Bishops Corner Blue Back Square Business Elmwood Park Road The Center

West Hartford Business Buzz: June 15, 2020

Ignite Fitness, like many other gyms, will reopen Wednesday. Photo courtesy of Ignite Fitness

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

By Ronni Newton

It seems like I was just writing in this column that after a blur of a few months it was suddenly June, and then I blinked and it’s suddenly the middle of June.

The days have been flying by, and there are nowhere near enough hours in the day to keep up with everything that has been happening. This week I plan to catch everyone up on some of last week’s Town Council conversations, and provide updates on the West Hartford Library operations, and of course cover the Phase 2 reopening.

Monday is the graduation car parade – and it would be great to have people along the parade routes cheering for the members of the Conard and Hall Class of 2020. You can find the routes here. Both parades begin at 7 p.m., and We-Ha.com will also have coverage of both events.

LaSalle Road outdoor dining corrals. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

There is definitely a new mood around town. People are gradually feeling more comfortable being out in public, and reports are that outdoor dining was very busy over the weekend. It’s great to see the Center bustling again, and in my opinion the restaurants that are using the outdoor dining corrals are doing a great job personalizing them with flowers, plants, and umbrella tables.

The past few months have forced everyone to change their habits. For months people couldn’t go out to dinner, shop in many of their favorite stores, or go to the gym or the theater. We’ve had to cook meals based on what we could find at the grocery store, shopped for necessities online, and scrounged for supplies of toilet paper and cleaning supplies. We’ve done jigsaw puzzles, watched lots of movies on TV, and taken lots of walks.

Now we are out and about more, and while there are many things people complain about, it seems everyone has accepted that stores and restaurants that have reopened have much more limited hours, sometimes limited offerings. Certain amenities have disappeared from businesses, and it will be like that for the foreseeable future. We’re (at least most of us are, I hope) wearing masks when we are in public places, and even though it’s not comfortable it’s part of our new normal.

After a few months of rarely leaving the house and covering most things virtually, I’ve covered quite a few live events in the past few weeks. I got my hair cut and colored last week – and both my hairdresser and I had to wear masks the entire time. I’ve walked around the Center and taken photos (wearing a mask), and gone out to dinner a few times. There’s a new reality, and I’m ready to embrace it, at my own pace. I’m hoping people know I am smiling even if they can’t see my mouth.

We’re heading into Phase 2 of reopening on Wednesday, June 17, and according to Gov. Ned Lamont, about 95% of the state’s economy will be back open, or at least permitted to be open. Many businesses that are permitted to open aren’t quite ready yet, and there are many people who aren’t ready to return to certain activities. We all have our own opinions about what we feel comfortable about, and I hope we can be understanding of and not judgmental regarding each other’s choices. I don’t envy our state and town leaders in having to make some very difficult decisions on behalf of all of us.

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:

Sanitizing is a key element of the protocols that must be followed when fitness facilities reopen Wednesday. Photo courtesy of Ignite Fitness

  • One major sector of the economy that will be permitted to reopen as of June 17 is gyms and other fitness businesses. The protocols these establishments have to follow are extensive, and many hours and dollars have had to be spent on preparing facilities for physical distancing and sanitation. Kim Zengerle, the owner of Ignite Fitness (135 South Main St.) said she is very excited to reopen Wednesday. As a relatively small studio business, there is more control over who comes and goes, and she said she plans to limit the number of people inside to 16 – which is about 25% of capacity, half of what is permitted. She shared some of the other measures she has taken in order to make clients as comfortable as possible that the space is safe. “We have partnered with RX Surface Protection Solutions who provided us with an EPA-approved and non-toxic antimicrobial air and surface protection system that we are applying to all of our surfaces,” Zengerle said. (On a side note, Juri Kotowitz, a West Hartford resident who is also the business development manager of West Hartford Lock, is a partner in RX Surface Protection Solutions and has been applying the system in other local businesses, including Luna Pizza.) “Disinfecting will be done after all use of equipment via hand held misters and in between sessions. We will still have wipes to use on your hands, to hold mister, or on personal items, but they should not be used on equipment or mats, only the mister disinfectant should be used to clean club items. We have always conducted a deep clean of the facility weekly, and will now be adding more intensive deep cleaning daily to that schedule.” Zengerle shared the list of other rules, including use of hand sanitizers, removal of street shoes at the door, and the mandatory wearing of face coverings if you cannot keep at least a 12-foot distance from others working out (there are markers on the floor). Yes, that’s the rule at gyms – masks mandated if you are within 12 feet of others. She’s broken the space into separate suites to prevent sharing of equipment, and some programs are going to remain virtual. If it all sounds extensive, it is, but Zengerle, like many owners of local small businesses, is excited to return to what she loves doing.

    Edge Fitness will be one of the gyms opening on Wednesday, June 17. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

  • Larger fitness facilities have also had to adapt, like Edge Fitness in Corbin’s Corner, which will also be reopening in West Hartford on Wednesday. Management has taken extensive measures to limit capacity, and is keeping every other piece of cardio equipment off limits so that members can maintain physical distancing. Hours are more limited to allow for a daily deep cleaning, the kids club remains closed, there are sanitation stations located through the facility, and a weekly spraying with Protexus fogging spray will be taking place. Although the facility is expansive, a 12-foot distance can’t be guaranteed and Edge Fitness said face coverings will be required of all staff members and all members at all times. Their full list of protocols can be found here.

    Tribe is relocated to 635 New Park Ave. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

  • Some fitness facility owners aren’t comfortable with the possible health and safety risks of reopening, and will continue to offer virtual programming for now, but in the case of Tribe, they are remaining closed likely until August as they build out a new space at 635 New Park Ave., Building 4. Tribe moved out of their original location at 1003 Farmington Ave. while the business had to be closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Owner Janelle Pentlicki said she is very excited about the new space and can’t wait to “sweat” it in.
  • Along with fitness facilities, the other businesses permitted to reopen during Phase 2 are: amusement parks; hotels indoor dining (50% capacity); indoor museums, zoos, and aquariums (The Children’s Museum hasn’t announced a reopening date, but the Noah Webster House will reopen June 20); indoor recreation like bowling and movie theaters (Cinépolis in West Hartford has not yet announced its reopening plans); libraries; outdoor events (size limitations); personal services like nail salons and tattoo parlors; and pools. The reopening guidelines can be found here on the state’s website. Note that just because businesses can reopen doesn’t mean they will.
  • Many of the national chain businesses that were permitted to reopen in Phase 1 delayed the process have delayed their reopening, including Crate & Barrel which just reopened last Wednesday  Hope Biggerstaff, one of the managers of the West Hartford location, said hours will be 11 a.m.-5 p.m. “We will be limiting the number of customers and will be  observing social distancing guidelines, masks will be required. Contactless, curbside pick up will also still be available,” she said.
  • More than half of the stores at Westfarms are back open now, and while Macy’s and Nordstrom are among those open, Lord & Taylor is still closed. Check the Westfarms website for an up-to-date list and current hours.
  • Speaking of Westfarms, the purchase by Simon Group, announced in February, has fallen apart. The Hartford Business Journal reported Thursday that Simon terminated the deal, but Taubman, the owner of Westfarms, “believes the decision is ‘invalid and without merit, and that Simon continues to be bound to the transaction in all respects.'” Taubman will hold a shareholder meeting on June 25, and expect more news to follow.
  • In a news release last week, high-speed fiber optic internet provider GoNetspeed announced an expansion, which includes a completed build-out in Elmwood (as well as areas of Newington and Wethersfield, and plans continued expansion to reach 20,000 more homes in those communities as well as in Southington over the next six months. An expandable version of the service map (orange is future build-out) can be found at this link. For more information about GoNetspeed, which provides a “flat rates forever” guarantee, visit the website.
  • There will be plenty of reporting to come this week on the reopening of indoor dining, but expect outdoor dining to remain a major fixture in our lives for at least the next several months. The stark concrete dining corrals and accompanying orange and white water-filled barriers in the Center and Blue Back Square are now filled with tables and chairs (763 seats can be accommodated at 188 tables while maintaining physical distancing guidelines) and many also contain flowers, plants, and other customized items. I’ve included some photos below!
  • “This month Xes Beauty Lounge celebrates 10 years of being in business in West Hartford,” owner Evelyn Manson-Miller said in an email. “Despite facing many challenges and obstacles of being a black-owned business we are proud  to remain standing and being apart of a thriving community. Consumers have been waiting and we are set to re-open following the COVID-19 shutdown on June 17, 2020. We have launched special beauty times reserving two hours every Monday and Wednesday morning for clients vulnerable to COVID-19 , among them senior citizens, pregnant women, and people with compromised immune systems. Some things have to change but our level of service and professionalism remains the same.” Xes Beauty Lounge is located at 1157 New Britain Ave. and Manson-Miller can be reached at [email protected] or 860-233-9377.
  • Congratulations to Jonah Gershon of Hall High School, who will be attending Cornell’s School of Hotel Administration this fall, and is one of the recipients of a $2,500 scholarship from the Max Cares Foundation. Gershon is one of five who received a scholarship from the nonprofit charitable organization given to students who plan to study in the fields of culinary arts and hospitality management.
  • Today’s sad news: Uncle Chow (179 Park Rd.) is closed for good. After an extensive renovation and less than a year in business, with a name change thrown in (the name was originally “Mr. Chow,” but had to be changed due to trademark issues), the following message was posted on the restaurant’s Facebook page last week: “We are permanently closed. Thanks all.”
  • ICYMI, the West Hartford Chamber of Commerce has announced this year’s Noah Webster Award and Spotlight Award winners! Congratulations to all! The details about the winners, and the plans to honor them in a virtual ceremony on June 22, can be found here.
  • “Capital Workforce Partners and American Job Center continue to be allies and advocates with supporting and strengthening our workforce in West Hartford,” Economic Development Specialist Kristen Gorski said. “Whether it be assisting our business community with access to talent, or working directly with residents who have been displaced from their jobs to find new employment opportunities, this organization continues to be a strong resource in assisting me with business retention and expansion through a variety of training and placement initiatives, and they are always looking for new ways to collaborate to further our common goals.” Both organizations are involved with an Indeed Virtual Hiring Fair that will be held from June 16-18, and the landing page where job seekers can sign up for interviews can be found here. There are currently about 40 live hiring events. “The Indeed Hiring Event is a great opportunity for businesses to fill open positions, and to get people back to work,” Gorski said. “This platform is a one-stop shop and beneficial platform for employers to find the talent they need in a timely, efficient manner with assistance from Indeed, Capital Workforce Partners, Department of Labor, and other workforce investment boards. With such a trying time for so many, this is a good opportunity for residents looking for work to showcase their talent and hopefully obtain gainful employment.” More information can also be found on the PDF below.

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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LaSalle Road outdoor dining corrals. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Outdoor dining at Max Burger has been expanded. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

LaSalle Road outdoor dining corrals. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

LaSalle Road outdoor dining corrals. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Outdoor dining corral outside Max’s Oyster Bar. Courtesy photo

Outdoor dining corrals at Max’s Oyster Bar. Courtesy photo

A dining corral has been added outside World of Beer in Blue Back Square. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Dining corral and patio seating outside Zohara on Farmington Avenue. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

LaSalle Road outdoor dining corrals. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

LaSalle Road outdoor dining corrals. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

LaSalle Road outdoor dining corrals. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

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