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Bishops Corner Blue Back Square Business Elmwood Park Road The Center

West Hartford Business Buzz: July 6, 2020

Rendering of the The Place 2 Be exterior in Blue Back Square. Courtesy image

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

By Ronni Newton

I hope everyone had a very happy Fourth of July!

As I often do when I am writing a column after a holiday weekend, I just re-read what I wrote in the intro on the Monday after Fourth of July weekend last year – when I wrote that I could have probably copied almost the entire thing word-for-word from the previous year’s intro.

Surfside Beach, July 2020. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

In some ways that’s once again true. We did spend last week on Nantucket, where we had some warm and humid weather. While not as sunny as we would have liked, we had two excellent beach days. And when we sat in our usual spot, facing the ocean, surrounded by sand, the nearest group at least 20-30 feet away (which is common, because the access to this particular beach is not all that visible), the world seemed normal. The ocean sounded the same, we could hear squeals of kids jumping in the waves, some shouts from a competitive corn hole competition, small planes flying overhead, and screams as the tide came in quickly with waves swamping towels and chairs.

Other than when we were sitting on the beach, however, things were very different. No fireworks, no Firecracker 5K run, no hanging out at Cisco Brewers. We saw my in-laws a few times – outside on the deck only, and we were all masked and stayed at least 6 feet away from them.

Since June 22, when summer residents and visitors really begin arriving, Nantucket’s total number of positive cases has almost doubled. For 33 days there had only been 14 cases, and now it’s 26, with contact tracing indicating that they are coming from off-island rather than community spread. That number is small – but the hospital only has 14 beds total, and no ICU – so it’s actually quite scary. Mask-wearing is being strictly enforced, and for the first time ever I ran with a face covering around my neck that I could pull up whenever I could not adequately distance myself from others.

I was in the Center and Blue Back Square a few times this weekend, and it was great to see that most people were wearing masks here as well.

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:

Rendering of the entryway at The Place 2 Be in Blue Back Square. Courtesy image

  • It was last July when we learned that The Cook & The Bear would be closing its Blue Back Square location, just two years after opening, but there’s now exciting news about the 50 Memorial Rd. space. The Place 2 Be, which has a reputation as a cool and unique brunch and lunch spot in the south end of Hartford (615 Franklin Ave.), is awaiting its permit approval and looking forward to opening in late September, offering a menu that’s expanded from the original location and includes “eggs 4 days,” chicken and waffles, French toast, pancakes, salads, and brunch bowls, and more. “Our goal is having brunch seven days a week,” owner Gina Luari, said, and she is so excited about the West Hartford space – and about creating an experience that will truly be a destination. “People don’t understand Connecticut has a lot to offer,” Luari told me. “I want to bring something cool to all my spaces.” The Franklin Avenue restaurant is low-key and very casual, while the West Hartford location will be slightly more upscale and a full sit-down restaurant. In addition to bottomless mimosas, sangria, and bellinis that The Place 2 Be is known for, the Blue Back Square restaurant will have a full bar, and will also include an assortment of Bloody Mary’s and brunch-themed cocktails – and champagne on tap. “It will be the place you can go with your friends, or your mother … I want it to be fun and relaxed, but upscale, where you can celebrate your birthday.” Luari said. She plans to focus on changes to the bar area as well as the entryway (see rendering), and much of the seating will be bench style. “I’m really excited to have a bathtub photo opp,” Luari said, referencing the brand’s “everyone in the tub” tagline which will be brought to life through an Instagram-able “bathtub couch” right next to the bar. The space will have seats for 100 (although Luari said that will likely still be limited to 50% capacity in late September when the opening is planned), but in addition to the indoor seating she said they inherited approval for outdoor patio dining from Cook and The Bear. Luari said they are hoping to be able to remove the Cook and The Bear’s large smoker from the kitchen, “but if not, we will just have to add smoked wings to the menu,” she said. West Hartford will actually be the second expansion for The Place 2 Be in the next few months. Luari said she has taken over the former Spectra Wired Cafe space at 5 Constitution Plaza in Hartford, and plans to open this month. The fast casual downtown location, on the ground floor of the Spectra Boutique Apartments, will cater to young professionals, will have ordering at kiosks and will provide delivery to the 193 apartment residents in the building. For more information about The Place 2 Be, visit their website.

    Hartford Baking Company owner Scott Kluger stands in front of the new location at 400 Hebron Ave. in Glastonbury. Facebook photo

  • Congrats to Hartford Baking Company, which has expanded from its two West Hartford locations (Farmington Avenue and New Park Avenue) to a new space in Glastonbury! Hartford Baking Company opened Tuesday at 400 Hebron Ave. Click here for online ordering or to see the menu.
  • Although fitness facilities were permitted to be open in Phase 2 which began June 17, many have chosen not to for a variety of reasons, including that their style of workout cannot easily be accommodated with required social distancing and other protocols. Some have come up with creative solutions, including holding classes outdoors, and LIFER Fitness, which had been offering virtual classes, is now expanding to outdoor classes effective Monday. Click here for details.
  • West Hartford welcomes Goff Law Group to its new offices at 75 Brace Rd. Founding attorney Brooke Goff is also a West Hartford resident (as is director of social media Kylee Samayoa), and in addition to the West Hartford headquarters, the firm, which specializes in personal injury and workers’ compensation, has offices in New Haven, Shelton, and Stamford. More information is available on their website.
  • Museums are now back open in West Hartford: The Children’s Museum opened last week with timed sessions. More information can be found on their website. The Noah Webster House & West Hartford Historical Society re-opens today, offering self-guided tours of Noah Webster’s birthplace during normal public hours, daily from 1-4 p.m. More details are available on the website.

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  • Masks have become a necessary part of our lives, and while plain blue or yellow surgical masks are now easily available and inexpensive, and bandanas also work, some are now treating masks as a colorful accessory. I will personally admit to having at least seven or eight (I couldn’t resist ordering the one that has a nose and mouth like my dog that appeared in an online ad) and I match them to my outfits. Not all masks are alike, but people have been raving about the fabric masks that are being made by resident Shana Uthgenannt through her business, Shana Punim Masks. There are more than 125 different fabrics and styles to choose from, including some made for sport and others with filters, all with a copper wire for a custom fit over the nose that prevents glasses from fogging up. Click here for the website.

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  • The popular restaurant Park & Oak (155 Park Rd.) has announced a temporary closure – and we hope it’s very temporary! The following message was posted on the restaurant’s social media accounts on Friday: “To All of Our Valued Customers, We want to thank you for continuously supporting Park & Oak over the past 3 years, and especially during these last few difficult months. After much consideration, we have decided now is a good time to temporarily close our doors and complete a series of minor renovations. Today is our last day of regular service before repairs and upgrades begin. Thank you.” I reached out but wasn’t able to get any further details from the owner.
  • ICYMI, there was plenty of business news even though it was a holiday week, including that Bishops Corner has now been beautified after receiving its order of planters from Knox. Click here for details.
  • The Town Council is considering a tax abatement for One Park Road – a large apartment development that has been approved for the corner of Park Road and Prospect Avenue. Click here to read the full story.
  • If you’re going to the Center or Blue Back Square, make sure you pay for parking on the street unless you are parking short term in one of 35 designated free 30-minute spaces. Click here for all 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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