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West Hartford Business Buzz: February 22, 2021

The Sisters of Saint Joseph property will be converted into a multifamily housing development with 295 units. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

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

By Ronni Newton

I took a quick break Sunday afternoon to go for a run and clear my head, and despite the cold wind I could feel the warmth of the sun. I’d almost go as far as to say it was pleasant outside.

There’s still a ton of snow on the ground, and it seems like it snowed nearly every minute of the past week, but there’s just one more week of February and then it’s meteorological spring. The increase in daylight is dramatic compared to just a few weeks ago. Pitchers and catchers have reported for spring training. The Yard Goats have announced their schedule. The UConn Women are playing some amazing basketball, and the men’s team is definitely trending in a good direction (don’t want to jinx anything).

I’m feeling the optimism of spring.

Of course I could have written all of these things a year ago, before our world was upended by COVID-19. We had no idea what was coming. I never could have imagined that March 2020 would become a different kind of milestone, one of those “I remember where I was when [insert high impact event here] happened” moments.

Over the next few weeks, as we hit the year mark for the pandemic, it will be hard not to look back at where we were a year ago. Every day, when I await notice from the governor’s office of the positivity rate, hospitalization, and fatalities, I have my fingers crossed, hoping for good news. It honestly feels like awaiting the results of a biopsy.

The news has been getting better, and I feel more optimistic than I have in quite some time. Knowing that spring is coming helps, too – and I can’t even explain how happy I was to post a press release about the spring flower and bulb show at Elizabeth Park.

I have no idea what will happen this spring, but I have hope, and I’m going to continue to do my part, wear my mask, and get vaccinated as soon as I’m eligible.

Ted and I are also going to keep supporting our local businesses – and this week we had two great meals from West Hartford restaurants.

We had our delayed Valentine’s Day “date night” dinner on Tuesday at Bricco, and it was fabulous. I had the cedar plank salmon – which I had never ordered before, but everyone has been raving about how great it is – and it did not disappoint. A big plus was that it came with mashed potatoes. The dessert came with two spoons and I just couldn’t resist that either.

Grilled artichokes topped with hazelnuts from Bricco. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Cedar Plank Salmon and Grandma’s Ravioli from Bricco. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Gramercy Chocolate Pudding from Bricco. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Millie got spayed on Friday (she’s doing fine, and adjusting to wearing an inflatable doughnut around her neck, which is definitely an improvement over a cone), and we didn’t want to leave her alone so we ordered takeout on Saturday night from one of our longtime favorites – Black Bamboo.

Black Bamboo takeout included chicken with mixed vegetables in a black bean sauce and spicy beef and scallops. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

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.

Read last week’s “Keeping it in the Community” spotlight on Futures Inc.

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Keeping it in the Community:

We don’t have a business spotlight this week but instead I want to highlight one of the new initiatives the town has been working on – an electronic flip book that highlights what West Hartford has to offer.

Intended as a resource for new residents, people thinking about moving to West Hartford, or anyone interested in what makes West Hartford unique, the flip book has section on the town’s history, arts and culture, recreation, services, schools, community spirit, businesses, and special events.

Mayor Shari Cantor mentioned it during her State of the Town address, and the book was just released this week. I am excited to see some of the photos I’ve taken over the years are featured in the flip book.

The flip book can be found by clicking here, and through a link on the town’s website.

The town and Chamber of Commerce are also collaborating on a “Why West Hartford” tourism website to promote the town’s attractions, entertainment, dining, retail, and more. That website should be ready this spring and more details will follow.

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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:

The Chapel at the Sisters of Saint Joseph will be incorporated into the new One Park Road development as part of the historic preservation goals for the project. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

  • There’s been plenty of good news lately about businesses in the Park Road neighborhood, including several new restaurants that have opened over the past weeks (Toro Taberna and Caribe), and that part of town will soon be getting an even bigger boost from the One Park Road development which will bring 295 apartments to the Sisters of Saint Joseph property at the southwest corner of Park Road and Prospect. Demolition permits have been applied for, and Town Manager Matt Hart said he is very much looking forward to the project getting underway. The financing is in the process of being finalized, and as soon as that happens, the project will officially get underway. I was already planning to feature this project, which was discussed at Friday’s meeting of the Park Road Association, but then it became even more pertinent. An article in the Hartford Courant about the history and evolution of housing in West Hartford shed a fascinating light on how redlining and other practices created segregated neighborhoods, but (in my opinion) it’s also important to note where the town, which is essentially fully-developed is heading. One of the key goals of West Hartford’s recently-adopted 2020-2030 Plan of Conservation and Development is to increase the diversity of housing stock in town, and this project not only creates in-demand rental units, but also has 10% of its units set aside as affordable housing. Rental of the affordable units will be handled by the West Hartford Housing Authority, and are reserved for individuals or families earning 80% or less than the area mean income. The Town Council will also vote this week to establish a Technical Advisory Group on Affordable Housing. One final note about some of the statistics cited in the article comparing West Hartford to Bloomfield is that the racial demographics were from the 2010 census and I found it hard to fathom how West Hartford could be nearly 80% white if the West Hartford Public Schools population, according to information provided by Superintendent Tom Moore last week, is just 57% white. The 2020 census has not yet been released, but according to data forwarded to me by Town Planner Todd Dumais, based on 2019 information, West Hartford was 72.9% white, 11.2% Hispanic, and 7.3% Black. “When looking more broadly at diversity, there are additional demographics and information that should be considered as well such as percent of foreign born population or language spoken other than English,” Dumais added.

The Tactical Boutique is located at 9 Tolles St. in West Hartford. Courtesy photo

  • “COVID has not been kind to the martial arts industry,” said Darin Reisler, a former police officer and social worker, and owner of Plus One Defense Systems located at 9 Tolles St. in West Hartford. As part of his business, there has also been a retail firearms store located at the property since 2014, and he has been running a firearms safety class for individuals looking to get a pistol permit, Reisler said, but he has decided to branch out a little further. “Welcome to West Hartford’s only shooting range,” Reisler said of The Tactical Boutique, which opened Feb. 10. The firing range, housed in a former shipping container, provides opportunities for standard target shooting in a dynamic environment with a variety of lighting options, and also uses technology to create simulations and scenarios for use by members of the public (you must have a pistol permit) as well as for use by law enforcement and military. The scenario-based training opportunities allow for the practice of de-escalizing a situation verbally, as well as through use of physical force/self defense, chemicals, Taser, baton, and gun, Reisler said. He stressed that he is not advocating violence, and noted that the martial arts studio has a dove as its logo, and the firing range is called a boutique. “It’s a healthy, clean, kind atmosphere where you can use firearms,” Reisler said. He used to rent space to teach the firearms training class, and can now do it at his own location. “This is our pivot,” Reisler said. More information can also be found on The Tactical Boutique Facebook page.

Targets at The Tactical Boutique Shooting Range. Courtesy photo

  • Looks by Lena hair studio held a virtual raffle, which raised more than $400 for Hartford’s South Park Inn. Owner Lena Whalen shared the photo below of Aileen Busi of West Hartford, the lucky winner of the virtual raffle prize of an Ikoo product bundle and a cut and color service. South Park Inn’s mission is to assist men, women and veterans experiencing homelessness and to help improve their life situation by providing temporary and long-term housing, as well as supportive services. In addition, South Park Inn advocates for solutions to homelessness. Looks by Lena hair studio, located at 333 North Main St., Suite 2, would like to thank all those who participated in the virtual raffle.

Aileen Busi of West Hartford won the Looks by Lena virtual raffle. Courtesy photo

  • Congratulations to West Hartford resident A. Rima Dael, a development and management executive with over 25 years of experience with nonprofit organizations in the public media, arts and education sectors, who has been named as general manager of WSHU Public Radio, based in Fairfield, CT and owned by Sacred Heart University. She succeeds George J. Lombardi, who retired after 44 years with the station. “I am both honored and exhilarated by the opportunity to lead the station,” Dael said in a news release. “Over the past 16 months, I have worked together with the WSHU team to weather the COVID-19 pandemic – one of the biggest challenges the station has faced. It is clear to me that WSHU has an extremely dedicated staff and an unshakable commitment to serving the community with the best content available. I am convinced that WSHU’s future is bright indeed.” In her new role, Dael will continue to build WSHU’s infrastructure to meet the station’s strategic goals; focus on revenue generation and sustainability; and envision a relevant 21st-century radio station committed to sharing the stories of our local communities, the region and the world.

A. Rima Dael. Courtesy photo

  • Good luck to Victoria Ward, a chef at Àvert Brasserie in West Hartford, who is competing in Bon Appetit’s “Favorite Chef” contest. The winner gets $20,000 and a two-page spread in Bon Appetit. Click here to read more about the contest in the Hartford Courant, and to cast your vote for Ward.
  • Nicholas Wills, independent hearing aid specialist and founder of West Hartford-based Home Hearing LLC, has announced the expansion of his highly-regarded services in Central Connecticut. After founding the business as an independent provider just a year ago, Wills will expand from West Hartford and surrounding towns to Wallingford, Meriden, Cheshire, Berlin, North Haven, and surrounding areas. Will has more than 20 years prior experience selling and repairing hearing aid products, including 13 years with nationally known Miracle-Ear, and is a Board Certified Hearing Instrument Specialist. “Hailing from the U.K., the style of hearing aid service there was all home-based,” said Wills. “Since coming to the U.S., it has been my vision to bring that level of white-glove service to my clientele, demystifying the process of being tested for, purchasing, and servicing their devices – all from the comfort of their home.” Even as the pandemic descended upon the area, Wills quickly found his services even more crucial, as clients hesitated to leave their homes, yet needed to ensure their hearing aid devices remained in proper working order. Recent innovations in hearing aid technology have also allowed for remote adjustments as well. For certain devices, Wills can hop on the phone with a client, log in to an app and adjust its programming remotely. For more information, visit homehearing.com, call Wills directly at 860-544-0241, or email [email protected].

Nicholas Wills. Courtesy photo

  • Congratulations to attorney Meghan M. Sweeney Burns of West Hartford, who was elected a 2021 Fellow of the Connecticut Bar Foundation (CBF) James W. Cooper Fellows Program. Fellows are nominated by their peers based on their outstanding service to the profession and larger community and are elected by the CBF Board of Directors. “We are pleased to recognize our new Fellows for their distinguished services to our legal system and for their commitment to the principles of equal justice and the rule of law,” Timothy Diemand, president of the Connecticut Bar Foundation, said in a statement. Thirty-five Fellows were elected this year. Sweeney Burns practices at Ruel Ruel Goings & Britt in Hartford and previously was with Pullman & Comley, LLC and Rome McGuigan, P.C. She received a B.A. from the University of Virginia in 2007 and a J.D. from the University of Connecticut School of Law in 2010. She was admitted to the Connecticut Bar in 2011 and is also admitted to the Maryland State Bar. A member of the Collaborative Divorce Lawyers Association (2016-present, Attorney Sweeney Burns also serves on the board of the Hartford County Bar Association (2019-present) and has been a Co-Chair of the Bench-Bar Committee since 2015. Sweeney Burns joined the board of the Aurora Foundation for Women & Girls in 2018 and currently serves as the Vice Chair of the Board (2019–present). She is also a board member for the UVAClub of Hartford (2012–present). Recognized as a New England Super Lawyers Rising Star for Connecticut (2017-present), Sweeney Burns is also a recipient of the Hartford County Bar Association’s Judge Maxwell Heiman Memorial Award (2017), and the Connecticut Law Tribune New Leader in the Law award (2017). She and her husband, Scott Burns, have two children, Liam and Cameron Burns.
  • ICYMI, the sad news was announced Sunday that Harry’s Pizzeria & Tavern will be closing its doors on March 14. Click here for the full story.
  • Gov. Ned Lamont has nominated 15 people to fill judicial vacancies, and among them are four West Hartford residents. Click here for details.
  • Certain COVID-19 restrictions are now being eased, including the cap on the number of people who can attend events at indoor and outdoor venues. More information can be found 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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