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West Hartford Business Buzz: January 15, 2024

Green Drop will be opening a collection facility at 176 Newington 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

Today is Martin Luther King Day and although it’s a federal holiday and many people have the day off, please note that there is no trash/recycling delay this week.

Today the town will host the 28th annual town-wide celebration of the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. I always report on this event and will of course be there but also urge anyone who can to attend what is always an inspiring program with a keynote speaker, music, and perspectives shared by students from Conard and Hall. The celebration begins at 10 a.m. at West Hartford Town Hall, and complete details can be found here. West Hartford Community Interactive will also air the event live on Comcast Channel 5, Frontier 6098, and on YouTube.

We have certainly had some volatile weather over the past week, and I am very glad the arctic air that is out west will be moderated quite a bit by the time it gets here. I do see some single digits in the forecast by next weekend though.

Winter is a good time for watching sports, however, and Ted and I went to the UConn hockey game on Saturday afternoon. It was our first game this year, and it’s always a fun time – especially since UConn won, and the pep band was there!

UConn hockey vs. Maine at the XL Center. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

We had an amazing dinner Saturday night at Bricco in West Hartford Center – which was prompted by my conversation with Billy Grant about the plans to temporarily close the restaurant for some important kitchen maintenance. I’m still thinking about those scallops … and looking forward to the reopening.

Roman Gnocchi Alforno at Restaurant Bricco. (Mystic Melinda Mae Cheese, mitake mushrooms, sugo napoletano). Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Grilled Portuguese Octopus at Restaurant Bricco (spicy chickpea puree, gigante beans, celery, red wine vinaigrette &
smoked paprika). Photo credit: Ronni Newton

A glass of Malbec at Restaurant Bricco. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Maine Day Boat Scallops at Restaurant Bricco. (sea coast mushroom farrotto, pomegranate pistachio salsa verde, cara cara oranges & bacon onion au jus). Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Panki & Black Olive Crusted Cod Fish at Restaurant Bricco. (pancetta braised escarole, fingerling potatoes, tomato brodo, Salsa verde). 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:

Green Drop will be opening a collection facility at 176 Newington Road. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

  • Members of the community are often asking about what to do with clothing and household items that they no longer want or need, and a new option will soon be available. At its meeting on Jan. 3, the Town Plan & Zoning Commission (TPZ) unanimously approved GreenDrop’s request for a temporary Special Use Permit to open a collection location in the Elmwood Plaza (where Stop & Shop and Crazy Bruce’s is located) at 176 Newington Road. According to the application, “GreenDrop is a for-profit company and registered professional fundraiser that accepts donations on behalf of the American Red Cross through its network of mobile donation centers. Each GreenDrop mobile office accepts donations of gently used clothing, shoes, and household goods which are brought to one of TVI Inc.’s secondhand retail stores to sell. GreenDrop has 60 existing locations around the United States through partnerships with numerous landlords and shopping center developers.” There are currently donation bins at that location, but the landlord is very excited about this new option and the existing bins will be removed and in that space (taking up five parking spaces) GreenDrop will open a mobile office location (43 feet by 8 feet) that will be staffed by two employees at all times and open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., seven days a week, 363 days per year (closed Thanksgiving and Christmas). Donors, who will drive up to the mobile office, don’t even need to get out of their vehicles because GreenDrop employees will take care of the unloading, and once a week a 16-foot box truck will collect the donations and transport them to another site where they will be sorted for distribution to Savers where they will be resold. Nothing will ever be left outside, and if someone does drop something off, there will be six security cameras onsite and GreenDrop (which is owned by Savers) will immediately be notified to take care of it. Donors will be emailed receipts for their personal tax return, according to GreenDrop. West Hartford and Wethersfield (where a permit was just granted) are the first Connecticut location for GreenDrop, which is headquartered in Bensalem, Pennsylvania. GreenDrop weighs the donations they received and based on volume collect last year donated more than $5 million to the American Red Cross. Clothing represents the majority of donations, according to GreenDrop, but they will accept essentially any household goods, including appliances, subject to a weight limit of 50 pounds.

Existing donations bins at Elmwood Plaza that will be removed and replaced with a GreenDrop mobile office collection facility. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

  • There’s been some chatter on Facebook about the application filed by the entity Inspired By Opportunity, LLC, aka the Wendy’s Restaurant at 331 South Road right across from Westfarms. These plans aren’t new; they have just taken a while to get to this stage. Although the existing restaurant building itself is in West Hartford, the parcel is partially in Farmington, and I reported in this column, on June 27, 2022, that Wendy’s had gotten approval from the necessary agencies from the Town of Farmington and would be submitting an application to West Hartford to amend the existing Special Development District. At the time, the owner was hoping to begin the work in the summer of 2022. In the May 1, 2023 Business Buzz column, I reported that the Design Review Advisory Committee (DRAC) had held a favorable study session (that was on April 20, 2023) for the plans to construct a 2,680 square foot building with a drive-through on the site of the existing 3,220 square foot restaurant (which will be demolished), and also make improvements to the parking and driveway areas, as well as landscaping, signage, and stormwater and sanitary sewers. The existing Wendy’s has 108 seats and 72 parking spaces, and the proposed new restaurant will have 40 seats and 34 parking spaces. As for the part about Wendy’s wanting to have a drive-through, while West Hartford formerly allowed drive-throughs for restaurants only in industrial zones, in September 2021 the Town Council unanimously adopted an ordinance expanding the ability to have drive-throughs in the BG (general business district) in town. It was an idea and initiative that came out of one of the pandemic recovery standing committees, and there are still significant controls regarding where drive-throughs can be located (for example they must be at least 200 feet from any residence), setbacks, queue lengths, etc. I believe thus far the only new drive-throughs submitted under this ordinance were for the Starbucks that’s now under construction in front of Corporate Center West on South Main Street and the Chipotle that will be built in Prospect Plaza. The Starbucks with a drive-through that opened on Kane Street was grandfathered because it was formerly a D’Angelos with a drive-through. The Town Council has scheduled a public hearing for the Wendy’s application for Feb. 27, 2024, at 7 p.m.

Plans are in the works for a rebuild to include the addition of a drive-through at the Wendy’s opposite Westfarms. Photo credit: Ronni Newton (we-ha.com file photo)

DRAC reviewed plans for a Wendy’s with drive-through during an informal study session. Screenshot (we-ha.com file photo)

  • The Fred Astaire Dance Studios (141 South Street, Suite F) will celebrate a grand re-opening on Friday, Jan. 19, beginning at 6:30 p.m. The event is will provide ample opportunity for toe-tapping and the chance to “channel your inner Ginger Rogers,” with performances by instructors and students exhibiting their grace and skill on the dance floor in a variety of dance styles, from classic Ballroom and Latin to trendy Swing and Hip-Hop; free introductory dance classes in a variety of styles; live music and refreshments, including a champagne toast; and exclusive grand re-opening specials and prizes that include special discounts and introductory offers on dance lessons, packages, and memberships available only during the celebration. There will also be $500 worth of free lessons given away over the course of the evening. New owners Ecaterina Liubenco and Alex Konovalov, passionate dance professionals,who are owners of the highly successful Fred Astaire Dance Studios of Glastonbury, are looking forward to meeting the West Hartford community and are excited to share their vision for the West Hartford studio. For more information, call 860-232-2678 or 860-519-7701.

Courtesy of Fred Astaire Dance Studios

  • As I was about to turn into the driveway of the Elmwood Plaza to take some photos of the space where GreenDrop is going to be located, I saw a sign I had not previously noticed – for Garrett’s Barber Shop, which is owned by Garrett Kenny. It’s located just to the left of Stop & Shop, and according to the business’ website opened in mid November. I wasn’t able to stop by, but this is what the website states: “Since starting Garrett’s Barber Shop in November of 2000 at the age of nineteen, Garrett and his team have grown this small, local shop into a nationally respected leader in the industry. Voted ‘Best In Hartford’ by the 2018 CTNOW Reader’s Poll, Garrett’s Barber Shop continues to lead the way. Clients of the shop have come to expect not only great haircuts, but customer service, loyalty and a sense of dedication unparalleled in the barber shop industry. A self-proclaimed ‘serial entrepreneur’, Garrett has lent his experience and expertise in aiding over half a dozen other companies get off the ground in the last several years. These accomplishments have lead to various accolades, including the HYPE Award For Entrepreneurs and the prestigious Hartford Business Journal’s 40 Under Forty (Class of 2014). With a focus on making the Greater Hartford community a priority, Garrett dedicates countless hours to local charities and non-profits, including Hartford’s Camp Courant, where he served on the Board Of Directors for over six years, and recently served as the Interim Executive Director & CEO for the better part of 2020. Garrett loves the Celtics, the NY Times crossword puzzle, and his son Brixton.” A belated welcome to West Hartford, Garrett!

Garrett’s Barber Shop is now open at 176 Newington Road. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

  • Congratulations to West Hartford resident Jen La Bella, who is thrilled to be realizing her dream – and while her new toy store Birdie’s at the Barn, which opened last week at 135 Main Street in Old Wethersfield, is not physically in West Hartford, it’s a short drive to a great place to visit. She shared the following with me: “I’m a mom of young kids myself and love discovering new brands and unique products for them. I also love Old Wethersfield, and when I saw the historic Red Barn come up for rent, I had to jump on it! We will have a retail shop in front specializing in heirloom quality toys and children’s home goods, as well as a studio space for children’s classes! We will have music, art, sensory, and story time, starting in a month or two.” The shop is open Wednesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., and while Jen said she’s running it by herself now, she’s planning to bring in some wonderful teachers to lead the classes.  “I’m very excited about our new journey!” she said.

Birdie’s is now open at The Red Barn in Old Wethersfield. Courtesy photo

Birdie’s is now open at The Red Barn in Old Wethersfield. Courtesy photo

  • I’ve gotten several questions about Teriyaki Madness following reports in other news media about Ken Schanke and Audrey Poynton, who are from Somers, having purchased the rights to open eight franchise locations of the fast-casual Asian restaurant. While they are beginning to open locations, and other news media have reported their stated plans to open in West Hartford, there are no plans filed or permit applications that have been submitted to the Town of West Hartford. The website states that the Hamden location is open and Avon and Enfield are coming soon.
  • Brandi and Phil Killoran, who launched their brand with the opening of their first BIRDCODE location at 120 Park Road in West Hartford in November 2020, are in the midst of a major expansion of their hot chicken business. According to the Connecticut Scoop, BIRDCODE will soon be opening locations in Darien (151 Post Road, very soon); Vernon (former Papa Gino’s at Tri City Plaza, 35 Talcottville Road, this spring); Canton (101 Albany Turnpike, construction beginning in February); Brookfield (164 Federal Road in the former Moe’s Southwest Grill, and will include a drive-through); New Britain (488 Hartford Road, across from Target, with construction beginning this year); and Cheshire, at a location not yet finalized.

A sampling of BIRDCODE offerings include (from left): Sando, banana pudding, tenders, mac and cheese, and shake fries. Photo credit: Ronni Newton (we-ha.com file photo)

  • Over the years We-Ha.com has re-published the write-ups weddings that have appeared in West Hartford Magazine (the exception was my daughter’s wedding which was in West Hartford Magazine but I felt weird about publishing it on this site), but there are many more weddings taking place that have a connection to West Hartford. Last week we published the write-up about the wedding of the daughter of Patti Albee (administrator extraordinaire of Neighbors & Friends of West Hartford Facebook group) and Scott Albee, and people seemed to really enjoy a dose of happy news. We also recently heard from a reader suggesting it would be great to provide the community with a space to share their wedding announcements. What do you think? If people are interested in submitting weddings, and reading about weddings, let me know at [email protected] or in the comment section below. I’ll create a simple form that can be submitted (or you can do your own write-up of 500 words or less) along with up to five photos, and we will share them on the site.

Garrett Logan Harbeck and Ashley Albee Harbeck. Courtesy photo

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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