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West Hartford Business Buzz: July 26, 2021

The Russell will be opening in the former Harry's Pizzeria & Tavern space at 39 South Main St. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

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

By Ronni Newton

The summer is continuing to fly by, and it’s not slowing down even though the wedding has come and gone. I am eagerly anticipating Katie and Matt returning from their honeymoon this week and seeing some photos of their trip to Hawaii. They did text us one spectacular sunset picture and another – accompanied by a “don’t be mad” message and a winking emoji – of the two of them with parachutes strapped to their backs after (thank goodness it wasn’t before) their feet were firmly planted on the ground.

We finally had some really great summer weather this past week. Ted and I have been eating every meal possible outside, and although I felt guilty about it I spent most of Saturday outside, relaxing and not working. That included a few hours reading a book on the patio.

I did attend a number of in-person events this past week (see bullet points below for most of them), and hope that one day soon I won’t have to note that something is  “in person” rather than virtual. I’m back to holding my breath as the COVID numbers are released each weekday.

John Lyons and I returned to the West Hartford Community Interactive studio last Tuesday for our roundtable show for a program with several members of the newly-revived A Connecticut Party. We’re hosting another in-studio show this Wednesday at 5:30 p.m. with West Hartford Democratic Town Council candidates. Watch the We-Ha.com Facebook page for more details.

I had another TV appearance this week – on WTNH’s “This Week in Connecticut” with Dennis House. Mayor Shari Cantor was also a guest on the Sunday morning program, and we both spoke about outdoor dining in West Hartford. You can watch the segment here.

I chatted with Dennis House of WTNH last week for a segment on “This Week in Connecticut” that aired Sunday. I watched it on the actual TV and it’s always a bit uncomfortable seeing the high definition version of myself on the big screen.

After editing Tracey Weiss’ story about Sam’s Gyro for both West Hartford LIFE and We-Ha.com, I was anxious to try the restaurant, and Ted and I both had evening meetings at Town Hall on Wednesday and decided to stop there for dinner afterward. Our meals were delicious – and the baklava was a special treat!

Chicken gyro (foreground) and lamb gyro from Sam’s Gyro on South Main Street. Falafel is in the center (we had already eaten some of it!). Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Baklava from Sam’s Gyro. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

We didn’t get around to Saturday dinner until late (Ted was playing a marathon corn hole game with a neighbor and I was very busy trying to just relax and also didn’t feel like changing into nice clothing), so instead of our usual Saturday night out we got takeout from Loco Urban Street food. We’ve been really pleased every time we’ve ordered from there, and this week’s  meal was delicious.

Estrellas salad with chicken (left) and Atomic Cauliflower Burrito from Loco Urban Street Food. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Nashville hot chicken dip on potatoes from Loco Urban Street Food. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

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:

Hickory Smoked Jerk BBQ Salmon from The Russell. Website photo

  • The space formerly occupied by Harry’s Pizzeria & Tavern at 39 South Main St. in the Center has been vacant since late March, and I’m so excited to announce that The Russell has signed a lease and is planning to open a new restaurant there in just a few months. Owner Hugh Russell already has a location at 187 Allyn St. in Hartford (the restaurant relocated there last fall, after many years on Pratt Street) as well as a takeout-only satellite space at 881 New Britain Ave. in Hartford (that opened this spring), and he is very much looking forward to bringing his signature Jamaican fare to West Hartford. “We want to make it feel like you’re on the island, an authentic feel of Jamaica,” he said in a phone interview, and while there won’t be a large-scale renovation of the space, he will be redecorating and hopes to also replace the front window with a retractable window and add a few outdoor seats. The menu will essentially be the same as at the Allyn Street location, and will feature classic Jamaican dishes prepared with jerk seasoning, soups and salads, and an assortment of appetizers. There will be a full bar as well (with lots of Caribbean drinks, Russell said), and The Russell’s West Hartford location will offer lunch, dinner, and Sunday brunch. Russell said he’s hoping to open by Sept. 1, and already has permit applications in progress. The restaurant will seat 45 – including space for about 25 at an extended bar area. “We want to be a social gathering space,” he said. “The menu will really appeal to everyone, kids, too,” said Russell.

CITGO at 1137 New Britain Ave. is now METRO. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

  • The CITGO gas station at 1137 New Britain Ave. in Elmwood has changed affiliation, and is now a Metro Gas Station. The ownership of the station itself has not changed. It just happened in the past week, an employee told me when I stopped in to find out more details (and get some gas) last week.
  • There were a number of new retail businesses that signed leases in the past week, but I’m saving a few of them to feature once I can find out complete details and get photos. In addition, there are a few new service businesses that have recently announced plans or opened in West Hartford that I learned about last week, including Springtide Child Development, which will be opening soon in a 4,200 square foot space above Koma Steakhouse at 345 North Main St. in Bishops Corner. According to their website, Springtide Child Development, offers “personalized, holistic treatment plans for children 2-18 years old with autism” through an interdisciplinary team of specialists who provide a variety of behavioral, speech, occupational, and other therapies.
  • Another recent new business is Peak Performance for Men, a clinic that provides “a new, proven, and successful treatment for erectile disfunction,” according to the website. Peak Performance for Men, which according to the website has an all-male medical staff, is located at 41 North Main St., Suite 202.

Ribbon cutting at the new Maximum Beverage location at 340 North Main St. on July 22. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

  • The Chamber of Commerce and town officials celebrated the grand opening of Maximum Beverage at their new location at 340 North Main St. in Bishops Corner, behind and below Whole Foods and next to Anytime Fitness. Maximum Beverage moved across the street from 333 North Main St. in May, to a space that wasn’t necessarily larger but provided a more efficient layout and has better parking. After the ribbon cutting, the Chamber of Commerce held its first post-COVID in-person “After Hours,” with wine and beer tastings and some yummy appetizers.
  • A fundraiser for The Town That Cares Fund will be held hosted by Socceropolis on Wednesday, July 28 – National Soccer Day – at Sweet Frog, 13 South Main St. Coach Milton will be scooping at Sweet Frog from 4-6 p.m., and a percentage of each sale will directly benefit The Town That Cares; a special fund that assists residents experiencing a crisis situation by providing food, help with utility/shelter/medical expenses and any other critical needs.

  • The West Hartford Food Pantry is the nonprofit chosen as the recipient of the Bloomin’ 4 Good Program at the Stop & Shop at 1235 Farmington Ave. (Sunset Triangle). The Food Pantry, where demand for services remains very high, will receive $1 from the purchase of any “Bloomin’ 4 Good” bouquet purchased through the end of July. If the bunnies have decimated your flower garden (like they have done to mine), this is a good way to bring some sunshine into your home and help out the Food Pantry at the same time.
  • Stop & Shop is also assisting with hunger and food insecurity in other ways, and last week announced that in conjunction with Long Trail Brewing Company the chain will make a $1000 donation to Connecticut Food Bank/Foodshare. Throughout the month of June, a portion of the proceeds from the sale of cases of Long Trail Brewing Company beer purchased at Connecticut Stop & Shop locations were donated to support the food bank’s community-based programs that provide nutritious food to people in need across the state.

Inside the Children’s Museum butterfly house. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

  • There is no announcement yet about Kingswood Oxford School‘s plan to sell the land it owns, where the Children’s Museum is currently located, but Children’s Museum Executive Director Mike Werle said at a breakfast event – where members of the business community were invited to check out the current exhibits – last week that the organization, through a study grant received from the state, is continuing to explore sites for relocation. They are looking at between six and eight sites right now, all in Hartford.

Mayor Shari Cantor. Courtesy photo

Mark Overmyer-Velazquez. Courtesy photo

Bill Thompson. Courtesy photo

The Very Reverend Miguelina Howell. Courtesy photo

  • [This item has been updated] Congratulations to West Hartford Mayor Shari Cantor and residents Dr. Mark Overmyer-Velazquez (UConn professor and director of The Hartford campus), the Very Reverend Miguelina Howell (dean and vicar of Christ Church Cathedral in Hartford and the first Hispanic woman to be a cathedral dean in the Episcopal Church), and Bill Thompson (retired principal and consulting actuary at Milliman), all West Hartford who are among the seven new members elected to the Hartford Stage Governing Board of Directors last week. Jack Sennott, chairman, CEO and President of Hartford-based CapSpecialty, a specialty insurance provider for small and mid-sized businesses across the U.S., has been named president of the Board. Prior to his role at CapSpecialty, Sennott was senior vice president and CFO of Alleghany Corporation. He previously served as Hartford Stage Board vice-president and as chair of the Finance Committee.

John Colangelo. Courtesy photo

  • The Jewish Federation of Greater Hartford announced in a news release last week that it has hired law enforcement veteran John Colangelo to serve as the first Community Security Director for Jewish Greater Hartford. Colangelo, who retired after 24 years with the Canton Police Department, most recently as a detective, and has more than 30 years of law enforcement experience, will serve as a representative of the Secure Community Network (SCN), the official safety and security organization of the Jewish community in North America. He will work full-time to develop and administer a comprehensive program that provides threat mitigation and security consultations and trainings to Jewish institutions throughout the region. “We are thrilled to have John join our Federation as the first Community Security Director,” said Federation President and CEO David Waren. “With the dramatic increase in antisemitic incidents and acts of hate over the past several years, Jewish communal security has never been more important. John’s tremendous knowledge and expertise will help keep our local community safe and secure.” Colangelo will serve as an expert advisor to Jewish institutions such as synagogues and day schools and establish a system of collaboration, coordination, and communication among organizations. He will also serve as a liaison to local, state, and federal law enforcement and represent the Federation and the Jewish community in public security forums. “I am excited to join the Federation and contribute to the safety and security of Greater Hartford’s Jewish community,” Colangelo noted. “I hope to use my extensive law enforcement and security background to protect the community from all forms of threats.”

Elizabeth Leo. Courtesy photo

  • The law firm of Halloran Sage announced the recent hiring of attorney Elizabeth Leo of West Hartford to their Hartford office, where she joins the Litigation Practice Group. Her practice will focus on tort claims, including motor vehicle and uninsured/underinsured motorist claims as well as professional and products liability. Leo brings previous experience in civil litigation to her practice. She earned her JD from Elon University School of Law and her BA from SUNY at Buffalo.
  • West Hartford was one of seven towns/cities in the state listed on the CTforMe website, intended to showcase places that are “highly walkable, bikeable, and livable.” The site is intended to promote Connecticut to Millennials and highlights places where they “can work hard, play hard and thrive.” West Hartford is described as having “the perfect blend of small-town and lively city feel,” and the write-up highlights the recent accolades the town has received, places to live like The Lofts in Blue Back Square and 24 North Main, as well as bike routes and the town’s co-working spaces.

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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