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
The holiday season remains in full swing, and my past week has been filled with festive events such as luncheons, the Chamber of Commerce and Turley Publishing holiday celebrations, and a Saturday night party.
It was a busy work week as well, which included spending six hours at the TPZ hearing on the former UConn property on Monday night, attending a media sneak peek and the ribbon cutting for Jordan’s Furniture at Westfarms, and a Town Council meeting.
I’ve also experienced some very sad events over the past week. On Friday we attended the wake and celebration of life for the wife of Ted’s cousin who died a few days earlier of pancreatic cancer. We had last seen her in September at a family wedding and while we all knew she was very ill, she was feeling good that day and we all had a wonderful and joyous time together, dancing until the very last song. While she lived in Cheshire and her obituary wasn’t published locally, many readers may have known Joanne Newton from her work as a swim coach throughout the state and from her days of teaching of water aerobics in Newington and Farmington.
This afternoon we are going to the wake for a woman I’ve known since I was 2 – when we moved into our house in Stamford and I met the family next door who had a little girl my age and who immediately became my best friend. Lynn remains a friend to this day and her mom, who died Thursday at age 85, was my mother’s best friend until my mom died in 1990.
Winter arrives this coming Thursday, Dec. 21, at 10:27 p.m. The one good thing about the first day of winter, in my opinion, is it means that the days will start getting longer. Although I do continue to run outdoors, ski, and walk on the beach in the winter, and admire the beauty of a stark landscape, I will choose summer any time.
Please note that we will NOT have a We-Ha.com newsletter for the next two Mondays, which are Christmas Day and New Year’s Day. There is not likely going to be much business-related activity over the next two weeks, and while we will continue to report on the news in West Hartford, and our regular newsletters will still be sent out on upcoming Wednesdays and Fridays, I am not planning a Business Buzz column at all for next week. Unless something unexpected pops up, this column will not return until the Jan. 3, 2024 newsletter.
No Saturday night dinner out this week because we were at a party, but I had a wonderful dinner one day last week with several of my dearest friends at Birdie Lounge. Making time to relax and catch up with friends is something I know I don’t do often enough, and I hope to be able to make it more of a priority in 2024.
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].
Here’s this week’s Buzz:
- The space at 280 Park Road was briefly the brick and mortar restaurant location for the Fuego Picante food truck, but after some minor updates soon will become the physical location that has evolved from another very successful food truck. Quick Bites has offered Caribbean cuisine from their food truck for more than 10 years, and owner Clover Marsh told me last week that they are hoping to open a restaurant that will serve Jamaican-American cuisine “with a touch of barbecue.” The menu hasn’t been finalized yet, but Marsh said it will include jerk chicken and pork, curry chicken, oxtail, goat, smoked fish, and barbecued ribs. They will serve lunch and dinner – and eventually look to add breakfast as well, she said. “We’re hoping to open in January, shooting for Jan. 2,” she said. The restaurant will focus on takeout items, but there will be some seating as well. Marsh said they will keep the Hartford-based food truck, which they will continue to use for events, and hope to eventually add more food trucks to the fleet. While the restaurant will open in the winter, Marsh said the grand opening celebration will probably wait for the summer, once the weather is nicer and people can be outside in the patio area.
- As for grand openings, there was quite an event at the new Jordan’s Furniture in the former Lord & Taylor space at Westfarms as they officially opened on Friday at noon. Earlier in the week I attended a behind-the-scenes sneak peek event for media, but was back on Friday for the ribbon cutting. President Eliot Tatelman – the self-proclaimed “mascot” for the company – and his sons and co-CEOs Josh and Michael, as well as other members of the executive team, were there to cut the ribbon along with Westfarms General Manager Elizabeth Ryan, Farmington Town Manager Kathy Blonski, and West Hartford Mayor Shari Cantor. “I can’t believe how much work went into doing all of this,” Tatelman told an excited crowd on Friday just before noon, stating that the goal of opening in the area was three or four years in the making. “Without question we made the right choice. This is going to be amazing, this mall is amazing,” he said. About 60 people are now working in the Westfarms store, Tatelman said. While the company started with Tatelman’s grandfather, Sam, more than 100 years ago, and is still family-run although it’s now owned by Warren Buffett – who Tatelman thanked along with Taubman Company, Westfarms management, and the leadership of Farmington and West Hartford. Tatelman unveiled the 80-foot by 30-foot Jordan’s Wall and the tunnel, and shared the news that Sally’s Apizza will open in April or May, before the ribbon was cut and the crowd streamed into the store. “Isn’t this place fabulous,” exclaimed Blonski, noting that the 120,000 square foot store is the largest furniture showroom in the state. “It is their innovative and immersive retail experience that sets them apart from the other furniture showrooms,” Blonski added. “We are so thrilled to have Jordan’s Furniture here, and the commitment and the investment they have already made to the community is overwhelming,” said Cantor, congratulating Jordan’s and welcoming them to the neighborhood. “Today we are thrilled to be celebrating the opening Jordan’s,” said Ryan, adding that the store is “a perfect representation of the mall’s commitment to bringing exceptional retail to our customers in the Greater Hartford area.” Billy Taubman of the Taubman Company (owner of Westfarms), said Jordan’s is a great example of working together. At the grand opening, Jordan’s, which prides itself on giving back to the community through the Jordan’s Furniture Charitable Foundation, also presented checks for $25,000 each to Connecticut Children’s and Yale New Haven Children’s Hospital. A few photos are directly below, and the rest are at the end of the column. There are also photos of the interior of the store included with the sneak peek story I published earlier in the week, and you can find those here.
- Permits are in place and the groundbreaking for the future Starbucks (with drive-through) has taken place on the grounds of Corporate Center West, located on South Main Street between I-84 and New Britain Avenue. The top photo was taken on Wednesday, Dec. 13, when I first noticed the construction fencing, and when I snapped the second photo on Saturday there had already been some progress. It’s been just over a year since the Town Council approved the changes to the Special Development District for the parcel which will allow the Starbucks to be constructed, and you can see the renderings and find the other details here.
- Blue Back Square is offering a few more Winter Workshop events for kids in the former West Elm store space at the corner of Memorial and Isham roads. Saturday, Dec. 23, from 10-11 a.m. is “Ornament Making” and on Saturday, Dec. 30 from 10-11 a.m. there will. be a “Winter Fairy Garden” program. Click here to register for the ornament workshop and click here for the winter fairy garden event.
- The now-closed Silk Nails in Bishops Corner appears to be undergoing some fairly extensive interior updates from what I could see from the parking lot. I wasn’t able to stop in and find out anything more, but it appears that the updates are being done in preparation for the reopening of the nail salon as Bliss Nails.
West Hartford-based Bare Life has debuted two new flavors this year! On Nov. 15, the award winning, plant-based and gluten-free hot cocoa has debuted their second “new and delectable, seasonal, hot cocoa flavor of the year, Peppermint.” In October, they debuted Pumpkin Spice, and both new flavors have been a bit hit. “Nothing says it’s the most wonderful time of the year, like a hot cocoa mugful of refreshing peppermint and velvety chocolate,” according to Bare Life founder Ali Lazowski. Peppermint cocoa is made with six simple, allergen friendly, and sustainably sourced ingredients, including peppermint essential oils, and can be enjoyed when either mixed with hot water or plant-based milk, creating a perfect dairy-, gluten-, soy-, refined sugar-, and corn-free treat that’s a great addition to seasonal sips. “After keeping our plans secret for so long, I am so excited to finally share the wonderful news that our beloved plant-based, simple-to-enjoy hot cocoa will now be available with a peppermint twist,” said Lazowski. She is also excited to share that Bare Life’s Organic and Dairy Free Hot Chocolate and Frozen Hot Chocolates can now be found on café menus across the University of Connecticut’s Storrs Campus. Locally, Bare Life can be purchased at Whole Foods, and can also be found online at Bare Life’s website, Amazon, Walmart.com, QVC.com, Etsy, or for only wholesale distribution options, see Faire.com, Associated Buyers, Specialty Food Marketplace, and Pod Foods. On Amazon, Bare Life hot cocoa mix was named Top New Hot Cocoa on Amazon at its launch on the site in January 2020, Lazowski said.
The Children’s Museum has announced that Michael Werle, who has served as the Executive Director for the past eight years, will be transitioning to the role of consultant by sometime in mid-2024. Ayesha R. Clarke, chair of the Board of Trustees, said Werle has made “an impactful contribution to the museum’s success,” and “will continue to provide his invaluable expertise and guidance as The Children’s Museum selects a new, permanent location.” The Board of Trustees has engaged Arts Consulting Group to help in the process of selecting a new permanent executive director to lead the Museum, and those services have been made possible by a grant from the Hartford Foundation of Public Giving. “We expect our new executive director to be in place by mid-summer, at which time Michael will transition to his consulting role. I would like to take this opportunity to express our heartfelt gratitude to Michael for his unwavering dedication and the profound impact he has had on The Children’s Museum. His leadership has been instrumental in shaping the museum’s mission and vision, while also playing a pivotal role in securing a $10 million commitment from the State of Connecticut for our new home,” Clarke said in the announcement.
- Kathryn Hunt, owner of West Hartford-based Kathryn Hunt Studio, was asked to do the holiday decor for the dining room at the Governors Mansion, and joined Gov. Ned Lamont in welcoming guests to tour the space last week.
From a news release: Longtime West Hartford resident Vinny DiNatale, a bus driver for Glastonbury Public Schools, has been a Big Brother (adult mentor) with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Connecticut for the past 13 years. During that time, he’s been a mentor to three different boys. In 2013, Vinny created the “Cram the Van” toy drive. This is an early December event that continues to this day. Its goal is to collect new, unwrapped toys, which are then distributed during the holiday season to children in the Big Brothers Big Sisters programs. During his 10 years as a surrogate Santa, Vinny has collected many thousands of dollars intoys for Little Brothers and Little Sisters (mentees) enrolled with the well-known youth mentoring organization. In 2019 – for his dedication to mentoring – Vinny was presented an Outstanding Mentor Award by Senator Christopher Murphy. In 2022, Vinny received the coveted Children’s Champion Award from Big Brothers Big Sisters of Connecticut. Recently, Vinny stopped by the annual Big Brothers Big Sisters’ Winter Celebration to look on happily as lots of “Littles” were gifted with toys from his 2023 “Cram the Van” drive. In addition to the toys, there was holiday music, sweet treats, games, crafts, free books, and a fun photo booth to delight and entertain the many Little Brothers and Little Sisters on hand. Accompanying Vinny to the Big Brothers Big Sisters’ Winter Celebration was Vinny’s proud dad, Vincent, also a longtime West Hartford resident. His dad retired in 2020 after working for 60 years as a barber in Hartford. For more information on Big Brothers Big Sisters of Connecticut, please visit: www.ctbigs.org.
- Congratulations to the Town of West Hartford, which has been awarded the Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting by the Government Finance Officers Association of the United States and Canada (GFOA) or its annual comprehensive financial report for the fiscal year ended June 30, 2022. The report has been judged by an impartial panel to meet the high standards of the program, which includes demonstrating a constructive “spirit of full disclosure” to clearly communicate its financial story and motivate potential users and user groups to read the report, the town announced in a news release. The Certificate of Achievement is the highest form of recognition in the area of governmental accounting and financial reporting, and its attainment represents a significant accomplishment by a government and its management.
- Hands on Hartford recently announced that its long-time Executive Director, Barbara A. Shaw, LCSW, plans to retire in the 4th quarter of 2024. She joined HOH in 2002 and has served as its executive director since 2011. During Shaw’s tenure, Hands On Hartford has grown significantly, moving into its first consolidated and agency-owned center for community; expanding its supportive housing and homeless prevention programs; increasing the reach and quality of its pantry; and offering creative and innovative food programs, including its shared use kitchen and current Gather55 restaurant. The strength of her leadership is reflected in the agency’s recent receipt of the 2023 ImpaCT Award for being the community organization making an impact from FOX61/CW20 and the United Way of Central and Northeastern Connecticut. Shaw herself also received the 2023 Social Justice Award at Charter Oak Cultural Center’s annual Vision Awards. “I have lived, worked and worshipped in Hartford for most of my adult life, and looking back over my time at Hands On Hartford, I am proud of all we have achieved and grateful for the amazing and inspiring team of staff, volunteers, donors and partners who have made it all possible,” said Shaw. “Most important, I am honored to have had the opportunity to connect with and serve so many of our Hartford neighbors.” Cynthia Bates, chair of the Hands On Hartford Board of Directors, said, “The impact of Barbara’s leadership cannot be overstated. Her profound dedication to the mission, deep respect for every individual, perseverance and creativity form the foundation for the culture, strength and impact of Hands On Hartford. The Board of Directors is incredibly grateful for her service.” Janet Bermudez, the current Hands On Hartford director of Continuous Quality Improvement, Staff Development and Support, has been named Shaw’s successor. “Janet is the right person to lead Hands On Hartford into the future and we are fortunate that she is already a part of our team,” said Bates. “Janet brings a deep connection to the community, broad experience within the agency and with our staff, and great leadership and management skills, all of which will enable seamless transition for our staff and the community we serve.” Bermudez said, “I’m honored for this opportunity as I’ve been a part of the Hands On Hartford fabric for almost 17 years putting caring into action. This is a team that truly believes in the dignity and respect for all and I’m looking forward to my new role and growth within the organization.”
CRIS Radio volunteers were recently honored for their outstanding service at a reception held at Elizabeth’s Restaurant in Rocky Hill. CRIS Radio (Connecticut Radio Information System) said in an announcement that thanks to more than 100 volunteers, they broadcast audio versions of articles published in more than 50 newspapers and magazines 24 hours a day, seven days a week for people who are blind or unable to read due to physical, learning, intellectual or emotional disabilities, including those with autism, Parkinson’s Disease, Cerebral Palsy, or a medical treatment/condition that prevents them from reading or turning a page. The audio service is free to individuals with print challenges and is available on radios, mobile apps, online, and hands-free speakers. CRIS volunteers also record audio versions of classroom materials and children’s magazines, audio tours for museums, and Spanish-language newspapers and magazines. Among those recognized for their service were West Hartford residents Christine Chadsey (20 years) and Francine Goldfarb and Harlan Levy (author of our weekly “Consumer Diary”) for 10 years of service.
- ICYMI, Paul Martel, owner of West Hartford’s YHB Investment Advisors, recently received a lifetime achievement award and a sizable grant to support his work in Central and South America. Click here for the details.
- Congratulations also to Jerry’s Artarama of CT on their 30-year anniversary in West Hartford. Read the details 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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