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West Hartford Business Buzz: July 10, 2023

Cha Papi is located at 150 Shield Street in West Hartford. 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

I’m back from vacation – a wonderful yet very foggy week on Nantucket that included spending lots of time with my mother-in-law and many other family members with whom our trip overlapped. I think we were driving to the ferry terminal almost every day to drop someone off or pick someone up.

Millie of course had a great time in her happy place, but I don’t think she fully dried out until we returned to West Hartford late Friday night to our 93-degree house (before we got the air conditioning cranked up).

The fog and mist kept Millie cool on the beach, but she was damp pretty much all week. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

It was a pretty busy week with lots of cars, so we avoided the traffic and biked pretty much everywhere other than into town at night. Biking didn’t hurt my injured foot at all, and by the end of the week I was even back to a bit of running and able to walk barefoot on the beach without wincing in pain.

We enjoyed a few dinners out last week at some of Nantucket’s casual restaurants, including The Charlie Noble and Faregrounds.

Calamari and Kimchee at The Charlie Noble. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Cold draft IPA beer at The Charlie Noble. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Atlantic Tuna Poke at The Charlie Noble. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Fish and chips at The Charlie Noble. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Bang Bang Shrimp at The Charlie Noble. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Lobster Mac and Cheese at The Charlie Noble. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Fried pickles at Faregrounds Restaurant. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Barbecue chicken pizza at Faregrounds Restaurant. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Ack pizza (scallops, bacon, pesto) at Faregrounds Restaurant. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Buffalo chicken wrap at Faregrounds Restaurant. 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:

Mochi donuts. Flavors include (top row, from left): chocolate funnel cake, matcha, ube coconut. Bottom row (from left): black sesame, passionfruit with guava white chocolate, churro. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

  • While I was away I got an invitation to a friends and family/press soft launch event taking place on Sunday at Cha Papi, and I was incredibly excited that I would be able to feature this great new eatery in today’s column. I had never eaten a mochi donut until Sunday afternoon, and I’m pretty sure I have found a new favorite food. I don’t generally have a sweet tooth, but that churro donut in the lower righthand corner of the photo above (and in my hand in the photo below) had my name written all over it, and I can’t wait to go back for more! Cha Papi will have its grand opening this coming weekend, and is located at 150 Shield Street, next to Shu and perpendicular to the A Dong Supermarket, and it’s owned by husband and wife team, West Hartford residents Brian Keo and Shirley Wong. “We wanted to bring something cool to West Hartford,” Brian said of Cha Papi, which he said is a “sweets cafe.” They have an extensive variety of hot and iced teas (including boba), coffees, and … mochi donuts … and Taiyaki (fish shaped cake cones into which Japanese soft serve ice cream is swirled). Alex P. Taylor, the senior communications manager for Yelp who was also at the soft launch, was so excited to there and remarked, “I have been waiting for this, this magical moment.” He said Cha Papi is the only place in Connecticut where you can get mochi and Taiyaki, which is filled with custard or ube – a Japanese ice cream that’s made from a purple sweet potato (and milk). Brian said while traveling in Japan, as well as visiting New York City he experienced some really cool foods and wondered why they didn’t exist in Connecticut. He’s the former general manager of Blue Elephant Trail, and Shirley (who is the chief baker) has a restaurant background, too, and they decided opening a place like Cha Papi would provide the opportunity to bring those foods to the area, and have a more reasonable lifestyle schedule at home with their two young children. Cha Papi is intended to also be a “community space for the AAPI community,” he said. They will eventually expand the offerings to include more Asian desserts as well as western style desserts with an eastern flavor, such as matcha creme brûlée. Mochi donuts are made from a rice-based mochi flour (although they are not gluten-free), and are much lighter and fluffier than a regular doughnut. “They have half the calories,” Brian said. “Like most Asian desserts, we want to limit the sweetness.” Everything at Cha Papi is made in house, from real  – not powdered – ingredients, Brian said. That includes the purees and syrups used in the bubble tea. I brought home an ube coconut donut for my husband, and he agreed that it was unique, and absolutely delicious. Once Cha Papi opens the weekend of July 15, they plan to be open seven days a week, with the exact hours TBD. Follow @chapapi.ct on Instagram for updates.

A churro mochi donut. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Cha Papi owners Brian Keo and Shirley Wong hold several varieties of their mochi donuts. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Taiyaki (fish cones) at Cha Papi. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Ube (Japanese ice cream) is swirled into the fish-shaped cone. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Taiyaki filled with ube and topped with a condensed milk drizzle, mochi, and a wafer stick. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Caffe latte at Cha Papi. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Cha Papi co-owner Brian Keo creates a caffe latte. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Cha Papi is located at 150 Shield Street in West Hartford. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Dirty ube latte at Cha Papi. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Cha Papi is located at 150 Shield Street in West Hartford. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Brian Keo (left) and his wife, Shirley Wong (right) pose with me at Cha Papi during a friends and family/media event on Sunday.

  • West Hartford Center Summer Sale Days return this week, with sidewalk sales from Thursday, July 13 through Saturday, July 17 as participating Center small businesses clearing their inventory for next season. “We love the West Hartford Summer Sidewalk Event. We need to make room for fall so we have a huge sale. So many of our clients come annually for the sale, and it is always fun to catch up with everyone,” said Kimberly Moster of Kimberly Boutique and Kimberly GIFT. Offers, according to the WHCBA, include: Kimberly Boutique – Up to 80% off spring apparel & accessories; Daswani Clothiers – Summer clearance sales event up to 50% store wide; Good Cause Gifts – 50-75% off; Center Framing and Art – 10% off all artwork & custom picture framing plus 1 sale item per day; Pompanoosuc Mills – Floor Sale 25-60% off plus a free gift; Lux Bond and Green – jewelry and gifts at various discounts; Store 52 – jewelry and gifts at various discounts; Ten Thousand Villages – TBD; J.McLaughlin – Up to 60% off. For more information and a business directory, visit the website or follow @whartfordcenter on Facebook and Instagram.

  • There’s some interesting information on the Town Plan and Zoning Commission (TPZ) agenda for Monday night, although these are not things that are going to be decided. You may have seen reports by other media outlets that there is going to be a hearing about Oakwood Park – the proposed development by West Hartford 1 LLC for the former UConn property – but the application that was initially submitted has been withdrawn and the TPZ will be setting a public hearing for a new wetlands application within the next 65 days. I know there’s been so much hype about this project, but sometimes stories have been appearing seemingly just to rile up the community when the actual decisions about the development are still a very, very long way off. I’ll have more details this week as soon as I get some important questions answered, but from reviewing the plans it appears that one building has been eliminated from the east side of the development, and on the west side there is some much lower-density residential occupancy in the plans, with townhomes fronting Lawler and Asylum. There’s also no parking garage in the most recent plans.

Screenshot of preliminary Oakwood Park plans submitted to TPZ for wetlands consideration. Town of West Hartford website

  • Also on the TPZ agenda is an application for updates to Prospect Plaza (corner of Prospect and Kane Street) where a Chipotle with a drive-through is planned. The public hearing on that application will likely take place in early September. When I first heard about this plan back in March, I took the photo below of the area in the parking lot where the new building is slated to go.

Perhaps the site of a future Chipotle with a drive-through in Prospect Plaza. Photo credit: Ronni Newton (we-ha.com file photo)

  • Also on the TPZ agenda is an application for a Special Use Permit by Casa De Refugio y Restauracion “El Shaddai” – a 17-year-old nonprofit religious entity with roughly 40 members that is looking to use the ground floor of 554 (street address is 556) New Park Avenue as a place of worship. According to the application, the group is led by Pastor Rayxiomara Ramirez Mercado, and all worship will be conducted on Sunday mornings from 10 a.m. until approximately noon. “Additionally, on Wednesday evenings commencing at 7 p.m., approximately 10 people congregate for bible study for approximately two hours. At all other times, the space occupied by Casa De Refugio y Restauracion “El Shaddai” will be utilized by Pastor Rayxiomara Ramirez Mercado and her secretary only,” the application states. There will likely be a public hearing on Aug. 7.

The TPZ is considering a Special Use Permit for a place of worship on the ground floor of this building. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

  • West Hartford’s first cannabis retailer, BUDR, will have their final inspections this week and should be opening within a few weeks. The signs are up at 1037 Boulevard, and it looks ready to go.

BUDR is close to opening at 1037 Boulevard. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

The sign is up for BUDR, which is close to opening at 1037 Boulevard. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

  • In other sign news, the Lord & Taylor sign has been taken down at Westfarms as work continues on the build-out of Jordan’s Furniture in that space.

The sign has been removed from the former Lord & Taylor store at Westfarms. The space is being renovated and will become Jordan’s Furniture. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

  • A West Hartford resident recently accepted a bike donation on behalf of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Connecticut mentees. Every June for the past eight years, Realized Solutions Inc. of Southington has been donating bikes to kids enrolled in the programs of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Connecticut. In addition to scoring a free bike, the kids each receive a safety helmet to go along with the bikes. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the bikes were assembled as a team-building project by Realized Solutions staff members at the company’s Southington office. Now, with so many people working remotely, the bikes are purchased and assembled at Biker’s Edge in Bristol. Over the years, more than 80 Little Brothers and Little Sisters (mentees) enrolled with Big Brothers Big Sisters statewide have experienced the thrill of pedaling around their neighborhoods on some especially stylish rides – rides they might not have been able to afford if it wasn’t for the ongoing generosity of Realized Solutions, Inc. Pictured this year in the photo below on bike delivery day at the Big Brothers Big Sisters Hartford office were, from left, West Hartford resident Ryan Matthews, Vice President of Programs at Big Brothers Big Sisters of Connecticut; and Pete Burr Assistant Manager at Biker’s Edge of Bristol.

Ryan Matthews and Realized Solutions bikes. Courtesy photo

  • Best wishes to West Hartford resident Galo Rodriguez, longtime president and CEO of The Village for Families & Children, who has announced his plans to retire at the end of 2023 according to the organization’s Board of Directors. Rodriguez joined The Village as its CEO in 2006 and during his tenure helped to expand the agency’s programs, strengthen its finances, and increase its annual reach to more than 60 municipalities and 20,000 clients. “I am filled with gratitude and pride for what The Village has been able to accomplish for children and families,” said Rodriguez. “The staff, board of directors, volunteers, donors and government partners have helped us touch hundreds of thousands of lives and break generational cycles of poverty and trauma for children in central Connecticut.” The Village, founded in 1809, is more than 200 years old and is recognized as one of Connecticut’s largest providers of mental health services for children and families. It employs approximately 550 staff members at more than 30 sites. Under Rodriguez’s leadership The Village has significantly expanded the scope of its services to include adult programming, such as out-patient counseling, financial literacy training and support for domestic violence survivors. “Galo has been a tremendous leader and the Board of Directors is incredibly grateful for his service,” said Village Board Chairman John Turgeon. “We have grown substantially since he arrived and we did it with a strategic plan, sound financial controls and evidence-based programming. I am confident saying that in its 200-year history, The Village has never been in a better place.” The Village’s Board of Directors is committed to maintaining the agency’s momentum and success. It voted unanimously at last month’s board meeting to name current Village Chief Operating Officer (COO) Hector Glynn, as Rodriguez’s successor. Glynn joined The Village in 2007 and was elevated to COO in 2018. Prior to The Village, he was the Director of Youth Services for Catholic Charities and then Executive Director of the CT Juvenile Justice Alliance.

Galo A. Rodriguez. 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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