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West Hartford Business Buzz: February 19, 2024

Sweetspot is now open at 2 Park Road. 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 was prepared to write a cheerful introduction to this week’s column, along with some editorializing about transparency and reporting on police stories, but other than sharing the below photo of Millie – who was so incredibly happy to run free in both snow and on the beach at the same time – and a few other photos that I took this weekend that thought were very cool, I am going to save those comments for another time.

I’m writing this column from Nantucket, where we have been spending the long Presidents Day weekend visiting my mother-in-law – who is doing great.

I’m writing this on Sunday with a heavy heart, however. I was very much looking forward to next weekend when had a long-planned trip to South Florida to visit my father. He’s been in the hospital for the past few days, and Sunday morning I learned he has been placed in hospice care. He’s 92, and has a long history of heart problems (he had quadruple bypass surgery and double valve replacement about 10 years ago), but getting that news still comes as a blow, and is so unbelievably said.

If there’s a bit less content on the We-Ha.com site in the near future with my byline, you’ll know why. Paul Palmer has lots of sports stories that he will be reporting on as the winter seasons come to a close and championship competition gets underway, and we will still be covering the other news that takes place in West Hartford.

A President’s Day note from Paine’s: trash and recycling is on a regular schedule this week! West Hartford’s Yard Waste & Recycling Center is also open (7 a.m.-3 p.m.), but Town Hall and other municipal buildings (libraries, senior centers) are closed on Monday.

Millie loves to run through the snow, and to run on the beach, and was very excited to do both at the same time on Nantucket. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Snow doesn’t stick around on Nantucket’s beaches for very long, but I captured this scene on Saturday, Feb. 17, 2024. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Snow in the dunes at Surfside Beach on Nantucket looks as fluffy as the clouds. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

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:

Sweetspot ribbon cutting on Saturday, Feb. 17, 2024. From left: Town Council member Carol Blanks; Sweetspot Marketing Director Tom Lew; Daniella Benea, PharmD, dispensary manager/pharmacist; Iliana Figueroa, PharmD, pharmacist and assistant manager; West Hartford Mayor Shari Cantor; Sweestspot Franchise Director Eugenia Tzoannopoulos; Sweetspot Chief Business Development Officer Ben Herbst; and West Hartford Town Manager Rick Ledwith. Photo courtesy of Sweetspot

  • Sweetspot is now open at 2 Park Road (corner of Prospect, in the space that was formerly Caribe and prior to that the Prospect Cafe for many years) and is not only the town’s second adult retail cannabis retailer (Budr opened in July) but the hybrid business is actually also the town’s first medical marijuana dispensary. Medical marijuana has been legal in the state since 2012, and West Hartford has permitted it since the beginning, but there never happened to be a medical dispensary in town. Sweetspot had a soft opening beginning Feb. 10, and held a grand opening celebration this past weekend, including a ribbon cutting with Mayor Shari Cantor on Saturday morning. Since I was going to be out of town for the grand opening, I stopped by last week and met with Pharmacy Manager Daniella Benea, who gave me a tour of the space and overview of their operations, including that they have a separate pricing structure for medical patients, and she and/or the assistant pharmacist are always on hand for consultation (licensed pharmacists are required for medical dispensaries and hybrid businesses) to discuss possible interactions with other medications. In addition to the products that Connecticut allows to be sold in an adult-use cannabis retail establishment – such as flower, edibles, vapes, disposable vapes, and paraphernalia such as papers, pipes, batteries for cartridges, and grinders – they also are able to sell medical products such as capsules, topicals, oral solutions, tinctures, and higher-potency flower with THC concentration in excess of 30%. They also have medical priority registers. “What’s unique about us in general is our virtual bud bar,” Benea said. Sweetspot, which is part of Sweetspot Brands, has locations in several other states, and she said they developed the virtual bar for their first store in Rhode Island, where like Connecticut you can’t view the bud itself before purchase. “There’s a nice visual representation,” she said, pointing to the light-up displays on the wall, so it’s easier to compare. For the non-medical patients, employees are also prepared to discuss customers’ comfort zones, and recommend products. “That’s the Sweetspot way. We are here to make sure each person finds the right product for them,” asking about what someone wants to use it for (for example relief from pain or anxiety, or just relaxation), and will usually recommend starting out with a very low dose of THC in combination with CBD for those who are not experienced with use of cannabis. “Start low, go slow,” is a common recommendation, Benea said. She said dispensary advisors are not focused on transaction time. “We’re not about rushing here,” she said. Benea earned her PharmD degree from UConn in 2014, and said she never thought about working in the cannabis industry until she interviewed with Prime Wellness of Connecticut tin 2016. Now she’s got almost eight years in the industry, and returns to speak to UConn pharmacy students about her experience. “I think it gives me a good sense of bringing pharmacy bad to what it was originally – plant-based medicine,” she said. All of the cannabis sold in Connecticut retailers must be grown in state, and Benea said the reported shortage in December and January is easing up now. The space on the corner of Park Road and Prospect looks very different from its former iteration as a restaurant – other than the round window that was in the dining room, and Benea said the renovation included installation of a double-thick ceiling to ensure that neither smell nor sound impacts the apartments above. There is tight security, and customers entering through one door where they must show their ID, and exit through a separate door. They accept cash as well as debit cards. Sweetspot, which has 12 employees, is open seven days a week, from 10 a.m. until 7 p.m.

Sweetspot is now open at 2 Park Road. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Greeters at the entrance to Sweetspot, which is now open at 2 Park Road. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Advisors behind the counter at Sweetspot, which is now open at 2 Park Road. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Advisors behind the counter at Sweetspot, which is now open at 2 Park Road. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Virtual bud bar at Sweetspot, which is now open at 2 Park Road. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Sweetspot is now open at 2 Park Road. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Sweetspot is now open at 2 Park Road. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Merchandise on display at Sweetspot, which is now open at 2 Park Road. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Mural on the wall of Sweetspot, which is now open at 2 Park Road. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

  • There has been a lot of chatter on social media regarding the status of Park Lane Pizza, and I am happy to report that they plan to be reopening in about three weeks. The ceiling in the dining area collapsed following a storm in January, and as they began to do the repairs, there were other updates that needed to be made, many of which were necessary to comply with code. Ally Rocha, an area resident who is good friends with the owners and provided an update on their behalf, shared with me that they have been dealing with their insurance carrier regarding the claim, and work will be taking place this week on sheet-rocking the ceiling, and a new oven hood will be installed and fire protection equipment upgraded. “The new hood is ordered. They will be putting in new floors and walls,” she said, and there may be some other updates as well. The sign  in the window that says they are open for takeout isn’t accurate, but will be soon!

Repairs continue at Park Lane Pizza. Photo credit: Ronni Newton (we-ha.com file photo)

  • Westfarms has announced that Barbarajean Marshall has been named marketing and sponsorship director, and will lead those initiatives for the shopping center. “I am thrilled to join the exceptional Westfarms team and build upon the center’s successful momentum in the Connecticut market,” Marshall said in a statement included with the announcement. “The opportunities for advertising and activation at the shopping center are truly dynamic. I look forward to providing these non-traditional advertising solutions to regional companies, while delivering a unique shopping experience for our customers and tenants.” According to the news release, Marshall will oversee Westfarms corporate accounts and advertising deliverables to reach Westfarms built in shopper audience, including Hartford HealthCare, Connecticut Regional Education Council, FOX61, Coca-Cola, and Genesis Auto, to name a few. She will also create and oversee the center’s marketing and advertising plan to continue to attract customers and traffic to the retail destination. Marshall brings 20 years of professional marketing experience to the role. Most recently, she served as a multi-media sales executive with FOX61 and CW20 and developed and managed integrated marketing campaigns for her clients. She enjoys collaborating with businesses in developing strategies to achieve their marketing goals and growth and looks forward to applying that expertise to Westfarms. A native of central Connecticut, Marshall currently resides in Farmington with her husband and son and is a graduate of Central Connecticut State University.

Barbarajean Marshall. Courtesy of Westfarms

  • West Hartford nonprofit Friends of Feeney assists local children and families who are dealing with tragedy and heartbreak, and about two years ago founder Eric Feeney also launched a podcast called “Feeney Talks with Friends” that discusses things the guests do to help the community. Last Monday, during an event that also served as a fundraiser, the 100th episode of the podcast was recorded live at Playhouse on Park – featuring surprise guest Javier Colon, a West Hartford resident winner of the first season of The Voice. The large crowd in attendance not only got to hear Colon sing several numbers, but prior to that there was entertainment by the “singing principal” Latanya Farrell and her band. (Farrell was the guest for the 99th episode.) In addition, Feeney also chatted with actor Frank Whaley on stage, and West Hartford Historian Tracey Wilson hosted a trivia contest that pitted Chris Conway and Kate Kobs of the Chamber of Commerce against Park Road Association Co-Presidents Tracy Flater and Johnny Paindiris. (I mentioned last week that I am terrible at trivia, other than West Hartford trivia, and I was excited that I knew most of the answers.) The evening ended with a sing-along of “You’ve Got a Friend.” For more information about Friends of Feeney, including links to the podcast series, click here.

Latanya Farrell and her band perform onstage at Playhouse on Park for the recording of the 100th episode of Feeney Talks with Friends. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Singer/songwriter Javier Colon (left) was the surprise guest for the 100th episode of Feeney Talks with Friends. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Tracey Wilson (center) hosted a trivia contest between Kate Kobs and Chris Conway of the West Hartford Chamber of Commerce (left) and Johnny Paindiris and Tracy Flater of the Park Road Association. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

  • Ten Thousand Villages (967C Farmington Avenue) is holding a food drive for the West Hartford Food Pantry through the end of February. “As a thank you, customers who bring in a nonperishable food item will receive double reward points for their purchases made that day!  Of course, we are grateful for any donation, even if someone doesn’t have time to shop that day. Our community has been so generous in supporting our mission, we love to have opportunities to give back,” Manager Teri Osborne said in an email. More information about items most in need can be found on the Food Pantry’s webpage eon the town’s website.

Courtesy of Ten Thousand Villages

  • One more fundraiser to mention: Through the end of February, The Village for Families & Children is calling on the community to contribute online donations that will help children in Greater Hartford #FeelTheLove with much-needed warm winter gear. The organization is based in Hartford, and is also supported by the all-volunteer Second Chance Shop on Park Road in West Hartford, where shoppers can also round up at the register to support this initiative – and qualify to enter to win a $100 gift card to the shop at the same time. According to a news release, The Village serves nearly 5,000 children each year. “Online donations will help provide children with new coats, hats, scarves and mittens – and give a family in need one less thing to worry about. Support in any amount will make a difference.” the organization said in a news release. To help, visit thevillage.org/love.

Courtesy image

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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