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West Hartford Business Buzz: August 2, 2021

Zephyr's Street Pizza renovation is underway. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

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

By Ronni Newton

I absolutely can’t believe it’s August already. I really wanted this summer to take its time but that doesn’t seem to be happening.

Below is something I posted in this column on the first Monday of August last year, and it’s pretty much how I’m feeling right now. I’ll be on vacation beginning next weekend through Aug. 21 (still working some, but I know many others are also on vacation and there’s not too much happening in town) and I know when I return the summer will really feel like it’s coming to an end.

A friend of mine posted this passage from “Tuck Everlasting” on Facebook last year, and I’m feeling it’s appropriate again. (We-Ha.com file photo)

Someone told me this week that Millie hasn’t appeared in this column recently. I was so focused on wedding things that I hadn’t been taking many photos of her. She met our next door neighbor’s absolutely adorable yellow lab grand-puppy over the weekend, and here’s a photo of her with the squeaky tennis ball she pilfered from Reggie. (It has since been returned.) Millie is absolutely obsessed with her new little friend, who will soon be larger than she is, and can’t wait for his next visit.

Millie is standing guard over the squeaky tennis ball she pilfered from my next door neighbor’s grand-pup. We did return it when she wasn’t looking. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

I had some great takeout from Salsa Fresca this week. I was at the ribbon cutting (see below) but had to cover the celebration of Emanuel Synagogue’s solar installation right after that and grabbed dinner to-go for Ted and I to eat afterward. They kindly separated the hot and cold items so I could easily put my rice bowl together when I got home, and it was delicious and so fresh tasting!

Chicken rice bowl from Salsa Fresca. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

We had dinner Saturday night at Rockledge Grille (aka “The Rock,” which is our neighborhood hangout and only a five-minute walk – and has the best view in town), but sadly just a few moments after we were seated on the patio I saw a bunch of police cars speed by. “Uh oh,” I said to Ted, and within a few minutes I had a text notifying me about a house fire right down the street. I did run (literally) over and take some photos (leaving Ted sitting alone at the table to order our food and drink), and then wrote the story (South Main Street Home Uninhabitable After Saturday Night Fire) as soon as I got the details from the fire department, which was right about the time we were done with dinner and walked home. I think that was the fourth emergency-type incident on South Main Street in the past 10 days.

Sunset from the patio at Rockledge Grille on July 31. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Tuna Tartare mini tacos, and a draft IPA from Rockledge Grille. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Chicken pesto sandwich on sour dough and sweet potato fries from Rockledge Grille (foreground) and salmon BLT in background. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

A few other random notes before I get to the Buzz …

Please understand that when I post stories on social media it’s not possible to provide every detail in the headline or even the introduction to the post. If no one reads the stories we post on the actual We-Ha.com site, then everything we are doing to provide complete local news coverage becomes somewhat irrelevant. There have been a lot of comments lately on Facebook asking questions – really obvious questions – that are answered in the very first paragraph of a story if the person commenting could only bother to take that one additional step and click on the story. I’m not going to respond to those kinds of questions and ask that you please read the story! If it’s a crazy long story, it’s usually warranted and I will also usually warn you in advance.

Also please note that some businesses don’t want details shared far in advance of their opening, and I respect their wishes. Sometimes I do know what’s going into a particular space, but I will keep that information safely in the “off the record” vault storage in my brain until the business owners are ready. Creating a level of trust that I won’t breach a confidence is extremely important to me, and it should be to every professional reporter, and please be assured that I am as anxious to break news as anyone else. I was asked not to share the information that I had originally intended to use to lead today’s column about a new retailer, and while I have known what is going into the former Grant’s space for a very long time, I will respect the wishes of that business to announce it on their terms. (I don’t, however, know anything about the buyer for the Ideanomics property.)

COVID-19 guidance is ever-changing, and I’ll be providing updates from the state (likely through our collaboration with CTNewsJunkie.com), the town, and West Hartford Public Schools as they are issued.

Town Manager Matt Hart said Sunday that town officials will be meeting Monday to discuss the COVID situation. “We may have new guidance following that meeting,” he said, and I’ll share whatever that may be as soon as possible.

Although there are no new mask mandates issued by the governor, some businesses are asking everyone – vaccinated or unvaccinated – to mask up indoors. I think it’s a very small inconvenience and will be back to masking indoors in public spaces such as grocery stores.

Please continue to support our local businesses, wear your masks indoors if you are not vaccinated and consider wearing it indoors even if you, especially when a business owner asks you to – 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:

The furniture has been temporarily removed but will return when Zephyr’s Street Pizza opens – likely in September. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

  • As noted in the intro above my original plan for the lead for today’s column fell through (late on Saturday) but there are plenty of exciting updates on businesses that are in the works. On Sunday I decided to drive around town and check some of them out in person, and I was also able to get a few updates from the business owners. “Looking good for September,” Dante Cistulli said in a text about Zephyr’s Street Pizza, which is taking the place of Barb’s at 968R Farmington Ave. (Brace Road parking lot). The interior work is moving along nicely, he said, and outside remodeling will begin this week. The patio furniture has been removed for safety, but once the restaurant opens (which even the signs says it will be “after the baby,” and that official announcement is eagerly anticipated) there will be plenty of opportunity for dining on one of the prettiest patios in town. “Stay tuned for Zupdates and be sure to give us a follow on instagram,” Cistulli wrote in a recent post on Zephyr’s Facebook page. (Instagram @zephyrsstreetpizza)

LobsterCraft is almost ready to open at 981-A Farmington Ave. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

  • LobsterCraft is really, really close to opening! I touched base with Tommy Gordon, one of the owners, and he said there are just a few punch list items left following a recent inspection by the town. I did peek in the window on Sunday and it looks beautiful inside and pretty much ready to go. I broke the news about LobsterCraft planning to open in West Hartford back in October and have stayed in touch with the owners ever since and am very eager to let everyone know when the opening date is set. LobsterCraft will be located at 981-A Farmington Ave. in West Hartford Center. Note: As I’m writing this it’s close to dinner time, and after food item no. 2 in this column, I’m getting very hungry …

Fuego Picante looks close to opening at 280 Park Rd. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

  • Fuego Picante is also getting very close to opening! There are tables and umbrellas out on the patio, which is now also surrounded by flowers, but although I tried, I wasn’t able to really see inside. Updates to come!

Work is underway on the future Rasham Marketplace at 770 Farmington Ave. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

  • We provided the news in this column this spring about Rasham Marketplace opening in the former Cosmos International space at 770 Farmington Ave., and I checked on that on Sunday as well. There’s a big dumpster in the parking lot, and a peek inside the window revealed that there has been a lot of work done on the interior and there are brand new refrigerator cases waiting and ready to be installed. Updates to come on the opening plans!

Salsa Fresca ribbon cutting on July 29, 2021. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

  • A few of the businesses that recently opened in West Hartford had ribbon cuttings with the Chamber of Commerce and Mayor Shari Cantor last week. On Thursday, I attended the ribbon cutting for Salsa Fresca, which opened in December at 345 North Main St. in Bishops Corner. The West Hartford restaurant is Salsa Fresca’s first franchise location, and owned by long-time Salsa Fresca employees Sarah and Lester Valdes. According to a news release from the company, Sarah, who has been with Salsa Fresca Mexican Grill for 13 years, started at the company’s very first location in 2008, and Lester was the first employee at the second location in Bedford. Both have a wealth of knowledge about the restaurant industry, sustainability and Salsa Fresca’s ‘always fresh, never frozen’ focus. ‘This is an exciting opportunity for us,’ said Sarah. ‘We’ve been so fortunate to be able to see Salsa Fresca grow from the very beginning, and to be part of that adventure. We’re looking forward to making this restaurant be an integral part of this wonderful community, and appreciate all the support the citizens of West Hartford have shown us from the very first day.’ The regional chain’s successful formula has always centered around an inclusive culture, and a strategy of creating a warm and welcoming environment at each location. Like all of the Salsa Fresca locations, the West Hartford site features an open kitchen concept, eco-friendly policies and a clean and safe environment throughout. ‘We have been able to create and sustain a successful formula, with each location reflecting our values and a personal connection with each community,’ said Eric Friedman, Salsa Fresca’s COO in charge of growth initiatives. ‘Within five years, we hope to have at least 100 restaurants throughout New England, with each location adhering to that inclusive, personal strategy that makes Salsa Fresca such a unique place to work.’ I visited Salsa Fresca when it first opened in December, and couldn’t leave the ribbon cutting last week without bringing home dinner for me and Ted (see photo of my dinner in the intro above). A definite thumbs-up for the rice bowls which I got to-go with the hot items kept separate for easy re-heating.
  • Ribbon cutting at Restore Hyper Wellness and Cryotherapy. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

  • A second ribbon cutting was held last week when the Chamber of Commerce officially welcomed Restore Hyper Wellness and Cryotherapy, also located at 345 North Main St. in Bishops Corner. Restore opened in late June, is owned by husband and wife team Chris and Jamie Gray, and offers a broad spectrum of wellness services including mobility, a hyperbaric chamber, compression therapy, an infrared sauna, hydro-facials, slimming and toning treatments, IV drips, estheticians, and a cryo-chamber – which involves spending three minutes in a very cold chamber (cold as in negative 200–300°F) and, according to the company’s website, “has shown to reduce inflammation and releases endorphins that help alleviate pain, boost energy and metabolism, and increase the body’s natural healing abilities.” For more information, visit the Restore website. Mayor Shari Cantor is pictured below, learning about how one of the devices they have at Restore can help with any lingering stiffness she has following ACL surgery.

Scott Gray, co-owner (with his wife, Jamie) of Restore Hyper Wellness and Cryotherapy, shows Mayor Shari Cantor how one of their therapies can reduce lingering pain from her ACL surgery. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

  • There’s a fundraiser for “Fighters for Finn” on Wednesday night at Sweet Frog, with a portion of all proceeds going to the Down Syndrome Association of Connecticut. Details in the flyer below.

  • The Hartford Business Journal reported last week that the Spigot Cafe – located just across Prospect Avenue in Hartford – has been sold. The new owner, Neil Leary, is a West Hartford resident. No information was provided regarding any changes in the operation.
  • ICYMI, there were quite a few business-related stories the past week. Town Manager Matt Hart said that Ideanomics had engaged a landscaping company that planned to return and complete the job of mowing the property, and when I drove by there on Friday what I could see from Asylum Avenue had indeed been mowed. More details can be found here.
  • Seven West Hartford organizations have received grants from the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving’s West Hartford Together Community Fund. Click here for the complete story.
  • The Emanuel Synagogue celebrated the energizing of its solar installation Thursday, a project launched in collaboration with Hartford-based Verogy and financier through the Connecticut Green Bank. Click here for details.
  • To see all the recent business news on We-Ha.com, click 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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