A round-up of openings, closings, and other news about West Hartford businesses.
By Ronni Newton
It’s only been five days since the last Business Buzz, and coming off a holiday week I was worried that there wouldn’t be any news to include in this column. I’m glad I was proven wrong!
We returned late Friday from spending last week on Nantucket, and after what happened out there on Saturday morning I’m very glad we had already departed.
The historic Veranda House, which according to Nantucket’s GIS system was built in 1684 (I had thought it was the 1800s, but in any case it is – or more correctly was – a very old building) was destroyed by a massive fire that broke out about 6:45 a.m. Saturday, and several hours later the structure had partially collapsed. The three-story bed and breakfast, which had 18 rooms, was on only 0.19 acres of property, and in the town area of Nantucket to say the streets are narrow is a vast understatement. Two other buildings, one of which was across the street, also caught fire and at least one was also a total loss according to news reports.
I’ve been following the coverage of the Nantucket Current, a local online news site which I very much respect and which has had thorough and accurate reporting of the incident.
— Nantucket Current (@ACKCurrent) July 9, 2022
Hearing about a massive fire like this makes me very thankful for the support and responsiveness of the West Hartford Fire Department – and for the support they have of other nearby fire departments that provide mutual aid. Nantucket has a professional fire department with close to 30 members, and crews arrived on the scene in less than 10 minutes (much faster than if the fire had been in a more remote location), and it’s a part of the island which has municipal water and fire hydrants (not the case on much of the island). Mutual aid was summoned – and they arrived by ferry from the Cape, but not for a few hours. All of the occupants of the buildings that caught fire were able to self-extricate, other than one couple that was trapped in a hallways and rescued by an off-duty fire captain (definitely a hero) who happened to be in town getting coffee and rushed into the building without protective gear. That firefighter, and three others, did sustain some injuries but they were non-life-threatening. I did later hear that a cat that was trapped in one of the homes that also burned died in the fire.
Ted and I saw “Pippin” at Playhouse on Park Friday night (great show, fabulous choreography and acting, and highly recommend seeing it), and went to a barbecue Saturday night so I was afraid I wouldn’t have any West Hartford dining photos to share here, but then I had a rare Sunday night girls night – which was a delicious dinner on the patio at Frida with Katie and my sister.
Katie finished her yoga certification training course through West Hartford Yoga a few weeks ago and taught her first yoga class – Yoga in the Parks at Beachland Park Sunday morning! There were about 100 people there, and she did great and it was definitely a proud mom moment. It was Ted’s first ever yoga class, too!
The state has changed its COVID reporting, and the most recent report indicates 54 positive tests in West Hartford over the previous seven days. The positivity rate is high, but the case counts remain much lower than they had been. One day I hope to be able to delete this paragraph completely, but in the meantime, please continue to have patience since not everyone has the same level of comfort, continue to look out for each other, support our local businesses – and stay safe and healthy.
If you have information to share about local businesses, please provide details in the comments or email Ronni Newton at [email protected].
Connecticut Physical Therapy Specialists is the sponsor of this week’s Business Buzz!
Here’s this week’s Buzz:
- Oath Pizza is getting ready to open! I walked by the original Nantucket location last week and was thinking about the opening in West Hartford and then learned that the Chamber of Commerce has scheduled a ribbon cutting on Thursday, July 21, at 11 a.m., to celebrate Oath’s grand opening at 67 Memorial Road in Blue Back Square. Although I can’t confirm the date, they are hoping to have a soft opening a few days before then. This will be the first Connecticut location for Oath Pizza, “the better-for-you craft pizza brand from Nantucket Island … [is] known for its deliciously unique avocado oil crust, thoughtfully sourced toppings, and feel-good ambiance.” The location will be corporate-owned, and will offer dine-in as well as takeout and delivery options. “People want to make better choices for themselves and their families,” CEO Drew Kellogg said. “We’re on a mission to help them do just that and we couldn’t be happier to become a part of the West Hartford community.” Blue Back Square General Manager Robyn Rifkin said previously, “We’re thrilled that Oath Pizza chose Blue Back Square as their first Connecticut location and know that the community will embrace their unique culinary offerings.” I will definitely be there to report on the opening as soon as it happens!
- West Hartford Apothecary is now open at 994 Farmington Ave., and the West Hartford Chamber of Commerce will celebrate with a ribbon cutting on Thursday, July 28 at 4 p.m. I think they actually opened a few weeks ago but I just learned about it and haven’t been able to stop by yet. I did peek in the window on Sunday though! The business is open Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., and more information can be found on their website or Facebook page.
- Gong cha opened Friday at Center Court of Westfarms, spokesperson Amanda Sirica said. This is the first Connecticut location for the Taiwan- and New York City-based franchise bubble tea shop. Click here to view the menu.
- Another Gong cha location will be opening this summer in West Hartford – in the former Subway location on Farmington Avenue – and that one is owned by Sonny Chen, who also owns Black Bamboo and Pokéworks. I drove by on Sunday and the sign isn’t up yet but I’ll get an update as soon as possible.
- A reader emailed me a few days ago to share the news that LobsterCraft (981-A Farmington Ave.) had a sign on the door indicating that they were closed that day due to staffing issues. I followed up with co-owner Tommy Gordon, and thankfully the closing is just temporary as indicated on the website and social media pages. They are “just doing some new management training” and will reopen in the next week or so, he said. Updates to come on the reopening date!
- From a news release: “Ashley Sodipo, owner of Pink Flamingo Party Co. was chosen as part of a talented team of international balloon professionals tasked with creating a gigantic, immersive balloon creation with Qualatex balloons at the Balloon Wonderland event in Orlando, Florida, all in aid of the charity Give Kids the World. Nearly four hundred balloon artists will join at the Hyatt Cypress Regency Hotel in Orlando from July 11th through July 15th, 2022 for Balloon Wonderland. In being part of this event, one of the largest, most unique balloon projects, Ashley, will be using the skills she has developed over the last few years to create several fantastical themed areas such as Toyland, the Enchanted Forests, and Under the Sea in an area of nearly 30,000 sq. ft, with displays towering as high as 24ft in height. ‘What an amazing event Balloon Wonderland is. Ashley is going to be part of creating many iconic pieces at Give Kids the World Village in a gigantic balloon display, all in support of Give Kids the World. Demonstrating how the joy of balloons can also make a difference in the lives of so many people,’ said Stuart Davies, Producer of Balloon Wonderland. Since 1986, Give Kids The World Village has welcomed more than 177,000 families from all 50 states and 76 countries. Providing week-long, cost-free wish vacations to critically ill children and their families from around the world at their 89-acre, not-for-profit resort. During one transformative week at Give Kids the World, wish families laugh, play, and can be together away from the reality of the life-threatening illness and the obstacle course littered with doctor appointments, painful treatments, overwhelming expenses, and endless worry. A chance for families to capture precious moments. It is a magical week of ‘YES’ where wish kids experience the simple joys of childhood.” Pink Flamingo Party Co. is located at 1001 Farmington Ave., and more information can be found on their website.
- The project that will bring 48 new luxury apartments to West Hartford Center is underway, with the demolition of 920 Farmington Ave. The building next door is next in line to come down, and construction is expected to begin immediately, the developers said previously. The project was unanimously approved by the Town Council in late January.
- Congratulations to West Hartford residents Tiffany Donelson and Betty Sugerman Weintraub who have been elected chair and a member respectively of the Connecticut Council for Philanthropy board. Donelson is president and CEO of the Connecticut Health Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the health of all Connecticut residents. Donelson has served on CCP’s board since 2018 and was most recently the board’s vice-chair. “I am honored to serve as chair of CCP’s board and thrilled to continue working with so many colleagues,” she said. “This is a critical time for philanthropy. The Connecticut Council for Philanthropy can play a tremendous role in supporting the field as we find ways to make our state a more equitable place and assure that everyone has the opportunity to thrive.” Weintraub is manager of grant programs and philanthropic outreach at the CT Health and Educational Facilities Authority (CHEFA). The Connecticut Council for Philanthropy organizes, inspires, and equips a community of funders to learn, collaborate, and lead together for sustained impact and social change. CCP’s members are foundations (private, corporate, community), business and corporate giving programs, bank trusts, donor-advised funds, individual philanthropists, and those serving the philanthropic sector. CCP members annually grant more than $1.3 billion from assets of more than $9.5 billion. Learn more at www.CTphilanthropy.org.
- The West Hartford-based Greater Hartford Host Lions Club/Lowenberg Scholarship has been awarded to two students from Bloomfield. Johniece Jones graduated top in her class at Bloomfield High School. She will be attending Radford University in the fall. Johniece is an accomplished athlete and was captain of the cross country track team. She was also a member of the National Honor Society. Madison Pottinger graduated from Bloomfield’s Metropolitan Learning Center for Global and international Studies. She was an outstanding student and will be attending the University of Southern California in the fall. She was also a member of the National Honor Society. Madison gave back to the community as a volunteer at Connecticut Foodshare and other local organizations. “It was an honor to present these Greater Hartford Host Lions Club scholarships to Johniece and Madison,” Andrew Stern of the Lions Club said in an email.
- ICYMI, there were several updates regarding the Children’s Museum relocation last week, including the moving of Conny the whale. Click here to read about the relocation, and more information about the quest to save Conny 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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