A round-up of openings, closings, and other news about West Hartford businesses.
By Ronni Newton
Happy Monday, and for those who are enjoying a long President’s Day weekend, I hope you are having some good downtime!
We are more than halfway through February. Mother Nature hasn’t quite acknowledged it yet, and is threatening to throw some evilness our way this coming week, but two weeks from today is the start of meteorological spring. I’m looking forward to spring this year more than every, hoping that it will accelerate the end of the pandemic and allow for the return of more outdoor activities.
I hope everyone had a nice Valentine’s Day! My husband and I decided to celebrate Valentine’s Day with a “date night” dinner out later this week, instead of celebrating on Sunday which tends to be one of my busiest work days.
At the last minute we decided to go out to dinner Saturday night as well, and had a great meal at Frida on New Britain Avenue. We had an outdoor dinner there over the summer, when they created a patio area in a portion of the parking lot, but hadn’t eaten inside since pre-pandemic.
The food and margaritas were fabulous (see photos below!) and they’ve done a great job with plexiglass barriers separating all of the tables and in between the booths. I’m still thinking about my fish tacos!
We hope you’ve been following our Keeping it in the Community feature, which is a collaboration with the West Hartford Chamber of Commerce and the town’s Economic Development Department.
Keeping it in the Community Tip: Businesses serve many missions
Businesses come in all manner of sizes and industries. Sectors such as manufacturing, medical, retail, restaurants, and professional services come immediately to mind when we think about businesses. For the most part, businesses are designed to provide products and services, create jobs, and generate income for owners or shareholders.
Within the sphere of business there are other models, most notably nonprofit and not-for-profit organizations. Similar to for-profit businesses, these come in a variety of sizes and causes. Organizations such as these are ubiquitous in our lives and in our community. Some are large national and international organizations bringing awareness and providing assistance to major illnesses and social issues. There are also regional and local operations addressing things like hunger, literacy, and issues of disparity. There are even homegrown nonprofits and not-for-profit organizations founded by a person or group who have witnessed or experienced something in their own lives. They are born out of desire to make a difference or influence change.
West Hartford is home to countless organizations such as the ones described here. Like our local businesses, they are also reliant on community support to ensure they can continue to do their important and valuable work.
Keeping it in the Community Spotlight: Futures Inc.
Futures Inc., which has been in business for 30 years, has had a location in West Hartford for 16 years, but recently has become much more physically visible in the community.
While the Futures Inc. school, located at 1030 New Britain Ave., opened in 2004, the corporate office relocated to West Hartford in 2017 after purchasing a historic building at 902 South Quaker Lane.
They also own and operate two social enterprises in West Hartford, said CEO and President Pamela DonAroma.
“In the late 1980s, Futures teamed up with the University of Connecticut’s Center for Excellence and began to transform traditional services for individuals with disabilities and their families,” said DonAroma. “The philosophy was simple – to empower each individual to live life to its fullest and know the satisfaction of personal achievement. With that philosophy in mind, Futures became the first agency of its kind in Connecticut to develop and implement customized service plans for individuals with disabilities and their families.”
In West Hartford, The Kitchen at Futures Inc. operates a teaching kitchen that shares space with the offices on South Quaker Lane, and in August 2020, they opened the organization’s third brick and mortar retail location, Good Cause Gifts, which shares space with Nutmeg State Financial Credit Union at 973 Farmington Ave.
Good Cause Gifts also has stores in Berlin and at the Hospital for Special Care in New Britain – and the Kitchen at Futures Inc. also runs the cafe at the hospital.
The Kitchen at Futures Inc. has a commercial kitchen in Middletown, an adult services office in Norwich.
They work with clients throughout the state, and are continuing to expand operations.
“We just purchased a beautiful building in Hartford and are beginning to transform the space with the hopes of having it up and running in 2022,” DonAroma said.
The COVID-19 pandemic presented challenges to all aspects of Futures Inc. operations. “Continuing to provide one-on-one services to our students and consumers was crucial for not only those individuals but to their families. Each of our divisions had to shift gears and quickly come up with meaningful and productive solutions so we could continue our work,” said DonAroma.
The opening of the Good Cause Gifts location was in the works pre-pandemic, and forged ahead with the renovation of the space and opening despite the challenges.
“One of our biggest goals to opening a store in West Hartford Center was to get our name into the community and share what Futures Inc. and Good Cause Gifts is doing – while also providing another great shopping option for our town,” said DonAroma. “We were putting a lot of weight on foot traffic and presence in the center to get our name out there. With COVID, foot traffic in the center was/is minimal and during the holidays most customers shopped online. Additionally, the grand opening celebration has been delayed.As a result of the lack of business, we were forced to temporarily close one of our store locations and reduce hours in all locations because sales decreased,” she said.
“The biggest impact of this is that a reduction in our hours translates to a loss of work hours and opportunities for all our employees, with or without disabilities.As a nonprofit social enterprise, every purchase made at our stores goes directly back into supporting our mission, so for every hour we are closed it is a potential sale lost and really hits us hard.”
The stores now offer personal appointments in addition to in-person shopping, as well as curbside pickup, local delivery, and an online store. They are committed to doing anything they can to keep staff and customers comfortable and safe.
The team at Futures Inc. also had to shift its other programs to to a virtual platform, to be able to safely provide the one-to-one service to students and consumers.
“When we were able to come back together in person, we still needed to maintain a high level of safety, so we re-shifted our learning and provided outdoor classes and experiences. Every day we shifted and adjusted to the new challenges – and have been highly successful at doing that,” DonAroma said.
All locations have been equipped with medical grade air purifiers, UVC lighting, PPE, social distancing signage, and hand-sanitizing stations at all entrances. Employee temperatures are recorded daily, buildings are cleaned throughout the day, and vehicles are cleaned using portable foggers.
Because of the nature of their work, Futures Inc. employees qualified in Phase 1A for COVID-19 vaccination. They worked in partnership with the health department and physicians to respond to employees’ concerns at Q&A sessions, and provided FAQs to address any hesitancy about the vaccination process.
Futures Inc. has had to rely more on digital platforms for day-to-day business operations as well as to market their message to the communities. They’ve increased their use of social media, and participation in chamber of commerce meetings.
“In addition to shifting to a stronger online presence, simultaneous to opening our West Hartford Good Cause Gifts location, we also built an online store (goodcausegifts.org). The opening of the online store has allowed us to continue sales. Opening the online store has allowed us to continue employing our staff while also bringing great products to the community. We offer local delivery, shipping, curbside pickup and personal shopping appointments. We have even had customers FaceTime with us to virtually shop our store,” DonAroma said.
“I oversee the day to day and development of Futures Inc. I have an incredible team working hard to make all that we do possible. There are many moving parts to the operations at Futures, and I am thankful to have an inspiring, creative, and hardworking team that is dedicated to putting their best forward to further our mission and improve the lives of countless individuals in our community,” DonAroma said.
While the past year has presented daunting challenges, there have been successes as well.
Futures Inc. was able to maintain 100% employment of staff, and kept individuals employed in the retail stores and kitchens as well. “Keeping our team employed, safe, and healthy has been a top priority,” DonAroma said.
One of the key goals for opening the West Hartford Center store and launching the online store was working with more local vendors and businesses, and Futures Inc. has succeeded on that front as well.
“Specifically, we have brought in products from Hartford Prints, 10-Ton Goldfish, We-Ha Candle Company – worked with Direct Line Media and Cricket Press. Jaime La Jones reworked our branding and created a beautiful mural on the side of our Good Cause Gifts store in Berlin. We are also thankful to share a space with Nutmeg State Financial Bank, during the height of the pandemic, they continued to work with us and transform the West Hartford location to create a shared space. COVID has pushed us to look around and connect with more individuals in the community – everyone can relate to what is going on so having resources on a local level has not only made the last year more enjoyable but more meaningful,” said DonAroma.
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:
- Bishops Corner is already home to a large number of wellness businesses, and will soon gain a new element with the planned opening of Restore Hyper Wellness and Cryotherapy this spring. It will be located a few storefronts down from Orangetheory at 345 North Main St., and above other wellness businesses in the same shopping center such as Float 41 and the Yoga Shop. “We are targeting late April/early May to open,” said Chris Gray, owner of the West Hartford franchise. “West Hartford residents are well known for their wellness lifestyle and I thought it would make a great addition to the community,” he said. According to Economic Development Coordinator Kristen Gorski, Restore Hyper Wellness and Cryotherapy will provide a variety of wellness services including hydro-facials and cryotherapy – which involves spending three minutes in a very cold chamber (cold as in negative 200–300°F) and, according to the company’s website, “has shown to reduce inflammation and releases endorphins that help alleviate pain, boost energy and metabolism, and increase the body’s natural healing abilities.” Cryotherapy is used extensively by serious athletes, but its benefits have also been touted by “weekend warriors,” individuals recovering from surgery, and those suffering from chronic pain. Restore Hyper Wellness and Cryotherapy currently has two Connecticut locations – in Westport and Stamford – but those are under separate ownership. More information about the company is available on its website, and more information will follow as the location gets set to open.
- Wurst Haus is aiming for a March 19 opening in the former McLadden’s space on LaSalle Road. Much more to come!
- West Hartford-based Legrand, a global specialist in electrical, digital building, and data center infrastructures, announced Thursday in a press release that the company has acquired A&M Capital Opportunities the Champion ONE (C1) family of brands, leading providers of optical networking components and solutions for the telecommunication, content provider, data center, and enterprise markets. The news “marks the latest move by Legrand to support data center and mission-critical IT’s ever-growing need for reliable, highly available and scalable power and connectivity solutions,” the company stated. “The C1 family of brands complement Legrand’s previous acquisitions to provide strong world-class engineering talent for unrivaled, customized IT infrastructure solutions,” said John Selldorff, President and CEO, Legrand North and Central America. “In addition, the acquisition expands our extensive mission-critical customer footprint and our reach in emerging tech, 5G and the evolving content delivery markets. We look forward to offering customers and partners our new enhanced solutions.” Moving forward, the acquisition will strengthen and help the C1 family of brands grow its sales and channel relationships as its vendor-agnostic transceivers are introduced to Legrand’s extensive IT industry partners. “Legrand is a visionary that combines best-of-breed technologies to uniquely engineer world-renowned solutions for mission-critical facilities,” said Michael Rapp, CEO, C1 family of brands. “We are excited to work closely with their engineering, marketing, and sales teams to broaden our reach in support of today’s evolving data center requirements.”
- Czech Republic firearms company CZG announced Thursday that it has acquired West Hartford-based gun manufacturer Colt Holding Company. “This merger is a strategic step for both companies. The acquisition of Colt, an iconic brand and a benchmark for the military, law enforcement and commercial markets globally, fits perfectly in our strategy to become the leader in the firearms manufacturing industry and a key partner for the armed forces,” said CZG President and Chairman Lubomír Kovařík in a statement. Dennis Veilleux, president and CEO of Colt, issued the following statement: “We are very pleased with the prospect of such a strategic combination. Having completed a historic turn-around of the operations and financial performance at Colt over the past five years, this important next step with CZG positions the company to take advantage of significant growth opportunities. We are excited to join forces with CZG which will be a powerful combination for both brands and for our customers.” The acquisition is subject to approval, but expected to close in the second quarter of this year. Terms, according to the press release, indicate that “CZG shall acquire a 100% stake in Colt for upfront cash consideration of $220 million and the issuance of 1,098,620 shares of newly issued CZG common stock. The agreement also provides for potential earnout consideration of up to 1,098,620 shares of newly issued CZG common stock if defined EBITDA thresholds are achieved in years 2021 – 2023.” Colt employs roughly 750 employees at its 547 New Park Ave. location in West Hartford, and there is no indication of what the acquisition will mean for the local operation.
- West Hartford’s Social Services Department is grateful for a recent large donation from a local bank looking to assist with pandemic-related needs. NBT Bank Connecticut Regional President Andreas Kapetanopoulos (center in photo above) presented a check for $4,000 to West Hartford Community Partnerships Manager Suzanne Oslander (left) and Food Pantry Coordinator Nancy Stockman. “During this challenging time, we have seen a significant increase in need. We are so grateful for NBT’s generous gift which will assist West Hartford residents at this time,” said Stockman. NBT is located at 15 North Main St. in West Hartford.
- Dr. Matthew Roberts, DC, a chiropractor with Essential Health on Park Road, will continue to present his series of 10 workshops, “Don’t Look Back, A Year of Wellness,” over the course of the coming year. The series covers a variety of health and wellness topics ranging from understanding chiropractic care, de-stressing and de-cluttering and why it matters, exercising the right way for your body, financial wellness, and more. Many of the special guests will be from his network via the WeHa Synergy BNI. “My January kick off gave some insight into my beginnings, and includes tips on finding your own ‘baseline’ so you can be in touch with your own limitations for the best wellness routine for your body type,” said Roberts. That first talk may be viewed on YouTube here. Upcoming sessions include: Feb. 27, Physical Wellness with special guest Dr. Katie Petersen, DPT with Hometown PT & Wellness. Who says Chiropractors and Physical Therapists can’t get along?; March 27, Get Organized! with special guestLeslie Raycraft, Professional Organizerand owner of POSH. If you want to get your stress under control, get your house in order! Future sessions will be held onApril 24, May 22,July 31, Aug. 28, Sept. 25, Oct. 30 and Nov. 20. All classes will include limited in person seating at Essential Health, 74 Park Road and will include an unlimited livestream-via-Zoom option. All who register will receive the Zoom link. Register here: http://bit.ly/DrMattWell.
- Congratulations to Jesse M. Gomes, MA, CFSP, CPC, CCO, a certified celebrant and funeral director/embalmer at Molloy Funeral Home in West Hartford, who has been re-elected to serve his fourth one-year term on the Executive Committee of the Connecticut Funeral Directors Association. In addition to his work at the funeral home, Gomes is the program director and associate professor of the Funeral Service Department at Goodwin University in East Hartford. He also is the director of operations at the Human Anatomy Laboratories and Director of the Anatomical Gift Program at the Frank H. Netter MD School of Medicine at Quinnipiac University in North Haven. At the former Lincoln College of New England (now Goodwin University), he was an associate professor and program director of the Mortuary Science department. A native of West Hartford, Gomes graduated from Conard High School and continued his education at Central Connecticut State University, where he earned both a Bachelor’s degree in Biomolecular Sciences and a Master’s degree in Cell and Molecular Biology and Physiology. Gomes, who lives in Avon with his wife, Elizabeth, and their daughter, began working at Molloy Funeral Home as a funeral director’s assistant in 2009 and received his degree in Mortuary Sciences from the former Lincoln College of New England four years later. He served his internship and his apprenticeship at Molloy Funeral Home and has been a licensed funeral director and embalmer since 2014.
- Congratulations to the recently-named members of the Connecticut Magazine “40 Under 40” for 2021. Three West Hartford residents are included on the list: Sky Casper, 27, LGBTQ+ event producer and entertainment agent; Marissa Paslick Gillette, 34, chair of the Connecticut Public Utilities Regulatory Authority (PURA); and Christopher Cusano, 36, executive director of the Connecticut Brain Tumor Alliance. Names of all members of the Class of 2021 can be found here.
- ICYMI, the WEHA Bear Fair is coming to West Hartford this summer. Similar to CowParade, which last visited West Hartford about 15 years ago, the Bear Fair will bring public art to the town, provide a fun diversion for the community, and raise funds for nonprofits in a safe outdoor setting. Click here for details.
- Mayor Shari Cantor delivered her State of the Town address Thursday at a virtual. Chamber of Commerce event. Click here for a summary and link to the full presentation.
- The West Hartford Arts and Culture Commission has launched an Artist Job Bank to assist performers and other artists in finding available opportunities for work. 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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