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West Hartford Business Buzz: June 18, 2018

Mike Bellis (left) and Colin Santacroce with some bottles of Bellis Bourbon in one of the stores that is now carrying the West Hartford-based company's new product. Courtesy photo

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

By Ronni Newton

I hope all of the dads out there had a very happy Father’s Day!

Sunday was also our wedding anniversary, and Ted, the kids, and I enjoyed a trip down to Stony Creek Brewery to celebrate both occasions, and enjoyed sampling some great beer and playing a lot of corn hole. (Parents won, no thanks to me.) We capped off the weekend by a delicious dinner on our patio, the picture-perfect ending to a spectacular summer weekend.

I did my annual “run to the roses” in Elizabeth Park on Saturday morning, and although I really had no business running 7 miles because I had hurt my knee a few weeks ago and have not gotten back to running very far yet, I can’t resist doing that run. The roses are in prime form, and We-Ha intern Ryley McGinnis couldn’t resist them either and put together this photo gallery.

The Morley Backpack Brigade is Monday, graduation at Conard and Hall is Tuesday, and Wednesday is the last day of school for West Hartford Public Schools. After that, the pace of events in town should start to slow down so that everyone can move on to the business of relaxing and enjoying summertime.

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:

Bellis Bourbon comes in its own mini barrel. Courtesy photo

  • A new West Hartford-based business launched in earnest last week as Bellis Bourbon began shipping its product to package stores throughout the state. Owners Mike Bellis – the company’s namesake – and Colin Santacroce have been friends for 14 years, since their high school days at the Hopkins School in New Haven. Bellis has lived in West Hartford for the past five years and the pair decided that the town, with its vibrant restaurant scene, was an ideal headquarters for their bourbon business. Bellis, who also works for a large financial services company, brings his business acumen to the partnership, and Santacroce, who is finishing up his degree at Syracuse University after two tours in the Army, has been bartending for years, knows the liquor business, and has successfully arranged for dozens of stores throughout the state to carry Bellis. “Bourbon is my favorite drink,” Bellis said, and has been since he turned 21. It’s a drink that Santacroce said is really on the upsurge, and a drink that also appeals to many craft beer fans. “I see many people come in and order a shot of Jameson, but there’s not an American equivalent,” Santacroce said. Bellis Bourbon, he said, goes through a second distilling process to remove impurities, which makes it smoother than other bourbons. Bellis and Santacroce said they spent a lot of time working with Ultra Pure in Darien and MGP in Indiana, blind taste-testing, to develop what they believe is the just-right formula. “When we tried this one it was kind of an ‘aha moment,'” Santacroce said. Package store owners, who have had samples for tastings for the past several weeks, have provided very positive feedback, he said. And while Bellis Bourbon may have a smooth taste, its packaging is also appealing. The front of the bottle’s label depicts a barn and American flag-draped silo, and the back has an image of corn, barley, and rye, the ingredients used to create the bourbon. Bottles come nestled in a mini-barrel, which make an eye-catching presentation in stores and on the shelves of the bars that the pair hope will soon carry the product. “Once you’re done with the bottle you can use the barrel for other things,” Bellis said. “It’s very simple, very sturdy. I want to see what our friends and fans do with it,” said Santacroce. In West Hartford, Bellis Bourbon can be found at Cork ‘N Bottle, Daly’s Corner Package Store, International Wine & Spirits, and Toast Wine & Spirits. It will soon be available at Total Wine as well, and they are hoping to schedule tastings in the area over the summer. Bellis Bourbon is also being stocked in close to 60 other stores throughout the state, and plans are to expand to the restaurant industry as well as to other states.. The company is also committed to helping the environment. For every case sold, the company donates a tree through One Tree Planted.  “We’re contributing to planting of trees to replace our environmental footprint,” Santacroce said. For more information, visit the Bellis Bourbon website or follow the company on Facebook.
  • In other alcoholic beverage news, West Hartford’s New Park Brewing is one of more than two dozen craft breweries across the country joining in the ACLU’s “People Power Beer” campaign, according to craftbeer.com. Each participating brewery will be creating their own version of a “People Power” beer, and releasing it sometime between July 4 and Election Day. The campaign’s intent, according to the craftbeer.com website, is to support “People Power, a mobilization program intended to effect meaningful policy change at the local, state and national levels. Their 2018 Voter campaign is designed to help voters across the country better understand where their candidates stand on civil rights issues, provide pathways for voters to engage during the election cycle, and ensure that civil liberties are a crucial component of political conversations in 2018 … The outcome will be a nationwide cornucopia of brews, designs, events and other inspired activations over the coming months. Like the power of the people itself, expression comes in endless forms and sprouts from the ground up. As brewers, we will do our best to foment this creativity and commitment.”

    Green Teahouse ribbon cutting. Photo credit: Ira Nozick (courtesy photo)

  • In keeping with the beverage theme (it’s warm outside and all of this is making me very thirsty!), the West Hartford Chamber of Commerce recently held a ribbon cutting at the new Westfarms location of the Green Teahouse. According to a news release from the Chamber: “Cold brewed teas as well as hot are the focus of The Green Teahouse. Owner Ting Luo comes from a family of traditional Chinese loose tea drinkers and she has a vast knowledge of how each tea works in the body. The Green Teahouse offers bubble teas, smoothies made with teas, matcha and exotic blends like Raspberry Truffle and vanilla cream spice.” Pictured outside the store (on the second level, near Nordstrom) are owner Ting Luo as well as members of the Chamber, customers, and friends.
  • “Coming Soon” signs are up for Cost Plus World Market and buybuy Baby in the Corbin Collection (the building where Saks OFF 5th and REI are located), and I have been trying, thus far unsuccessfully, to get an update on their opening plans. I peeked inside and it’s still very much a construction zone, so I don’t think it will be all that soon. I’ll definitely announce any news I can find out!

    Elissa Eddie. Submitted photo

  • Key Bank recently named new retail leaders to its team, among them Elissa Eddie, vice president,who transferred from Key’s Washington state market to Hartford to lead the branch teams in West Hartford as well as  in Hartford, East Hartford, Avon, Glastonbury, Plainville, Manchester, Rocky Hill, and Wethersfield. According to a news release, Eddie has been with KeyBank for 11 years, and previously held retail sales and sales management positions in the fine jewelry industry. She is a graduate of the University of Washington Pacific Coast Banking School and served as vice chair for the board of directors of YMCA of Seattle, WA. 
  • According to the Hartford Business Journal, West Hartford-based Rose Mill Co., a manufacturer of industrial chemicals and minerals, announced last week that it has purchased tire manufacturer PPS/Chempac. According to the HBJ, the company will move its jobs pre-processing operations to West Hartford later this year. Rose Mill Co. is located at 10 Brook St.
  • Congratulations to Stacy D. Pedersen, who recently joined West Hartford-based Northstar Wealth Partners as their director of Financial Operations & Human Resources. Robert Laraia, founding partner of NorthStar said in a news release, “She has a unique combination of skills that make her an ideal fit for a firm like Northstar. She puts clients and her colleagues first in every decision she makes. Stacy brings an important scope of experience while simultaneously capitalizing on the latest technology and forward-looking solutions that will define the future of our industry. We are excited to have Stacy on our team, as it helps us to seek objective and meaningful solutions to the opportunities and challenges ahead.” Pedersen has a BS in accounting from the University of Saint Joseph in West Hartford, is enrolled in MBA classes at UConn, and is an active member of the Emerging Leaders Society for the United Way of Hartford. 

    Courtesy of Murtha Cullina

  • According to a news release, “University of Saint Joseph President Rhona Free, Ph.D., second from left in photo, served as a panelist at Women in the Lead, an event sponsored by Murtha Cullina LLP. Women in the Lead  is part of the law firm’s Women Expanding Business (WEB) – a diversity and inclusion initiative to encourage and promote women within the Firm and in the legal and business community. Joining Free on the panel were, from left, Jennifer Widness, Connecticut Conference of Independent Colleges; Tracey LeMay, BSN, Masonicare; and Margaret Flinter, APRN, Ph.D., FAAN, Community Health Center, Inc. Standing with them is Suzanne Brown Walsh, Esq., a partner in the Trusts and Estates Department at Murtha Cullina and moderator of the event. The panel spoke to over 100 of Murtha Cullina’s clients and contacts, discussing a series of questions related to mentoring, advancement, and decision-making.”
  • ICYMI, last Tuesday was the annual Celebrity Breakfast to benefit the Park Road Parade. The day was beautiful, allowing people to eat on the patio at Effie’s Place Family Restaurant, where the event was held. It was a success in every way, and to see photos of some local celebrities waiting tables, click here.
  • Also ICYMI, BlumShapiro employees, and a Fox 62 news anchor, recently held “JA in a Day” at Webster Hill Elementary School. Click here for the details.

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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