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West Hartford Business Buzz: December 11, 2023

WeHa Candle Company now has a retail location at 635 New Park Avenue, Unit 3C, West Hartford. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

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

Business Buzz is sponsored by NBT Bank, and we are very thankful for their support! 

By Ronni Newton

I re-read my column from the second Monday of December last year and I am happy to be ahead of last year with holiday decorating. I managed to stay away from my computer all day Saturday and therefore we managed to get the all three of our trees decorated! That includes one main (real) tree in the living room, a smallish artificial tree in the family room, and a tiny artificial tree in the foyer.

Instead of purging ornaments as our collection grows, we have added trees … So far this year we have only gained one – actually make that two – new ornaments, and one of those was discovered while reporting on the lead story for this column.

I was so excited to have had three parties to attend this weekend! It’s been quite a few years since there has been so much holiday party activity, and the extrovert in me really loves it. I really enjoyed meeting a number of people for the first time this past weekend who are familiar with We-Ha.com and are regular readers of this column, and while it does kind of add to the pressure of ensuring there is always good content, it also makes me so proud of the job we have done covering West Hartford for nearly 10 years!

I forgot to mention last week that I had been invited to participate in photographer/author Michael Fielder’s next edition of the “Working Journal” – a documentary-style anthology that includes portraits and the subjects’ hand-written descriptions of the work they do. Included in what I wrote was the following: “Trust, truth, authenticity, and relationships are critical to my role. … It’s about telling stories that might otherwise go untold and I’mm addicted to doing it correctly and honestly, and I love it!”

I managed to run a few times last week without injury, which is a good thing since it’s a bit challenging to maintain healthy workout and eating habits this time of year. I didn’t have any restaurant meals last week, but did have yummy potato latkes pictured below at Crown Market on Thursday while reporting on their Chanukah event. (I also bought one of their delicious tuna salad wraps for lunch, but forgot to take a photo before devouring it.)

Latkes with applesauce from Crown Market. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

This is going to be another busy week, which includes the second installment Monday night of the wetlands hearing for the development of the former UConn property (read part 1 here, and details about Monday’s hearing here), and there is also a media preview of the soon-to-open Jordan’s Furniture, several holiday events, and a Town Council meeting in the week ahead.

If you’re looking for news about West Hartford in print please note that many stories from We-Ha.com, as well as other local news, is published in the twice-monthly issues of the West Hartford Press.

If you have information to share about local businesses, please provide details in the comments or email Ronni Newton at [email protected].

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Here’s this week’s Buzz:

Phil Dube, owner of WeHa Candle Company, at the retail location at 635 New Park Avenue, Unit 3C, West Hartford. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

  • I’ve been a customer of WeHa Candle Company and have felt a kinship with this hyperlocal business since their very beginning, and am excited to report that they now have a beautiful new brick and mortar retail store (635 New Park Avenue, Suite 3C) that is open to the public! It actually had a soft opening a few months ago and while they have been doing some promotion on Instagram, owner Phil Dube said they have been waiting to have everything in place before doing a grand opening celebration. WeHa Candle Company not surprisingly sells candles – candles that you can’t find anywhere else. Phil and his wife, Jennifer, both West Hartford natives, started off with a line of “townie” candles named after places in West Hartford like the Reservoir, Elmwood, Stoner Drive, Center Nights, Orchard Road, Town Green, Main Street, and Noah’s Hearth, but they have also branched out to seasonal scents and candles named after other nearby towns and places people like to visit. Each glass jar candle has a map of the location on the back, which is illuminated when the candle burns. “My wife and I both have a passion for ‘home,’ and during the pandemic I was furloughed,” said Phil, who had been working for Tommy Bahama. “We were looking to do something from home,” he said, and created the “townie” candles at a time when there was great support for local business. They eventually outgrew the ability to produce the candles at home and leased the New Park Avenue space for manufacturing with the goal of eventually opening the shop. In addition to manufacturing and selling candles, they also offer home decor items (pillows, dishtowels, wall art, and other accessories), seasonal items (lots of great felted Christmas ornament right now – and I had to buy one of the alpacas following this interview along with something for my mantel and several hostess gifts), and a more upscale decor line called Shagbark Home. The expansive  1,600 square foot shop also has space for up to 16 people to attend open candle-pouring workshops on Fridays and Saturdays, and they also now host private parties. All are BYOB, and the private parties can even be catered. Participants in the pouring parties can create their own scent combinations from the available “woody, spicy, warm, fruity, floral, and fresh” oils that WeHa Candle has available. Wax is kept warm in repurposed brewery equipment (I thought they were large vats of coffee), and while waiting for the wax to harden, those attending pouring parties can also create their own macrame ornaments. WeHa Candle also offers other onsite crafting options, such as wreath-making, and will be expanding those offerings. I love pretty much everything in the store and took way too many photos and while a few are directly below, the rest are at the end of the column. For more information, including registration for a candle pouring workshop or booking a private party, visit the website. You can also follow @wehacandleco on social media.

Home goods and accessories are available in addition to candles at WeHa Candle Company’s retail location at 635 New Park Avenue, Unit 3C, West Hartford. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

WeHa Candle Company now has a retail location at 635 New Park Avenue, Unit 3C, West Hartford. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Home goods and accessories are available in addition to candles at WeHa Candle Company’s retail location at 635 New Park Avenue, Unit 3C, West Hartford. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Home goods and accessories are available in addition to candles at WeHa Candle Company’s retail location at 635 New Park Avenue, Unit 3C, West Hartford. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Mercury glass candles at WeHa Candle Company’s retail location at 635 New Park Avenue, Unit 3C, West Hartford. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

There are open “pour your own” sessions and you can also schedule a private party at WeHa Candle Company’s retail location at 635 New Park Avenue, Unit 3C, West Hartford. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

  • Wagging Tails Pet Resort & Spaw, located in the same complex as Weha Candle Company (635 New Park Avenue) has announced the opening of their indoor, heated pool for dogs, which includes Connecticut’s only indoor dock diving facility.  “The Pooch Pool provides year round opportunities for exercise and fun for Wagging Tails’ daycare and boarding guests. The pool is also available to rent by the half hour so that dogs from all over New England can visit and enjoy swimming here in CT – doesn’t matter what season it is!” Wagging Tails said in a news release. Adjacent to the  pool is a 40-foot regulation size dock, so the “Pooch Pool” is a unique dock diving sport event facility that brings in competitors from all neighboring states for dock-diving events through national organizations. Wagging Tails has an outdoor pool and dock diving at their Wolcott facility, which was originally inspired by owner Krista Lofquist’s then 9-year-old daughter, Natalie, in 2017 when she was looking for an agility event she and her dog could do. Now 15, Natalie is an experienced dock diving youth handler, Krista said, and as a freshman agriscience student she spends her weekends assisting in dock diving training, competition in dock diving leagues, and canine swim lessons. Krista became a certified dock diving judge and trainer, and realized the need for an indoor facility to provide year-round fun – a dream come true for their entire family. “The 40’ heated, indoor, Pooch Pool at Wagging Tails Pet Resort & Spaw in West Hartford is open year round – available for Swim Lessons (because dogs are like our children, and for their safety they should know how to swim). Contrary to what some think, not all dogs instinctively know how to swim!” Krista said in an email. “Pet pawrents can add on Pool Pass swim time during boarding stays, or during their dog’s days at Daycare. While owners are away relaxing at a resort, parents have peace of mind knowing their own fur kids are enjoying time at their own resort – with a pool!  Plus, the Spaw offers a warm blow dry after swim time to keep pets dry and toasty. For those dogs that love to swim, and will do anything to get to a toy, Wagging Tails offers ‘Dock Diving Try It’ sessions. It has been amazing to see the numbers of dogs that have been introduced into this sport at Wagging Tails Try It Sessions. Family fun is priority. Introducing kids and their dogs, to this up and coming sport is important to Wagging Tails. To have an activity to participate in WITH your dog, at a young age, in a welcoming and non intimidating environment, is the future of dog sports in CT. Youth Handlers ages 7 and up are encouraged to try the sport.” There is also a Friday Night Flying Fur League and a Sunday FUNday league for dock diving. Currently they have a set-up in the lobby for taking holiday photos of your dog in exchange for a $20 per dog donation to the “Presents for Pets” fundraiser to support animals in shelters. More information can be found through the website.

Wagging Tails, 635 New Park Avenue, Building 5. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

  • West Hartford resident Jill Blazi, now the owner of Doula Services by Jill, said she has been working with children since she was a child herself. She began babysitting neighborhood children at the age of 11 years old and from that point on,  she knew she had found her calling. Jill became a nanny at 18 years old, and went to college to study early childhood education and elementary education. While she never finished her degree to become a teacher, she knew that working with young children and their families was what she was meant to do. In 2017, Jill had discovered a new career avenue that she wanted to explore in more detail and that was becoming a doula. It wasn’t until 2022 that she began her course work, in 2023 she became a certified birth and postpartum doula. She is certified by Madriella Doula Network and works independently and with a local doula agency. Jill is continuing her education with Madriella and plans on becoming a breastfeeding educator, childbirth educator, young parent support specialist, a loss and bereavement doula, and a certified placenta specialist. With her 18 years of experience as a nanny, she has helped raise two little ones from when they were newborns; she considers them to be a major part as to why she felt so inspired to become a doula. With all of her education, experience and knowledge Jill has become a major resource for new parents. She is currently accepting families to work with for both birth and postpartum care. You can learn more about her services on her website as well as through her Instagram @doulaservicesbyjill.

Jill Blazi. Courtesy photo

  • Back in September 2022 I had shared in this column that Corner Pug owner Ted Vetter was looking to retire and had put the restaurant up for sale, but management reached out last week to let me know that the business is not for sale, and is very much still open and active. The “business was listed to see if there was any interest,” Vetter said. “At 75 years old I was ready to retire. There was interest, but never could come to terms. The Pug has never closed and it has never crossed my mind. In fact we opened for lunch when Covid started to fad and have since added a late night menu. Blackboard specials change daily,” he said, urging people to check out the Christmas decorations in the Pug Room, and weekly entertainment that is listed at cornerpug.com.

The Corner Pug, 1046 New Britain Ave. Photo credit: Ronni Newton (we-ha.com file photo)

  • Congratulations to Connecticut Foodshare President and CEO Jason Jakubowski, a West Hartford resident, who received the 2023 “Beacon Award” from the Public Relations Society of America Greater Connecticut Chapter (PRSA CT) on Nov. 30 for his outstanding efforts to leverage communications to help distribute more than 40 million meals each year through a statewide network of pantries and mobile distribution sites. The PRSA CT Beacon Award honors an executive who is a champion for the value of communications and public relations to enhance the important connection between their organization and its customers, clients, employees and communities but is not a communications professional themselves. “Jason’s passion and advocacy for families who face food insecurity are exemplified by his skills as an exceptional communicator who represents the gold standard in inclusive and equitable communication, programming, and community engagement,” said PRSA CT President Elizabeth Walden. He leads a team of 120 employees and more than 5,700 volunteers, and prior to joining Connecticut Foodshare, served as vice president of External Relations at Hospital for Special Care and director of Corporate & Community Development at Charter Oak State College. Jakubowski holds adjunct faculty appointments at both the University of Connecticut School of Public Policy and Central Connecticut State University’s Department of Political Science. He has a bachelor’s degree in Political Science and a Master of Public Affairs from the University of Connecticut, and is a graduate of Harvard Business School’s Strategic Perspectives in Nonprofit Management program.

    Courtesy image

  • Congratulations to West Hartford resident, Conard alum, and American Legion Post 96 baseball coach Sean McCann who will be celebrated at the Connecticut State Legion Baseball’s 21st Annual Hot Stove Awards Dinner on Friday Jan. 5, 2024 at the Aqua Turf Club in Plantsville as the 2023 Connecticut American Legion Baseball 19U Coach of the year. “Under Coach McCann‘s guidance, the team achieved an impressive regular season record of 17-4 and made history by winning the Connecticut State Championship for the first time in 50 years. Their journey included an exhilarating three-game series victory against the defending state champions, Danbury Post 60, at Palmer Field in Middletown,” the announcement states. Congratulations also to resident Rob Hanawalt of the West Hartford Post 96 Legion Baseball 15U team, who will also be honored at the event as the Connecticut American Legion Baseball 2023 15u Coach of the Year. “Coach Hanawalt led his team to an impressive regular season record of 17-1, ultimately winning the Connecticut State Championship. With an overall record of 25-3, the team secured the top seed in the tournament and emerged as champions after a thrilling final match against Glastonbury.”

American Legion Post 96 head coach Sean McCann at the podium with Mayor Shari Cantor, who read a proclamation honoring the team in August . Photo credit: Ronni Newton (we-ha.com file photo)

  • We featured Rize Mortgage and owner Jonathan Esposito in this column two weeks ago, and congratulations on their official ribbon cutting that was part of a grand opening celebration on Dec. 1. Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Chris Conway said it was the most well-attended ribbon cutting ever!

Rize Mortgage Company ribbon cutting, Dec. 1, 2023. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

  • I haven’t been able to obtain any details, other than being advised by another tenant of the building that Pokemoto at 970 Farmington Avenue is currently closed and has a sign on the window indicating that they are being remodeled. I reached out via social media, and received the following response: “Aloha Ronnie (sic), yes at the moment we are closed. We apologize for any inconvenience.”

Pokemoto is temporarily closed. Courtesy photo

  • The Old Guard had a very successful fundraiser this year, and pictured below is Chad Hasbrouck, chairman of the Old Guard Kilwin West Hartford Swing for the Kids golf tournament, presenting a check for $10,665 to Donelle Daigle, executive director of the West Hartford YMCA. Looking are staff of the West Hartford YMCA and committee members of the Old Guard. The tournament was held at the Stanley Golf Course in New Britain. Proceeds of the tournament are designated to provide scholarships to YMCA summer camp.

Old Guard check presentation to the YMCA. Courtesy photo

  • Not West Hartford, but a sad news nearby scoop from “The Connecticut Scoop” which first reported that Terreno, the Cal-Italian-inspiured restaurant that Tyler Anderson operated at The Goodwin Hotel in Hartford, has closed for good. The following was posted on Open Table: “Unfortunately Restaurant Terreno will be closing operations on December 9th, 2023. We thank you for your patronage and understanding.”

The main dish feast at Terreno! Photo credit: Ronni Newton (we-ha.com file photo)

  • ICYMI, among the business stories this past week was the news that the developers of the affordable housing project The Camelot closed on their financing and by the time you read this some of the work on the former Los Imperious and West Hartford Inn property may be underway. Click here for the details.
  • Crown Market‘s new owners held a Chanukah celebration in their new cafe space last week, and have also announced that they have greatly expanded the offering of Israeli products. The full story can be found here.
  • Congrats to West Hartford businesses Coracora and Cafe Louise which received top honors at the Connecticut Restaurant Association CRAZIES awards last Monday. Read the complete story here.
  • You might see a familiar face at the checkout counter at Macy’s. Click here to read more about it.
  • As noted above, the continuation of the public hearing on the wetlands application for the development of the former UConn campus is tonight. 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].

Home goods and accessories are available in addition to candles at WeHa Candle Company’s retail location at 635 New Park Avenue, Unit 3C, West Hartford. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Home goods and accessories are available in addition to candles at WeHa Candle Company’s retail location at 635 New Park Avenue, Unit 3C, West Hartford. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Candles for other locations are available at WeHa Candle Company’s retail location at 635 New Park Avenue, Unit 3C, West Hartford. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Home goods and accessories are available in addition to candles at WeHa Candle Company’s retail location at 635 New Park Avenue, Unit 3C, West Hartford. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Home goods and accessories are available in addition to candles at WeHa Candle Company’s retail location at 635 New Park Avenue, Unit 3C, West Hartford. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Home goods and accessories are available in addition to candles at WeHa Candle Company’s retail location at 635 New Park Avenue, Unit 3C, West Hartford. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Home goods and accessories are available in addition to candles at WeHa Candle Company’s retail location at 635 New Park Avenue, Unit 3C, West Hartford. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Home goods and accessories are available in addition to candles at WeHa Candle Company’s retail location at 635 New Park Avenue, Unit 3C, West Hartford. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Home goods and accessories are available in addition to candles at WeHa Candle Company’s retail location at 635 New Park Avenue, Unit 3C, West Hartford. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Wreath making is one of the activities available at WeHa Candle Company’s retail location at 635 New Park Avenue, Unit 3C, West Hartford. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Home goods and accessories are available in addition to candles at WeHa Candle Company’s retail location at 635 New Park Avenue, Unit 3C, West Hartford. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Home goods and accessories are available in addition to candles at WeHa Candle Company’s retail location at 635 New Park Avenue, Unit 3C, West Hartford. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Wax is heated for pouring candles at WeHa Candle Company’s retail location at 635 New Park Avenue, Unit 3C, West Hartford. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Home goods and accessories are available in addition to candles at WeHa Candle Company’s retail location at 635 New Park Avenue, Unit 3C, West Hartford. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Home goods and accessories are available in addition to candles at WeHa Candle Company’s retail location at 635 New Park Avenue, Unit 3C, West Hartford. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

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