A round-up of openings, closings, and other news about West Hartford businesses.
By Ronni Newton
Well, that was quick.
We’re about to turn the calendar to another month. I won’t call it fall until the season officially changes on Sept. 22.
Before that happens, I’m squeezing every last bit out of summer with some fun adventures.
Our friends and fellow West Hartford residents Betsy and Matt Udal had invited us to participate in a race – the Open Doors Outdoors 5-Mile Farm Run in South Glastonbury. The fundraiser for Open Doors Outdoors, which has the mission of taking “veterans, their families and young people into the outdoors for re-connection, healthy activity and healing,” began and ended at Hops on the Hill Brewery, and sounded like a great way to enjoy some beautiful late summer weather – except that it was pouring rain Saturday morning and the cross country course (which according to my Garmin was 5.24 miles) was muddy, mucky, and slippery, and had a really steep hill at the end. (If we had been on the other side of the river, I would have definitely anticipated the MIA beefalo to appear!)
I was reluctant to get out of the car when we arrived and it was pouring, but it was really so much fun once I accepted that staying clean and dry was not an option.
This is the “after” photo. It’s a bit hard to see how muddy our legs were, but trust me, they were.
Sunday’s adventure was boating with some friends from the Shoreline – which was a decidedly cleaner and drier experience. There was a bit of an issue that involved Sea Tow, but that’s another story.
School is resuming, and we are about to enter another phase of this pandemic for which there is no playbook – but there has been countless hours of planning. In “ordinary” times, today would have been the West Hartford Public Schools convocation ceremony, where about 900 teachers would have gathered in the Conard auditorium for an uplifting presentation about the start of the new academic year, hosted by and with participation from students at one of the town’s schools, and with an inspiring speech by Superintendent Tom Moore. On Wednesday, I would have attended the flagpole ceremony officially opening one of the town’s elementary schools.
Monday is still the first day of school for West Hartford Public School teachers, but they will have an entire week of orientation prior to students (on the Red Team) arriving on Tuesday, Sept. 8.
It’s going to be a very different start of school this year, with students attending according to the hybrid model, with masks and other PPE, cohort classrooms, block scheduling, and about 15-16% of students engaged in remote, rather than in-person learning.
I hope for success for all, for the health and safety of students as well as teachers, administrators, and staff who have all been working so hard to create a workable plan. To say there are no easy answers or solutions is an understatement, but all of the students I have talked to are excited about returning to school, and I hope that there is a widespread spirit of optimism as well as understanding.
Best of luck to my future son-in-law, Matt Redman, as he meets his very first class of special education students at Avon Middle School, where classes begin today. And best of luck to my son, Sam, who has decided to pursue his Master’s in Public Policy at UConn, and begins his program (with online classes) today!
This is a jam-packed Business Buzz column today, and it was tough to decide which item to feature. They’re all worthy, so please read through to the end!
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:
- This is REALLY good news! Many people were very sad to hear the news of Blue Plate Kitchen closing in Bishops Corner – but there is a change in plan! “We are negotiating with a couple of parties to continue on the Blue Plate concept and hope to have a resolution in the coming weeks,” owner Jay DuMond confirmed Saturday after I followed up on a tip from a reader. “And yes, we will remain open,” he added, with no downtime at all. Blue Plate Kitchen also sent out an email on Sunday noting that they are negotiating with a potential buyer and “expect that sale to occur in the coming weeks and we will continue to operate during this time. Blue Plate Kitchen would continue with the same breakfast concept, but possibly a different lunch/dinner concept. Staff will be welcome to stay.” The restaurant had been planning to close for good as of Sunday night, DuMond had said in early August.
- When 0 Degree closed its 120 Park Rd. location last November, the plans were to reopen in the spring in another Park Road location, said Joyce Loy Sterry, who purchased the West Hartford and Middletown Thai ice cream shops from the original owner in July 2019. Unfortunately the COVID-19 pandemic put quite a damper on those plans, and Sterry was very much occupied with keeping the Middletown location going. She has now turned her attention back to West Hartford, and said the new location will be opening, under new management, just two blocks from the original space, at 227 Park Rd., right next to Parkview Wines and Spirit and directly across from A.C Petersen. “We will continue to serve our very popular hand-made, Thai rolled ice cream made on the spot for customers,” Sterry said in an email. “The all-natural, preservative-free ingredients remain the same but there will be a wider array of fresh fruit and candy/snack toppings available at the new store. There will be 14 flavours of ice cream made fresh everyday plus a monthly special (which changes every month depending on the season and festive period … for example “Mango Sunrise” for summer July when we can readily purchase deliciously ripe Champagne mangoes to put into our plain, sweet cream base, enhanced with strawberries to make the sun rise in the special! One of the months’ special will also be our unique blend of Thai-tea ice cream, which we have named the ‘Thaitanic.’ As preparation of the ‘Thaitanic’ base is quite cumbersome, we did not include it in our regular menu but instead kept it as a ‘look-forward-to-special’ one month a year! Our delicious bubble tea will also make a re-appearance at the new store, all 16 flavours of classic milk-teas and 12 flavours of fruit teas! Our freshly made and very in-demand tapioca pearls and 5 flavours of boba (popping jelly) and mixed jelly will also be available to add to the teas, thereby changing the teas to ‘bubble teas,’ which have taken the world by storm since its appearance 20 years ago in Asia-Pacific, and only made its way to America a few years ago. I am also seriously considering adding a few new flavours to the fruit teas, like Kumquat Lemon, Sour Plum and Sticky yam.” Because of the nature of the permitting process and the amount of build-out needed, Sterry thinks it will be early 2021 before 0 Degree reopens. To keep up-to-date on the progress (which I will also continue to update in this column), or for information about the Middletown location, follow 0 Degree on Facebook and Instagram (@0degreeCT).
- There’s major progress on the business that is taking over the former 0 Degree space! BIRDCODE Hot Chicken, a Nashville hot chicken-style restaurant, is almost complete and is just a few weeks away from opening at 120 Park Rd. The outdoor sign is up, and I happened to drive by to take a photo when owners Brandi and Phil Killoran were there, and got a sneak peek at the inside – which is looking great with walls of reclaimed wood and stainless steel tables already in place. (No photos until it’s closer to completion!) There is also a new outdoor patio/dining area that has been constructed. The Killorans are really excited, and I am looking forward to a complete tour, tasting, and story to share soon!
- A new West Hartford business, WeHa Candle Co., has just launched. The products (see photos, including below) are all designed, manufactured (poured and bottled) and packaged in West Hartford, and while there is no brick and mortar storefront at this time, there is free local delivery or pick-up in the Center, and free shopping for orders over $75. The owners are West Hartford natives, and Jennifer, one of the owners, provided the following information in an email: “HOME is our passion. Many of us have been spending more time at home than ever before, meaning the COMFORT of our home is more relevant than ever before. We made our products with the health and safety of our family and the environment in mind. This means we use ONLY sustainably sourced virgin coconut-soy wax (no palm or paraffin), ONLY all-natural and premium fragrance oils and essential oils and ONLY organic herbal distillate in all of our products. SAFETY is also on the forefront of everyone’s minds and that is why EVERY ingredient in our FACE MASK REFRESHER SPRAYS is phthalate + paraben free, free from dyes, skin safe, non-toxic and non-GMO. We also strictly use glass bottles and jars for packaging. … All our product names and scents are inspired by history, places and events of WH (“Town Green” after Goodman Green; “Center Days” + “Center Nights,” “Elmwood,” “The Reservoir,” and so much more). And we will be launching new fragrances monthly. Some of the upcoming fragrances include “Goodman’s Tavern” and “Holiday Stroll.” She said that the back of every candle has a sketched street map of West Hartford – that glows when lit. WeHa Candle Co. offers special pricing for teachers, medical workers, and service industry employees, as well as bulk pricing for face mask refresher sprays. For more information, email Jennifer at [email protected], visit the website www.wehacandleco.com or call 860-559-8040.
- Happy 10th Anniversary to Hartford Baking Company! Sept. 1, 2020, marks 10 years since Scott Kluger launched Hartford Baking Company, leaving a successful finance career in New York City to launch an artisan bakery, inspired by recipes developed by his mom for baked goods she was selling at the Billing’s Forge Farmer’s Market in Hartford. The 625 New Park Ave. location was the first to open, and now there are two more – 965 Farmington Ave. in West Hartford and 400 Hebron Ave. in Glastonbury. Bread – most of which is vegan and contains only flour, water, salt, and yeast – is baked fresh and hand-shaped nightly. “It is a tremendous honor to have a decade in business as a small, family owned, artisanal bakery,” Kluger said. “We could never have made it, particularly through the last year, without the support of our loyal customers for the cafes and the chefs who choose to use our bread over the many cheaper, over processed competitors in the market. I am proud to provide a clean and wholesome product for the Hartford community. In addition to our sales, we donate thousands of loaves of bread a year to local homeless shelters, and we also give back to various charitable causes through customer supported fundraisers several times a year. All of that, and the opportunity to employ so many awesome local folks, is extremely rewarding to me, and I feel humbled and happy to have had the opportunity to do this for 10years already – and we are only just getting started! We have big announcements to come in the year ahead!” On the anniversary day, Sept. 1, Hartford Baking Company will be offering special two-for-one sandwich deals, the return of “throwback” specialty breads like Ricotta Dill Bread and Cherry Chocolate Bread, and will also mark the beginning of Iced Latte Week (Sept. 1-7) where daily offerings will include Snickers Iced Latte, Unicorn Iced Latte, 10-Year Anniversary Iced Latte, Teddy Graham Iced Latte, and a Vegan Golden Oat Milk Iced Latte. I tasted several of the offerings on Sunday and they were delicious!
- The Design District is excited to announce the launch of its new digital ad campaign to celebrate the Association’s 15-year anniversary, the association said in a news release. “With small business, residential, and commercial developments breaking ground in this ‘forgotten corner’ of West Hartford, the Design District is thrilled to showcase all the happenings that are transforming the area into a must-visit destination in Central Connecticut.” The 30-second spot will showcase a couple who discovers the Design District as the place to go not only for their home improvement projects, but also for dining and entertainment. “The idea behind the ad was to showcase the core remodeling businesses that have called the Design District home for decades, but to also introduce some of the new ways that people can enjoy themselves when they come to shop for their homes,” said Design District Marketing Consultant Chelsea O’Donnell. “We have outstanding coffee shops and breweries that have established themselves over the past few years and a new food truck park and brewery/roastery that are both on the horizon. These businesses in addition to a slew of fitness/wellness facilities and two new residential developments are transforming the New Park Avenue corridor into so much more than just a renovation destination.” Directline Media owner and Design District President Dave Chmielewski produced the spot. “There is an energy in the Design District that really came across during production,” said Chmielewski. “The business owners are all creatives themselves so there was a lot of collaboration. All around a great day!” The Design District has also launched its “Ask the Expert” Facebook group, which now has more than 350 members, and is designed to give home renovators access to local recommendations and find answers to their remodeling questions from real experts right in West Hartford. This fall, the Design District will be welcoming new members and invites all local, independent businesses in the 06110 zip code to learn more about the Association and what it has to offer. Interested parties can visit their website for more information or attend the next meeting, held via Zoom on Wednesday, Sept. 9 at 8:30 a.m. Details can be found on the group’s Facebook page.
- While I refuse to acknowledge that Sept. 1 means it’s meteorological autumn, and I will ignore any references to the arrival of anything pumpkin spice for at least the next three weeks, and I think it should be illegal that Stop & Shop is selling mums when it’s still August, for those who are ready for fall and its associated activities, a Spirit Halloween shop has now opened in Corbin’s Corner. It’s located in the former Dress Barn location in the Corbin’s Corner Shopping Center, right near Trader Joe’s. And although masks are a key part of Halloween as well as a fixture in our daily life right now, I think there are going to be some major changes in how the holiday is celebrated this year. Somehow I can’t see how trick-or-treating is going to happen, but I hope I am somehow wrong.
- West Hartford-based Citizen’s Oil Co-op has been participating in the annual Our Lady of Calvary Retreat Center golf outing for the past five years, and has now donated more than $5,000 to support the organization. The Co-op is proud to have donated over $5,000 to this cause and is excited to continue support in years to come. Citizen’s Oil Co-op is a family owned and operated business. “We like saving people money. Any chance to give back to our customers we try to do so,” Adrian Hutson said. For those not familiar with Citizen’s Oil Co-op, the company, which has been in business for nearly 30 years, offers competitive pricing on heating oil and other home utilities, including electric and solar, and has the tagline: “Saving More. Together.”
- Inc. magazine recently ranked the top 5,000 fastest growing private companies in the nation, and a West Hartford business is among the 36 Connecticut companies that made the list, reported recently by Joe Cooper at The Hartford Business Journal. Congratulations to West Hartford-based IT Direct, which was ranked No. 4,066 on the list and reported an 85% revenue increase between 2016-2019. “The Inc. 5000 represents the fastest-growing privately held companies in the U.S. Being included in this list is quite an honor and we are proud the companies have found success in Connecticut,” David Lehman, commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Economic Development, said in an email.
- Great news for West Hartford’s University of Saint Joseph, which was ranked No. 5 in MONEY Magazine’s recent rankings of Best Colleges in Connecticut, finishing behind only Yale, Trinity, Wesleyan, and UConn. USJ was also ranked No. 37 in MONEY’s rankings of Best Colleges in New England. More information can be found at usj.edu and money.com/
- ICYMI, the Bridge Family Center recently opened a new counseling center on Shield Street in Elmwood. The complete story can be found here.
- A West Hartford-based organization, The Photo Managers, is leading the global initiative “Save Your Photos Month.” Click here for details.
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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