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West Hartford Business Buzz: August 30, 2021

Sparrow will be opening this fall in the former Grant's space at 977 Farmington Ave. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

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

By Ronni Newton

We turn the calendar over to September this week, but it won’t be fall in my book until the autumnal equinox, which arrives this year on Wednesday, Sept. 22 at 3:21 p.m. EDT.

As always, I mourn the approach of the end of summer, not because I don’t like fall but because it means winter will follow. My husband, Ted, went grocery shopping last week and came home with some type of pumpkin flavored Special K, which I immediately consigned to a top shelf of the pantry where I can’t see it, and it must remain there until at least Sept. 1.

I hope the weather stays warm enough, long enough, for outdoor activities to continue. Even with COVID cases rising, being able to be outside has kept most people from returning to isolation. I’ve enjoyed seeing my friends throughout the spring and summer, even those who were reluctant to socialize in the earlier phases of the pandemic, and I hate the thought retreating from in-person events.

School begins this week in West Hartford, and while things are not quite the old “normal,” I do plan to attend an in-person elementary school flagpole ceremony again this year! I met with Superintendent Tom Moore last week, and to read my article with an overview of what to expect in schools this fall, click here. I wish all the students and staff a great year!

Best of luck to my son, Sam, who begins “18th grade” on Monday (year two of his master’s in public policy) at UConn, and this semester he actually has class in person! He started his internship with the Department of Economic and Community Development last week, but that’s remote until at least Oct. 1.

Best of luck also to my son-in-law, Matt, beginning his second year of teaching when students at Avon Middle School return to class today.

One event that will safely take place in person is the WEHA Bear Fair. The reveal of the bears will take place on Tuesday, Aug. 31 (event at 4:30 p.m. and unveiling at 5 p.m.), but Dennis House from WTNH and I got a sneak peek at the decorated bears last week as they emerged from hibernation at “Daley’s Den,” aka Daley Moving & Storage in Torrington. For the stor, and photos, click here.

Dennis House and I got a sneak peek at the Bear Fair bears outside “Daley’s Den” in Torrington this week.

Ted ran the RiMaConn Relay (a 95-mile race that started in Rhode Island, went through Massachusetts, and ended in Connecticut, run by a six-person team) on Saturday, and we celebrated with pizza and beer at Savoy on Saturday night. He definitely deserved a large share of these delicious pizzas!

The Betty Rivata (foreground) and Italian Street Taco pizzas at Savoy. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Beers at Savoy. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Center Streets returned this year after a one-year COVID hiatus. I dusted off my bike and joined in this great event – one of my favorite to cover because of all the smiling kids! Lots of photos (and a short story) can be found here.

Please continue to support our local businesses, wear your masks indoors (regardless of vaccination status) – 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:

Sparrow will be opening this fall in the former Grant’s space at 977 Farmington Ave. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

  • This is news that so many people have been waiting to hear, but the full story is still going to have to wait a few more weeks. What I can say now is that the business that will be opening in the former Grant’s space at 977 Farmington Ave. is called Sparrow, and is a restaurant owned by former Barteca (Barcelona and bartaco) executive David Boyajian. His experience also includes a national role with Oath Pizza, and CEO of Ohio-based Boca Restaurant Group. The application for the liquor permit has been posted in the window for a few weeks, and I did have a chance to meet Boyajian when I stopped by to take a photo of the exterior. He said the restaurant will be ready to open “this fall,” and the only other thing I can say right now is that the renovations to the interior have been extensive and it’s going to be a very cool concept. Much more to come!

The Goldroc Diner has closed, and the space will be converted into an IHOP. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

  • I had heard a few weeks ago that the Goldroc Diner (61 Kane St.) had closed, but had not been able to confirm it until this week, when I also learned that there is a new owner of the property, and plans for a new business to open there. Mustafa Ayaz, who lives in Southington and owns several gas station properties in Connecticut, has purchased the building and an IHOP franchise that he and his family will operate in the former Goldroc space. Goldroc closed on July 18, Ayaz told me, and he closed on the property just 10 days later. I’ve reached out to IHOP’s media relations department for details about what changes will be made to the property to conform to the brand specifications, but Ayaz said he plans for it to be a 24-hour operation like Goldroc was, and he is very excited about being part of the West Hartford community.

The Goldroc Diner has closed, and the space will be converted into an IHOP. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

  • National fitness brand [solidcore] (that’s not a typo!) will be opening their first studio in West Hartford on Sept. 12. The space at 65 Memorial Rd. is ready to go, and preview classes will begin on Wednesday according to the schedule posted on the company’s website. “It’s beautiful,” Blue Back Square General Manager Robyn Rifkin said. “We’re excited.” This is [solidcore]’s second Connecticut location (the other is in Westport), and the expansion is part of [solidcore]’s extensive growth plan that will bring the workout to over 100 brick-and-mortar locations over the next several years, the company said in a news release. Described as “Pilates redefined,” [solidcore] offers a 50-minute, extreme, full-body workout utilizing a patented machine created specifically for the studio. Done in a low-lit room with blue lights, energizing music and an experienced coach guiding the workout, the class targets clients’ slow twitch muscle fibers and takes strengthening, conditioning, and resistance training to a whole new level. “It’s very exciting to bring this workout to West Hartford and expand our footprint in the state,” Bryan Myers, president and CEO of [solidcore], said in the release. “This workout is ideal for anyone looking for a challenging and efficient class, and it is particularly beneficial for athletes looking to take their training to the next level, and with the proximity to companies like ESPN – we are hoping to welcome a new mix of clients to the community.” In accordance with local guidelines, the West Hartford studio is opening at full capacity and all clients are required to wear masks – regardless of vaccination status. Limited classes will be offered at a reduced capacity – masks will not be required for these classes, but proof of vaccination will be. Clients can expect ample space between machines, increased cleaning protocol, utilization of MyShield Surface Cleaner on high touch surfaces and machines (proven to kill covid virus), and air filtration systems. A full list of safety protocols can be found along with the class schedule on the [solidcore] website.

Solidcore has set a grand opening date of Sept. 12. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

  • Junk Pot Studio, which we featured in this column in July, is planning to open to the public at 635 New Park Ave., Building 2 Unit 2A, on Wednesday with classes beginning Sept. 10. Look for more information to come in a feature story very soon.

Toro Mexican Street Food is hoping to open in September. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

  • Toro Mexican Street Food (which previously had the working name of Toro Loco Casita), hopes to open within the next few weeks at 22 Raymond Rd., owner Tony Camilleri told me. Much more to come!
  • Banter by Piercing Pagoda will be opening at Westfarms in the former Godiva space. Banter offers jewelry for sale, as well as piercing services.

Spirit Halloween Shop is open in Corbin’s Corner. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

  • I hate to even mention it before September begins, but the Spirit Halloween store has already popped up in West Hartford, located this year in the former Dress Barn space in Corbin’s Corner.
  • Congratulations to Artisan and Barcelona, both honored with awards of excellence for their wine lists in the 2021 Wine Spectator Magazine Restaurant Awards.

Clearing of the land and demolition of existing structures at Berkshire West. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

  • The Berkshire West development project at the corner of Berkshire Road and New Britain Avenue is now underway, with much of the land cleared and demolition of all of the smaller buildings. Details about the project can be found here.

The sign is up for Kung Fu Tea in the former Esquire Cleaners space on South Main Street. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

  • The sign is up for Kung Fu Tea, the bubble tea shop that will be opening in the former Esquire Cleaners space at 5 South Main St. No word yet on an opening date, but they have received their approval from the West Hartford-Bloomfield Health District. Kung Fu Tea was founded in New York in 2010, after the owners wanted to recreate the type of bubble tea they had found on a recent trip to Taiwan. A focus on “3T” is the key to the Kung Fu Tea difference, the business’ website states.
  • Congratulations to former Mayor Scott Slifka, vice president and general counsel for LEGO, Americas, whose team was honored with the WTR 2021 Latin America Team of the Year Award by World Trademark Review. Details can be found here.

Mike Bonzani. Courtesy photo

  • West Hartford Center-based YHB Investment Advisors, Inc. is excited to welcome Mike Bonzani as a portfolio administrator. Bonzani graduated from Endicott College with a BS in Finance in 2019.  After graduation, he took a job with Pershing LLC where he was an associate in Global Trade Processing. He assisted clients with international trade processing inquiries to ensure trades were settled timely and provided training for clients.
  • According to an email I received from the American Red Cross on Sunday, Cheryl MacKenzie from West Hartford is one of 11 responders from the Connecticut and Rhode Island region who has been deployed to assist with Hurricane Ida relief. We wish her the best of luck, and our thoughts are with all who are in the path of this extraordinarily dangerous storm.
  • Some good Westfarms news is that the mall has reopened for walkers, with doors open daily at 9 a.m.
  • Some sad Westfarms news is that the Disney Store is closing as of Sept. 15. Kimberley Longto Flaherty, a manager of the store, posted the following on Facebook this week: “The company had made the decision to focus more on the online store rather than brick and mortar and they have been closing locations all year. It is now our turn. … I’m sure I’ve waited on many of you over the last 17 years. We are still requiring masks for guests and still have a capacity, although it’s higher than it was last year. Please be patient if you do have to wait outside. Thank you to those of you who have been loyal guests all these years and I hope to see you real soon.”

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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