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West Hartford Business Buzz: July 1, 2019

Play it Again Sports in West Hartford Center is under new ownership. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

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

By Ronni Newton

Brant Point Lighthouse, entering Nantucket Harbor. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

My summer is officially in full swing because as I begin to write this column I am sitting on the top deck of the Eagle – the ferry that is taking us to Nantucket where I will spend this coming week.

The sun is beating down, making me very warm, and making it very hard to see the computer screen, but after a busy and rainy spring, I am not complaining one bit.

The wifi signal on the ferry will likely disappear when we reach the middle of Nantucket Sound, at which point I will put away my computer and return to finish this column later, after what I hope will have been an afternoon full of sand and sea, followed by cocktails and dinner with my in-laws. (Update: That’s exactly what happened. And today’s major excitement at the beach included a whale spouting (which I sadly did not see), an enormous seal (which I did see) swimming about 10 feet off the beach, and the rapidly incoming tide which nearly swamped our towels and chairs.

This week on Nantucket likely won’t be as exciting as our Fourth of July week was last year – when our trip began with Matt asking Katie to marry him on the beach early the first evening. They’ve been engaged exactly a year, and we are all eagerly anticipating their wedding next June! We’re also looking forward to having Katie and Matt, and some other family members, join us on the island later this week.

While I am away the fantastic We-Ha.com crew of interns will be ready to report on any news, backed up by some senior editorial guidance from Turley Publications. Of course I didn’t leave my laptop at home, but I really need some downtime and will try hard to leave the laptop turned off – at least during prime beach time.

I hope everyone has a great Fourth of July!

If you have tips about businesses opening or closing, or doing something worth sharing, please provide that information in the comments or email Ronni Newton at [email protected].

Here’s this week’s Buzz:

The Mintell family (back row) Rachel and Scott with their children, Zoe and Dustin. Courtesy photo

  • West Hartford’s Play It Again Sports store, which has been a fixture in the Center since 1991 (before that the 15 South Main St. space was a ski store named Alpine House) was been for sale for months, and although the clearance sales led to some concern that the store would be closing, that couldn’t be farther from the truth! West Hartford natives (currently Granby residents) Scott and Rachel Mintell officially purchased the franchise on June 17! “We had been customers for years, we grew up shopping there and at Herb’s Sports,” said Scott. “We always thought it would be fun to own the store, it was a pipe dream.” In January they began negotiations with former owner Elizabeth Hicks to buy the franchise … “and here we are!” Scott said. While the couple may not have extensive retail experience, they do have an extensive background in athletics. Scott is a graduate of Northwest Catholic and grew up playing soccer, skiing, snowboarding, and mountain climbing, and played rugby in college. He has degrees in nursing and exercise science, and worked as an ICU nurse and has most recently been working as a trainer at Anytime Fitness in Granby, where the couple lives with their two children, Dustin, 14, and Zoe, 11. Rachel, who graduated from Hall, played basketball, soccer, and softball, formerly coached softball at Hall, and currently coaches girls lacrosse. Scott said that there will be some changes made on the back end of the store, but most noticeable to the public will be their initial goal of getting “heavily involved in the West Hartford community. We want to reach out to coaches, to teams,” he said, and they hope to offer clinics, lessons, and equipment support, as well as uniforms for events. They will be reaching out to coaches at the youth as well as high school level to find out what they want and need, Scott said, and are already sponsoring a Little League team. Upcoming promotions will include a 10 percent military discount for veterans and those on active duty the week of July 15, held in conjunction with 102.9 The Whale, and they will have an official grand opening at some point soon. Scott said they also hope to increase the rate of turnover in the store, so while there will continue to be a mix of used and new merchandise, the inventory of used equipment in particular will change more frequently. Scott said they will also be expanding the store’s social media profile on Facebook and Instagram (@playitagainsportswesthartford). As for staff: “We kept everybody,” Scott said. “We are very fortunate to have them. They really know their stuff,” he said.

    Taqueria La Grande will be opening at 169 Park Rd. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

  • There are a number of businesses getting close to opening, among them Taqueria la Grande at 169 Park Rd. (former Los Adobes) which should be opening in two or three weeks according to an employee at the restaurant’s New Britain location (985 West Main St.) The menu at the West Hartford location will be the same as in New Britain (that location will remain open), and will include tacos, burritos, quesadillas, tamales, flautas, and enchiladas – made from hand-crafted tortillas. Updates to follow, and if you want to keep up-to-date also check out their Facebook page.
  • There are not many details to share yet, but I consider this extremely exciting news: another brewery is planning to open in West Hartford! Plans are still very preliminary, but I spoke with the owner of WeHa Brewing Company and they are currently looking for space and are hoping to hire a head brewer/partner (click here to apply or for more information) in advance of a 2020 opening. Follow WeHa Brewing Company on Instagram (@wehabrewingco) to stay up-to-date on the progress. I’ll be eager to report more details, too!
  • Pompanoosuc Mills in West Hartford Center had planned on moving but that is no longer the case, said Kevin Hassett, who joined the store as manager on June 12. A resident of West Hartford Center, Hassett is married to Diane Couture, owner of Yoga From the Heart which is also located in Firehouse Square at 21 Brace Rd.  “We have filled the showroom with many new pieces of American hand-crafted furniture, I joined as manager, and we are open for business!” Hassett said. Pompanoosau Mills’ hours are Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Sunday 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
  • I’ve been trying to get information about the re-opening of Cinépolis, but the theaters appear to be still very much under renovation based on the visible construction activity. “End of the summer” is the most recent estimate, but I’ll provide more details when they are available.

    Jim Altman (left) with FOX 61 photographer Dan Putnam. Courtesy photo

  • Congrats to West Hartford resident Jim Altman of FOX 61 who received two Emmy Awards from the National Association of Television Arts and Sciences at the 42nd annual Boston/New England ceremony at the Boston Marriott Copley Place on June 15. Altman was awarded an Emmy for reporting in the Health/Science category. Additionally, Altman won the award in the Sports Reporting category. According to a news release, Altman is now a 33-time Emmy winner.
  • Welcome to Maureen O’Connell, who is the new Marketing Director at the West Hartford-based Jewish Community Foundation of Greater Hartford. “I am excited about joining the Jewish Community Foundation of Greater Hartford where I can be part of a team that already has such a positive impact on the community – and helps make our world a better place,” she said. Maureen is a communications expert with a passion to advance organizational goals and social good through creative, strategic communications who honed her skills and expertise for 10 years at Cone Communications in, a cause marketing and public relations agency in Boston. There she worked on award-winning campaigns that have influenced leaders to expand support for important causes including STEM education and programs for underserved youth. Her clients included Johnson & Johnson, Bayer, FIRST, Northwestern Mutual, and Keep America Beautiful, Inc. Prior to her work at Cone Communications, Maureen worked at Prosek Partners, a global public relations firm with offices in Fairfield, CT, and New York. At Prosek Partners, she helped clients differentiate their brands in the media by marketing important issues such as safe teen driving with BMW; and personal finance for millennials with The Hartford’s Playbook for Life campaign. Before working at Prosek Partners, Maureen was the director of Public Relations at Northwest Catholic High School in West Hartford. Maureen earned an MBA in Entrepreneurial Thinking from Bay Path University. She is a content creator and adjunct professor for Bay Path’s Business Department; she writes and teaches classes including Branding; Principles of Marketing; Dynamics of Management; Digital Marketing; Influencing Decision Makers; and Social Media.

    Elizabeth Grim. Courtesy photo

  • The Connecticut Data Collaborative has welcomed Elizabeth Grim, MSW, MPH of West Hartford as its director of Community Impact. According to a news release, “The Connecticut Data Collaborative (CT Data) is a public-private partnership that advocates for the public availability of open and accessible data, serving nonprofits, advocates, policymakers, community groups, and funders in using data to drive policy and improve programs and services, budgeting and decision making at the state, regional and local levels.” Among its areas of responsibility, CT Data is the lead organization father state in the U.S. Census Bureau’s State Data Center Program and is Connecticut’s official source for Census data related to the 2020 Census. Grim, who has a bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of Virginia and master’s degrees in public health and social work from the University of Michigan, comes to CT Data from The Consultation Center at Yale, where she was a senior evaluation consultant, and prior to that she was an independent evaluation consultant for the Idaho State Legislature, a policy analyst for the Connecticut-based Partnership for Strong Communities, and a research consultant for the Family Homelessness Prevention Work Group in Ann Arbor, MI.

    Courtesy photo

  • The Bishops Corner Neighborhood Association celebrated its 2019 planter program (26 planters this year!) with a reception for sponsors last Wednesday. Pictured in the photo at right are (from left): Robert Fressola, president of the BCNA; Karen Fillian, property manager of EDENS; Jason Congdon, owner of Abby Dabby; Michael Levinson, friend of Bishops Corner; Christine Looby, director of Community Relations at The Mercy Community; Julianne Roth, owner of Companions for Living, LLC; Jodie Jaffe, West Hartford Senior Center. “The BCNA wants to thank all of the contributors who have made the Planter Beautification initiative a success,” said Jaffe. For more information about the planter program in Bishops Corner, as well as in other West Hartford business districts, click here.

    Sarah Winiarski. Courtesy photo

  • JCL (the Jewish Association for Community Living) welcomes West Hartford resident Sarah Winiarski as its newly-hired director of Community Relations, responsible for growing JCL’s fundraising and development efforts as well as outreach in the community. “I am excited to be part of the JCL family. My hope is that my knowledge and experience will be beneficial to the organization to help the people we serve,” said Winiarski in a news release. Winiarski has a master’s in strategic fundraising and philanthropy from BayPath University and nearly nine years of experience in fundraising and development. She previously held the position of director of Development & Communications at another organization, which also provides supports to people with physical and intellectual disabilities.
  • Despite things supposedly slowing down for summer, there was a ton of business news last week, including the appointment of a new Board of Directors for the Seniors Job Bank. Click here for the details.
  • Congrats to West Hartford resident Jed Kornbluh, the new executive director of the Connecticut Cycling Advancement Program. More details can be found here.
  • Many of us have been eagerly awaiting news about Gastro Park, the food truck park planned for West Hartford’s New Park Avenue neighborhood, and things are finally moving ahead following the Town Council’s approval of amendments to the Food Truck Ordinance last week. Click here for the complete story.
  • Remediation work is about to commence at the Ideanomics property, and the former UConn campus will soon look dramatically different because four of the five buildings on the property will be demolished as part of the plans to clean up the environmental hazards and create Fintech Village, a global center for technology and innovation. Read the complete story here.
  • The latest Experience We-Ha podcast is an interview with Eat In CT founders Jeannette Dardenne and Kristen Fritz. It’s a great inside look at the West Hartford restaurant scene. Click here for details.
  • Also from Experience We-Ha: the Top 8 for July! It’s going to be a great month! 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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