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West Hartford Business Buzz: June 14, 2021

The School of Rock sign is up and the space at 20 Isham Rd. is almost ready to be occupied. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

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

By Ronni Newton

Does anyone else feel like their event calendar has gone from zero-to-60 (or maybe 80) in just the past week or two?

The abrupt transition from primarily virtual events with the occasional outdoor ceremony to in-person meetings and other activities all happening at the same time has been amazing. And while I kind of miss the lack of traffic on the roads and the ability to find a parking space anywhere at any time, getting to see so many people again – and seeing them smiling, not just with their eyes or on a screen – makes me feel as if I’ve been suddenly sprung from jail.

It’s even a relief to return to the mundane activities of life, like taking my car for an oil change and going to the dentist – both of which I did last week.

Over the past week I also attended a Town Council meeting in person, took the final set of photos as The Place 2 Be opened, went to the gym (no masks required in Body Pump for those who are fully vaccinated), attended Community Night at the Noah Webster House, hung out with Chompers from the Yard Goats when I took some photos for my sister’s company’s customer appreciation day, and attended two overlapping events on Saturday. I don’t think I left my house that many times over the course of a month during parts of last year.

Ted and I didn’t go out to dinner on Saturday night because he was attending the Noah Webster House’s virtual War of the Words event at a friend’s house while I was at the Playhouse on Park’s Encore “A Midsummer Fantastical Fairytale.” I joined him for the War of the Words event partway through. Both events were coincidentally catered by DORO, so I do have some food/drink photos.

Strawberry basil margarita at at Playhouse on Park Encore fundraiser at Auerfarm. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Blue Back Spiller (signature cocktail) and snack box by DORO for Noah Webster War of the Words. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Among the hundreds of people I saw at the Playhouse on Park fundraiser (in the photo below) were Mayor Shari Cantor, former Town Manager Ron Van Winkle, and Jason Jakubowski, president and CEO of CT Food Bank/Foodshare, and his wife, Sarah. It was such a beautiful event – with performances and theatrical installations everywhere you looked – that I took at least 100 photos and I’ll share some as a separate post in the next few days along with the details of the fundraising.

From left: former Town Manager Ron Van Winkle, Mayor Shari Cantor, CT Food Bank/Foodshare President and CEO Jason Jakubowski, Sarah Jakubowski at Encore. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

I’m interrupting writing this column to photograph the Conard graduation car parade (while my interns do the Hall graduation car parade) and looking forward to reporting on the graduation ceremonies for both schools – which will be held in-person, on the campuses this year!

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:

School of Rock is preparing to open by early July at 20 Isham Rd. in Blue Back Square. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

  • After nearly a year of virtual lessons, School of Rock will be opening by early July at 20 Isham Rd., taking over the second floor of the PRIME HealthCare building. While COVID-19 raged, the space was being built out, and the opening is just weeks away with the regular classes likely beginning in person on Tuesday, July 6, and the first summer camp, “Best of the 90s,” starting on July 12, owner Scott Rownin said. School of Rock had a “Meet the Teacher” event on Saturday, and Rownin said it was a great opportunity for students who have been taking lessons virtually for months to be able to meet their instructors face-to-face for the first time. “For some this was their first foray into music lessons,” Rownin said. “They don’t know it gets better.” Because many of the students are not yet vaccinated, School of Rock will still maintain extensive COVID precautions once the facility opens, with the technology to teach classes with an instructor in one room while a student is in another space. They can even split up a five-piece band with all the musicians in a separate room, yet playing together. Week-long camps will be taking place throughout the summer, and classes are. held year round. School of Rock is accepting enrollment for classes online now, and the best way to contact them is online at westhartford.schoolofrock.com or at 860-973-ROCK. Even before opening the space, School of Rock will be a visible presence in West Hartford, and will be participating along with Music & Arts by running the secondary stage in Blue Back Square on World “Make Music Day,” June 21. Another “Meet the Teacher” opportunity will take place in Blue Back Square on June 26, Rownin said. School of Rock house bands (from other locations since West Hartford is just getting going) will also be playing on several occasions coming up soon, including a pulmonary fibrosis fundraiser from noon-2 p.m. on June 19 in Blue Back Square and at the West Hartford Chamber of Commerce annual dinner and awards ceremony which will be held June 28 at the Farmington Polo Grounds. Rownin said he has also been in touch with the new owners of Blue Back Square and is excited about some of their upcoming plans to “activate” the center with music and art. Wednesday night events begin June 23, he said. Follow on Facebook to stay up-to-date on events, too.

School of Rock is preparing to open by early July at 20 Isham Rd. in Blue Back Square. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

School of Rock is preparing to open by early July at 20 Isham Rd. in Blue Back Square. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

  • Buildout is underway for solidcore, in the vacant space at the corner of Isham and Memorial roads in Blue Back Square. According to the company’s website, solidcore “is a 50-minute high intensity, low impact resistance training Pilates workout using slow and purposeful movements targeting the core, lower and upper body. The best way to learn is to jump in and take a class! Our class sizes are small, so you’ll get personalized attention during class! Be ready to sweat, shake and come back wanting more!” There are a variety of types of classes, including foundations classes to focus on technique and muscle-specific classes. solidcore has operations in 19 states plus DC, but this will be only the second in Connecticut. (The existing location is in Westport.) Opening is likely in late summer or early fall.

solidcore will be opening at the corner of Isham and Memorial in Blue Back Square. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

  • On May 27, the Miale Team at Keller Williams hosted their first in-person event of 2021 at GastroPark in West Hartford. Clients enjoyed delicious food and drinks at Connecticut’s newest food truck venue from vendors such as Craftbird, Grillin’ & Groovin’, and the Chunky Tomato. “One Time Weekend”provided the music and entertainment, setting the mood for a relaxing and fun-filled evening. During the event, the Miale Team collected donations in support of Connecticut Food Bank/Foodshare. Clients, family, and friends donated more than $2,500 to the cause. The current matching initiative brought the total donations beyond $5,000 providing more than 10,000 meals to the community. “The Miale Team’s mission is to empower people, the people we serve and those we serve with. As a community focused organization, The Miale Team will continue to partner with Connecticut Food Bank/Foodshare to raise donations and combat food insecurity in Connecticut. The Miale Team’s efforts are supported by Ward Kilduff Mortgage, The Law Offices of Richard Witt, The Law Offices of Timothy L. Geraghty, and The Keating Agency, whose contributions helped make this event possible,” the company said in a news release.

The Miale Team event/fundraiser at GastroPark. Photo credit: Samantha Perrelli Photography

  • Nutmeg Big Brothers Big Sisters, a statewide youth mentoring organization, recently received a generous $10,000 grant from the Petit Family Foundation. The grant will support the mentoring of area girls with a focus on science and the arts, and the roll-out of Nutmeg’s Social-Emotional Learning (SEL) curriculum. At the grant presentation were Dr. William A. Petit, Jr. (left), President of the Petit Family Foundation; Annemarie Holly (center), Grants Administrator at Nutmeg; and longtime West Hartford resident Andy Fleischmann (right), Nutmeg’s President & CEO.

Courtesy photo

  • Congratulations to West Hartford resident and Board of Education member Jason Chang, who has been named by Gov. Ned Lamont to newly-formed Connecticut Hate Crimes Advisory Council. According to UConn Today, Chang, who is director of the Asian and Asian American Studies Institute at UConn and an associate professor of history and Asian American studies “has extensive experience in anti-racism activities and addressing violence against Asians-Americans. He believes that hate crimes legislation and the prosecution of hate crimes can only do so much, because they address problems after they happen. Chang also wants to address transphobia and gender-based violence as part of his work on the council. ‘One of the things I have really been pushing for is educational reform, and that is something that has to be part of the conversation,’ says Chang. ‘I hope to take the focus off of perpetrators and on to the safety and security of communities. I definitely believe in accountability, but want to take care of the people who are hurting.'” Read more at UConn Today here.

Dr. Jason O. Chang will officially join the West Hartford Board of Education on July 17. Courtesy photo (we-ha.com file photo)

  • The West Hartford Clean Energy Commission (WHCEC) welcomes Stephen Sack, president of Sack Energy, which has served the area for more than 100 years. Sack was appointed at the May 11 Town Council meeting to replace Chris Nelson, who served on the WHCEC for more than 15 years.” The WHCEC is a volunteer led Board dedicated to promoting clean energy and efficiency in town, residential, and business operations within the town,” the organization said in a news release. “Sack’s company is based in West Hartford and offers a range of fuels for home and transportation. He represents the Bioheat and Biodiesel brands which both make use of waste food and agriculture products and lower the carbon foot print of fuel oil and diesel.”
  • We reported the change in ownership for Blue Back Square a few weeks ago, but the sale price was not disclosed. Information now published in the real estate transactions on West Hartford’s website indicate that deed was filed for the transfer of ownership from IX Blueback Square Holdings LP to Blue Back Capital Partners LLC on May 24, for a sale price of $40 million. Blue Back Capital Partners LLC is a joint venture between Greenwich-based Charter Realty & Development Corp. (Charter Realty) and Rialto Capital.

Blue Back Square was sold in May. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

  • The Place 2 Be has been in soft opening mode for the past several days, but today is the official opening date! In case you missed the complete story, click here for details and lots of photos of West Hartford’s newest restaurant, located at 50 Memorial Rd. in Blue Back Square.
  • Mark your calendar for Juneteenth, with celebratory activities planned for both June 19 and 20. Details can be found here. I stopped by on Sunday to check out the progress of the mural being painted by Corey Pane, which will be unveiled on June 19, and … Wow. Pane was hard at work, and the mural already looks amazing. Below are a few photos of how it looked Sunday.

Corey Pane (on lift) on June 13 working on the MLK39 Racial Equity Mural on the side of the West Hartford Library. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Corey Pane (on lift) on June 13 working on the MLK39 Racial Equity Mural on the side of the West Hartford Library. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Progress on the MLK39 Racial Equity Mural along the stairs to the Blue Back Square Courtyard. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Progress on the MLK39 Racial Equity Mural along the stairs to the Blue Back Square Courtyard. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

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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