A round-up of openings, closings, and other news about West Hartford businesses.
By Ronni Newton
What a great, sunny, hot and summery weekend it was!
As I’m sure most people were aware, this weekend was the 31st annual Celebrate! West Hartford, and the two-day festival was an overwhelming success. Town Hall grounds were packed both days, but unless you were waiting in line for lemonade, smoothie, or The Chicken Smells Good (it smelled really, really good), the crowds were manageable and almost everyone had a smile on their face.
I’ve been on the Celebrate! committee for several years, and spent virtually the entire weekend at the festival – other than a brief trip to Glover Soccer complex to watch my son play his last-ever travel soccer game (which his team won). It was great once again being stationed in Information Booth no. 2, where I had a great vantage point for watching the crowd, could hear the music, smell the food, and could catch up with many people as they walked by. It was also near the baby goats. The adorable, two-week-old baby goats. There are quite a few photos of them in the gallery of scenes from the weekend.
I also ran the Celebrate! West Hartford 5K – although more as a leisurely run with 1,000 of my closest friends because I didn’t even try to race in the heat. And thanks to all of the residents along the route who turned on their sprinklers for me and my friends to run through! My husband did race – and came in first in his age group. I usually embarrass my kids by mentioning them in this column, but today it’s Ted’s turn!
This weekend followed a whirlwind week that included two restaurant openings and quite a few police stories. Although I don’t know of any restaurant openings this coming week, and the police news isn’t something that’s planned in advance, the week already looks jam-packed as the school year winds down (Conard and Hall have graduation on Thursday) and the Town Council has a meeting and will vote on changing an ordinance to permit the keeping of honeybees. Next weekend will be just as busy (West Hartford Wine & Food Festival and Father’s Day), and then things should really slow down for the summer.
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:
- I’ve been noticing a lot of activity around Division West, the American Bistro that is under construction at 36 LaSalle Rd. (former Coldwell Banker office), and was able to catch up with Ermal Caushi, who co-owns the restaurant with his brother-in-law, Jimi Brahimi. “We’re looking at mid-July,” Caushi said regarding the opening. He and Brahimi are doing much of the construction work themselves, and are hope to be done by the end of June. Caushi said the look is very contemporary, with an open kitchen visible behind a large glass windown. Caushi said they have started hiring front- and back-of-house staff, and anyone interested can email [email protected]. He said a job fair will likely take place right around the Fourth of July.
- I also caught up with Johnny Vaughan last week, and he said they’re “shooting for a soft opening June 23 or 24” for Vaughan’s Pies & Pints in the former Backstage Pizza location in the Brace Road parking lot. Vaughan said that staff training begins this week. “We’re very excited,” he said.
- Due to the overwhelmingly positive response to last Monday’s special ticket price to the first ever West Hartford Wine & Food Festival (WHFW), We-Ha.com is offering the deal again today only. During the day on Monday, June 12, please follow this link to get your tickets to the event, and use promo code “weha” for $25 off your admission. Read other exciting updates from our sponsors here.
- I noticed while driving on LaSalle Road last week that there was some construction going on in front of the former Generation Y space – as well as the former Center Framing space where build-out for Icy Rolls is underway. Gary Fogg, a principal with LaSalle Road Partners, which owns the building, said that while there isn’t a tenant signed right now, they are doing the façade update. That space, and the former Labrazel space, are still vacant, but Fogg said that there is considerable interest. “We’re looking for the right tenant,” he said.
- West Hartford resident Matt LeBlanc and his wife, Heather, have partnered with the Roy and Heather Riedl, owners of the well known Mercado Food Truck, to open El Pollo Guapo just a few miles away from West Hartford in Wethersfield (1866 Berlin Tpk.). The restaurant, which is mostly take-out but has a small dining area, opened Wednesday, and early reviews are fantastic. LeBlanc described El Pollo Guapo as “a neighborhood rotisserie chicken joint featuring roasted whole chickens, fresh sides, sandwiches, and salads.” For more information follow on Facebook, Instagram @guapoeats, or visit the website www.elpolloguapo.com.
- If you’re still looking for Father’s Day gifts (yes, I am), We-Ha has some great suggestions: Vineyard Vines hats, ties, belts, polo shirts and even Shep Shirt pullovers perfect for the boat or cool nights on the beach. Order online and pick up at Lux Bond & Green on LaSalle Road this week!
- Max Restaurant Group will begin its 10th year of Max Chef to Farm dinners this week with a special dinner at Camp Courant on Thursday, followed by the first dinner at Rosedale Farms – the annual New England lobster fest – on Sunday, June 18. I went to one of the dinners at Rosedale Farms last summer, and it was a beautiful night, great food, and an overall unforgettable experience. For the full schedule of dinners, visit the Max Restaurant Group website.
- Zohara’s patio is open, and it’s fabulous – comfy bench seating along the edges and great people watching while being surrounded by a barrier topped with flowers.
- KeyBank hosted its 27th annual “Neighbors Make the Difference Day” on Wednesday, May 24, where according to a press release 300 employees across Connecticut spent the day volunteering with community organizations and service projects. They joined 7,000 KeyBank employees in 15 states who received paid time off to complete an estimated 28,000 service hours in the neighborhoods where they live and work. Together, Connecticut employees volunteered more than 1,120 hours in a single day. The West Hartford staff did gardening and trash pick-up at Elizabeth Park. They shared the photos below along with a press release.
- Finally, ICYMI, as mentioned in the introduction, there were two restaurant openings last week! One was Ocho Cafe in Bishops Corner. It’s a beautiful transformation of the former Bertucci’s space, and I’ve seen some great reviews on Facebook from those who have dined at Ocho. Click here to read the full story with photos.
- Also ICYMI, we mentioned last week that The Simple Greek was getting set to open in Corbin’s Corner, and it did just that on Tuesday. The fast-casual Greek restaurant has also been getting very positive feedback from those who have tried it! Click here for details.
- Finally, ICYMI, the Park Road Association held its annual Celebrity Breakfast fundraiser at Effie’s Place Family Restaurant to raise money for the Park Road Parade this October. Click here for the complete story and photographs of business and civic leaders waiting tables.
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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