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West Hartford Business Buzz: July 19, 2021

Pedro and Naomi Centeno are the owners of Junkpot Studio, opening soon at 635 New Park Ave. Courtesy photo

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

By Ronni Newton

I still feel like I’m floating on a cloud of joy from last week’s wedding activities, and I don’t want to fully return to the ground.

Thank you, loyal readers, for putting up with my being distracted by this momentous event – on and off for the past three years, but in particular over the past few weeks. [I can’t stop myself from writing this intro this week, but for those who just want to get straight to business, keep scrolling to the bullet points.]

From the moment we arrived at the Madison Beach Hotel on Wednesday for a last minute meeting with the wedding planner, to the rehearsal, the rehearsal dinner at Stony Creek Brewery (such a great place for a fun and casual rehearsal dinner), to the marathon day of the wedding itself (this non-morning person was scheduled for the first hair styling appointment at 7:15 a.m.) – first look on the rocks, the touching ceremony on the grass with the beach in the background, cocktail hour on the deck, the energetic reception – there was so much joyfulness and love.

Getting to spend so much time with the wedding party, getting to know my daughter and son-in-law’s(!!) friends really well, was such a bonus. They are smart and accomplished, kind and generous, and they definitely know how to have fun!

Katie and Matt and the bridal party following a photo session with photographer Amber Jones. Photo credit: Debbi Zimbler

We actually had great weather for both the rehearsal dinner and wedding – sandwiched in between days of monsoons and some of the most explosive thunderstorms I have ever seen. No complaints about it being a bit too warm or humid.

For many of those who attended, this was the first large in-person event in well over a year, and the dance floor was packed with smiling faces. I saw the maid of honor from my own wedding (many years ago) and her husband, my husband’s college roommate and his wife (who are Katie’s godparents), and so many friends and family who shared the special moments with us as Katie and Matt made their lifelong commitment to each other official.

Katie and Ronni, just before the wedding. I’ve lost track of who took this photo

While I wasn’t always able to take photos myself during the wedding (so hard for me not to at least snap pics with my phone!), it did make me more focused on the moments as they were unfolding – moments of love, the joy, friendship, optimism, and pride. And I can’t wait to see the professional photos from Amber Jones.

We received many texts and emails from friends and family after the event, but I was particularly touched by one letter that spoke of the “hopefulness that we all feel when we look at Katie and Matt … a couple with a chance to restore our faith in ourselves and in mankind.”

My voice is still hoarse, the balls of my feet are still sore from standing and/or dancing for eight hours in very high heels, and I’m still exhausted, but I am so happy. And I am sure Katie and Matt, who are now in Hawaii, are happy, too.

I’ll stop talking about this now … thanks for reading!

And thanks to Ted Glanzer and Lily Guberman for taking care of the We-Ha.com site while I was away.

Please continue to support our local businesses, wear your masks indoors if you are not vaccinated – and even if you are when required – 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].

Here’s this week’s Buzz:

Junkpot Studio logo. Courtesy image

  • A business new to West Hartford, Junk Pot Studio is taking over the space at 635 New Park Ave., Building 2, Space 2A, that has been occupied by CT Hart Cheer which is moving to a new building on Newfield Avenue (on the border of West Hartford and Hartford). Husband and wife team Pedro and Naomi Centeno are the owners of Junk Pot Studio, a community-based cooperative and educational center, and have been collaborators for several years with a ceramics program at the Farmington Valley Arts Center in Avon, building that program from two students to more than 50, Pedro said. They take over the West Hartford space as of the first week of August, and “we’re looking to open up the first week of September,” Pedro said. In West Hartford, they will offer eight different classes during the week, kids classes not he weekends, co-op memberships to those with some ceramics experience, and Friday night clay night. Many of the students at the FVAC are from West Hartford, and the new location will provide more space in a convenient location which will also allow for the expansion of services. “Our mission is to provide a safe, inclusive, and fun space where individuals of all levels can explore the medium of clay. We offer both hand building and wheel throwing classes designed to not only advance your skills, but to foster your innate creativity. Self-expression is highly encouraged and the sharing of ideas is welcomed within this clay loving community,” said Pedro. The studio will include 10 Brent pottery wheels, two slab rollers, an industrial sized extruder, pug mill, and a plethora of work shelving and tables. Students have access to a wide variety of tools, colored slips and glazes. In addition to serving as an educational center, Junk Pot Studio offers products such as cat butt cups (Pedro and Naomi’s original collaboration), botanicals, and custom pet cups. Pedro will be featured in the September issue of Ceramics Monthly magazine. The website is being revamped, but you can follow Junk Pot Studio on Facebook or Instagram (@junkpotstudio_llc) for continued updates.

Future Junkpot Studio. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

The Cat Butt cup is a collaboration between Pedro and Naomi Centeno. Courtesy of Pedro Centeno

Ceramic sculpture by Pedro Centeno. Courtesy of Pedro Centeno

Junkpot Studio logo. Courtesy image

Junkpot Studios creates custom orders of peoples’ pets. Courtesy of Pedro Centeno

Botanicals cup. Courtesy of Pedro Centeno

  • Chef Ani Robaina, previously the executive chef at the Pond House in West Hartford, has launched Ani’s Table, a “new culinary concept wrapped in stunning and mouthwatering food experiences that make a statement,” she said. “It’s a new day,” said Robaina, who was trained at the French Culinary Institute. This is a good time for the launch, she said, as the world is returning to a new normal. “Home entertaining, public events, and milestone celebrations are making their way back on people’s calendars. It’s a hopeful and exciting time for everyone.” According to a news release, deeply-rooted in Robaina’s Cuban heritage and formal French culinary training, Ani’s Table takes an innovative approach to event planning and menu development with a flair for stunning food arrangements and plating. Seasonally-inspired menus are complimented by Robaina’s artistic style and love for vibrant tableware, linens, silk flower arrangements, and unique packaging. Ani’s Table offers private in-home chef experiences, wedding celebrations, team building and cooking classes, mixology sessions, corporate and fundraising event catering, and event planning for any size. Ani’s Table is also partnering with The Connecticut Shakespeare Festival for their “Shakespeare and Sondheim” series that began July 7 and runs through Aug. 22 at Playhouse on Park in West Hartford. Ani’s Table is offering Shakespeare-themed picnic baskets – that also include wine – and which can be ordered ahead of time on the Ani’s Table website and enjoyed on the Playhouse patio, which will open two hours before each production. Picnic baskets come in a variety of culinary combinations that include charcuterie, frittatas, crostini with seasonal toppings, homemade pate, jarred desserts, and other surprises. Ani’s Table will also be on-site, offering creative fare and beverages to be purchased. Theatergoers can enjoy duck liver mousse and ham salad crostini, mason jar vichyssoise, Spanish olive oil tortas, house made empanadas, and more. A crème brûlée bike cart will be a sweet treat highlight with the caramelized sugar flambéd to order. The beverage menu includes Ani’s signature cold brew French blend Vietnamese iced coffee sweetened with condensed milk and served in a mason jar, bottled spring water which will benefit The Playhouse Theatre Group, San Pellegrino, mason jar cocktails, and select wine. Non-theatergoers and the general public are also invited to visit the theater and partake in post theater cocktails and snacks. To order specially curated picnic baskets from Ani’s Table, visit https://anistable-shakespeare.square.site, and for more information about Ani’s Table, visit their website.

Ani Robaina. Courtesy photo

Picnic basket example. Courtesy photo

  • Qais Convenience Shop is now open at 76 LaSalle Rd. in West Hartford Center, in a portion of the space formerly occupied by Oggi Hair Design, right next to Bricco. It’s a small footprint, but a true convenience store with a range of products like sodas, sports drinks, and other cold beverages, ice cream, a selection of necessities like toothpaste, deodorant, pain reliever and antacids, phone chargers and ear buds, snack foods, and a variety of tobacco, vape, and hookah products. Qais is open Sunday through Thursday from 9 a.m.-11 p.m., and Friday and Saturday from 9 a.m.-2 a.m.

Qais Convenience Shop is located at 76 LaSalle Rd. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Interior of Qais Convenience Shop. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

  • The West Hartford Food Pantry is always in need of certain items, and Jessica Kott of West Hartford Center-based YHB Investment Advisors, Inc. recently reached out to Food Pantry Coordinator Nancy Stockman to determine what food items were most in demand. Since a jar of peanut butter is distributed in almost every bag of food, YHB opted to focus on one food item – peanut butter, and during the month of June, YHB employees contributed to a pyramid of peanut butter jars stacked in the office. In the first week of July, 63 jars of peanut butter were collected and brought over to the Food Pantry. YHB then topped off their employee contributions with a cash donation. Kott, a senior Portfolio Manager, said, “Food pantries are an essential resource in many communities and we are happy to support the West Hartford Food Pantry.”

YHB Investment Advisors’ peanut butter pyramid for the West Hartford Food Pantry. Courtesy photo

  • I don’t have details about any opening date, but the sign has been installed for Cigar n Vape at 11 Sedgwick Rd.

Sign is up for Cigar n Vape at 11 Sedgwick Rd. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

  • Congrats to Arethusa Farm Dairy, which has a location at 975 Farmington Avenue in West Hartford Center, and was just named the top ice cream place in Connecticut in Food & Wine magazine. “From small-town mom-and-pop operations to destination-worthy farmstead creameries, Connecticut has to be one of the luckiest states when it comes to classic ice cream, making this one of the toughest calls on the list,” the write-up states. Noting the origin of the Arethusa business – which began as an effort by New York residents and former Manolo Blahnik executives George Malkemus and Tony Yurgaitis to save farmland in Litchfield County, then led to a dairy farm with award-winning cows, and several restaurants. West Hartford’s Arethusa location opened in June 2020, and along with offering dairy products and a cafe, features ice cream made from the farm’s cows. The “plush, high-butterfat ice creams [comes in] pleasingly classic New England flavors like rum raisin and coffee, made with some of the best milk and cream in the state,” Food & Wine states.

Chocolate and coffee ice cream from Arethusa are a great combination. Photo credit: Ronni Newton (we-ha.com file photo)

  • I had to miss the tour, but U.S. Rep. John Larson held a “walking town hall” in West Hartford on Thursday, visiting businesses in Blue Back Square and the Center, accompanied by representatives of the Chamber of Commerce, Mayor Shari Cantor, and West Hartford Economic Development Coordinator Kristen Gorski. According to the Chamber, Larson spoke with owners of local businesses such as The MedSpa, Pure Barre, Daswani Clothiers, Arugula, and Treva about how they have been faring during the recovery, and how they utilized federal and state recovery programs. Larson also asked for input about what still needs to be done.

U.S. Rep. John Larson (right) and Mayor Shari Cantor (in background) speak with Dorjan Puka of DORO Restaurant Group outside Treva on July 15. West Hartford Chamber of Commerce photo

  • The Town of West Hartford has once again receive the Distinguished Budget Presentation Award from the Government Finance Officers Association (GFOA) for the most recent annual budget document. “The award reflects the town’s commitment to meeting the highest principles of governmental budgeting by satisfying nationally recognized guidelines for effective budget presentation,” Town Manager Matt Hart announced at last week’s Town Council meeting. “GFOA rated West Hartford’s budget as proficient in all categories; congratulations to Peter Privitera, Lisa Newton, Pattie Lewis, and the rest of the budget team on a job well done,” Hart said.
  • Blo Blow Dry Bar (59 Memorial Rd. in Blue Back Square) advised last week in an email that they are closing temporarily. “In order to continue providing you with Blo’s ‘pink carpet treatment,’ Blo West Hartford will be temporarily closing its doors to train up a new team,” the email states. According to their their website, it appears that appointments are available again beginning Aug. 5.
  • Licensed  West Hartford psychologist Ivy Patt, who has had a practice int he Center for 13 years, has just launched a new telehealth mental health company, MellaHealth. “The purpose of MellaHealth is to provide high quality mental health treatment for people who want to use their insurance to help with the cost of treatment,” Patt said. “Providing the therapy through telehealth allows for access to More people as clinicians from different parts of the state can provide services to clients anywhere in Connecticut. I started MellaHealth in response to the significant increase in mental health needs as a result of the pandemic.” For more information, visit the website.
  • ICYMI, vendors at the West Hartford Farmers’ Market offers a selection of fresh produce and other items twice a week in the parking lot at the corner of LaSalle and Arapahoe roads. Intern Lily Guberman visited last week, and here are the details.

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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  • Thank you for sharing your recent experience at Madison Beach Hotel. Congratulations to Katie & Matt!

    • Thanks, Jennifer! It was a wonderful location for a wedding – beautiful venue, and the banquet staff was fantastic! ~Ronni Newton

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