A round-up of openings, closings, and other news about West Hartford businesses.
By Ronni Newton
Happy Easter to all who celebrate, and a belated Happy Passover as well!
It’s April and the flowers are blooming – the second April since the pandemic hit. Last year most of us never could have imagined that we still be dealing with the pandemic a year later. Had we known that – at least for me – it would have been very hard to keep up hope.
I am very grateful that my family has remained healthy, and that we have Millie in our lives to provide a constant source of joy and entertainment. Her favorite games all involve her collection of hedgehogs. We don’t know why, but they all (she has five) seem to be her favorite toys and she probably drops them at our feet at least 100 times a day.
Along with the greening of the grass and the blooming of the flowers – and the increase in the number of people vaccinated – I’m feeling more and more hope that we are at least finding a way to live our lives in a way that includes more in-person interaction.
My daughter (fully vaccinated since February) and I (now also fully vaccinated) went to the gym on Saturday morning. The last time I had been there was March 10, 2020. The Body Pump class we attended had maybe a third of the people it would have had pre-pandemic, and there were spaces marked on the floor where we set up our equipment (well separated), and we had to sign a mask promise on the way in the door, and we wore our masks the entire time (which was not at all difficult). I have never been so excited about a tough workout! Yes, I am sore, but it’s a great feeling.
Later on Saturday I got together with a small group of friends (just seven of us, some fully vaccinated, all at least halfway there) to watch the first game of the NCAA Final Four. They brought the TV outside into their driveway, and we were distanced, and we had our own snacks and drinks, and even though we got a bit chilly, it was absolutely wonderful.
On Sunday we attended an in-person Easter service at St. James’s Episcopal Church. It was outside on the lawn, and family units were well spaced. (Bonus points if you can find me in the photo below.) It was a great step toward normalcy and a very uplifting way to start the day. There were many young children there (all wearing their masks without complaint), who got to participate in a socially distanced Easter egg hunt after the service.
I look forward to the day when I don’t have to add the caveats when I mention activities, but these steps, which all feel safe to me, seem to be heading in the right direction.
After the first Final Four game on Saturday night, Ted and I went to Wurst Haus for a late dinner. I had sampled a few dishes when I went to the grand opening (and I did eat a good portion of that giant Bavarian pretzel), but Ted had not been there yet. We really enjoyed the wurst plate, fried fish sandwich, and Schnitzel sandwich pictured below!
We hope you’ve been following our Keeping it in the Community feature, which is a collaboration with the West Hartford Chamber of Commerce and the town’s Economic Development Department.
Keeping it in the Community Tip: Local businesses are great partners in your health journey
When COVID first hit over a year ago, people flooded social media with pictures of the multiple cakes, breads, and other treats they were baking while in quarantine. Some were even lamenting/joking about some of the extra pounds they may have put on early in the pandemic. Along with these posts, there was a parallel universe populated by those who took a different approach. For every loaf of sourdough, there was also someone posting about doing yoga with a virtual instructor. With each tray of cookies posted, there was also someone working with their personal trainer via Smart TV or another digital device. While some of these reimagined health initiatives involved national or global brands like Peloton, most were being facilitated by a local trainer or wellness practitioner.
Our community is full of entrepreneurs who are qualified to teach in disciplines such as yoga, strength training, Pilates, and even martial arts. Keep our local businesses in mind as partners in your own journey to a healthier you.
Keeping it in the Community Spotlight: Yoga from the Heart
Q: How long has your business been in West Hartford, and do you have other locations?
We opened Yoga from the Heart just three years ago on March 24, 2018. and currently this is our only location.
Q: What has been the impact of COVID-19 on the way your business operates?
COVID-19 taught us how to pivot and embrace all methods of reaching our community, with the benefits of their yoga practice. During the initial shutdown, we offered free live facebook yoga classes. We reopened the studio on July 6 and taught in studio, outdoors, privates and live stream on Zoom. Our in studio classes accommodated five students vs. our 39 capacity. The biggest impact of course is financial, but that really isn’t the reason behind opening a yoga studio. The practice of yoga teaches us to stay present in the moment, which ironically is what is getting us all through this incredible challenge.
Q: What measures have you taken to mitigate risk to employees and customers?
The measures we have all taken to mitigate risk to students and all of us as teachers has been over the top. I remember saying in the very beginning I will not reopen unless we have taken every precaution! We did extensive upgrades to our ventilation systems. Our HVAC not only has fresh air coming in but also has an Ionization purification system and Merv-13 filters. We also have two portable H13 HEPA filtration systems.
Our studio is sanitized after every class, teachers are temperature checked, contract tracing is in place and thankfully never used. We are disciplined to 6-feet social distance and masking. Erring on the side of caution, during the holiday season, we again closed our in studio classes the day after Thanksgiving through Jan. 24. We reopened as COVID cases significantly lowered in our community.
Currently, with Connecticut’s return to 100% occupancy in all businesses, we accommodate nine students, which is just 23% occupancy.
Our classes are available in studio, live stream via zoom, in our 90+ on demand library and coming soon outdoors!
Q: What have you had to do differently to promote your business?
I really have not done anything differently to promote our business during COVID-19. We have always done a weekly newsletter and are active on social media. I believe the most important aspect to our communication is our transparency. We consistently keep our community aware of what we are doing to keep them safe, as well as share public health information. Our recent “Vaccine Tips” newsletter was received with happy hearts and great stories of vaccination keep coming in!
Q: What are some of the successes you have had?
I’m so proud to say our successes during a pandemic have stayed true to the roots of Yoga from the Heart. Our ambition was to always take our practice “on the mat” out to the community to make a difference in other people’s lives.
The summer of 2020, we led 10, free community yoga classes at Blue Back Square and yes, blue-taped pods to keep everyone safe. We held our second annual “Yoga for Pulmonary Fibrosis” also at Blue Back Square, with 100% of proceeds going to support the Pulmonary Fibrosis Foundation (PFF).
This February 2021, we held a yoga charity class, both in studio and virtually, to “Honor Miriam Klau,” who at 26 years old lost her life to mental illness, addiction, and narcolepsy. Miriam and her family’s struggles are the same stories that are playing out in millions of families across the country. Our event spread awareness and resources into our communities and 100% of the proceeds went to My Sisters’ Place, as Miriam had immense compassion for the homeless.
Please continue to support our local businesses, and please 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]m.
Here’s this week’s Buzz:
- Sometimes it gets close to the end of the week and I start to get nervous because I don’t have a clear lead story for this column. There are sometimes lulls when there’s just nothing ready to be reported even though businesses are working toward openings – and there are many new businesses in the works right now! I thought that was going to happen this week until I got a tip (which is actually the second bullet) on Thursday, that led me to do a little more research and stumble onto the fact that Ulta Beauty was having its soft opening on Friday! It’s been well over a year since the Town Council approved changes to the Special Development District for 1553-1559 New Britain Ave., and then some landscaping changes were approved last September, paving the way for Ulta Beauty to open a nearly 11,000 square foot store in the shopping center just past Westfarms on the West Hartford/Farmington/New Britain/Newington line. (Ulta is actually the only store in the shopping center that is actually in West Hartford.) I enjoyed my visit to Ulta Beauty Friday afternoon – which of course included a bit of shopping! Jahdessa Brown was at the door greeting everyone who entered, and since it was my first visit to an Ulta, she gave me a great overview of the store, and pointed out the 21 days of specials they are offering. Manager Allison Duka, who has eight years of experience with the company, and came to the West Hartford store from Plainville, gave me a tour. “The great thing about Ulta is we have everything all in one place,” Duka said. That includes a variety of brands of cosmetics – from high end to drug store – as well skin care items, beauty-related accessories, a salon (only every-other seat is being used right now), and a skin care bar (which will open post-COVID). There’s also a full-service “brow bar,” which offers brow mapping and luxury waxing to determine the best shape for your eyebrows. They also offer brow tinting by a licensed esthetician. The store has an extensive selection of salon-level hair care items for all types of hair, as well as high-end styling tools, a variety of skin care lines, and fragrances. Ulta also offers their own line of skin care and cosmetics, which Duka said are “amazing,” and I will plan to test that out as soon as I am in need of a product (trying to behave and keep the bathroom drawers somewhat uncluttered). Duka did tell me that the “benefit brow” products were among her favorites, and after two days I am already hooked on the “Gimme Brow” that I did purchase and which really does augment my naturally thin and pale eyebrows. Ulta will have its grand opening celebration on Friday, April 9. The store is currently open Monday through Wednesday from 10 a.m.-8 p.m., Thursday through Saturday from 10 a.m.-9 p.m., Sunday from 11 a.m.-6 p.m., and also offers curbside pick-up. Here’s one more photo (I was excited to find Bare Minerals, because their store closed at Westfarms and there was an item I needed), and many more photos can be found below.
- The tip I received from a reader (which led to the Ulta discovery) was that Dick’s Sporting Goods has signed a lease for the former Bed, Bath and Beyond space! The 54,782 square foot space at 1603 South East Road is in the same shopping center, but its street name is different from Ulta because it’s technically in Farmington. Since you never know what town you’re in when you’re in that area (not only West Hartford and Farmington, but also Newington and New Britain all come together right there), I count anything along that strip worthy of mention in this column. A representative from Charter Realty & Development confirmed that the lease has been signed, and Dick’s Sporting Goods should be opening by the end of 2021, which is an exciting addition to the area.
- NBT Bank Connecticut Regional President Andreas Kapetanopoulos announced last week that there has been progress in the bank’s plans to open two new locations in Greater Hartford, including the site of a permanent location in West Hartford and regulatory approval of its Glastonbury office. NBT, which has been operating out of temporary space in West Hartford, has signed a lease and applied for regulatory approval to locate the Connecticut regional headquarters at Corporate Center West, 433 South Main St., Suite 224, and also plans to offer a branch at that location. They hope to open sometime during the second quarter of this year. “We look forward to establishing a permanent location in West Hartford and opening our Glastonbury Office during the second quarter,” Kapetanopoulos said in a news release. “Our presence on both sides of the Connecticut River will enable our growing team of local bankers to further support the business and retail needs of the Greater Hartford community.” The Glastonbury location will be at 2670 Main St.
- March 22 was a “Banner Day” for West Hartford – the official unveiling of new banners that were installed a few weeks ago throughout West Hartford Center and Blue Back Square by the West Hartford Center Business Association (WHCBA). The new banners prominently feature the Center’s “Join the Experience! Shop, Dine & Stroll” slogan, and were made possible through a fund matching program with Sustainable CT. WHCBA Co-President Kimberly Mattson Moster of Kimberly Boutique was the driving force behind the project, and she hopes that visitors will enjoy the area’s new and unified look as warmer weather promises to provide a boost to local businesses. “2021 is a new year! Spring is here, people are getting vaccinated, and these beautiful banners are finally up! I love that they focus on shopping and dining locally. We can’t wait for everyone to come back to the Center to shop, dine & stroll!” Moster said at the unveiling. West Hartford Economic Development Coordinator Kristen Gorski suggested the possibility of getting match from Sustainable CT – which helps fund community projects – for the banners, and coordinated efforts with their Community Outreach Manager Abe Hilding-Salorio. “We’re thrilled to partner with the West Hartford Center Business Association on this initiative that celebrates West Hartford’s thriving Center and promotes its many local businesses” Hilding-Salorio commented as he met with Gorski, Moster, and West Hartford Mayor Shari Cantor beneath a new banner located in front of Kimberly Boutique. Despite being a vibrant shopping and dining destination for decades, WHCBA members understand that online shopping and the pandemic have changed consumer behaviors. With that in mind, the new banners promote the WHCBA social media handle, @whartfordcenter, so that new visitors can “follow” events and happenings in the Center while encouraging them to #ShopLocal! West Hartford Center advertising agency (and WHCBA member) Linked Media designed the new banners to serve as a reminder of how lucky the town is to have such a wonderful place to shop, dine and stroll.
- BodyRoc‘s new location at 635 New Park Ave., Unit 2D, will officially open on Monday, April 5. “We’re excited to announce our exclusive partnership w/ TKO Strength & Performance – one of the leading health & fitness manufacturers! This partnership will allow us to take the BodyRocXperience to another level … Yasss!!” BodyRoc owner Shaun Chambers announced in an email. More details can be found on their website.
- Marti Law Group (15 North Main St.) will be hosting Mayor Shari Cantor on Monday at 5:15 p.m. in a Zoom event “to talk all things small business and real estate in West Hartford! As a zealous advocate of the small business community, we hope to gain Mayor Cantor’s insight on the entrepreneurs, developers and investors looking to shape the future of our town in the ‘new normal,'” the company announced in a Facebook post. The link to participate can be found on their Facebook event page, and the following login credentials can be used: Meeting ID: 820 4037 5735 Passcode: 862111.
- Congratulations to West Hartford resident and attorney Ruth Fortune, who has been selected by the National Black Lawyers organization for inclusion in its “Top 40 Under 40 Black Lawyers in Connecticut.” This honor is given to lawyers under 40 years of age who have achieved outstanding results in their careers. Fortune, formerly a financial advisor for Merrill Lynch, represents Czepiga Daly Pope & Perri clients who are in need of estate planning, asset protection, probate settlement and Medicaid planning. She received her undergraduate degree from Baruch College in Manhattan and her law degree from the UConn School of Law. The National Black Lawyers is a professional honorary organization whose members are included by invitation only and is extended exclusively to attorneys who excel in their professions or who promote diversity. The selection process for the Top Under 40 results in a comprehensive list of the most outstanding black lawyers chosen to represent their states.
- West Hartford photographer Patty Swanson is teaming up with other local photographers to offer a virtual “Smartphone Photography for Seniors” course through the Elmwood and West Hartford Senior Centers. The description is: “Unique virtual course opportunity – get involved with others and pick up new photography skills. Capture creative family, nature or road trip images. Guest speakers include award winning Connecticut photographers: Patty Swanson, Kay Bagwell, Jill Davenport, and John Helmke. Facilitated by Kathy Beckwith, Patty Swanson, and Kay Bagwell.” The course begins on Thursday, April 15, from 9:30-10:30 a.m., and will run Thursdays through May 20. To register call 860-561-7583.
- Congratulations to West Hartford resident Lynn B. Rossini, who has been named vice president of Philanthopy for Hartford Hospital. She most recently served as Trinity Health of New England/Saint Francis Foundation’s regional vice president & chief development officer. Rossini will replace Vice President of Philanthropy Carol Garlick who will be retiring in October after a distinguished 23-year career at the hospital. Rossini comes to Hartford Hospital with more than 30 years of experience and has been responsible for leading several successful capital campaigns, helping to create state-of-the-art facilities and transforming the patient experience. “Lynn’s strategic leadership experience, vision, and passion for philanthropy will build upon the exceptional foundation that currently exists at Hartford Hospital,” said Bimal Patel, Hartford Hospital president and Hartford HealthCare senior vice president, in a news release. Prior to her role at Trinity Health of New England/Saint Francis, Rossini held leadership roles at My Sisters Place and the YMCA. “Becoming a member of the most trusted health care provider in the region is an honor and privilege for me. Serving as the vice president of Philanthropy for Hartford Hospital is extremely humbling, and allows me the opportunity to participate in creating a better health care future for those we serve,” Rossini said. “I look forward to working hand in hand with our philanthropic partners to advance our mission today and long into the future.” Rossini began in her new role on March 16 and will work side-by-side with Garlick until Garlick steps down this fall.
- Once a month, the Greater Hartford Host Lions Club (serving the West Hartford and Hartford communities) volunteers at Foodshare/Connecticut Food Bank’s Bloomfield facility. Pictured in the photo below from the March event are (from left): Dr. Jerry Hardison, Matt Woods Weber, Anthony Cornicello, Leo Bonetti, Katie Stevenson, Mark Seger, Andrew Stern, and Foodshare/Connecticut Food Bank CEO and President (and West Hartford resident) Jason Jakubowski.
- I received a breaking news Twitter alert early Friday morning that a former McDonalds in New Britain was on fire. Later in the morning someone else texted to tell me that the McDonalds right down the street from Westfarms (see mention above about where four towns come together) had been completely destroyed by fire. According to news reports, the building was in the process of being completely renovated when it caught fire, and then had to be completely demolished – a task that was underway when I drove by early Friday afternoon. I mention this because it’s right over the line, and I used to take my kids and their friends there sometimes – and I learned Sunday night that it had another connection to my family. My daughter and her fiancé met when they were preschoolers (she was 3 and he was 4, and we had just moved to West Hartford two weeks earlier and I was still pregnant with my son) playing at the Wolcott Park playground. Matt, who was there with his mom and two older brothers, shared his McDonalds French fries (purchased from that location) with Katie while his mom and I chatted. It was the first time Katie had McDonalds fries, which of course soon became one of her favorite foods. Matt eventually became a “favorite” as well – but not until they were in high school.
- ICYMI, Wurst Haus opened on Wednesday. In addition to the photos you can see in the intro from my dinner there Saturday night, all of the details, and many more photos, 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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