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
Repeating my first sentence from last week: “I’m definitely not a fan of the weather we have had the past few days.” Okay, it wasn’t bad on Saturday, and there was a hot minute when the sun seemed to be attempting an appearance, but Sunday … yuck.
Yes, it was kind of pretty for a while (from my vantage point inside the house), when the giant flakes were falling, but the weather decided to do its own thing rather than behaving as forecasted and it started snowing much earlier and much harder than predicted, and the roads got slippery. I’ve been excited about Sam coming home from Boston for dinner and overnight Sunday because he has a local meeting on Monday and the weather interfered with those plans. At least it’s the last week of January, and along Park Road, Butler’s nursery has started their countdown to spring.
I’ve continued to eat somewhat adventurously this week – but you’ll have to see those food items below because they are part of the news section of this column.
Other fun adventures this week took me out of West Hartford for my first-ever axe-throwing experience at Stumpy’s Hatchet House in Manchester. Neither Ted nor I (nor my sister, with whom we double dated) had ever done axe-throwing before, and I will freely admit that I am challenged when it comes to hand-eye coordination and I was very nervous that I would injure myself or someone else. It ended up being a lot of fun, and I did manage to hit the target multiple times and score some points, particularly when the “coach” recommended I try the smaller but sharper “ninja” axe. (I’m not sure he appreciated my referring to it as the “little training axe” but I did ultimately respect his advice and my new-found weapon.)
Ted got the hang of axe-throwing very quickly – and hit so many bulls-eyes that we lost count and he got tired of ringing the bell. Really. I’m kind of worried about his new-found skill and I had better be very nice to him.
We grabbed a fun dinner and some great beers at Urban Lodge in Manchester after Stumpy’s!
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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:
- The photo above is the lunch I had on Saturday from Quick Bites – a Jamaican-American restaurant “with a touch of barbecue” which opened just last week at 280 Park Road in West Hartford. I’m not sure I have ever eaten oxtail before, but I am game to try almost anything and it was as delicious as promised. I wanted to try a few different things (and Ted and our daughter were willing tasters), so we also ordered curry goat, curry chicken, and beef and chicken patties. Quick Bites has offered Caribbean cuisine from their food truck for more than 10 years, and owner Clover Marsh said she is excited about having the brick and mortar space because of the additional customers it will bring, as well as because it gives her the kitchen space needed so she can supply more food at the events she will continue to attend with the food truck. There have been times – such as at a festival – where she has served more than 1,000 patties in a day. “I can do more catering, too. I’m just excited,” she said. “I like the neighborhood,” she said of her new Park Road location. “The people are so warm and welcoming. I hope they like my food,” she added. We thought everything was delicious, and so far she said she has already had some return customers, which is a very good sign. Marsh said she is definitely open to suggestions from customers for tweaks to the menu (which can be found below) and always willing to change. They currently serve lunch and dinner – and there are some Jamaican sodas and juices available as well, along with desserts – and are open Monday through Saturday. It’s primarily takeout, but there are a few seats inside and there will be a patio once warmer weather arrives.
- I was very excited to attend the grand opening of City Kebab – which is located at 207 Main Street in Hartford, but is owned by West Hartford residents Timur Rakhimov and his wife, Aziza Djalmamedova – and sample the Turkish and Uzbek cuisine prepared by Chef Hasan Korkmaz. City Kebab opened in the fall, but the ribbon cutting with Hartford Mayor Arunan Arulampalam, Hartford Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Julio Concepción, state Rep. Jimmy Sanchez, and other officials took place last Tuesday. Everything served at City Kebab is 100% halal and scratch-made, and dishes served at the grand opening buffet included wraps, samsas, salads, and desserts, as well as Turkish coffee and tea. The space, which was formerly the Hook & Ladder restaurant, is beautifully decorated (I love the light fixtures). “We were looking in this area,” Rakhimov said, in the center of the city and an easy walk from the Wadsworth and other downtown attractions, offices, and apartment. (There’s also free parking in the back, accessible from John Street – which I didn’t realize until I looked at the website.) Must-try dishes, Rakhimov said, include Uzbek Plov (tenderly cooked beef with rice and carrots) and Uzbek Manti (steamed dumplings), Turkish mixed grill, Beyti (ground lamb blended with red bell peppers garlic, and parsley grilled on skewers and then rolled and sliced in a lavash bread, topped with the chef’s special sauce and yogurt), and of course the kebabs. “There are so many things that people need to try, they do, because we do everything from scratch.” Rakhimov said. I tried everything served at the buffet, but definitely look forward to returning! While he is the “engine behind this game,” Rakhimov said the food is the inspiration of his wife, who is from Uzbekistan, and the creation of Chef Hasan, who is from Gaziantep, a city in Turkey “known for its distinct cuisine influenced by Armenian, Kurdish, and Syrian flavors,” the City Kebab website states. “Thank you for helping turn my dream, my love of cooking and samsa pastry, into reality,” said Djalmamedova as she prepared to cut the ribbon. The thriving business community “reflects the diversity of our city,” a city of immigrants, Arulampalam said at the ribbon cutting. “This is the core,” he said. “When people invest in our city we embrace them with open arms.” City Kebab is open daily for lunch and dinner. For more information, visit the website, follow on Facebook or Instagram (@citykebabhousect), or call 860-310-3012.
- PeoplesBank is excited to once again help West Hartford celebrate, and for the third year has signed on as presenting sponsor of the annual Celebrate! West Hartford festival, with a $10,000 donation that was delivered on Friday at the West Hartford location (102 LaSalle Road) to the Celebrate! team. “As a mutual bank, giving back is part of our culture, woven into the fabric of who we are and what we stand for. We are not just committed to the community, we are driven to make a difference,” said Banking Center Manager Kris Lucke. Celebrate! West Hartford will return for its 37th year, on June 8 and 9, 2024. Look for much more exciting information to come about the arts & crafts show, music, rides and games, food, and road race coming up this year.
- Cookshop Plus (56 LaSalle Road) has decided to make use of the corner of their space that formerly housed Victus Coffee, which moved out at the end of the year to open a location at 777 Main Street in downtown Hartford. Cookshop Plus owner Jimmy Hines said they have been bursting at the seams, and are going to be using the extra space for demos of espresso machines as well as expansion of their retail operations.
- Congratulations and welcome to Norcom Mortgage, which is headquartered in Avon but has opened a new branch office in West Hartford Center at 998 Farmington Avenue. A ribbon cutting with the West Hartford Chamber of Commerce and town officials was held last Tuesday. In a news release, Jeff Ross, vice president and branch manager shared “Norcom strives to guide home buyers through the entire home buying process and to help them determine the lending solution that best suits their needs. We know how exciting and yet how challenging it can be to find a new home, and we want to make it easy for borrowers to move into their dream home. I couldn’t be more excited to be part of this wonderful community.” Senior Vice President Mark Allen added, “Not only does Norcom offer competitive rates and a variety of loan programs suited to nearly every type of buyer’s need, we also offer down payment assistance programs and exclusive first time home buyer loans. We really want to make this exciting process a little easier and a lot more fun, and our team’s depth of experience and passion for this industry make them a natural for our company and the West Hartford office.” More information can be found online at NorcomMortgage.com/WestHartford.
- I’ve gotten some questions about the construction going on along New Britain Avenue just past Corbin’s Corner and Westfarms (in that area between the mall and Target that could be in any of four different towns) and have previously reported that Popeyes is planning to open there in early 2024, and will include a drive-through. Last week I received a press release stating that Reno Properties Group has secured the arrival of Popeyes, which will be opening soon on Hartford Road in Brittany West Plaza in what is technically New Britain. This will be the 21st location for the national fast food chain Popeye’s in Connecticut. “The addition of Popeyes to the roster of tenants include the future location for a Nova Farms Dispensary, and current tenants, Seoul Korean BBQ, Goodwill, Monro Muffler and Arthur Murray Ballroom & Dance Center, further solidifying Reno’s reputation for attracting high-profile businesses,” the release states. “This collaboration not only reinforces our commitment to fostering thriving business environments but also emphasizes our dedication to providing diverse and appealing options for the community,” said Principal of Reno Properties Group Dan Garofalo. “We look forward to working with more national tenants in the future.”
- Thanks to Rich Rochlin for having me as a guest last week on his podcast! Rochlin, who is the owner of Rich Rochlin Family Law & Mediation at 12 North Main Street, has recently launched the podcast “I’ll Call My Guy,” which streams on Apple, Spotify, Amazon, iHeart Radio, and YouTube. We had a great chat, and I’ll post the link once it’s ready. His next guest is Chef and Bricco owner Billy Grant!
- Congratulations to West Hartford resident, Professor Avinoam Patt, who has been appointed as the inaugural director of NYU’s Center for Study of Antisemitism and the Maurice Greenberg Professor of Holocaust Studies in NYU’s Skirball Department of Hebrew and Judaic Studies. The announcement was made last week by NYU President Linda G. Mills, who also announced the receipt of a $1 million anonymous donation to the Center. Patt is an alumnus of NYU’s Graduate School of Arts and Science, and “a scholar of the Holocaust and Israel whose work at the University of Connecticut included a one-credit course titled Why the Jews? Confronting Antisemitism that reached over 1,600 students in its first semester,” the announcement states. “Now is an essential time to begin a scholarly effort around antisemitism; the increase in antisemitic incidents globally over the last few years, and particularly since October 7, has been shocking. Avinoam Patt is an excellent choice to lead the Center,” Mills said in a statement. “A respected and prolific scholar, a nuanced thinker about antisemitism – historic and present day – and Jewish culture, and a gifted convener of those with important ideas in this space, he will bring to the Center a commitment to rigorous research, an understanding of the value of public programming on timely and important issues, an openness to collaborating with other units in the University to help translate scholarship into practice, a familiarity with NYU, and a keen moral compass.” In a statement, Patt said, “I am grateful for the opportunity and humbled by the trust President Mills and NYU have placed in me to serve as inaugural director. I look forward to working with colleagues at NYU and beyond to begin this vital project in order to expand the impact that we can make locally, nationally, and indeed, globally. We are at a critical moment in history where serious scholarship and education can make a difference in confronting antisemitism, while creating a public forum for rigorous study of one of our most persistent and pernicious social problems.”
- Congratulations to West Hartford resident, Jenna McClure, AIA, LEED AP, who has been promoted to Principal at Amenta Emma Architects. McClure joined the firm in 2008 and serves as a Senior Project Manager who has overseen some of the firm’s most complex and notable projects, including 616 New Park and 540 New Park in West Hartford. In the community, she mentors young women pursuing degrees in the AEC fields, and she is an active member of numerous industry organizations. McClure is currently serving as a member of the West Hartford Design Review Advisory Committee. “We are so thrilled to have Jenna elevated to the role of Principal. Her unwavering commitment to excellence, thoughtful approach, and compassionate leadership style is a strong addition to our leadership team,” said Anthony Amenta, Founding Partner and Principal of Amenta Emma, an architecture and interior design firm based in Hartford with offices in Boston and New York.
- Congratulations to Michael Mullin, who has been promoted to president of West Hartford-based Environmental Systems Co. (ESC), which is a Fidelity Building Services Group company and leading provider of building technology solutions throughout Connecticut. According to a news release, Mullin joined ESC in 2011 as Vice President of Operations, and has applied his vast background in project management, corporate operations and facilities management, and financial operations management to lead continuous improvement initiatives at ESC. As President, Mullin will lean on over 30 years of business experience to continue to develop ESC’s long-term vision while leading initiatives focused on increasing customer and team member satisfaction. “I’m excited to step into this position to lead ESC into its next chapter,” Mullin said. “I’m fortunate to have been working with the company for a long time and have become familiar with our team and our capabilities. That familiarity will allow me to step into this role seamlessly to ensure the quality service ESC is known for.”ESC’s long-term president, Craig McCurdy, who has been with ESC for more than 40 years and helped lead the integration with Fidelity Building Service Group, will now focus primarily on leading ESC’s strategic initiatives.
- I haven’t received an official press release yet, but it was announced at the Town Council meeting last week, and on Facebook, so I didn’t want to miss congratulating Town Council member Alberto Cortes on being named Rookie of the Year for Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices New England Properties.
- Now for the negative news of the week. Not one but two West Hartford restaurant received notices on Tuesday morning that their sales and use tax permits have been suspended. I happened to be walking down LaSalle Road on Tuesday morning after the ribbon cutting at Norcom, when I saw the “Suspended” notices on the window and door of Division West (36 LaSalle Road). I must have just missed the person posting them, because it was only about 10 minutes after the time noted on the signs. Last week we shared that Division West had posted on social media they were temporarily closed and would be reopening on Monday, Jan. 22, but without a sales and use tax permit they are unable to operate. I have made multiple attempts to contact Division West, but the phone just rings and there is no response to any messages. I noticed on Friday that the “Suspended” signs have been pulled down, but the doors remained locked. The referenced section of Connecticut General Statute – Section 12-409(f) – states: “Revocation or suspension of permit. Whenever any person fails to comply with any provision of this chapter relating to the sales tax or any regulation of the commissioner relating to the sales tax prescribed and adopted under this chapter, the commissioner, upon hearing, after giving such person ten days’ notice in writing specifying the time and place of hearing and requiring such person to show cause why such person’s permit or permits should not be revoked, may revoke or suspend any one or more of the permits held by the person. The notice may be served personally or by registered or certified mail. The commissioner shall not issue a new permit after the revocation of a permit unless the commissioner is satisfied that the former holder of the permit will comply with the provisions of this chapter relating to the sales tax and the regulations of the commissioner.”
- On Friday I was in Blue Back Square and saw that the former Gran Gusto – which we already reported had closed for good – also has a “Suspended” sign on the windows and door. That sign appears to have also been posted on Tuesday, just 15 minutes later. Blue Back Square management is unable to comment on matters pertaining to individual tenants, but the sign referenced the same statute, so we can deduct that the restaurant also has unpaid taxes.
- ICYMI, congratulations to Coracora on once again being named a James Beard semifinalist for “Outstanding Restaurant”! They are one of just 20 restaurants in the country to earn this honor – and it’s the third year in a row. Definitely on my short list of places I need to eat at very soon, although it may now be tough to get a table. Read the full story here.
- A meeting for West Hartford Center business owners, landlords, and other stakeholders will take place next week as the plans for the West Hartford Center Infrastructure Master Plan evolve. Click here for the complete story.
- West Hartford’s inaugural Black Business Expo is scheduled for Feb. 17 at Town Hall. Details 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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