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West Hartford Business Buzz: June 20, 2022

The J.Crew Factory Outlet store is now open in Corbin's Corner. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

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

By Ronni Newton

Happy Father’s Day to all the dads (and father figures) out there! I hope you had a wonderful day on Sunday!

And a happy early summer, too. The astronomical first day of summer this year begins at 5:13 a.m. on Tuesday, June 21. I of course have considered it summer since June 1 – although it didn’t feel much like summer for much of the weekend, and even though it was nice weather on Sunday, it was still unseasonably cool.

I feel like every week I write about what a whirlwind it’s been, but this has honestly been another one of those weeks. The past week featured the Conard and Hall graduation (both held at exactly the same time, and thank you to the team of Lily Guberman and Sophie Christensen who covered Hall, and Baylee Krulewitz who wrote the Conard graduation story to accompany my photos). There was also a Town Council meeting, various interesting and important committee meetings, the Celebrity Breakfast fundraiser for the Park Road Parade (John Lyons and I did a 2 hour and 40 minute Facebook Live show featuring interviews with many of the servers and guests Tuesday morning), and an assortment of other news items that popped up. On Sunday alone there was the opening of the new Blue Back Farmers’ Market and the Juneteenth celebration, which also included a Witness Stones installation.

I somehow managed to fit in a dentist appointment, vet appointment, meeting with someone about replacing our furnace, mid-week family celebration at New Park Brewing with Sam and his girlfriend before their move to Boston next week, Ted’s and my wedding anniversary on Friday (we went to Harvest this year since we were just at Bricco for a big celebration a few weeks ago), and my annual run to the roses in Elizabeth Park. I’ll stop writing now so I can be sure I’ve got the prep work underway in time for Father’s Day dinner with the family!

A toast to our anniversary at Harvest Wine Bar. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Fried artichokes at Harvest Wine Bar. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Grilled halibut with risotto and asparagus from Harvest Wine Bar. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Sweet pea ravioli from Harvest Wine Bar. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Cloudscape IPA from New Park Brewing. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Bacon and brussels pizza from New Park Brewing. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Soppressata pizza from New Park Brewing. Photo credit : Ronni Newton

Buffalo Margherita pizza from New Park Brewing. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

West Hartford is still in the COVID-19 red zone, and has been since April, but the case counts continue to decrease as they have for the past several weeks. One day I hope to be able to delete this paragraph completely, but in the meantime, please have patience with each other and our choices, continue to look out for each other, support our local businesses – 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].


Connecticut Physical Therapy Specialists is the sponsor of this week’s Business Buzz!

Here’s this week’s Buzz:

The J.Crew Factory Outlet store is now open in Corbin’s Corner. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

  • I go to Trader Joe’s rather often, but I typically park somewhat far away because I don’t like fighting for a parking space, but on my most recent trip I spied a space that was closer to Edge Fitness and when I was getting back into my car that’s when I saw the “now open” sign in front of the J.Crew Factory Outlet! The store actually opened a month ago (May 20) according to one of the managers, but because of all of the construction underway updating the Corbin’s Corner façade it’s been tough to see the signage. I went back for a visit late last week – that I combined with a shopping trip to outfit Sam for his new job – and while I haven’t yet gotten the approval from J.Crew corporate to take interior photos, I can tell you that I’m already a fan of the store! The merchandise is specifically created for the factory store (rather than being overstock or seconds from the regular J.Crew store), with a similar style to the retail store but perhaps different fabrics or patterns. They are open seven days a week, from 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 10 a.m.-9 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and from 10 a.m.-7 p.m. on Sundays.

The J.Crew Factory Outlet store is now open in Corbin’s Corner, and it was a good time to combine work with shopping. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

  • There are quite a variety of new businesses that are planning to open in town that were highlighted in the most recent report by Economic Development Coordinator Kristen Gorski. Among them are Flowers of Life Apothecary, which has started build-out in the former Abby Dabby space in Bishops Corner. Much more to come as that opening nears.

Flowers of Life Apothecary will be opening in the former Abby Dabby space in Bishops Corner. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

  • Chop’t Creative Salad Company just opened its first area location in Glastonbury last week (2520 Main Street), and build-out is underway on the 2,703 square foot space they leased several months ago – a portion of the former Maximum Beverage space at 333 North Main Street in Bishops Corner! Prior to the Chop’t opening in Glastonbury the only Connecticut locations were in Greenwich and Stamford, but the fast-casual chain, founded in 2001 by best friends Tony Shure and Colin McCabe, has more than 70 locations in nine other states. Chop’t has a menu of classic and “light” salads, more than two-dozen dressing options (some also sold by the bottle), warm bowls, and the opportunity to also customize salads with an extensive choice of greens, fruits and veggies, cheese and dairy, crunch, and other toppings. While the stores are all corporate owned, the company prides itself on community involvement, both supporting frontline workers and sourcing ingredients. According to their website, “When it comes to supporting our local communities, we strive to form long-term partnerships with local food artisans, farmers, small businesses, and producers with better food and better practices. This approach, along with our commitment to source the freshest produce available, enables us to create the most flavorful salads and bowls around.” Much more to come as the opening plans near.

Future Chop’t Creative Salad Company in a portion of the space that was formerly Maximum Beverage in Bishops Corner. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

  • Build-out is well underway for the IHOP that will be located in the former GoldRoc Diner space on Kane Street. The GoldRoc sign that faces the highway has been removed, but I couldn’t get a photo of it because now that there is construction fencing in place I’d have to be in a moving car on I-84. I did get this photo that shows extensive progress has been made on the exterior. Renovation work, according to permits with the town, includes a new kitchen, and other interior improvements. Mustafa Ayaz, who lives in Southington and owns several gas station properties in Connecticut, purchased the building shortly after the GoldRoc closed, and along with his family will be operating the IHOP franchise in that space.

IHOP is under construction in the former GoldRoc Diner space. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

  • West Hartford residents Jeannette Punsoni Dardenne and Kristen Fritz, founders of Eat IN Connecticut, were honored last weekend as “Influential Women” by the Connecticut Rivers Council of the Boy Scouts of America at their “Our Influential Women – Our Shining Stars” event. Eat IN Connecticut was launched as a Facebook group quite a few years ago (around the same time as we launched We-Ha.com), with the purpose of helping the restaurant industry connect and interact with the general public. It was unique at the time, and has grown to be a statewide force. “Together we stood among other women who were honored as agents of change, as mentors, as leaders, and as inspirations to others. They are resolved to make a difference today, tomorrow, and for years to come. They challenge us all, motivate us, and set an example for others to follow,” Jeannette and Kristen said of their being honored.  “We are proud of the fact that we were among the first to pave the wave for foodies in our state, to come together, and create a conversation around food and drink,” they said, expressing thanks to South Windsor business owner and economic development commission leader Victor Dorobantu for nominating them and recognizing their passion.

Kristen Fritz (left) and Jeannette Punsoni Dardenne. Courtesy photo

  • We seem to have quite a Bishops Corner focus this week, and here’s another item. Salons by JC at 333 North Main Street (directly above Target and Marshall’s/Home Goods) is pleased to announce the opening of Vivid’s for Villains, a salon owned and operated by Randi Wilson whose passions are vivid hair color and keeping up to date on everything related to fashion colors. She feels strongly about continuing education through workshops specializing in her field and keeping herself immersed in the world of color. “I am a newcomer to the field with a passion and flair for the more creative side,” Wilson said. “I believe hair is art and it is just as much a reflection of identity as the clothes we wear, the music we listen to and any aspect that defines a person’s personality. Hair is a big part of identity and in my chair I believe hair has no gender and no style belongs to any particular gender. My salon motto is hair is gender nonconforming and the comfort of my clients comes first. In addition, my salon was started out of love for my clients. I ensure a private, all-inclusive setting for each and every one of them.” The salon name was coined by a friend of Randi’s, and she feels as though it’s very fitting because in the modern era villains are much more relatable as they can be dark, brooding and are more often than not misunderstood which enhances their relatability in modern storytelling. Samples of her work can be seen on Instagram under the handle @vividsforvillians. Hours are Tuesday through Thursday 10 a.m.-6 p.m. For more information or to book an appointment call or text 203-443-2376 or email [email protected].

Courtesy of Randi Wilson, Vivids for Villains

  • Har-Conn, a metal finishing company located at 603 New Park Avenue that is the fourth largest manufacturing business in West Hartford, will be expanding operations into a 20,000 square foot space at 114 Shield Street, according to Economic Development Coordinator Kristen Gorski. That space had been occupied by Dillon Mailing and Printing, which recently celebrated its 90th anniversary and due their purchase of new and smaller scale equipment has consolidated in a newly-built-out area in a portion of the same building.

Har-Conn will be expanding into a portion of 114 Shield Street. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

  • Another piece of news from the economic development report is that 555 New Park Avenue has been purchased by Next Chapter Enterprises – an entity formed by the owners of CT Shower and Bath, which occupies the building. They have been leasing space in the building for more than 20 years, Gorski said, and their investment in the town is great news.

CT Shower and Bath has purchased the building where their showroom is at 555 New Park Avenue. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

  • Another interesting real estate note: The apartment building at 22 Park Road sold by Next Generation Park Road LLC to Park Warren RSK LLC in May for $1,905,000 – after previously being sold in 2019 for $525,000.

22 Park Road recently sold for $1,905,000. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

  • Congratulations to Kelly O’Donovan, winner of the People’s Choice Award for the 2022 ARTBarriers, chosen by members of the public who voted online through the West Hartford Art League website. Her design beautifies the barrier located in front of Union Kitchen, Wurst Haus, and Àvert, and she is the winner of a $200 cash award from the West Hartford Art League. All of the ARTBarriers in the Center and Blue Back Square this year are really beautiful and add so much to the town!

Artist Kelly O’Donovan stands in front of her ARTBarrier mural, winner of the People’s Choice award. Courtesy photo

  • Congratulations to El Santo, which opened in early May but enjoyed a grand opening and ribbon cutting with the Chamber of Commerce and Mayor Shari Cantor on Tuesday night. I sadly wasn’t able to attend because I was covering graduation, and thank you to the Chamber for sharing a photo.

Ribbon cutting at El Santo on June 14. Courtesy of West Hartford Chamber of Commerce

  • Big Brothers Big Sisters of Connecticut shared that John LaBelle of West Hartford recently took to the legendary fairways of the Golf Club of Avon in early June in support of the state’s premier youth mentoring organization. LaBelle’s company, the Hudson Insurance Group, was a major sponsor of the annual golf fundraiser, and helped the nonprofit exceed its projected financial goal. John, pictured at the far right in the photo below, is a regional underwriting manager at Hudson. He was part of a foursome representing the insurer that included, from left, Ryan Eastman, of Avon, inland marine underwriting director; Lauren Cutro Berry, from Collinsville, senior vice president and head of inland marine; and Simsbury’s Christopher Morkan, claims director at Hudson. John LaBelle’s score for the day of play wasn’t divulged, but – judging from his body language – it couldn’t have been one bit shabby.

Courtesy Big Brothers Big Sisters of Connecticut

  • Congratulations to West Hartford resident and attorney Christopher T. Bowen, who has joined the management team of Kahan Kerensky Capossela, LLP, a law firm based in Vernon, CT, as an equity partner in the firm. “It’s a pleasure to welcome Chris to our management team. He has built a stellar reputation in his field among clients and industry peers as evidenced by his being recognized as a SuperLawyer Rising Star five years in a row. We know he will bring a high level of commitment to helping KKC reach its goals,  said Michael Kopsick, Managing Partner at KKC, in a news release. Bowen, who is a partner in KKC’s Litigation Department, joined the practice in 2010 and his practice focuses in the areas of business, real estate, employment, construction, and personal injury litigation. He represents individuals and companies in a wide array of business and consumer disputes in a broad range of fields and industries at both the trial and appellate levels in state and federal court and in private arbitration forums. He is a past president of the Tolland County Bar Association, a member of the governing body of the Connecticut Bar Association, sits on the CBA’s Election and Legislative Policy and Review committees, and is an active member in the Litigation Section of the bar.

Christopher Bowen. Courtesy photo

  • ICYMI, Town Council members were really excited to adopt an ordinance establishing the new Transit-Oriented Development Zone District, calling it “transformational” for the town. Read all about it here.
  • As noted above, a fundraiser for the Park Road parade was held on Tuesday at Effie’s Place, with local celebrities serving up breakfast. Click here for the details.
  • The new Blue Back Farmers’ Market is awesome. Click here to see photos from opening day!

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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