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West Hartford Business Buzz: August 5, 2019

SockStarz, a social enterprise mission of HARC, will be opening a shop in West Hartford Center. Courtesy photo

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

By Ronni Newton

I feel like I just said it was hard to believe it was July already, and now it’s August.

Time definitely flies, and certainly seems to fly faster the older one gets. I know I’ve uttered this saying many times: “The days are long but the years are short.”

The past decades seem to have flown by, and some of that time was seemingly erased this Saturday night when I attended my – gulp – 40th high school reunion. We had approximately 100 members of the Westhill High School Class of 1979 in attendance at Sign of the Whale in Stamford Saturday night (plus a few dozen spouses or significant others, including my husband), and it was so much fun!

Millie at almost 12 weeks. Photo credit: Sam Newton

I attend most reunions, both high school and college, and I really enjoy connecting with people I haven’t seen in a long time, or in some cases getting acquainted with someone I never really knew but with whom I share a common history.

On Saturday I saw a few people I hadn’t seen since graduation, some I saw at the 30th reunion, one of my best friends, quite a few others who were part of my “friend group,” and even my two serious high school boyfriends (the two of them, and Ted, posed with me for a photo – right before I dropped my phone and the screen turned striped, so I didn’t take any other pictures the whole night). We talked, we ate, we drank, we danced, and we even had a brief memorial for the 17 members of our class who have passed away (out of a class of about 550).

Former classmates have gone on to become doctors, lawyers, business owners, writers and editors for national magazines, teachers, engineers, and some are already retired. Many are grandparents. One Harvard-educated former classmate said he’s currently a stay-at-home dad to his two teenaged kids. People are definitely more interesting now, and interested, and seem to have mostly gotten beyond feeling they need to impress each other.

My voice was hoarse Sunday from shouting above the music all night, and probably also from going to sleep at 3 a.m., but it was great to connect, and thanks so much to the organizing committee for getting us together!

Millie had a great Saturday night as well, hanging out with Sam and his girlfriend. She had her first walk in the Reservoir, and she looked much bigger when we got home – even though we hadn’t even been gone for 24 hours! The next time we leave town she’s coming with us, and I look forward to sharing Millie’s escapades on the beach in Nantucket in the next few columns.

Don’t forget to watch a special edition of West Hartford Business Buzz on CT Live at 11:30 a.m. Monday on NBC Connecticut!

If you have tips about businesses opening or closing, 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:

SockStarz will be opening in the Patsy’s Barber Shoppe space at 18 LaSalle Rd. in West Hartford Center. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

  • A unique retail business will be opening in West Hartford Center, and not only will there be cool and fun products available, but the shop will provide meaningful employment for adults with special needs. SockStarz, a social enterprise mission of Hartford-based Harc, Inc. featuring novelty socks and other items, will be opening in the Patsy’s Barber Shoppe location at 18 LaSalle Rd. right next to Penzey’s. According to a news release, SockStarz plans to “fill its 550 square feet with the nearly 1,000 varieties of colorful socks. The team is currently in the design phase and plans to open the storefront in mid to late September. In addition to their silly, sassy sock styles, SockStarz is looking to partner with local makers and artisans to feature their work and wares within the store.” Harc CEO Andrea Barton Reeves told We-Ha.com that the idea for a social enterprise business had been in the works for a long time, and became viable after Harc was one of 38 organizations that completed a four-part workshop series and one of 10 nonprofits selected to receive 30 months of additional consulting support in business planning, implementation support, and capital-raising coaching from the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving. In late June, after SockStarz presented its “Fast Pitch” to angel investors for start-up cash, the Hartford Foundation announced that it would match their fundraising efforts dollar for dollar, up to $40,000. Other types of businesses were initially considered, Barton Reeves said, and for a variety of reasons socks were chosen, including that they are fun, allow expression of creativity, can be used by people of all ages, and are easily portable. “Traditionally, nonprofits have heavily relied on a mix of state funding, grants, and tireless fundraising,” she said, “but as grant availability shifts from year to year and economic conditions impact donations, we wanted more control over our revenue by developing a business that would benefit our bottom line and provide people with intellectual disabilities with meaningful employment opportunities.” The management team at Harc “wanted to have our own company, to shape our destiny,” Barton Reeves said. SockStarz has been operating as a pop-up since the early spring in places like the Know Good Market and at the YWCA’s “In the Company of Women” luncheon, but Harc staff really wanted a permanent brick and mortar location when they heard about the West Hartford space opening up. “While the fancy footwear and local goods are enough to lure in local shoppers, the shop’s message and mission make every purchase a form of advocacy for local adults with intellectual disabilities. SockStarz currently employs seven Harc participants who work in inventory management, customer service, and order shipment. Each employee receives comprehensive training in both the e-commerce shop and brick and mortar sales,” the news release states. Local artists and makers looking to partner, sales associate applicants, and those interested in employment opportunities for adults with special needs should email the SockStarz team directly at [email protected]. More information about SockStarz can also be found at www.sockstarzusa.com. “What I like is the conversion of a service use back to a retail use,” said real estate broker and property manager Mike Mahoney of RLM Co. And as for Patsy’s, the business will maintain its two other locations (the owner himself didn’t work in the West Hartford shop), and reportedly will be offering to relocate the barbers to either the Wethersfield or Glastonbury shops.

    New sign at Cinepolis. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

  • The re-opening date for Cinépolis West Hartford hasn’t been announced yet (the website still says that the “refreshed concept” will be available to guests this summer), but they must be getting close. The new sign was installed this past week, and a peek inside the lobby shows that it’s nearly complete! The renovated concession stand looks ready to serve moviegoers with an assortment of nachos, popcorn, and candy. There’s a sign instructing people how to use the new in-chair buttons to summon a server, and also a sign advertising a Monday through Thursday happy hour (3:30-5:30 p.m.) with 40 percent off draft beer, house wine, and well liquor. I hope to have updates soon about a re-opening date.

    Amika Gair-McMichael. Courtesy photo

  • Amika Gair-McMichael has recently opened a photography studio in West Hartford. Amika Gair Photography is located at 805 Farmington Ave., and she is a local fine art portrait photographer that specializes in newborn, children and wedding photography. She said she loves to capture those fleeting moments of childhood, and her tagline is “Amika Gair Photography takes instant out of time, celebrating life by holding it still.” For more information, visit the website www.amikagairphotography.com. A few examples of her work can be found below.
  • YHB Investment Advisors, Inc., an independent advisory firm in West Hartford Center, announced that it has recently hired two new operations associates. Lori Coleman and Shari Lyons. Both will provide operations, marketing and compliance support. Coleman has a bachelor’s degree from Brigham Young University and a Master’s degree from Georgia State University. Prior to joining YHB, Coleman taught history at the college level and worked as a graphic designer and bookkeeper and is also an active volunteer for several local organizations. Lyons previously worked in the dental field as an office manager and dental assistant. She enjoys meeting new people and helping them feel welcome and comfortable.  Lyons has held various leadership positions volunteering in her church’s children, youth and women’s service organizations. Photos of both can be found below.
  • Cumberland Farms has launched its 8th annual Cups for Kids campaign, a month-long fundraiser that benefits pediatric care programs at five regional hospitals, including Connecticut Children’s Medical Center in Hartford. Throughout the month of August, five cents from Chill Zone beverages (including HYPERFREEZE) purchased at participating retail locations across Connecticut, including the Cumberland Farms at 471 New Park Ave. in West Hartford, will be donated directly to pediatric care programs at Connecticut Children’s. “It’s incredible to think that this is our 8th annual Cups for Kids fundraiser,” said Gwen Forman, Senior Vice President of Marketing at Cumberland Farms. “Supporting the communities we serve has always been something we believe in, and this campaign is a key part of our commitment. Since the beginning of the program we’ve donated a total of over $800,000 to our hospital partners and we’re looking forward to adding to that number this year.” Representing Connecticut Children’s during this year’s fundraiser is 9-year-old Bianca Mollica from Wethersfield. They shared the following story: “Shortly after she was born, Bianca’s family realized she was allergic to all dairy – including breast milk and soymilk – and turned to Connecticut Children’s for help. During admission, Bianca’s respiration and heartbeat dropped to zero and although doctors were able to stabilize her, these complications continued to occur each time she fell asleep. Upon further testing, doctors discovered that sleeping in a more upright position in a bouncing chair pacified the issue and a nutritionist was able to find a food plan that supplemented her diet. Unfortunately, she was admitted again shortly after when she began suffering catastrophic bleeding episodes from her nose. After a month of testing, Bianca was diagnosed with Von Willebrand disease, a clotting disorder with symptoms that range from mild to severe, and with a diagnosis finally in hand, doctors were able to provide treatment. Today, because of the personalized care and wide variety of expert treatments she received at Connecticut Children’s, Bianca is currently enjoying her favorite summer activity, swimming, and has been a competitive dancer for five years – leading the life of an active and extroverted nine year old.”
  • Another company in West Hartford will be raising funds to support kids, in this case for the Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation. West Hartford Health and Rehabilitation Center will hold its 16th annual Alex’s Lemonade Stand for a Cure for Childhood Cancer. The lemonade stand will be held from 10 a.m.-3:30 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 9, in memory of Alex Scott, a former West Hartford resident who founded the Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation (ALSF) when she was just 4 years old. Over the years, the West Hartford Health and Rehabilitation Center has raised more than $30,000 for ALSF. In addition to lemonade, the event will feature a bake sale with treats donated from professional bakers; ice cream sundaes; a $5 car wash; fresh lemon sale (three for $1) and a raffle. Raffle items include: Moo Yah Burger gift cards, an overnight stay at the Public House in Massachusetts, a $100 gift card from J’s Crab Shack, a $100 Target gift card, lunch for four at Pond House Café and more.

    Teddy Graham Latte from Hartford Baking Company.

  • So many food items have their own weeks or months, and August, in addition to being national sandwich month, national goat cheese month, national peach month (and national get ready for kindergarten month), August also happens to be “iced latte month.” Hartford Baking Company is pretty excited about that, and will be serving special iced latte flavors each week at the New Park location (625 New Park Ave.) as well as the West Hartford Center location (965 Farmington Ave.) Beginning the first full week of August, each flavor is as follows, Aug. 5-11: Golden Milk Latte (hot or cold), Aug. 12-18: Unicorn Latte, Aug. 19-25: Teddy Graham Latte, Aug. 26-31: Snickers Latte. The Farmington Avenue location is also offering buy one, get one free prepared drinks from 3-7 p.m. until Aug. 15, and is preparing some upcoming specials to celebrate its ninth anniversary. For up-to-date information on Hartford Baking Company, follow on Instagram (hartfordbaking) or email [email protected].

    Stop & Shop on Farmington Avenue in West Hartford is giving out a reusable bag when you return plastic bags. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

  • A 10-cent state tax on single-use plastic bags began Aug. 1, and stores and other businesses throughout West Hartford and the rest of the state are making changes to their packaging. Policiies vary widely, and include some grocery stores eliminating plastic bags at the registers (although not for produce), some offering paper bags for free (for now). We-Ha.com interns are compiling information about how many West Hartford stores and businesses are working with the new law, so look for that story coming soon! In the meantime, click here to read “five things you need to know” about the new law on a statewide basis from CTMirror.org.
  • ICYMI, Ideanomics has withdrawn a complaint filed in protest of its tax assessment, filed before the Town of West Hartford completed the process of evaluating the appraisal of the property since the use is no longer a college or university operation. Click here for the full story.
  • Lots of buzz around town about the new shuttle service being launched. WeHa Wheels will operate within a 2-mile radius of West Hartford Center and Blue Back Square, and will be available on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays, picking people up at their homes and shuttling them to their destinations in the Center or Blue Back, free of charge. Click here for details.
  • Looking for something to do this month? Click here for the Top 8 things to do in August courtesy of Experience We-Ha.
  • Finally, if you’re looking for organic products, locally-made products, or anything emblazoned with the image of West Hartford’s iconic cat, Crookshanks, you’ll want to visit b. kind which recently opened on Farmington Avenue. Click here for the complete story.

Remember, if you have any business news to share, add it in the comments section below or email Ronni Newton at [email protected].

Like what you see here? Click here to subscribe to We-Ha’s newsletter so you’ll always be in the know about what’s happening in West Hartford!

Photo by Amika Gair-McMichael

Photo by Amika Gair-McMichael


Photo by Amika Gair-McMichael

Shari Lyons. Courtesy photo

Lori Coleman. Courtesy photo

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We-Ha.com is the place to go for the latest information about West Hartford – a town that "has it all"! We-Ha.com is part of and proud of our community, and we bring a hyperlocal focus to news and features about the people, schools, businesses, real estate, sports, restaurants, charitable events, arts, and more. Contact us at: [email protected] or [email protected].


  • Hi Ronnie
    I notice that you list a whole month of specials/ promotions for the Hartford Baking Company. I thought that WeHa only advertised specials that were connected to fundraising. Someone had told me that. Maybe they were wrong. Thanks. Mike

    • Hi Mike! You are absolutely correct that we wouldn’t post a press release about specials without a charitable component, but Business Buzz is a column, and sometimes I will include them if I think it makes sense. I was intrigued by the idea of iced latte month, and some of the other food items that get their own month, so I opted to include those details. ~Ronni

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