019, recently sold her share of the business to Sanchez. “Frida is going to continue the same concept, Mexico City food,” Sanchez said. New head chef Israel Sanchez (no relation), has worked at Frida previously, and will continue the same high quality menu, but with some fresh new additions – which I had a chance to sample and which boasting unique and complex flavors and were absolutely delicious. There are the shrimp tostados (actually a return from an earlier menu and a favorite of Esmerelda, who is responsible for the seafood dishes), chicken mole (whole chicken breast served with rice, topped with sesame seeds, and in this case served with beans which Sanchez isn’t traditional in Mexico but people locally like it), Mexican shrimp sautéed with vegetables, and Enchiladas Potosinas (pictured below with flap steak, but can be served with chicken, shrimp, cesina, or as a vegetarian entree). Most items are gluten free, and many dishes are vegetarian and can easily accommodate a vegan diet as well. There will be some new and returning “fabulous drinks” as well, Sanchez said, many featuring tequila and mezcal, and including the purple Alma de Frida. Frida is open seven days a week, and the lunch (11 a.m.-3 p.m.) menu will be updated to include more grab and go type items for those looking for a quick meal, including vegetable bowls with rice and beans. Ceviche will be available at lunchtime as well. There will be weekend specials, including birria tacos, and look for the patio to be reopening soon. And speaking of specials, “We are preparing for Cinco de Mayo,” Sanchez said, with family to-go packages, and a special menu at the restaurant. Happy Hour is Tuesday through Sunday from 3-6 p.m. Online ordering, and delivery from Dine in CT, is also available and details can be found on the website. Photos are directly below and at the very end of the column.
- WeHa Brewing and Roasting (141 Shield Street) has now added food to the coffee and beer offerings at the tap room. Drew Brow, of HighBrow Wood Fired Kitchen & Bar in Northampton, MA, has put together a menu of small plates that includes his famed “Highbrow Sticky Ribs,” Buffalo-ish Wings, and truffle fries, as well as hand-helds like the banh mi (boneless pork ribs, carrot, cucumber, cilantro, and red onion with Asian glaze on a soft baguette), muffaletta (ham, Genoa salami, pastrami, Swiss, cheddar, and olive salad, warm roast beef, taco-wrapped hot dogs, the WeHa Burger (double 4-ounce patties with WeHa sauce, pickles, onions, and lettuce on a sesame seed bun), and the WeHa Sammie (cajun fried chicken, cheddar, bacon, lettuce, red onion, and tomato on a sesame seed bun) – and all of which go very well with a side of draft beer. With the help of my son (Sam, who of course had to try the WeHa Sammie) and his girlfriend, we sampled a number of hand-helds on Saturday night, and all got a resounding thumbs-up. Many of the dishes can be prepared with tofu as a substitute. The food is available Wednesday through Friday, from 3-9:30 p.m. (Sunday until 6 p.m.) Coffee is available daily beginning at 7 a.m. through 3 p.m. (through 4 p.m. on Friday and 5 p.m. on Saturday). More information can be found on the website. We really enjoyed the live acoustic music when we were there Friday night, too!
- Congratulations to the Pharmacy on Blue Back, which had their official ribbon cutting and grand opening with the Chamber of Commerce last Wednesday. The full service boutique pharmacy, located at 55 Isham Road, opened in February and has already gained a loyal customer base. (See details here.)
- Speaking of Isham Road, it’s now one-way northbound. We announced the change in this column last week, and it took place on Wednesday. I observed quite a few cars not heeding the one-way signs that day, and hope people will quickly get used to it and pay attention!
Max Cares Foundation, Inc. announced in a news release last week that they are accepting applications for the charitable organization’s scholarships for graduating high school or currently enrolled college students pursuing a secondary education in culinary arts or hospitality/restaurant management for the 2022-2023 school year. Students residing in the Greater Hartford and Greater Springfield regions are encouraged to apply. The application, requirements and more information are available online at maxcaresfoundation.org/
scholarships/ with an application deadline of May 15, 2022. Applicants are eligible to receive up to $2,500 in funds to be used toward their Culinary Arts or Hospitality educational expenses. In 2021, 13 students, including some from West Hartford, were provided scholarships. Max Cares Foundation President Rich Rosenthal, who recently announced his retirement as owner of the Max Restaurant Group after decades of working in this industry, stated “Max Cares Foundation’s scholarships are an investment in identifying and developing the next generation of culinary and hospitality leaders.”
- Congratulations to Jim Brennan on his promotion to the role of assistant town engineer for the Town of West Hartford! He takes over the position vacated by Greg Sommer, who was promoted to town engineer in late February.
- West Hartford resident Kristen Martinez, foreground in photo below, is matched with 7-year-old Shaye-Lynn, from Hartford, her “Little Sister” (mentee) in the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Connecticut youth mentoring program. Shae-Lynn (background) is a student at the Noah Webster Elementary School. Big Sister Kristen and Shae-Lynn have enjoyed many mentoring adventures since they’ve been matched. One took place at a recent Big Brothers Big Sisters-sponsored activity, where they spent the morning flexing their creative muscles by painting colorful rocks. Right now, Kristen and Shae-Lynn are getting ready to celebrate April’s National Volunteer Month by saluting their organization’s Big Brothers and Big Sisters, past and present. They’re also asking other adults to consider signing up as “Bigs” (mentors) as a way of forming more amazing and life-changing mentoring relationships, just like theirs. Learn more about Big Brothers Big Sisters mentoring at: www.ctbigs.org.
- Mike Youmans, a resident and owner of West Hartford business College Prep Express, said the college admissions process continues to be a crazy game, but shared a recent success story about a student he worked with during a CommonApp Boot Camp last summer. “He wasn’t particularly interested in traditional academia and his prospects for college seemed less and less appealing and even viable as high school unfolded given his GPA, into which he chose not to put his best energy,” Youmans said. He did, however, put his energy into his art and his interests in meditation and Buddhism, and Youmans helped the student redirect his CommonApp focus to showcase his true abilities and interests, and the student will now be attending The New School at Parsons (his first choice, and one of four art schools he was accepted to out of five to which he applied). For more about College Prep Express and their programs, visit their website.
- Some sad news from Rizzuto’s was posted on their Facebook page last week: “We are saddened to let you know that on March 17 our great general manager, Lynn Armington, died suddenly while on vacation. Lynn was an exceptional person. Her goal was to make sure that everyone who came to Rizzuto’s had an exceptional experience and was completely driven by that goal. She focused on every detail, provided endless support and encouragement to the staff, and talked with every guest to ensure we were meeting or exceeding their expectations. She wasn’t just a good general manager – she was exceptional. On top of that, she was a kind and caring person to all those who were lucky enough to call her a friend. We miss her desperately and will strive to meet her goal of being simply the best.” Our deepest condolences to the Rizzuto’s family, and Lynn will definitely be missed.
- ICYMI, last week we featured the 100-year-old Hoffman Auto Group, which continues to be family-owned, is now run by the third and fourth generation, and continues to support many local nonprofits. Click here for the complete story.
- The governor joined state and local officials, the Connecticut Restaurant Association, and local restaurateurs in West Hartford last week for a ceremonial bill signing of the extension of expanded outdoor dining. Complete details, including updates on West Hartford’s outdoor dining plans for 2022, can be found here.
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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