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West Hartford Business Buzz: February 18, 2019

Build-out of the interior of Pokeworks in The Corbin Collection will begin very soon. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

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

By Ronni Newton

This is the time of year when I get really, really tired of winter – especially when we’ve had several bouts of ice and are looking at numerous snow/sleet/ice possibilities in the next few weeks.

I “might” not be so grumpy about it if we’d actually had some nice snow for cross country skiing or snowshoeing, but I haven’t gotten to do that at all this year because when it has snowed it’s just been too icy. I do try to run outside throughout the winter because it’s one of the few things that makes me go outside and I’m not usually cold when I’m running – but not only was it icy last week but I was sick and instead spent a lot of time on the couch eating comfort food.

I’ll stop complaining, because on the bright side it’s definitely a good time to visit my dad in Florida, and Ted booked some flights today for a short getaway! I’m already dreaming about a few days of palm trees and the beach.

Goat Yoga at Dunkin Donuts Park. Photo credit: Debbi Zimbler

Also, pitchers and catchers have reported, and regular spring training gets underway this week – which is a sure sign that spring is coming.

My sister did make me smile when she sent me this photo from the goat yoga class she attended at Dunkin Donuts Park on Saturday. I told her it was my kind of yoga – not too zen, and it’s perfectly acceptable to jump up and take photos at any time.

You’ll note a definite spring theme to many of the items below.

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:

  • Until the exterior construction began a few months ago, I couldn’t really visualize how two more businesses would fit in the space to the east of Shake Shack in The Corbin Collection (there weren’t even any doors at the time), but now GoHealth is open and it’s clear where Pokéworks is going to be! Sonny Chen, owner of the popular Chinese restaurant Black Bamboo on Farmington Avenue, will be opening Pokéworks along with his business partner and lifelong friend Max Condren. Chen said that now that the exterior work is nearly done, interior build-out is about to get started and they are looking to open at the end of May or early June. “When the weather will be warm and perfect for poke,” Chen said. Pokéworks is a franchise, that was started in Hawaii in 2015, and the first one in Connecticut recently opened in Wilton, with two other Connecticut locations opening in Greenwich and Westport. The menu at Pokéworks will feature raw tuna and salmon, as well as cooked chicken, tofu, scallops, and shrimp as proteins, and the base can be white or brown rice or quinoa. The food is vegetarian and vegan friendly, Chen said previously. And even though it’s a franchise, he said that as part of the agreement all of the fish, meat, and produce will be locally sourced. The restaurant will seat between 20-30 people.
  • Another sure sign that spring really is on the way (see intro above) is the annual re-opening of Rita’s in Elmwood (1134 New Britain Ave.) – and they opened for the season on Saturday!
  • I’m going to keep the spring theme going with some news I received this week about some changes at Blaze & Bloom at 485 New Park, which went into “hibernation” at the beginning of February. In a press release, the owners announced: “Blaze & Bloom Vintage is evolving. We will be reopening on March 23, 2019. Expect from us a more ‘pop up’ event style every third weekend of each month. Additionally we are adding to our popular Back Alley events. ‘Bloom’ is slated for the weekend of April 20, our summer themed event ‘Beach’ is targeted for June 22/23. ‘Blaze’ will be back in the Fall and ‘Blizzard’ for the holidays. We are expanding our custom furniture order business, and rolling out an online shop.” The owners said they are very excited about the changes – and I will definitely feature the reopening in a future article!

    Collaborative Health Partners will be moving into the former ‘A Balance Weigh’ space, and the Health is Wealth Juice Bar will be opening soon. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

  • There’s a bevy of healthy activity at 74 Park Rd., where Essential Health opened last fall and has been partnering with other local businesses such as Sea Slim (featured in an article last week). The Health is Wealth Juice Bar is preparing to open soon in the same plaza, and I don’t have all the details yet, but Collaborative Health Partners, which is headquartered in Manchester and has been operating out of a satellite office in West Hartford at Connecticut Family Acupuncture (173 Oakwood Ave.), will be moving into the space formerly occupied by A Balanced Weigh. According to their website, Collaborative Health Partners offers a holistic approach to health, with naturopathic physicians who use conventional and natural diagnostics and treatments. “Our clinic treats all ages and conditions. From high cholesterol to oncology support, ear infections to hormone imbalance, our physicians use science based natural medicine to create balance in the body and restore health,” the website states.

    Blue Earth Compost has launched a crowdfunding campaign to pay for this new dump truck. Courtesy photo

  • Blue Earth Compost started in West Hartford five years ago with 22 residential customers, and overall they now have 275 residential customers and 70 commercial locations – including 125 residential customers in West Hartford, a Westfarms retailer, and a retirement home. Now based in Hartford, Blue Earth has diverted 4.4 million pounds of food scraps and is positioned to be the largest diverter of food scraps in Connecticut. They offer customized food scrap collection services for commercial, residential, and event customers. Blue Earth Compost launched an Indiegogo  crowd-funding campaign last week in an attempt to scale commercial and residential composting in Connecticut by funding its new food scrap collection dump truck. They are trying to raise more than $20,000 by offering discounted residential subscriptions and other perks. The campaign will conclude Friday March 22, 2019. Blue Earth stated in a press release: “The loan to purchase the truck from DECD totaled $133,000 and required the company to create two new full-time positions, taking their total employees up to six. Three of their employees are second chance hires from Hartford. The truck, manufactured by Brown Industrial out of Ohio, has been completed and will arrive in Hartford by the middle of February. In addition to the dump truck, Blue Earth has invested in an electric-assisted tricycle to help with residential collections thanks to a partnership with the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) and BiCi Co, a program of the Center for Latino Progress.” To learn more about Blue Earth Compost’s Indiegogo campaign, go to: https://igg.me/at/blueearthcompost. You can also follow Blue Earth Compost on Facebook (@BlueEarthCompost), Twitter (@BluEarthCompost), and Instagram (@blue_earth_compost). And ICYMI, Jeff Lovanio and Ryan Keating interviewed Blue Earth Marketing Director Sam King in an Experience We-Ha podcast last week. Click here to listen.
  • I wasn’t able to attend the grand opening of Artichoke this past week, and this is not a West Hartford business, but I’ll mention it here since it’s another franchise business being opened by Matt Rusconi, who owns the Moe’s Southwest Grill in Bishops Corner, and I think people will be interested in trying it. From a press release: “The Newington location (2391 Berlin Turnpike)  is the first freestanding store in the Artichoke empire, and spans just over 1,600 square feet. The outpost includes indoor seating for 35 people and a full-service bar, which will be up and running by opening day. The interior also features the same design elements seen in Artichoke’s existing locations, like exposed brick and antiqued tin, which pay homage to Artichoke’s city roots and bring a taste of NYC to suburban Connecticut. The restaurant will be open Sunday through Wednesday from 11 a.m.-10 p.m., and until midnight Thursday through Saturday to accommodate late-night munchies.”

    Carin Buckman. Submitted photo

  • Congrats to West Hartford resident Carin Buckman, who has been hired as marketing, communications and digital Manager for Make A Wish Connecticut. Buckman, who is a graduate of the Wharton School of Business, has more than 30 years of marketing, communications, and public relations experience, much of which is with nonprofits, and is fluent in Spanish and Portuguese. “We are thrilled to welcome Carin Buckman to our team,” Make-A-Wish Connecticut President and CEO Pam Keough said in a news release. “She is an experienced marketing communications executive, a proven cross-functional collaborator and creative storyteller who fervently believes in our organization’s mission to create life-changing wishes for children with critical illnesses. She will be a key asset in helping us increase our digital footprint and raise awareness and reach in the CT Latino market.” Buckman said, “My sweet spot is in helping organizations grow and prosper while elevating and remaining true to their brands. I am excited to help MAWCT elevate awareness and visibility among wish kids, families, volunteers, supporters, donors and corporate partners to meet our goal of granting more than 250 wishes annually.”
  • Uberdog moved to 121 Talcott Rd. a few months ago (feature story in the works), and for their grand opening on April 6 they will be hosting a dog adoption event with Dog Star Rescue. Much more to come as it gets closer.
  • ICYMI, the Future Leaders of West Hartford (FLOW) will host a “Financial Freedom” workshop this week designed to assist young professionals with critical skills like establishing budgets and personal balance sheets, so they can determine how to build a secure financial future. The forum is free for FLOW members, and $10 for non-members. Click here for more information.
  • Finally, the most recent Experience We-Ha podcast is an interview with Aaron and Joslyn Ammar of “Always Smilin’,” a new West Hartford-based lifestyle brand. Click here for the description of the podcast – and to listen and start your week off with a smile!

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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