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West Hartford Business Buzz: July 9, 2018

Modern Tire at 7 Raymond Rd. is now owned by longtime employee Brian Hajdasz. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

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

By Ronni Newton

Westbrook fireworks. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

I hope everyone had a very happy Fourth of July!

As most of you know by now, I was away last week, and it was not only a wonderful opportunity to have some family time and celebrate my daughter’s engagement, but we also completely missed the heatwave.

It was actually hot for Nantucket (in the 80s … cue violin music now), and so humid that our sheets felt wet and the towels never dried and clothes got damp just hanging in the closet. While we don’t have any air conditioning, we do have the beach, and I hate the cold so I have to embrace the hot. Not sure if I would still have been saying that, however, if I had been in West Hartford last week.

Westbrook fireworks. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

I really do love summer, and the beach, and we got home on Friday night, and less than 24 hours later we were back at the beach, visiting a friend in Westbrook. We saw an amazing private neighborhood fireworks show – which more than made up for the fact that Nantucket’s fireworks were virtually invisible due to the fog.

I said above that I was “away” last week, but despite the vacation responder on my email stating that I was “ACTUALLY” on vacation, that didn’t actually end up being possible when UConn decided to announce the sale of the former West Hartford campus on THE DAY BEFORE THE FOURTH OF JULY. I am very thankful to my wonderful interns for covering virtually everything else that happened last week, but I couldn’t throw the UConn story at them. I’m going to try a bit more vacationing in August and we’ll see what happens then.

We are already beginning wedding planning mode, and Katie and Matt are looking for an outdoor venue, preferably near water, and within an hour of so of West Hartford. Email me at [email protected] if you have any suggestions!

If you have tips about businesses opening or closing, 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:

Brian Hajdasz stands with his wife, Jessica, in front of Modern Tire on June 29, the day he officially became the owner. Courtesy of Brian Hajdaz

  • Based on an initial recommendation from my in-laws, we’ve entrusted the care of our cars to Modern Tire ever since moving to West Hartford 20 years ago. Like many, we were extremely saddened when longtime owner John DeSimone passed away in January, but happy to hear that the business would remain open. We are very happy to hear that Modern Tire is now owned by longtime employee Brian Hajdasz, who officially purchased the business on June 29. Brian (I know it’s proper style to refer to people by their last name after the first mention, but really everyone knows him as “Brian at Modern Tire”) told me that the sale had actually been in the works prior to DeSimone’s passing. There were plans in place for a transition period, but since Brian has worked at Modern Tire for 27 years (he started as a teenager), he’s pretty familiar with the operations. Brian said he doesn’t plan to make any major changes, although he will be doing some landscaping, including adding flowers. “It’s business as usual. Why change what’s good?” he said. There actually is one other change: someone else may answer the phone. His name is also Brian – Brian Caires – and they are trying to get him to go by his last name. Brian Caires is an 11-year employee of Modern Tire, and until now has worked exclusively in the shop. According to Brian (Hajdasz), Modern Tire has been in West Hartford for 40 years (30 of those at 7 Raymond Rd.) and employs six people.

    Courtesy of Pachanga Empanadas

  • A delicious new business has recently formed in West Hartford, with a very specific focus. Pachanga Empanadas, owned by Andres and Karin Montiel, launched in March 2018. “We offer seven savory – [including] three vegetarian and one vegan – and two sweet varieties of empanadas, dipping sauces, and salads,” Karin Montiel said. The Montiels make the empanadas in the kitchen of Zest 280 at 280 Park Rd. Empanadas must be ordered in advance (24 hours if possible), and are available for takeout or delivery to homes, offices, or other locations. Some pop-ups are in the works for later this summer. “Empanadas in Argentina are as popular as pizza – in fact, they are often eaten together!” said Karin Montiel. “They are eaten for lunch, dinner, appetizers, and are excellent party and holiday options. We can cater events as well and offer delicious mini-empanadas.” To order, call or text 860-995-8025. Additional information, including a menu, is available on their Facebook page.

    Charlie Hilborn (second from left) and the staff of KNOX with some of the Elmwood planters. Courtesy photo

  • Last week we reported that Elmwood’s planters had been delayed because the plants were still too small due to the late spring, and might not arrive until July 9, but perhaps the boost of hot weather helped because the planters were delivered last week. Charlie Hilborn of Sheehan Hilborn Breen spearheaded the blooming of Elmwood once again on behalf of the Elmwood Business Association, and thanks to sponsorship by nearly 30 businesses – and many residents – more than 50 overflowing terracotta planters line were delivered by Ron Pitz of KNOX and now line New Britain Avenue. “We are so grateful to the Elmwood businesses and this year also the residents and excited to have KNOX help us again to enhance the beauty of Elmwood,” Elmwood Business Association President Rick Liftig said in a news release. “This was a dream to help to beautify the community where I grew up, raised my family and where I continue to live and have my business,” stated Charlie Hilborn. “My heartfelt thanks goes out to the businesses and Elmwood citizens who purchased the planters.” The planters will be maintained by KNOX throughout the summer and into the fall. 

    It appears that Mobile Rescue is moving into 63 Memorial Rd. in Blue Back Square. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

  • I’ve been trying to check out reports of several businesses that look to be coming to Blue Back Square, but haven’t been able to verify anything yet and don’t want to spread rumors. However, while walking around there on Sunday I did see a sign for Mobile Rescue Tech Repair above the door of 63 Raymond Rd. I haven’t been able to flesh out the details of that business opening either, but since there is clearly a sign, it appears that the technology solutions businesses will be opening soon in Blue Back Square.
  • West Hartford-based business, KeeperStop.com has partnered with Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation in the fight against childhood cancer through the Champions for Kids with Cancer fundraising and awareness program for athletes. Registered athletes receive a fundraising page and raise money through pledges for a stat they are are working to achieve. “Pros, youth goalkeepers and Keeperstop alike are excited to SAVE more than just a goal or a penalty kick,” said Christina Benjamin, President and Owner of Keeperstop.com. “We have an opportunity to turn our passion for goalkeeping into fundraising for cancer research. We want to help others KICK cancer and get kids back out on the field.” For more information or to register as a Champion for Kids with Cancer, visit ALSFChampions.org.

    From left: Outgoing President of the Board Michael Cohen; Anne Danaher, CEO; incoming President of the Board Pia Rosenberg Toro. Courtesy photo

  • According to a news release, Jewish Family Services (JFS) today announced last week that Pia Rosenberg Toro has been appointed president of the Board of Directors for the West Hartford-based organization, succeeding outgoing president Michael Cohen who held the position since 2016. “I am honored to lead this vital organization,” said Rosenberg Toro. “I am committed to helping all of the families in Greater Hartford who are in need. I hope to continue to educate and engage members of our community to learn about the critical programs and services JFS provides.” Anne Danaher, CEO of Jewish Family Services, thanked Cohen for his leadership ande commitment to JFS. “Michael believes in the Jewish concept of tikkun olam, repair of the world. We are very thankful for his leadership.  He led us with fairness and consistency and truly helped us to embrace possibility,” Danaher said. According to JFS, Rosenberg Toro is dedicated to raising funds for the Anja Rosenberg Kosher Food Pantry, named in honor of her mother, which distributes over 90,000 pounds of food, toiletries and cleaning supplies each year to residents of West Hartford, Bloomfield and the entire Greater Hartford area during temporary or long-term times of need. Rosenberg Toro is a member of the Wallenberg Society and a Lion of Judah of the Jewish Federation of Greater Hartford and a member of the Pillars Society of the Mandell JCC. She also serves as a Hartford Hospital Corporator and is a member of the board of trustees at Renbrook School in West Hartford. 

    Noble & Co. (43 LaSalle Rd.) is closed for reconfiguration. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

  • I don’t have the complete story yet, and will report it when I do, but Noble & Co. , located at 43 LaSalle Rd. in West Hartford Center, has paper over the windows and signs that state: “Pardon us, as we powder our nose …” The restaurant is closed while they are “doing some kitchen reconfiguration and opening it up,” according to owner Mike Ladden. No word on when it will reopen, or if Noble is being transformed into a different restaurant. The logo on the sign in the window, which also appears on Noble’s website, belongs to Massachusetts-based Bean Restaurant Group.
  • The biggest news in the ICYMI department was Tuesday’s announcement that Seven Stars Cloud Group is planning to purchase the former UConn Greater Hartford campus in West Hartford for $5.2 million. On Friday, UConn’s Board of Trustees unanimously approved the deal, and the closing is planned for early fall. Click here for more details.
  • While I was on vacation, Ryley McGinnis profiled the new owners of Beautiful Smiles family dentistry, Drs. Robert and Alyssa Kievit – who take the anxiety out of going to the dentist by employing their own therapy dog! Click here for the details.
  • Finally, on Thursday you can have a chance to meet the newly-crowned Miss Connecticut and “Shop for a Cause” (Connecticut Children’s Medical Center) at Ooh La La Boutique in Blue Back Square. Details are available 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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