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West Hartford Business Buzz: January 3, 2022

Sunrise Country Kitchen is now open at 526 New Park Ave. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

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

By Ronni Newton

I hope everyone had a safe and Happy New Year’s celebration – and while I’m afraid to be too optimistic after the past two years, I still hold out strong hope that 2022 will be a great year where COVID-19 will not dominate our lives.

The next few weeks, however, are likely to be pretty rough. According to the state’s most recent report, which was last Thursday, West Hartford had 628 new positive COVID-19 cases among residents – and that doesn’t include the results of at-home rapid tests. To put it in perspective, about 9% of all of the positive tests since the pandemic began were recorded in just that one-week period, and almost 1% of the town’s population tested positive with a PCR test in that week alone.

West Hartford should be getting its supply of rapid test kits as well as N95 masks for distribution this week, and I’ll get distribution details out as soon as possible. Town officials really scrambled to set up a distribution event last week, only to have to cancel it when the product didn’t arrive, which was very disappointing to all, so they’re going to wait until it’s a sure thing before arranging another event.

My family has tried to go about our lives as safely as possible while maintaining as much normalcy as possible. After testing negative, we visited my in-laws in Nantucket for a Christmas celebration and enjoyed some great walks along the beach and a nature preserve where we came into contact with very few people.

After a brunch that resulted in the lead item of this column, Ted and I went to see “West Side Story” on New Year’s Eve (maybe a dozen people in the theater, no one sitting very close to us), and then had a great dinner at Rizzuto’s.

Caesar salad. New Year’s Eve dinner at Rizzuto’s. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Kale salad. New Year’s Eve dinner at Rizzuto’s. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Garganelli (fresh pasta, tomato, vodka sauce, herbs). New Year’s Eve dinner at Rizzuto’s. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Bucatini (guanciale, peas, pecorino, egg). New Year’s Eve dinner at Rizzuto’s. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

New Year’s Eve dinner at Rizzuto’s. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Sam’s girlfriend is visiting from Pennsylvania, and we toasted the arrival of 2022 with them, and on New Year’s Day took a misty walk at Rockledge. Our dinner at home on Saturday included black-eyed peas for luck in the new year – fingers crossed that this southern tradition that we have followed for decades will work.

Starting the new year off with black-eyed peas (in the form of Texas Caviar) for good luck. Whole wheat scoops and homemade margaritas were a perfect accompaniment. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

I initially highlighted the top stories of 2021 last Wednesday, which include some Business Buzz columns, but after a few big stories late last week, I ran the numbers again on Jan. 1, 2022, and I was happy to see that We-Ha.com had indeed passed the 2.9 million page view threshold (with 1,166,108 unique visitors) for the 2021 calendar year!

My goal for 2022 will be to exceed 3 million – and I hope that will include as much good news as possible. I am committed to continue looking for the positive stories, those that might not otherwise be told. Of course there will be bad news, sad news, as well, and I will do my best to continue to present that in as straightforward a manner as possible.

A mask advisory is in place in West Hartford and until the current surge is over I will continue wearing my mask in most indoor spaces even though I am fully vaccinated and boosted. This [using the word stupid rather than the other not-ready-for-prime-time words I prefer to use] virus is everywhere and ridiculously contagious. Please continue to look out for each other, support our local businesses – and stay safe and healthy.

There’s not too much business news following a holiday week – but there is some!

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:

3-egg skillet with corned beef hash at Sunrise Country Kitchen. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

  • The iconic building at 526 New Park Ave. (constructed in 1940, and formerly the Yankee Flyer Diner and Webster’s Barbecue Cafe as well as East-West Grille and, very briefly, India Grill) is once again home to a vibrant eatery, with the opening last Wednesday of Sunrise Country Kitchen. The new restaurant is owned by Bob Dignoti, his wife, Sueli Gomez, and Pepe Burby – the former co-owner of Fiddleheads Cafe in Hartford which lost its lease last summer. “I’ve always loved this building,” said Dignoti, who grew up in West Hartford and has a culinary arts degree and more than 37 years experience in the restaurant business. Dignoti said the first restaurant he opened was Sunrise Cafe in Granby, and he liked the idea of using the “Sunrise” name in what he plans to be his last opening. The diner-style restaurant serves breakfast and lunch daily (current hours are 7 a.m.-2 p.m.). “Everything is cooked in house,” said Burby, who has retained some of the Fiddleheads flair and spice for what he calls “American food, up a notch, with a whimsical twist.” Blackboards that are going to be installed on the newly-bright white walls will advertise daily specials such as fish and chips, pork roast, meatloaf, and Shepherd’s Pie, and Sunday will feature “high-end specials,” Dignoti said, like crab, prime rib and eggs, shrimp scampi, and more, and those who order those specials will receive a complimentary champagne, mimosa, or Bloody Mary. The menu can be found below, as can additional photos of the interior, and the breakfast dishes that my family ordered on Saturday.

Veggie omelette from Sunrise Country Kitchen. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

  • Welcome to Arch Dental, which had a grand opening Dec. 20 at 901 Farmington Ave., Suite 201. Owner Rabia Kaur DMD, BDS, posted the following bio on Facebook: “I graduated from Boston University Henry M. Goldman School of Dental Medicine in 2013. After 8 plus years of experience as a dental associate working in multiple private practices, I am excited to finally open my own private practice in Downtown West Hartford, CT. I am passionate about restorative / cosmetic dentistry and enjoy building life long relationships with my patients. Patient centric individualized dental care is what we strive for at Arch Dental. I want to impact my patients lives on a deeper level and provide them with an exceptional patient experience that makes them feel confident and comfortable.” For more information, visit their website or call 860-560-8606.

Arch Dental is now open at 901 Farmington Ave., Suite 201. Facebook photo

  • I wonder how many people notice me stopping outside random buildings and taking photos of windows, doors, and construction projects. Recent signs of progress around town include some new signage, including at the Hartford HealthCare building (Park & Main Medical Center) which seems to have gone up very quickly. Back in September, at the “column signing,” officials said the building would be ready for occupancy in February 2022, and that doesn’t seem to me to be out of the question based on how it looked when I went to snap some photos on Sunday afternoon. For those concerned with traffic flow, I was happy to see that the exit onto South Main allows right turns only.

Hartford HealthCare’s Park & Main Medical Center is nearing completion. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Hartford HealthCare’s Park & Main Medical Center is nearing completion. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Hartford HealthCare’s Park & Main Medical Center is nearing completion. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Hartford HealthCare’s Park & Main Medical Center is nearing completion. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

  • The main sign is now up at Homegrown Studio, and classes at the “process art, sensory exploration studio” are set to begin this week in their new space at 13 Sedgwick Road. Visit the website for details.

Homegrown Studio sign is now up at 13 Sedgwick Road. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

  • FYI, for those who shop at Penzeys, the following was posted on Facebook on Sunday: “Just a heads up to our wonderful Penzeys Spices customers. We will be open for curbside shopping only starting today. We are closed for in store shopping tentatively till January 23rd. We are not doing walk up or telephone orders. By ordering online only we can process your orders more efficiently and get your spices to you as quickly as possible. Please only knock on our doors to only pick up your orders. Thank you all for continuing support.”
  • The Hartford Foundation for Public Giving, the community foundation for 29 area communities, has appointed two new members to its Board of Directors: West Hartford resident Judge Nina Elgo, and Susan B. Dunn, a former town resident. Both began their terms on Jan. 1, 2022. Dunn is filling the term vacated by Nancy Bernstein, and Judge Elgo is filling the term vacated by Min Jung Kim. Dunn was the first woman to lead the United Way of Central and Northeastern Connecticut since its founding in 1924 and only the fifth staff leader in its 90-year history, and she and her husband, Ned, now live in Clinton. Elgo, who lives in West Hartford with her husband, attorney Christopher Kriesen and daughter Caroline, is the first Asian Pacific American judge appointed to both the Connecticut Appellate Court and the Connecticut Superior Court. Prior to her appointment to the Appellate Court, Judge Elgo served as a Superior Court judge where she heard civil matters in the Hartford Judicial District and served as presiding judge for the Child Protection Session in the Middlesex Judicial District. Since 2012, she has served as a member of the Connecticut Bar Examining Committee and previously served on the Rules Committee of the Superior Court.

Judge Nina Elgo. Courtesy photo

Susann Dunn. Courtesy photo

  • Plans are in place for the 7th annual Best of West Hartford award winners to be revealed and celebrated on Jan. 19, 2022, in Center Court at Westfarms. Tickets include food and one drink from Two Pour Guys. “2020/Media is so excited to be able to reveal the awards in-person again; please bring proof of vaccination, and we will be following Westfarms and local covid guidelines. Bring family, friends, and co-workers to celebrate the BEST West Hartford has to offer!” the announcement reads. Click here to purchase tickets.
  • ICYMI, one of the big stories that broke late last week was the closing of the deal for the former UConn West Hartford campus, which has finally been sold by Ideanomics. Click here for the details of what we know now, and rest assured that I will be continuing to report all happenings with this project!
  • Here are the top stories of 2021! Are you surprised at any of these?

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

The owners of Sunrise Country Kitchen include (from left) Sueli Gomez, Bob Dignoti, Pepe Burby. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Eggs over easy from Sunrise Country Kitchen. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Chocolate chip pancakes from Sunrise Country Kitchen. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Sauces lined up at Sunrise Country Kitchen. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Interior of Sunrise Country Kitchen. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Interior of Sunrise Country Kitchen. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Interior of Sunrise Country Kitchen. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Sunrise Country Kitchen is now open at 526 New Park Ave. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Sunrise Country Kitchen menu.

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