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West Hartford Business Buzz: January 4, 2021

The perfect message on one of my Christmas gifts (a dishtowel purchased at Cookshop Plus). Photo credit: Ronni Newton

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

By Ronni Newton

It’s the first Monday of 2021, and like so many people I was so ready to welcome this new year.

I hesitate, however, to even think ahead or verbalize what I am looking forward to in this year. Certainly 2020 didn’t turn out like anyone planned, and it would be hard to find many people – anywhere in the world – untouched by COVID-19 and its devastating impact on what we once saw as “normalcy.” The loss of life is unfathomable, the loss of physical, emotional, and financial health is likewise so great it may never be fully understood.

Millie thinks the new year has a much better taste. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

I know that despite the disruptions, my family has been far luckier than so many others. My son is in grad school and my daughter and her fiancé have both been able to launch their careers with full-time work. I have worked at home for most of the past two decades so that wasn’t anything new to me, and although I have attended many fewer in-person events and meetings over the past 10 months, and worked many more hours, I’m still employed. My husband no longer spends upwards of two hours a day in the car commuting to Springfield, and he has been just as productive in his role as a compliance officer with MassMutual from our family room table – particularly since we got some more comfortable chairs. We don’t know when we will be able to safely visit Ted’s parents again, or my dad, but they are all getting vaccinated this month and that is definitely cause for hope.

So on behalf of our family – including Millie, pictured here during a great walk on the first day of 2021 – we wish everyone a Happy New Year!

It has been more than six years since we launched We-Ha.com, with a “soft launch” in July 2014 and an official launch the day after Labor Day that year. During the past calendar year, I’m very proud to report the site has had just over 2.8 million page views – from 983,644 unique visitors.

I am pretty sure I have written more than 300 Business Buzz columns for We-Ha.com since 2014. There have been very few occasions when the column hasn’t been published, even when I was on vacation. During the past six-plus years, I can think of just three times I have traveled without my laptop.

This is what I saw when I was recording the latest CT Live segment, which aired Dec. 2.

In 2019 we partnered with NBC Connecticut, and although there was a hiatus from March through November 2020, We-Ha.com Business Buzz returned to CT Live in December. The current format is not quite “live” (although it’s done in one take), and involves a combination of Zoom and a phone call (with no visual cues to warn me that I am talking too long), and I very much appreciate the opportunity to share what’s going on in this great town with an even wider audience. I look forward to recording the next segment in mid-January.

We started a new feature as part of Business Buzz this fall – Keeping it in the Community. It’s a collaboration with the Chamber of Commerce and the town’s Economic Development Department, and includes tips on supporting our local businesses as well as a weekly business spotlight. Keeping it in the Community will return next week, but click here to read last week’s tip on home design and improvement and spotlight on Tile America.

I did my annual review last week of the top stories of the year, but as I was putting it together I realized I had never done a “Best of Business Buzz.” This week seemed like the perfect opportunity, and while there are a few pieces of business news that I would have shared in a “regular column,” they will easily wait for next week.

I’m not big on making New Year’s resolutions (although I am doing a five-day “white-out” this coming week with the hope that it will jump-start an improvement in my eating habits, sleep patterns, and overall energy), but it is my hope that we can emerge from what may be a very tough winter into a spring where there is a true sense of renewal, when an increasing percentage of the population has been vaccinated, when we can begin to safely see our friends and family again, when we can begin a collective healing from the pandemic and make real progress on other major world problems such as overcoming racial and other inequality and global climate change.

In the meantime I’ll keep on looking for as much good news in West Hartford as possible, and sharing the stories 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.

If you have information about businesses changing their operations due to COVID-19, or doing something worth sharing, please provide that information in the comments or email Ronni Newton at [email protected].

Below are the 10 most-read Business Buzz columns of 2020, with a summary of some of the top stories that were included. The news spans many different types of businesses, spread throughout town. I hope you’ll enjoy the look back as much as I did!

Future site of Toro Loco Casita at 22 Raymond Rd. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

  • September 7, 2020: This Business Buzz column also landed a spot in the top 20 for 2020, with the lead story featuring plans for Toro Loco Casita to open in the former Petals and Paws at 22 Raymond Rd., as well as plans for Loco Urban Street Food and Toro Taberna to also open in West Hartford. Work is progressing on Toro Loco Casita (and the parcel next door, at 18 Raymond Rd., is on the market and some environmental remediation is underway), and Toro Taberna should be opening later this month. Loco Urban Street Food has become a family favorite, and that’s where we got takeout from on Saturday night! The Sept. 7 column also included the opening of Prima Facie Medspa at 1000 Farmington Ave., and upscale consignment store Panache’s move from 485 New Park Ave. to 270 Park Rd.

Chicharron burrito, takeout from Loco Urban Street Food. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

  • August 31, 2020: Blue Plate Kitchen’s now-former owner Jay DuMond confirmed that he was selling the Bishops Corner restaurant and it would not be closing as earlier reported (two weeks later I reported on the purchase by new owners Miguel Proano and Carlina Fontaine); new West Hartford business WeHa Candle Co. launched (we gave several of their candles as Christmas gifts this year, and bought a few for ourselves), and progress on the construction of BIRDCODE Hot Chicken at 120 Park Rd. (which has since opened).
  • February 17, 2020: A pre-pandemic column with a long-awaited update about the opening of GastroPark. West Hartford’s food truck park opened in October, and has already acquired quite the following. Look for a full feature story when the interior space opens, which owner Tate Norden recently told me could be at the end of this month. The column also included news about plans for the opening of Meçha Noodle Bar at 975 Farmington Ave.
  • July 6, 2020: Big news was that The Place 2 Be revealed plans to take over the former Cook and The Bear space at 50 Memorial Rd., and that build-out is now underway. West Hartford-based Hartford Baking Company announced its expansion to a Glastonbury location, and just a few weeks ago announced the transition of the New Park Avenue location to Citizen Chicken and Donuts – which should open in just a few weeks.
  • January 13, 2020: Kaliubon Ramen (54 Memorial Rd. in Blue Back Square) announced its opening date, and after 20 years at 510 New Park Ave., Coastal Tool opened in its new space down the road at 567-571 New Park Ave.
  • January 20, 2020: WeHa Brewing & Roasting Company owner and West Hartford resident Cody McCormack announced the launch of the WeHa Roasting Company part of the business. The brewery plans are still in the works, and when I caught up with Cody just a few weeks ago he said he was getting close to making an announcement about the location. 
  • May 18, 2020: Beachland Group owner Chip Kohn announced plans for Beachland Smoke to open in the former Park Tavern space at 140 Park Rd. (which opened in October); update on the build-out of Arethusa and Meçha Noodle Bar.
  • August 24, 2020: Puritan Furniture’s going-out-of-business sale got interrupted by the pandemic, but once it actually closed the building was sold to Sami Abunasra, president of Nasra Enterprises, and soon reopened as Ashley HomeStore Outlet.

GastroPark is now open at 637 New Park Ave. in West Hartford. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

  • September 28, 2020: GastroPark was once again the lead topic, with the announcement their opening date in October, bringing the community at long last the opportunity to “gather and graze” from an assortment of food trucks, in a fun and casual atmosphere appropriate for people of all ages; new ownership of CycleBar West Hartford (55 Memorial Rd., in Blue Back Square); S.K. Lavery indicated that they were moving to the Berlin Turnpike in Newington.
  • October 26, 2020: BodyRoc Fitness Lab has found a productive way to deal with stress and rage – feelings that have escalated over the past months and owner Shaun Chambers announced his plans to open Smash Avenue at 635 New Park Ave., Building 2E (right down the alley from his existing location) to provide an outlet for his clients to deal with their stress and personal frustrations amid the “new normal.” SockStarz, which operates a retail store at 18 LaSalle Rd. and is a social enterprise mission of Harc, Inc., announced plans to take over the vacant space (formerly Gilley Kitchen & Bath) next door at 16 LaSalle Rd.  at 16 LaSalle Rd. During the holiday season it served as an overflow and outlet location. 

There was much more business news in all of the columns noted above, including congratulations to many residents who were honored in some way. Despite the pandemic, there has continued to be good news to share and I look forward to much more good news in upcoming columns as well.

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

One final note …

We-Ha.com is a small, locally-owned business. The site is primarily advertiser supported and we remain committed to providing our content without a paywall. Despite our continued growth in readership, however, we have seen our revenues suffer during this past year as many of our advertisers were also suffering. And while I try to personally stay away from that side of the business, I firmly believe that an ad on We-Ha.com is one of the best ways to get exposure in the local market (there are a lot of eyeballs on the site, and the ads appear on all pages), and I hope that as optimism for an improved economy increases, so will our advertising revenue.

It’s tough to survive on the advertiser-supported model, so earlier this year we added a way for readers to provide direct support for our mission, and thank those who have already contributed through PressPatron.com. At the bottom of this article, and at the bottom of every article (or in the top righthand corner of the home page), there is a “Become a Supporter” button. If you are able, we welcome your support.

Also, please don’t ever hesitate to email your suggestions or comments to me at [email protected].

Like what you see here? Click here to subscribe to We-Ha’s newsletter so you’ll always be in the know about what’s happening in West Hartford! Click the blue button below to become a supporter of We-Ha.com and our efforts to continue producing quality journalism.

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We-Ha.com is the place to go for the latest information about West Hartford – a town that "has it all"! We-Ha.com is part of and proud of our community, and we bring a hyperlocal focus to news and features about the people, schools, businesses, real estate, sports, restaurants, charitable events, arts, and more. Contact us at: [email protected] or [email protected].

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