West Hartford Business Buzz: February 26, 2018

Johnny Bello, owner of 360ºProperties, demonstrates virtual reality glasses. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

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

By Ronni Newton

I thought last week was going to be relatively calm, but the news was as crazy and volatile as the weather.

As predicted we had a few glorious spring-like days, and on Wednesday it was positively summer-like! I had my sunroof open, and was ready to ditch the down coat for the season.

Then it snowed on Thursday. I’m thankful it wasn’t enough snow to damage my daffodils which are now several inches tall.

Chef Chris Prosperi from Metro Bis served a five-course wine dinner at the Noah Webster House on Feb. 22. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

One of my week’s personal highlights included volunteering for A Hand Up on President’s Day,  helping deliver furniture to a family that has recently transitioned from a shelter. We-Ha.com was one of the hosts of a very successful Taste of Elmwood on Wednesday, and on Thursday I attended a wine dinner at the Noah Webster House hosted by Chef Chris Prosperi of Metro Bis in Simsbury. The five-course meal used ingredients that were historically appropriate (smoked salmon with beet salad and dill crème fraiche, rigatoni with roasted winter vegetables, coq au vin, braised beef brisket with roasted pumpkin, and lemon posset with berry sauce), but I have a feeling Noah didn’t eat quite this well! Chef Prosperi introduced each course with a description of why he chose it and why that particular dish was common during Noah Webster’s lifetime.

The week’s news included several political announcements, a follow-up presentation on school start times at Wednesday night’s Board of Education meeting, as well as a discussion about changing the name of Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples Day on the West Hartford Public Schools calendar. On Friday, I wrote two stories about crashes involving stolen vehicles, one of which involved a 14-year-old West Hartford girl who was driving and crashed into pillars at the entrance to Trinity College, seriously injuring a 16-year-old passenger whom police said is likely now paralyzed from the neck down.

The story about the minor driving and crashing a stolen car in the middle of the night has, not surprisingly, generated quite a discussion on Facebook, which brings me to the next topic. The Connecticut Forum is hosting a discussion about the state of journalism and the news on March 16, and would like to have input from the public. There are several questions that have been posed for people to respond to, and more to come. I’d love your response to the following, which can be posted in the comments below or emailed to me at [email protected]: How has the general level of nastiness in the news today affected people? Are they angry, tense or just alienated? What do you want from the media that you are not getting? Why do so many people say they want unbiased, unfiltered news yet turn to outlets that validate their point of view?

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:

Screenshot from 360º Properties website

  • Most of my Business Buzz lead stories seem to feature tangible businesses – new restaurants getting ready to open, or retail news – but this one is different, cool, and much more high-tech, and is a tool that will probably interest many of those other new businesses I’ve written about! A recently-launched business, 360° Properties, is a service that facilitates virtual reality tours using technology that creates an immersive and three-dimensional experience where you feel like you have actually stepped inside a property or business. “I take 100 to 200 scans of the property, and stitch them together,” said business owner Johnny Bello, a West Hartford native who graduated from Conard High School and has a degree in marketing and international business from Ithaca College. The technology, which can be shared through social media or embedded in a website, can be dovetailed with Google earth, so that you can “walk” down the street and then actually “step inside” a business. Bello’s interest in this type of business was first sparked while working on his senior thesis, which included providing suggestions on how to increase the visibility of a local theater. A virtual tour was one of his suggestions. While a student he also helped develop a navigation device for the visually impaired, using a network of cameras that would connect to a third party, but although it won several business competitions, financing proved to be a challenge. After graduation Bello went to work successfully selling solar energy systems, but the virtual tour idea was still in the back of his mind when he came across the Matterport 3D technology platform. “I quit my job, moved back home, set up my business,” Bello said. He officially launched 360° Properties in the fall of 2017, and has already built a portfolio that includes a tour of 126 Waterside Ln., the home that has been chosen as the Junior League of Hartford’s Show House this year, the Lost Breed Athletic Training Center in West Hartford, and Charter Oak Boxing Academy in Hartford. He has done work for the Nathan Hale Homestead, PEZ Visitor Center, Mystic Seaport and Aquarium, International Marble and Granite, and the go-kart facility Naskart in Montville. He’s currently working on a virtual field trip to the Mashantucket Pequot Museum narrated by one of the museum’s tour guides – which may be a substitute for cash-strapped school districts that can’t travel there on a field trip. The product is ideally-suited for real estate agents, as well as many commercial businesses, or even a town business district like West Hartford Center or Blue Back Square. “We’re building a virtual community, one property at a time,” Bello said. To see a few examples or for more information, visit the website.
  • When I first moved to West Hartford I belonged to Bally’s Gym, but the 27 South St. property has been vacant for years and has fallen into a state of disrepair. That may soon be changing, because an application to from WH-ELM LLC to the Design Review and Advisory Committee is “seeking site plan approval to construct a free standing self-storage facility and make associated site improvements.” The application will be reviewed on Thursday.
  • GOLFTEC, located at 1146 New Britain Ave. in Elmwood, is celebrating its first anniversary with an open house this Friday, March 2, from 3-5 p.m. I-Heart ESPN radio will be onsite broadcasting during the event, which is open to the public. For more information, including a virtual tour of the center, visit GOLFTEC West Hartford’s website. 
  • Rodger Phillips of Sub Edge Farm in Farmington (199 Town Farm Rd.) said he is partnering with West Hartford’s New Park Brewing to host a “Beer, Bread, Cheese and Veggie CSA” this summer. A CSA – community-supported agriculture – is a “share” of the farm’s harvest, Phillips said, and this particular CSA will provide members the following each week: a box of fresh certified organic fruits, vegetables, and culinary herbs grown by Sub Edge Farm; two growlers of fresh small-batch craft beer from New Park Brewing; two loaves of handcrafted bread from Sweet Sage Bakery; and a rotating selection of artisan cheeses curated by the Mystic Cheese Co. For more information, visit Sub Edge Farm’s website.
  • The ninth Hartford Healthcare-GoHealth Urgent Care Center will open in Bishops Corner today, according to the Hartford Business Journal. The urgent care center, which is located next t Whole Foods, will be open 365 days a year, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday, according to the Hartford Business Journal article. More information about GoHealth can be found here.
  • Sad news about the former owner of Hall’s Market, Ron Booth, who passed away after a battle with brain cancer on Feb. 18. He was 64. Booth and his wife, Betsey, had retired in 2009 and the business is currently owned by their children Jennifer and David. To read the obituary, click here.

    Rosaida Morales Rosario (left) and Jason Jakubowski. Submitted photos

  • In a news release, Leadership Greater Hartford announced that West Hartford resident Rosaida Morales Rosario has been appointed to serve on their Board of Directors. “Rosaida Morales Rosario is a Leadership and Organizational Development Consultant with Rosario & Associates LLC. She is known for using her excellent consulting and training skills in ways that greatly impact the community. She is a graduate of Wesleyan University and served as a member of the Board of Trustees of the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving for 12 years, where she spent her last three years as the first Hispanic Vice-Chair. Rosaida is a graduate of Leadership Greater Hartford’s second ALF class and the 1980 Quest program.” In addition, West Hartford resident Jason Jakubowski, the president and CEO of Foodshare, has been named chair of the Leadership Greater Hartford Board of Directors. Jakubowski is a graduate of both Leadership Greater Hartford’s 2007 Quest class and 2017 Executive Orientation Program. 

    Carin Buckman. Submitted photo

  • West Hartford resident Carin Buckman has been named a senior officer, External Communications and Community Engagement at the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving, and will be responsible for paid advertising, media relations, and community engagement. She has has held a wide range of positions in both the nonprofit and corporate arenas, most recently the director of marketing and communications for Leadership Greater Hartford. Buckman is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business.
  • West Hartford’s New Park Brewing gets a second mention in this column today, because they have been nominated for “Best New Brewery” by USA Today! Click here for the details and the link to voting. You can vote once a day through March 19.
  • Props to RLMCo’s Mike Mahoney for organizing a donation to Foodshare from West Hartford Center commercial building owners. RLM, S.B. Andrews Company, Clark Properties, Udolf Properties, and the Kaoud family joined forces to donate $8,000. Click here for the complete story.
  • Finally, ICYMI, the West Hartford Town Council may be making some changes to its entertainment ordinance. 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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1 Comment

  • I feel angry and anxious if I am too tuned in to the news. I find I have to ignore it much of the time. I think people just want the facts (actual verified facts) without opinion. Let us form our own opinions. And show alternative views! So many news outlets are consistently slanted one way or the other and so you can’t get the full picture. I would love to watch an unbiased news show if someone could tell me what it is.

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