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West Hartford Business Buzz: February 7, 2022

Gillette Wine and Spirits is now open at 23-29 Crossroads Plaza in Bishops Corner. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

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

By Ronni Newton

I hope everyone had an enjoyable weekend!

I watched a lot of basketball over the weekend – with great outcomes for two of the three games I really cared about. The UConn men had a very disappointing game, but then Duke beat Carolina for Coach K’s final visit to Chapel Hill and on Sunday we were at the XL Center to see the UConn Women beat Tennessee! It was so much fun watching basketball in person again after more than two years!

Last week was incredibly busy from a work standpoint – with some extremely frustrating IT issues (we switched to a new server and apologize for any downtime our readers may have experienced as we dealt with a few glitches that seem to now be resolved) – as well as some in-depth stories (the Board of Education vote to change the Conard Chieftain and Hall Warrior nicknames) the unique opportunities to appear on the Friends of Feeney podcast (recorded Monday and in production now) and the WTIC News Talk 1080 morning show, being hosted by Dennis House on Friday morning, to talk about the relocation of Conny the Whale and the nickname decision (click here to listen).

Eric Feeney (left) interviewed me for Episode #38 of his Feeney Talks with Friends Podcast.

The weekend also included a wonderful dinner party with friends old and new (it’s probably been two years since we have been to dinner inside someone’s house other than a family member), and a very brisk run outside Saturday morning with my brave running buddies.

After participating in the St. James’s Episcopal Church virtual trivia competition on Saturday – which our team won, perhaps due to the luck/skill that rubbed off from my interview with West Hartford’s Joey Kornman, a Hall High School graduate and current Brandeis University junior who will appear on Jeopardy Wednesday night (details here) – Ted and I had a yummy dinner at Smoke Public House.

Smoked Power Wrap with chicken and sweet potatoes fries (foreground) and Smoked Salmon Sandwich with fries at Smoke Public House. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Fried pickles from Smoke Public House. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

People always ask me about Millie, and she had a great weekend, too – especially because Sam’s girlfriend has been visiting so she’s getting some extra attention. Unlike the rest of us, she doesn’t mind the cold weather so she’s pretty happy about the recent temperatures, although she does seem to be missing the snow now that the rain has washed it away.

Millie and her favorite giant hedgehog hanging out on her ottoman.

A universal indoor mask mandate remains in place in West Hartford. (Click here for the details.) Please comply, and please don’t 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:

Gillette Wine and Spirits is now open at 23-29 Crossroads Plaza in Bishops Corner. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

  • Gillette Wine and Spirits has completed its move from 860 Cottage Grove Road in Bloomfield to 23-29 Crossroads Plaza (behind Big Y) in Bishops Corner, and I checked out the new store over the weekend. Manager Ian Spry said they are still in soft opening mode after relocating about 10 days ago. Just like Tapas, which was in the same shopping center and has just closed that location, the move was necessitated by the building being taken over by Trinity Health. Gillette Wine and Spirits is very happy with the new location. “There’s much more traffic here, and 75% of our clientele was from West Hartford anyway,” Spry said. The space is larger, and has given them the opportunity to keep the selection of wines for which they have been known, but also add a much more extensive selection of beer, including many craft beers, and spirits. The variety of wines they carry ranges from a $4,000 DRC (Domaine de la Romanée-Conti) to $4.50 Tetra Paks, and a whole lot in between. The owner has more than 15 years of experience in the industry, and has access to some really good vintages, including some excellent U.S. Pinot Noirs and Cabernets, Spry said. They also have several rows of French and Italian wines, an extensive selection of sparkling wines, and 18 beer fridges with a large array of domestic brews and unique craft beers. They even have 12-packs of “Two Conn,” the special Huskies beer created by Two Roads (which I of course had to buy). In the spring and summer, when it’s a popular drink, they will feature about 120 different rose wines as well, Spry said. A grand opening with a wine tasting will likely be held in March. For more information and details, including ordering online, visit their website. More photos are at the end of the column.

A Valentine’s Day display at Gillette Wine and Spirits in Bishops Corner. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Gillette Wine and Spirits sells 12-packs of Two Conn. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

  • The former Shehrazad’s Cafe & Grill at 134 Park Road has been transformed into 1001 Bites/Nights, with Heber Alvarenga taking over both the restaurant operation as well as the adjacent 1001 Arabian Nights Hookah Lounge. Alvarenga, who is new to the restaurant business and just opened last week, said that George, the former owner, has remained as chef and is preparing Lebanese specialties including kabobs (lamb, shrimp, chicken), kafta, hummus, and falafel. The menu includes a vegetarian chickpea and tomato dish, salads, wraps, and burger, as well beer and wine a a full bar with a selection of signature cocktails. The restaurant, which has been updated and decorated with a custom mural, is connected to the hookah lounge, but while guests can bring takeout food into that area there is no food available there for purchase and no alcoholic beverages are permitted. The restaurant is open daily from 4-10 p.m. (the bar is open until midnight), while the hookah lounge is open from 7 p.m.-midnight, and also has its own entrance around the corner on Troy Street. A new website is live, but is still being built out, Alvarenga said. Some additional photos can be found below.

1001 Bites/Nights is now open at 134 Park Road. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Interior of 1001 Bites at 134 Park Road. PHOto credit: Ronni Newton

  • Monday, Jan. 31, was the last day of work for West Hartford Police Capt. Eric Rocheleau, who has retired after more than 23 years with the West Hartford Police Department. I got to know Eric initially through mutual friends, and our paths have crossed as celebrity scoopers at fundraisers, when I interviewed him back when he was a K-9 officer, when he headed the Detective Division, and through his years as head of the Training Division and of course in his official duties as the department’s public information officer. Best wishes to Eric as he has the opportunity to spend more time with his wife, Deborah, and his three children! Sgt. Amanda Martin has taken over as the department’s PIO, and she and Eric prepared a very entertaining TikTok video (see below) to celebrate the transition!

Congratulations to Capt. Eric Rocheleau on his retirement. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

  • Congratulations and best wishes to Matt Hart, whose last day was also this past week. Town staff roasted the now-former town manager (they were mostly kind words with some gentle teasing), as he departs to become executive director of the Capitol Region Council of Governments (CRCOG). Rick Ledwith officially become acting town manager at 6:01 p.m. Friday, Feb. 4.

Rick Ledwith (left) took over the West Hartford town manager role from Matt Hart (right) on Friday, Feb. 4. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

At a celebration for outgoing town manager Matt Hart (center), Fire Chief Greg Priest (left) and Police Chief Vernon Riddick each presented him with special “town manager” jackets, and a plaque. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

  • Minseo Kim, a senior at Kingswood Oxford School in West Hartford, has launched her own business. “Hartford Tutoring Organization,” which was expanded from a school club and now provides 18 free tutoring and on-demand educational materials to 18 different middle and upper schools. “Our recent publication of the book ‘Step to Educational Communication’ has received positive feedback from several educators in Hartford. We now have earned a net profit of over $2,900 from the sales of the book and educational materials, all of which were donated to schools that lack technological infrastructure,” Kim said in an email. For more information, visit their website.

Minseo Kim. Courtesy photo

  • Congratulations to West Hartford resident Vicki Anderson on the one-year anniversary of her business! Victoria Anderson Advanced Aesthetics is located at 45 South Main Street, Suite 308 in West Hartford Center. She has been a licensed clinical aesthetician and permanent makeup artist practicing for more than 30 years, and after working in a plastic surgery practice for more than 20 years, in January 2021 she launched her own practice. More information can be found here.

Vicki Anderson. Courtesy photo

  • Congratulations to all who were named to Connecticut Magazine’s “40 Under 40: The Class of 2022” published last week. Those with West Hartford connections (who either live or work in town) include Shiri Sandler, 38, managing director of Agahozo-Shalom Youth Village in Rwanda; Gina Luari, 30, founder and owner of The Place 2 Be restaurants; Larisa Kottke, 37, president and CEO of Leadership Greater Hartford;  and Vanessa de la Torre, 39, executive editor of the New England News Collaborative. The complete list can be found on Connecticut Magazine’s website.
  • West Hartford Center based YHB Investment Advisors, Inc. is excited to announce that Byron Nilsson has recently been promoted to portfolio manager.  Byron has a solid foundation in finance and has an intellectual curiosity and willingness to contribute to a multitude of projects. He has partnered with YHB senior portfolio managers and has demonstrated the qualities expected of a portfolio manager. Nilsson recently prepared for, and passed, the Series 65 earlier this fall.

Byron Nilsson. Courtesy photo

  • ICYMI, the Town of West Hartford released its Grand List last week, and overall values increased more than 12%. Complete details can be found here.
  • The two Big Brothers Big Sisters organizations in the state have merged, and Big Brothers Big Sisters Connecticut will be led by West Hartford resident Andy Fleischmann, who was formerly CEO of Nutmeg Big Brothers Big Sisters. Click here for the story.

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

Gillette Wine and Spirits is now open at 23-29 Crossroads Plaza in Bishops Corner. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Gillette Wine and Spirits is now open at 23-29 Crossroads Plaza in Bishops Corner. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Gillette Wine and Spirits is now open at 23-29 Crossroads Plaza in Bishops Corner. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Gillette Wine and Spirits is now open at 23-29 Crossroads Plaza in Bishops Corner. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

A variety of spirits available at Gillette Wine and Spirits, now open at 23-29 Crossroads Plaza in Bishops Corner. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Craft beers at Gillette Wine and Spirits, now open at 23-29 Crossroads Plaza in Bishops Corner. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Gillette Wine and Spirits is now open at 23-29 Crossroads Plaza in Bishops Corner. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Mural inside 1001 Bites at 134 Park Road. PHOto credit: Ronni Newton

Bar at 1001 Bites at 134 Park Road. PHOto credit: Ronni Newton

1001 Arabian Nights Hookah Lounge. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Entrance on Troy Street to the 1001 Arabian Nights Lounge. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

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  • I love reading your column on a regular basis. I am a devoted fan.
    We were frequent supporters of Tapas restaurant located in the same plaza as Gillette Ridge liquor store where we also made purchases. I’m glad to see their new location.
    I can’t reach anyone at the Tapas phone line. It rings a few times and then silence. Can u tell me if they have relocated?
    I would sincerely appreciate any help you can provide. Thank you so much in advance.

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