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West Hartford Business Buzz: August 24, 2020

Ashley HomeStore Outlet will be opening in the former Puritan Furniture store at 1061 New Britain Ave. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

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

By Ronni Newton

A sandy and salty Millie, pre-bath, surveying her beach. Photo credit: Ted Newton

It’s back to reality for me.

I returned late Thursday night from 12 days on Nantucket, and while I did do some work while I was away, it was such a needed break.

One of my favorites things about this vacation was watching Millie run along Surfside Beach. Dogs are permitted on the beach, and while we keep her [mostly] leashed during the middle of the day when there are other people around, in the mornings and late afternoons we are able to let her run off leash – and run is what she does! This dog is super fast, and I don’t know if she gets more joy out of chasing seagulls or we get more joy out of watching her do it.

When any of us go in or near the water, she comes along as well. She swam a few times, got swamped by waves many times, got sandy and salty, and had THE best time. Unlike our previous Bearded Collies, she didn’t whimper when it was her time to enter the outdoor shower for a good cleaning before we returned home. I’m not sure if it’s because she likes the water more than any of our previous dogs, or if she just doesn’t know the routine well enough yet.

Ted, Sam, and I went to Meçha Noodle Bar for dinner on Saturday night. I had been there and sampled many of the menu items when I wrote a story about the opening late last month, but neither of them had been.

Beef Noodle at Mecha Noodle Bar. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

We had a great dinner: Firecracker Wings and Roasted Mushroom Dumplings as appetizers; and Curry Snapper, Beef Noodles, and Shoyu Paitan for our main dishes. (More food photos are below.)

We sat outside on the patio, which was great, and ordinarily I would really enjoy people watching along Farmington Avenue. However, I was honestly quite dismayed (actually horrified) by the number of people who still are not wearing masks or other face coverings.

It was 7:45 p.m. on Saturday night, and the Center was busy – not necessarily pre-COVID Saturday night busy, but busy enough so that keeping distance on the sidewalk would not have always been possible.

The town of Nantucket is a “mask required” zone, and it gets just as busy as West Hartford Center, but I would say 99% of the people I saw there wore masks. I wore one when I ran through town even though it was only 7:45 a.m. and there weren’t many people around.

Perhaps it’s the threat of a fine of up to $300 for not wearing a mask that serves as good incentive (and they absolutely don’t hesitate to fine people), but on an island where there have only been 51 cases of COVID-19 since March, it’s great to see people doing their part to ensure each others’ health and safety.

West Hartford doesn’t have the authority to fine people for not wearing a mask (it’s being discussed with the state), and I’m not going to stop enjoying our great restaurants and shops in the Center, and yes I am preaching, but c’mon, in the overall scheme of things it’s a minor inconvenience on behalf of the greater good. Rant over, for now.

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].

Here’s this week’s Buzz:

Planned signage for the initial opening of Ashley HomeStores Outlet at 1061 New Britain Ave. Courtesy image

  • Puritan Furniture, a fixture in West Hartford for more than 70 years, finally concluded its going-out-of-business sale a few weeks ago, and the Elmwood space (1061 New Britain Ave.) is not going to be vacant for long! Sami Abunasra, president of Nasra Enterprises, purchased the building last week and will soon be opening an Ashley HomeStore Outlet. Abunasra, who owns Ashely HomeStores (it’s not a franchise arrangement but rather a license agreement) in Newington and Manchester, said this is the first Ashley HomeStore Outlet in the area. While it’s called an “outlet,” the furniture is “100% out-of-the-box brand new,” Abunasra told me in a phone interview over the weekend. The selection includes some of the same lines carried in the Newington and Manchester Ashley HomeStores, but differs in that more of the items are designed for smaller spaces, for more mobile users. He said there are also more RTA (ready-to-assemble) items as well. Abunasra said he has been interested in the Puritan space for about a year, then, “when COVID happened … we are extremely bullish on home furnishings.” He said that as more people are working from home and spending more time at home in general, they are looking to upgrade their home furnishings. “We believe in the furniture, and I love the area in West Hartford,” he said of the Elmwood location. “The demographics are perfect.” Abunasra has some plans for a major upgrade of the space, but will initially just do some painting and put up a new sign with the goal of opening Sept. 1. Abunasra said he is very excited about the investments and improvements planned for the overall area, including the opening of GastroPark and streetscape upgrades in the New Park Avenue/Design District corridor. “The town is very welcoming,” Abunasra said, giving a special shout-out to Economic Development Specialist Kristen Gorski who shepherded him through the process. “We are excited; the possibilities are endless, and I am so encouraged by what I have heard,” he said. Gorski said “moving into this legacy building” was a huge draw for the new business, and she very much appreciates Abunasra’s interest in the Elmwood area. Ashley HomeStores, the retail arm of Ashley Furniture, is the largest retailer of furniture in the U.S. Abunasra said, with more than 1,000 stores.
  • Economic Development Specialist Kristen Gorski also confirmed that in the past week the town officially received its commitment for $3.7 million in grant funding to improve the New Park Avenue streetscape, a process that has been in the works for two years. “I’m just super-excited,” she said. More information will be forthcoming from the town’s Engineering Department.
  • More good news for the neighborhood: The Design District celebrated its 15th anniversary last week! Formerly known as the Home Design District, the association recently underwent a rebranding and has expanded its membership basis and is looking to also expand its reputation as the “next hot spot destination in the Greater Hartford area.” The founding members spoke about the evolution of the area and those details can be found here.

    The Kaoud Rugs family and staff donated $7,500 to Foodshare. Courtesy photo

  • Props to Kaoud Rugs, which as part of their reopening plans in June decided to donate a portion of all sales of rugs and carpets to support a local charitable organization. According to Maurice KaoudKaoud Rugs and Abe Kaoud Family Foundation recently presented a check for $7,500 to Foodshare “to help the people in the Greater Hartford area who are struggling with food insecurity. … We especially want to thank our customers, old and new, for their generous support. We could not have reached our goal without you!” the company said in a social media post.
  • West Hartford-based blumshapiro, which is already the largest regional business advisory firm based in New England (with offices in Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island, and Virginia), announced a merger effective Aug. 15 with The Brighton Company of Burlington, MA. “We continue to look for opportunities to partner with leading firms who are strategically aligned with our firm’s focus on delivering innovative services and thought leadership to the market. Brighton has established themselves as such a company and I am excited to have them as part of the blum team,” Joseph A. Kask, chief executive officer of blumshapiro, said in a news release announcing the purchase. The office will remain based out of its existing location in Burlington, MA, and is blum’s sixth office in Massachusetts, joining others in Boston, Newton, Worcester, Quincy, and North Andover. With this merger, blum expects to expand its employee base to more than 500 people, the company said.

    Future Prima Facie Medspa. Courtesy photo

  • Thanks to an alert reader who sent me this photo on Saturday of the soon-to-open Prima Facie Medspa at 1000 Farmington Ave., in the former Elizabeth Grady Salon space right next to The Fix. The company’s website indicates that the owner is Dr. Cristina Martinez, who is a resident of West Hartford and the Medical Director of PFM. I’ll provide more details as soon as I am able to get in touch with Dr. Martinez.
  • Congrats to West Hartford resident Julie Chen, who is one of three area residents who won the Hartford Business Improvement District’s “Make a Thing” competition, and was chosen create artwork for public space in Hartford. Chen will be creating “Heartford,” a red, heart-shaped swing big enough for two adults. More details can be found here in this Hartford Courant article by Susan Dunne.

    Ribbon cutting at Infinite Beauty Bar. West Hartford Chamber of Commerce photo

  • The West Hartford Chamber of Commerce held its first in-person ribbon-cutting in months on Aug. 9, with Chamber staff and Mayor Shari Cantor celebrating the opening of Infinite Beauty Bar in their new space at 206 Park Rd.
  • This week’s sad news is the closing of the Verizon store in the Corbin’s Corner Shopping Center. The only details I have are that a reader observed the employees packing up the final contents of the store on Saturday, and there was a hand-written note taped to the door. A call to the store went straight to a recorded message that stated the store has closed.
  • ICYMI, Good Cause Gifts is now open at 973 Farmington Ave. in West Hartford Center! Read the full story about this social enterprise business 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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Roasted Mushroom Dumplings (left) and Firecracker Wings at Mecha Noodle Bar. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Curry Snapper at Mecha Noodle Bar. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Shoyu Paitan at Mecha Noodle Bar. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

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