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West Hartford Business Buzz: June 10, 2024

The former Esquire Cleaners in Bishops Corner will become Just Salad. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

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

Business Buzz is sponsored by NBT Bank, and we are very thankful for their support!

By Ronni Newton

There continues to be a whirlwind of activity in town, and if this column is a bit shorter than usual it’s because I spent the entire weekend working at Celebrate! West Hartford (other than a brief break to shop and eat on Saturday, and when I was running the 5K on Sunday morning), and it’s already 9:42 p.m. Sunday night as I write this sentence. (Update as I hit “publish” roughly three hours later – somehow it’s not any shorter than usual!)

Monday is graduation for both Conard and Hall high schools, and the We-Ha.com team will be hard at work covering those milestone events – and after that things may finally slow down a bit.

I am in my 10th year on the Celebrate! West Hartford committee, and my favorite volunteer assignment is staffing Info Booth No. 2 because it’s really at the center of the event activity and a great way to see most everyone who attends – and an excellent vantage point for people-watching, too. Thank you to all who stopped by to visit – including our police and fire chiefs!

Police Chief Vernon Riddick, Ronni Newton, Fire Chief Greg Priest

My annual photo with Stefanie Marco Lanz of KINDSpin Design. Photo credit: Debbi Zimbler

I enjoyed some lunches at Celebrate! – including Pad Thai from Sweet Chilli on Saturday and falafel from Sultan Kebab on Sunday.

Pad Thai from Sweet Chilli. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

The owner of Sultan Kebab serves me my falafel. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

The falafel from Sultan Kebab. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

The Happy Tail iced coffee hit the spot on Saturday afternoon. (I had it again on Sunday). Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Ted took me out to Arugula for a birthday dinner on Tuesday night (last Monday was actually my birthday but he had a meeting and I was at the Pride flag raising so we waited a night) and we had a fabulous meal on the outdoor patio at Arugula. The weather was perfect for dining and people watching, too!

Chilled glasses of wine at Arugula. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Korean cauliflower at Arugula. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Israeli couscous at Arugula. Photo credit; Ronni Newton

Prosciutto, arugula, and artichoke flatbread at Arugula. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

If you are a long term, regular advertiser on We-Ha.com and have a 60 to 75 word submission for a future Business Buzz please send to Bob Carr at [email protected].

If you’re looking for news about West Hartford in print please note that many stories from We-Ha.com, as well as other local news, is published in the twice-monthly issues of the West Hartford Press.

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:

Just Salad Thai Chicken Crunch Salad. Courtesy of Just Salad

  • I’m excited to share the news that fast casual restaurant Just Salad will be opening in the former Esquire Cleaners space at 2538 Albany Avenue in Bishops Corner! The information was confirmed by the owner of the property, as was also confirmed by a spokesperson for Just Salad. Nicole Natoli, the PR and Social Media manager for Just Salad said in an email that the chain store, which is corporate-owned and not a franchise, is “tentatively slated to open at the end of this year.”  The menu highlights include not only what look to be amazing salads (I’m already torn deciding whether my first order will be the Honey Crispy Chicken Salad or the Thai Chicken Crunch) but also warm bowls, wraps, avocado toast, and smoothies. According to the website, Just Salad, founded by Nick Kenner in New York, “started in 2006 with a simple premise: offer healthy, affordable, climate-conscious, and mouth-wateringly delicious meals. We were literally just salad, but we were damn good salad.” The strong commitment to sustainability includes offering reusable bowls and even “carbon labeling” the menu. “We believe that the next step in fighting the climate crisis is transparency and traceability. That’s why we’re giving you the information you need to make lower impact food choices. On our menus (including orderjustsalad.com, our Earth-Friendly store menu board, and our mobile app), you’ll see a ‘carbon label,’ expressed as kg CO2e. This stands for ‘kilograms of carbon dioxide equivalent,’ a unit used to show emissions of many types of greenhouse gases (GHGs), not just carbon dioxide.” Just Salad has more than 80 locations, and recently expanded into Connecticut, with the opening of a location in Fairfield last year, and Natoli said, “We’re excited about the opportunity to continue expanding our footprint across new local communities.” They are working on opening locations in Norwalk and Westport either late this year or in early 2025 as well, she said.

Rendering of signage for new Just Salad location at 2538 Albany Avenue. Courtesy image

Just Salad Logo. Courtesy of Just Salad

  • West Hartford resident Abby Nolin is very excited about the opening of Pip Yoga, a children’s yoga and creative movement studio located at 485 New Park Avenue, in the light-filled space right around the corner from New Park Brewing that was formerly Amber Jones’ photography studio. Pip Yoga officially opened on June 1, and will be offering “Hatchlings” (10-10:45 a.m., toddlers/preschoolers, with a caregiver) and “Nestlings” (drop-off, 11:15 a.m.-noon) summer yoga classes for ages 2-7, and an afternoon free-play summer camp for ages 3-5. Nolin – who was a professional modern dancer who then obtained a graduate degree in library science and became an academic librarian – views Pip Yoga as the perfect melding of her skills and interests. Her career as an academic librarian eventually led her to a job working in the children’s collection at USC, “and then I sort of made a transition to be a school librarian,” she said, ultimately returning to her roots on the east coast, and living and working in Litchfield County. She and her husband moved to West Hartford – looking “diversity and walkability” – and had their second child during COVID, and when she decided she was ready to go back to work, she was considering a position at Wesleyan. “But then I decided this is the time I am going to start something,” Nolin said. She was certified in yoga and loved the study of mindfulness, she has always loved books (she’s also working to have her first children’s book published), and also has an interest in dance (growing up she danced with the Nutmeg Ballet). She really wanted to get her own children involved in yoga. “It fit within my passions, but it didn’t exist,” she said, and she at first envisioned a bookstore with a classroom where the yoga could take place, but ultimately the vision grew to become Pip Yoga – named for her oldest child, Piper, whose nickname is “Pip.” The studio will offer yoga classes, and also has space for hosting birthday parties – and she hopes to continue to expand the offerings, and hire other teachers who are also looking for a fulfilling job with a flexible schedule. The response to the first two weeks of classes has been great, Nolin said, with the toddler/preschool class “really full.” The “Pip-Pip-Play” summer camp program – which is being taught by two of the preschool teachers who are at the Busy Bees program in the morning – will be held beginning June 17, Monday through Friday from 1-4 p.m. There will be a different theme each week, and acuities including circle time, arts and crafts, and free play, Nolin said, and space is still available. A wider curriculum of classes will be offered in the fall, she said, initially expanding to ages 2-12. Sundays the space will be reserved to host birthday parties where there is plenty of space for fun, but in an environment that’s more visually peaceful than many places where children’s events are held. By next spring she hopes to expand further, to offer classes to those up to age 18, and maybe even collaborate on a “Pip and Sip” in conjunction with New Park Brewing. For more information about Pip Yoga, visit the website.

Pip Yoga opened on June 1 at 485 New Park Avenue. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Kids Yoga Class at Pip Yoga on June 8, 2024. Photo credit: Amanda Lapaire Photography

Kids Yoga Class at Pip Yoga on June 8, 2024. Photo credit: Amanda Lapaire Photography

Kids Yoga Class at Pip Yoga on June 8, 2024. Photo credit: Amanda Lapaire Photography

Pip Yoga, now open at 485 New Park Avenue, has space for parents or caregivers to relax during classes and also space for birthday parties. Photo credit: Melissa Saunders Photography

Pip Yoga, now open at 485 New Park Avenue, has space for parents or caregivers to relax during classes and also space for birthday parties. Photo credit: Melissa Saunders Photography

Pip Yoga, now open at 485 New Park Avenue, has space for parents or caregivers to relax during classes and also space for birthday parties. Photo credit: Melissa Saunders Photography

Pip Yoga, now open at 485 New Park Avenue, has space for parents or caregivers to relax during classes and also space for birthday parties. Photo credit: Melissa Saunders Photography

Pip Yoga, now open at 485 New Park Avenue, has space for parents or caregivers to relax during classes and also space for birthday parties. Photo credit: Melissa Saunders Photography

  • Lots of buzz in the pizza business in West Hartford last week with a visit by Dave Portnoy of Barstool Sports as part of his “One Bite” Pizza Review. Portnoy visited Savoy, and then he returned to town for a visit to Zephyr’s Street Pizza!

The Zephyr’s Street Pizza team celebrates the review by Dave Portnoy. (Zephyr’s Facebook photo) To

  • Jazzercise planned a move to its new location at 132 Shield Street as of June 1, as reported in this column last month, and that move was extremely successful. Owner Tricia Raiti shared the following on Facebook: “Feeling so thankful that we created a space where everyone feels welcome and supports each other. Where you are always surrounded by good vibes, positive energy and walk away feeling stronger and happier.” I had such a good time taking a Jazzercise class last fall (even though I was injured at the time and had to do it low impact) and definitely need to go back very soon. Beginning June 17, Jazzercise will be offering onsite childcare (with certified babysitters) at their Monday-Wednesday-Friday 9:30 a.m. classes this summer.

Jazzercise opened in its new Shield Street Plaza location on June 1, 2024. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

  • Right across the town line there’s a new comedy venue. Will Hite, co-founder of Giggle Jar Comedy, shared that he and his partner, Trevor Gerald, are two 24-year-old standup comics in Connecticut who started a Thursday night open mic in the garage of the well-known Irish bar, the Spigot Cafe. “With the aid of the owner of the bar Neil Leary, we were able to transform a two-car garage into a professional comedy venue,” Hite said in an email. “Right on Prospect Avenue where Hartford and West Hartford meet, there is a new Mecca of comedy bringing in people from not only all over Connecticut but also Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and New York. For the open mics, comics can now go do time at Elbow Room in West Hartford earlier in the evening on Thursday nights then drive three minutes down the street to the Spigot. Furthermore, Giggle Jar Comedy has expanded beyond our weekly open mics and has begun producing shows that pack in 30 to 40 people, almost consistently selling out every time, as well as competitions with judges and audience participation.”

Will Hite and Trevor Gerald. Courtesy photo

Giggle Jar Comedy. Courtesy photo

Giggle Jar Comedy. Courtesy photo

Giggle Jar Comedy. Courtesy photo

Will O’Connell (right) and Mauricio Vega-Estades of WeHa WasHes. Photo credit: Ronni Newton (we-ha.com file photo)

  • Mario Russo’s State Farm office has relocated a block to the west, from 1123 New Britain Avenue to 1111 New Britain Avenue, the former Song Bird smoke shop space.

The State Farm office is now at 1111 New Britain Avenue. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

  • It looks like NY Deli & Grill is getting closer to opening at 76 LaSalle Road. The sign is up and the exterior is painted. More to come!

NY Deli & Grill will be opening at 76 LaSalle Road. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

  • From a news release: A 9-year-old Little Brother from West Hartford was a keynote speaker at Big Brothers Big Sisters of Connecticut’s Annual Golf Classic, along with his mentor and Big Brother. Little Brother Kaden, who lives in West Hartford and is a fourth grader at Duffy Elementary School, was asked to attend the organization’s annual event and speak during the evening program in front of over 100 golfers, who spent a warm, sunny day on the course at the Golf Club of Avon on Monday, June 3. For attendees, Kaden signed copies of BBBS of CT’s 2023 Annual Report, a professionally designed booklet detailing the organization’s mission to create one-on-one mentoring relationships that empower the potential of youth in the state throughout the year. He is smiling and holding a stack of books on the front page of the report, which is seen by numerous families, funders and supporters throughout Connecticut annually. In addition, a photo of Kaden is included on another page in the report, where he is holding up a peace sign and smiling with his Big Brother, Saurabh Bohra. They have been matched since December of 2022, when Bohra (a Farmington resident) became his mentor. Kaden said that in his free time, one of his favorite activities is reading. Throughout his mentoring match, he has been able to share his love of reading and other hobbies with Bohra. “We do many activities like going to the park and reading books at the library,” he said. “I love my Big Brother so much.” The mentoring match attended BBBS of CT’s Annual Gala in March and sold more blinky pins than anyone else. Jackie Lundie, senior match support specialist, called Kaden and Bohra the ideal match. “Kaden came on board to our organization very shy, and now look at him. He started making friends, asking people to be his friend and initiating conversations that he never would have before,” she said. In addition, Kaden is more social and his confidence has grown since he became a Little Brother. Bohra has made a positive influence on him and helped empower his potential, Lundie said. “He is so consistent, so genuine and his optimism and positivity rub off on Kaden and I think that’s the reason why Kaden is doing so well,” she said. “It’s because of his vibrancy and positivity. It’s contagious. Kaden’s so comfortable around Saurabh.” Since they were matched, Kaden has come a long way, Bohra said. His confidence improved to the point that he was excited to take the podium at the Golf Classic. In addition, Kaden has taught Bohra dance moves that he wouldn’t have known about otherwise. Bohra said, “Seeing him grow in the past year and a half, it’s amazing how much this kid has learned.”

BBBS Senior Match Support Specialist Jackie Lundie, Little Brother Kaden, and Big Brother Saurabh Bohra. Courtesy photo

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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