Bishops Corner Blue Back Square Business Elmwood Park Road The Center

West Hartford Business Buzz: February 21, 2022

Pharmacy at Blue Back is now open at 55 Isham Road. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

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

By Ronni Newton

Happy President’s Day!

There’s just one more full week of February, and while we have had some unseasonably cold weather – with some wild snow squalls thrown in just to make things interesting – over the past few days, when the sun shines it’s definitely feeling stronger and I’m already anticipating some tastes of spring in the upcoming days.

A President’s Day note from Paine’s: trash and recycling is on a regular schedule this week!

I think I had more in-person meetings/events last week alone than I’ve had in months, and the guy at the front desk of Town Hall was probably thinking “not you again” every time I walked into the building.

Social occasions have picked up as well. On Saturday night Ted and I celebrated a friend’s 60th birthday at Deans Mill Farm in Stonington (very cool venue!) so we had our weekly West Hartford dining experience on Friday night instead. We enjoyed great cocktails and a delicious dinner, and great hospitality with John and Jessica Lyons at The Russell. I had attended the friends and family celebration the night before the restaurant officially opened and I’ve been anxious to go back ever since then! Here’s a sampling of our dinner …

Passionfruit margaritas, a ginger lime margarita, and a mango mojito from The Russell. Photo credit: Ronni Newton


Akee and salt fish appetizer at The Russell. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Curry goat with white rice, steamed cabbage, and sweet plantain at The Russell. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Escovitch fish at The Russell includes whole red snapper, pickled vegetables, sweet plantain, rice and peas. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Jamaican phrases, and their translations, are on the wall in between the restrooms at The Russell. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

The universal indoor mask mandate was lifted in West Hartford as of Thursday, Feb. 10. (Click here for the details.) Some business owners may still ask that their customers wear masks, and I hope people will comply and not give our business owners and their staff a hard time about it. Really. Please continue to look out for each other, support our local businesses – and stay safe and healthy.

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:

Assortment of products at the Pharmacy at Blue Back. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

  • The Pharmacy at Blue Back is now open, and I’m already convinced that this community pharmacy is a great addition to West Hartford. I visited the shop on Wednesday, the day they had their soft opening, and was honored to be the third customer. Pharmacy Manager Ariana Masi-Karpuc, PharmD, who has lived in West Hartford for the past seven years, is the manager of the town’s new full service boutique pharmacy. “We value our relationships with customers,” she said, and while you’re shopping you can even sip a complimentary espresso or cappuccino, or water. The Pharmacy at Blue Back is a full-service pharmacy operation able to fill any prescriptions, and they also stock common over-the-counter medications, vitamins and supplements, and skincare products, as well as herbal and medicinal teas, organic chocolates, and unique children’s toys. In addition, they also offer a variety of specialized products, especially for babies and nursing mothers – and will special order what they don’t have in stock. They specialize in Medela breast pumps and accessories, which are available for rent (which is rare) or purchase, and they also stock Haaka silicone breast pumps, Silverettes, and other essentials for new mothers including organic supplements. They’re collaborating with area lactation consultants as well as health care professionals to be able to meet their needs, Masi-Karpuk said. They are an authorized retailers of Metagenics neutraceuticals, and offer local and regional products – such as a line of Rhode Island-based “pharm to table” skincare items from Shore Soap Co. and international products unique to the area. They offer immunizations, and will soon be providing COVID PCR and rapid testing as well. Free delivery is available, and a customer discount card will provide 5% back on all purchases. The business is owned by Ariel Zaurov, who is also the owner of Downtown Pharmacy with locations in Jersey City, NJ, as well as New York City. Alex Pan, who manages several of those locations and was in West Hartford helping launch the store said the strategy is “to keep people excited here,” offering not only what you would expect to find in a pharmacy but also the complimentary beverages, the organic chocolates and teas and other “functional foods,” and personal service. The Pharmacy at Blue Back is open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m.-6 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. More information can be found on their website, www.bluebackrx.com, or by calling 860-656-6229 or emailing [email protected]. More photos can be found at the end of the column.

From left: Alex Pan, manager of several Downtown Pharmacy locations, business owners Ariel Zaurov and Pavel Kim, and Pharmacy at Blue Back Manager Ariana Masi-Karpuc. Courtesy photo

Assortment of products at the Pharmacy at Blue Back. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

  • Westfarms has announced that an OFFL/NE by Aerie store will be the latest new-to-market retailer to open in the shopping center, with plans to debut this spring. According to a news release, the Aerie sub-brand of activewear and accessories launched in July 2020 and is built for movement, comfort, and real life, and is the evolution and expansion of Aerie’s popular leggings collection. The new store will be 3,478 square feet, and is presently being built-out on the lower level of Westfarms adjacent to Center Court, and merchandise offered will include an assortment of “soft, cozy, and comfortable activewear, including an assortment of leggings, bike shorts, tops, sports bras, fleece, bottoms, and accessories,” the news release states. OFFL/NE by Aerie will be a place to do more than just shop – and the store will include a disco ball and feature fun activities such as a ping pong table and ballet bar. The existing Aerie location will be expanding and moving across the corridor from its current lower level location, and will temporarily relocate to the lower level of the Nordstrom wing while construction is ongoing.  “We remain dedicated to enhancing our shopping experience with new to the area brands that will complement our existing line up at Westfarms,” Alberto Arebalo, general manager of Westfarms said in a statement. “We are looking forward to seeing OFFL/NE by Aerie open its doors this spring with its new and exciting shopping concept.”

OFFL/NE by Aerie. Courtesy photo

  • Celebrate! West Hartford is back. Yes that exclamation point can lead to different interpretations (I caught a lot of grief the first time I wrote the headline “Celebrate! West Hartford is Canceled” early in the pandemic, and it really was sad), but in this case the return of the town’s signature festival on June 11 and 12 is indeed cause for celebration and a sign that this spring and summer will (hopefully) be closer to normal. Linda Geisler continues as coordinator of the event, and Joan Karas has taken over as chair of the committee (which I’ve been part of since 2014), and we held our first meeting this week. All of the components that make the event so special will be back – the juried arts and crafts fair, music, nonprofit and sponsor booths, rides, and the road race – and for more details, including the opportunity to participate as a sponsor, nonprofit, or volunteer, can be found on the Celebrate! West Hartford website.

Celebrate! West Hartford director Linda Geisler (far right) with presenting sponsor PeoplesBank representatives including (from left) Assistant Manager Kris Lueke, Regional Manager Roma Odedra, Banking Center Operations Specialist Kevin Hernandez, Banking Center Specialist Karmeliz Camacho, and Mortgage Loan Officer Eric Coutinho. Photo credit: Ronni Newton (we-ha.com file photo)

  • Congratulations to Hot Table, which had their official ribbon cutting in the Corbin Collection on Feb. 9. That was when I was away so I missed it, but wanted to be sure to mention that 100% of their proceeds that day were donated to Connecticut Foodshare.

  • Cake Gypsy is getting ready for the grand opening of their Canton store on March 19 (250 Albany Turnpike) and after that we can look forward to the opening of the West Hartford location at 1123 New Britain Ave. “Early April” is the plan as of now according to owner Deanna Damen.

Cake Gypsy is getting close to opening at 1123 New Britain Ave. Photo credit: Ronni Newton (we-ha.com file photo)

  • Best of West Hartford has been rescheduled a few times and has been moved for what organizers is hopeful will be the final time to a new date and location. Instead of being held this coming Wednesday, it’s now scheduled for Monday, March 28, from 5:30-7:30 p.m. at the Mandell JCC – and if it’s warm enough the event will be able to be held at least partially outdoors. For registration information, click here.

  • The West Hartford Food Pantry will receive the proceeds from the Newington Road Stop & Shop Bloomin’ 4 Good Program during the month of March. Every $10.99 Bloomin’ 4 Good Bouquet with the red circle sticker sold supports a hunger organization local to the Stop & Shop in which it was purchased. According to Feeding America, every $1 donation to a local hunger organization can provide 10 or more meals to someone in need.
  • West Hartford resident Elizabeth “Beth” Alquist has been named chair of Day Pitney LLP‘s Litigation department, one of three core departments, the firm announced last week. Alquist, an Intellectual Property and Technology partner based in Hartford, also serves on the firm’s Executive Board (January 2020 – April 2022). She is an experienced trial lawyer who represents diverse clients in patent, trademark, copyright, trade secret, non-competition and technology-related disputes in federal and state courts, as well as before the International Trade Commission, Patent Trial and Appeal Board and the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board. Alquist has also held several leadership positions at Day Pitney, including as the first female chair of its Intellectual Property and Technology group (2007 – 2021). She also co-founded the firm’s women’s initiative, Women Working Together (WWT®), and is past chair of both WWT and the firm’s Diversity Committee. She has also been chosen as recipient of 2022 Ladder Award from the Connecticut Bar Association. Alquist earned her J.D. with High Honors from the University of Connecticut School of Law, her B.A., magna cum laude, from Mount Saint Mary’s College, and is admitted to practice in Connecticut. After law school, Alquist served as law clerk to the Honorable Robert J. Callahan, Connecticut Supreme Court. She is a member of the International Trademark Association (INTA); is a member of Judge Janet Bond Arterton American Inn of Court; and is a James W. Coopers Life Fellow, Connecticut Bar Foundation.

Elizabeth Alquist. Courtesy photo

  • Congratulations to West Hartford resident Zach Marcus, of Wethersfield-based family-owned Marcus Insurance, who has been honored as insurance agent of the year Insurance Journal (one of the largest and most trusted insurance industry publications) as an “agent of the year” recognizing the top 25 insurance agents in the country for 2021. Marcus is fourth-generation in the business, which works with clients throughout the world on insurance for their rental properties. Marcus personally speaks three languages (Hebrew and Spanish in addition to English), and the company collectively has fluency in seven languages.

Zach Marcus. Courtesy photo

  • James C. Hagan, President and CEO of Westfield Bank, is pleased to announce that Angelo Nelson has been appointed Assistant Branch Manager and Business Specialist at the Bank’s 977 Farmington Avenue Branch in West Hartford. In his position, Nelson will be primarily responsible for small business development, including driving business deposit and loan growth, and assisting small business and commercial customers with deposit, credit, and digital banking products. Prior to joining Westfield Bank, Nelson served as a Branch Manager with multiple financial institutions in the Greater Hartford and Springfield area. He holds a degree in English and French from Bunker Hill Community College and studied Graphic Design at Wentworth Institute of Technology. Nelson resides in Berlin, CT.

Angelo Nelson. Courtesy photo

  • Hartford’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade will be held on Saturday, March 12, at 11 a.m., after being canceled for the past two years. The West Hartford St. Patrick’s Day Parade Committee will be holding a fundraiser on March 5 at Rockledge Grille. Tom Hickey was chosen as marshal for 2020, and Brooke Daly was chosen as honoree, but neither had a chance to participate that year, and both will be honored this year along with all previous marshals and honorees.

  • ICYMI, Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz has been touring women-owned businesses throughout the state, and in honor of Black History Month in February is also focusing on Black-owned businesses. She was in West Hartford last week to honor Camylle Appiahene, owner of Royâ Medspa and Innovative HealthCare of Connecticut, both of which are located in town. Click here for the complete story.
  • Mayor Shari Cantor will give her annual State of the Town address at a Chamber of Commerce-sponsored luncheon Friday at the Pond House Cafe. Details can be found here.
  • The Town Council approved a plan for a new Special Development District that will pave the way for upgrades of a strip along New Britain Avenue. The full story can be read here.
  • Click here to vote for the CT Entrepreneur of the Year.

Remember, if you have any business news to share, add it in the comments section below or email Ronni Newton at [email protected].

Espresso and other complimentary items are available while you shop at the Pharmacy at Blue Back. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Assortment of products at the Pharmacy at Blue Back. Courtesy photo

Assortment of products at the Pharmacy at Blue Back. Courtesy photo

Unique food products are sold at the Pharmacy at Blue Back. Courtesy photo

“Bean to bar” organic chocolates are available at the Pharmacy at Blue Back. Courtesy photo

Assortment of products at the Pharmacy at Blue Back. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Assortment of products at the Pharmacy at Blue Back. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

The Pharmacy at Blue Back is now open at 55 Isham Road. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

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