A round-up of openings, closings, and other news about West Hartford businesses.
By Ronni Newton
We are smack in the middle of summer and the weather certainly feels mid-summer-like right now.
Ted and I have always liked to eat as many meals as possible outside (even before the COVID-related proliferation of outdoor dining we sought outdoor dining options), but although we did have breakfast on our patio Sunday morning, Ted quickly gave up on lunch when it was 97 in the shade. I just stayed in the air conditioning.
We did go out to eat in the Center on Saturday night. We try to mix things up as much as possible – going to restaurants of different types, in all parts of town – and this week we chose Blue Elephant Trail, where we had a great dinner on the patio. The Mango Fried Rice, served in a half pineapple, was one of the best presentations I have ever seen, and delicious, too! Food photos can be found below.
The only thing disconcerting about being in the Center was the fact that there are still many people not wearing masks.
Before dinner we stopped by to visit with the West Hartford Fire Department, which is now operating a Bike Team and has a table staffed in front of the soon-to-open Westfield Bank on Farmington Avenue. They are offering masks to anyone not wearing one (and to those who want an extra) and also handing out “Wearing is Caring” buttons. By 7:30 p.m., Assistant Chief Hugh O’Callaghan said he had handed out about 150 masks.
Have you seen those memes about comparing wearing masks to wearing pants? Really people, how hard is it? I don’t really like wearing a mask either, and I’m claustrophobic and hate having anything over my mouth. Back in March or April I had to practice in the house by wearing a mask for a little while at a time before I went out in public because I was afraid I would start gasping for air. I wear a mask because it’s the right thing to do.
Remember the tragedy of the commons? I taught it to my kids when they were little (I majored in political science and economics in college and this was always one of my favorite theories) and I apply it to many situations and think it’s one of the best ways to frame any conversation about the greater good.
We’re wearing masks and physical distancing to protect each other. Please do your part.
Please continue to support our local businesses, and please wear your masks if you are in public places, and stay safe and healthy.
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].
Here’s this week’s Buzz:
- Tyler Anderson knows how to move with the times, literally, and the newest venture for the renowned chef and West Hartford resident is TA-Que, the new “mobile party unit,” aka taco truck, a venture launched with longtime partner and Tanda Hospitality co-owner and Director of Operations AJ Auricchio. “We want to do outdoor, open air,” said Auricchio as he stood in the parking lot next to the Wise Old Dog (corner of South Quaker Lane and Flatbush Avenue) where TA-Que had its maiden voyage. The event was a sell-out – both for the tacos and the wine-tasting that was taking place in front of the Wise Old Dog. The truck has a completely self-contained commercial kitchen on board, and a smoker on the back to prepare the smoked meat street tacos that hearken back to Anderson’s Southern California roots. Friday’s menu included the “Vampiro” (smoked beef, avocado, cheese, and salsa roja; a smoked chicken taco with crispy kale and lime credo; “Pork Belly ‘El Pastor'” with onion and cilantro; Baja fish taco with coleslaw; and roast mushrooms with chorizo spice and salsa verde. Sides included beans, rice, and slaw. Everything was priced from just $3-$5. It was so well-received that everything was sold out by the time I stopped interviewing people and wanted to order, but everything smelled fantastic and thank you to Nicole Greenblatt for sharing photos of the food she brought home and pronounced delicious (see below). Auricchio said the truck is being stored at the parking lot of Millwright’s in Simsbury (also owned by Anderson), where they will be popping up for a “sweet little socially distant parking lot party” on Sunday and Monday, July 26 and 27, from 4-7 p.m. The menu may expand a bit, Auricchio said, and Anderson said they learned a lot from the first outing when the truck got “a hard workout.” They would love to make the South Quaker/Flatbush Avenue corner lot a somewhat permanent location, Auricchoio said. In the meantime, plans are to use the truck for Tyler Anderson Catering jobs, and farm dinners coming up at Hill-Stead Museum in Farmington and Sub Edge Farm in Avon, as well as perhaps at some local breweries.
- More great West Hartford food news: DORO Marketplace (1253 New Britain Ave., in the former Dunkin Donuts/Baskin Robbins spot on the southwest corner of South Main and New Britain Avenue) is getting ready to open! We-Ha.com broke the news about the plans for this new business in this column back in December 2019, and I caught up with Scott Miller, chief operating officer for DORO Restaurant Group, to get more details now that they are really coming together and have started hiring. “The concept really is a European bakery and coffeehouse, but we decided to keep the ‘marketplace’ in the name because we are really a three-meal-a-day setting,” said Miller. They plan to partner with a top-notch coffee program, and will offer breakfast items such as house-made croissants, doughnuts, and bagels, as well as classic breakfast fare like egg and cheese sandwiches. He anticipates people will hang out for breakfast like they would in a coffeehouse or have a quick meeting. The space (in non-COVID times) will seat 50. “We envision moving into the lunch period with more of a grab and go,” Miller said, one-stop shopping for lunch and dinner items with a selection of salads, dips and sauces like Zohara hummus, fresh pasta from Treva, and items from Ávert as well, bringing together the offerings from all of DORO’s restaurants. In addition, they will be making rotisserie chicken, and in addition to selling the whole chickens will be pulling off the meat for sandwiches, soups, salads, and grain bowls. Roman-style flatbread pizza will also be on the menu, Miller said, and the price point will be “very reasonable” for all items. Anticipated hours are 7 a.m.-9 p.m., and Miller said they are moving “full steam ahead” and hope to be open in early September. “Labor Day-ish,” he said. Most of their equipment was coming from Italy and France, he said, which contributed to the delay of the initial plans to open in April. In addition to take-out, they will also offer a delivery and will launch an app for online ordering and to track loyalty points and favorite items. “We’re excited,” said Miller. “With the local state of things this is the perfect time for this concept.”
- There’s going to be an upscale consignment shop popping up in Blue Back Square! The first ever Ari’s Closet will be open from July 25-31, from 10 a.m.-9 p.m., at 84 Memorial Rd., most recently the temporary location of The MedSpa and formerly the Lucy Activewear store on the corner of Memorial and Isham. Arielle Haller-Silverstone, a West Hartford native who has been living in Manhattan has been back in town staying with her mom since the COVID-19 pandemic hit. A 10-year veteran of the entertainment industry – which has all but ground to a halt over the past few months – she had started selling her own clothing online through Poshmark and other sites, and found she had a knack for it. Her friends asked her to help sell their clothes, and now she has turned it into a business. “I have collected so many different stories,” she said, in addition to the clothing items. She’s selling items – all upscale brands – on consignment, and including Gucci, YSL, Prada, and Chanel, as well as lululemon and J. Crew. Prices range from $20 to roughly $500. A python-embossed Valentino bag is $550, while lululemon crops are $25, she said. “There’s something for everybody,” including men’s clothing, and shoes (mostly for women). New shipments are coming in every day from her clients, who range in age from 25-65, and sizes (petites included!) from XS-14 for women are available. The tags note the names of the owners, so buyers know where the clothing is coming from. “Everything has been sanitized, steamed,” Haller-Silverstone said, and there will be two dressing rooms open in the space. Her entire inventory won’t be on display, but she will have it available for viewing on an iPad so people can see what’s available. Items will also be able to be dropped off for consignment. Haller-Silverstone said she will be returning to New York soon, and just got the green light to do a web series, but she plans to continue the Ari’s Closet business, and host pop-ups throughout the Tri-State area on a regular basis. For more information or to contact Haller-Silverstone, visit the website sellwithari.com.
- This is a tease – but I can’t resist, and I can’t wait to provide more information about BIRDCODE Hot Chicken, a Nashville hot chicken-style restaurant which will be opening (hopefully late next month) at 120 Park Rd. Initial plans were to have this restaurant named tenderwings, and locate the hot chicken elsewhere, but the owner now shared with me that tenderwings will be delivery-only (to West Hartford, and parts of Hartford, Newington, and Bloomfield). Way more information to come!
- From the The Design District: The new platform “Ask an Expert We Ha,” has just been launched as a Facebook group designed to give home renovators access to local recommendations and find answers to their remodeling questions from real experts right here in West Hartford. “The group includes seasoned professionals in the areas of engineering, exterior remodeling, carpentry, interior design, bathroom and kitchen renovation, tile, flooring, home security, tools, HVAC, and moving and relocation services. For the rest of the summer, local residents can join the group to get one-on-one advice or discuss projects with local experts. With more and more people using their vacation savings to make improvements to their homes, the Design District decided to launch the initiative to help people make their renovation dreams a reality,” the Design District said in a news release. “The Design District has a strong group of local business owners who have been working in home design and remodeling for decades,” said Design District President Dave Chmielewski. “As we continued to see more and more homeowners looking for recommendations through various town and neighborhood Facebook groups, it became clear that we could offer a service that gives people the answers their questions and connect them to the best home improvement professionals in the business.” The “Ask an Expert We Ha” Facebook group is being run free of charge for the summer and will revert to a small $5 per month subscription fee starting in the fall. Members will enjoy unlimited access to the Facebook group including virtual workshops, receive a preferred vendor list with local, home remodeling and design professionals, enjoy exclusive discounts from Design District members, and receive monthly email newsletters with projects, inspiration, ideas, and how-to’s from local homes that have recently been transformed. “COVID-19 has seriously affected our residents and local business community, which is why we need to band together to support one another and our local economy,” said Chmielewski. “The Design District recognizes that we have a wealth of knowledge and we are excited to share our expertise with local residents who are motivated to make changes in their home. We also hope that this platform will encourage people to consider utilizing local, independent professionals for their home improvement needs.
- Congratulations to Doreen Tarascio, who has assumed the newly-created role of director of Development and Communications at the West Hartford-based Bridge Family Center. In her new role, she and her team will partner with individual donors, corporations, foundations, volunteer, and community organizations to strengthen awareness of the vital services the Bridge offers while raising the necessary funds to support the organization’s mission. Tarascio joined the Bridge in 2018 as director of Communications, and prior to that she held development and communications positions at two local healthcare institutions. “The breadth and depth of Doreen’s fund development skills, coupled with her ability to craft compelling communications, are an asset to the Bridge Family Center,” Executive Director Margaret Hann said, offering her congratulations on the “well-earned promotion.” The Bridge reorganized to merge the development and communications departments, to ensure “optimal effectiveness and efficiency while maintaining the quality initiatives and outcomes that define the fundraising and communications efforts of the Bridge.” the organization said in a news release.
- American Eagle Financial Credit Union (AEFCU), has been holding several employee-driven fundraising initiatives to address critical societal needs in greater Hartford and New Haven, and among their donations is a $5,000 grant to Hartford Communities That Care (HCTC) to “directly support the Hartford Care Response Team in partnership with Trinity-Saint Francis Hospital and Medical Center to address the mental health and medical needs of victims and their families affected by gunshot, knife wound or blunt trauma.” In addition, employees who wish to wear jeans at work on Fridays have been contributing money to “Jeans Fridays” fund. For the second quarter, Jeans Fridays donations totaled $6,280 and was split evenly with $3,140 to the West Hartford Food Pantry and Cornerstone Foundation Food Cupboard in Vernon.
- A year after opening, b. kind owner Victoria Gleixner announced that she is closing the brick and mortar West Hartford Center location at 1000 Farmington Ave. as of Aug. 1, 2020. “In response to changing times, we will be expanding our website to include more natural and organic essentials to help you be kind to yourself,” she said in an email. “Closing our West Hartford location has been an incredibly difficult decision. We opened b. kind with the vision to improve lives. For many years I struggled with anxiety and other health conditions. By changing my lifestyle to include organic and natural products, and choosing to be kind to myself through what I put into and onto my body, I was able to heal mind, body and spirit. It has been my absolute pleasure to have helped you do the same. Creating a community of healing, love and kindness has been the most rewarding journey. A wide, and even greater, variety of organic and natural essentials will be available through the website bkindboutique.com. They will remain open through July 31, on Thursday through Saturday only, from noon-4 p.m., or by appointment (call 860-338-5499).
- Kitchen and Bath Design and Construction has moved out of their location at 13 Sedgwick Rd. in West Hartford, where there is now a “for lease” sign in the window. Their website doesn’t say where they have moved to, but notes, “We’re thriving with a new streamlined and intimate design studio. Utilizing the latest 3-D modeling software and other tools for on screen visualizations we can bring the entire design process directly to you.”
- ICYMI, congratulations to the Seniors Job Bank for also being a recipient of an American Eagle Financial Credit Donation. The SJB was the top vote-getter in the Cash Back to the Community program for the second quarter. Click here for the full story.
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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