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West Hartford Business Buzz: June 27, 2022

Rendering by Newman Architects of mixed use building at 1003-1007 Farmington Ave., West Hartford. Courtesy image

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

By Ronni Newton

This has been a week so full of emotions that I don’t even know where to start. I do promise to try to be brief because despite the best of intentions I did not manage to write this column on either Friday or Saturday, and I have a narrow window of opportunity to complete it Sunday morning before the rest of the day’s activities fully commence.

Regarding the overturning of Roe v. Wade, I have no words. As a former student of political science, as a long ago Capitol Hill intern, as someone who personally had two D&Cs after miscarriages before my daughter was born (which in some states may not be so easily accessible now), and as someone who has been reporting on the actions of government (primarily local) for decades, it is a gross understatement to say that I am deeply troubled by the actions of the Supreme Court, what this means for the rights of women in many states right now, and what may transpire as other Court decisions and precedents that have grown to form the backbone of a country that strived to ensure equal rights are challenged. I’m very glad I live in Connecticut.

All politics are local, and here’s a link to some of the statements by our local and state leaders on Friday. More perspectives were shared at Saturday’s “Out Loud!” rally that preceded the West Hartford Pride festival.

The past few days have been very emotional for me on a personal level as well.

A week or so ago I played Taylor Swift’s “Never Grow Up” for Sam, who today moves into his “new apartment in a big city.” I always keep my running playlist on shuffle and was telling him that the song had randomly come on the day of his graduation from Conard in 2016, just as I ran by the stadium where he had played countless soccer games, and I had been thinking about that in the spring of 2017, right as Katie was about to graduate from college and the song came up again as I ran by Conard. Wouldn’t you know, Saturday morning, as I finished up my early morning run, my playlist chose “Never Grow Up” again.

Of course I want my kids to grow up, and I’m so proud of both of them, but it’s still bittersweet. I’m so excited for Sam to be moving on to this new phase of his life, to be moving him into his new apartment in South Boston today, as he prepares to start a dream job as an economist with HDR on July 5. Although we were empty nesters when Sam started college in 2016, he was closer, and he came back for summers, and then for COVID. This is really empty nesting.

Facebook also reminded me on Sunday morning that five years ago to the day my sister and I helped our dad move out of his Stamford condo to Florida. Before he left we drove him past our childhood home, and to the cemetery where our mom is buried. He hasn’t returned to Connecticut since then, and is no longer able to travel.

Also bittersweet was a fabulous sunset dinner my friends and I enjoyed at Rockledge Grille on Friday night.

I’ve lived on my same West Hartford street for 24 years. It’s where my kids grew up with a core group of neighborhood besties – playgroups at each other’s backyard playscapes, splashing in the little plastic pools, manhunt on summer nights when they were a little older – and the parents were the best of friends as well. In just a few days Ted and I will be the only ones left who can call Rockledge our neighborhood hangout.

While our service at Rockledge Friday night was as excellent as the sunset, we had a chance to chat with owner Chip Kohn of The Beachland Group. Staffing continues to be a challenge for restaurants, and many other businesses, and he urged everyone to please be patient as the struggle is real.

If you’ve seen the viral Facebook post apparently written by a flight attendant also urging patience, it’s just part of the reality we are in right now. As they say, you catch more flies with honey …

Firecracker shrimp at Rockledge Grille. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Beer with a view at Rockledge Grille. PHoto credit: Ronni Newton

Spinach salad with grilled chicken at Rockledge Grille. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Asian bowl at Rockledge Grille. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Patty melt at Rockledge Grille. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Truffle fries (yum!) at Rockledge Grille. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Sunset from the patio at Rockledge Grille. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Sunset from the patio at Rockledge Grille. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

One major housekeeping note: There will NOT be a newsletter on Monday, July 4! If there is enough Business Buzz for the holiday week, the column will appear on Wednesday, July 6.

West Hartford is still in the COVID-19 red zone, and has been since April, but the case counts are still on the decline, a trend that has been continuing for the past month or so. 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].

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

Here’s this week’s Buzz:

The Town Council will soon be considering a proposal for 1003-1007 Farmington Ave. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

  • The property at 1003-1007 Farmington Ave., on the western edge of West Hartford Center, sold for $8 million in 2019, and it was expected that there would at a minimum be some upgrades to the 1954 property. The Design Review Advisory Committee has been working with new owner Stone Point Properties, on multiple informal reviews and following their last meeting on Thursday the next time DRAC sees the proposed project it will as part of a formal application for a Special Development District. “We appreciate West Hartford’s Design Review Advisory Committee for their guidance, input and suggestions in helping our team develop a plan that is respectful of our neighbors and provides The Center with a beautiful new gateway community that will enhance the area,” Michael Stone and Michael Fleischmann, principals of Stone Point Properties, said via email. “By working with DRAC since last fall, we believe we’ve developed a proposal that will benefit West Hartford and help strengthen The Center.” The rendering that’s the feature photo at the top of the column is of a mixed use, roughly 103,000 square foot five-story retail and commercial property,, with 133 parking spaces located behind the building, according to the current plans. While longtime tenant S.K. Lavery relocated to the Berlin Turnpike in the fall of 2020, Fleet Feet Sports remains a very active and successful anchor tenant of the existing building. “I would love to stay and be one of their flagship tenants,” owner Steph Blozy told me last week. Fleet Feet’s presence in the Center is important for the running community, and for the vibrancy of the area where runners meet and then visit other Center businesses. Since it appears that the existing building will be demolished for the new development Blozy said it will be important to their business to be able to work with the landlord, including the consideration of temporary space for the store during the construction. “We’ve been happy with [Stone Point] as landlords, and I love what they’ve done in Middletown,” Blozy said, expressing hope for a similar revitalization of this strip of West Hartford Center.

Rear of existing building at 1003-1007 Farmington Ave. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Parking lot behind 1003-1007 Farmington Ave. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

  • A new pet store is going to be opening where a pet store was previously located. A banner hanging in Corbin’s Corner where Pet Valu was formerly located indicates that Choice Pet will be opening soon. There’s a sign on the door that says they are hiring, and I peeked in the window and the interior is already partially stocked. According to their website, Norwalk-based Choice Pet has 11 other locations in Connecticut, but none in the Hartford area. The business, according to the website, features “carefully selected holistic, organic, raw and natural foods, treats and chews along with an array of outstanding pet products that we feel are tops in their categories.” More details to come as the opening nears.

Choice Pet is now listed on the lease plan for Regency Center, and a sign on the door says they will be opening soon. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

  • Another project to be under consideration soon by the Town Council is for 433-445 South Main Street, the northwest corner of the South Main Street and New Britain Avenue intersection where Corporate Center West is also located. I had previously mentioned that there are plans for a drive-through Starbuck’s there, but the soon-to-be-submitted plans also include an extensive expansion of the existing Hartford HealthCare building as well as landscaping and property improvements.

Existing Hartford HealthCare building at intersection of South Main and New Britain Avenue. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Existing Hartford HealthCare building at intersection of South Main and New Britain Avenue. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

  • A rebuilding is planned for the Wendy’s restaurant at 331  South Road, opposite Westfarms, with the ambitious goal of closing later this summer and a reopening in the spring. Plans are for the construction of a 2,675 square foot building with a drive-through, and improvements to the parking and driveway areas. The property is partially in West Hartford and partially in Farmington, and owner Inspired by Opportunity, LLC  of Flint, MI, has already gotten approval from Farmington’s Conservation and Inlands Water Committee at the June 15 meeting. It will likely need to be a Special Development District application to the West Hartford Town Council, but the submission hasn’t been made yet.

Plans are in the works for a rebuild to include the addition of a drive-through at the Wendy’s opposite Westfarms. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

  • The Russell (39 South Main St.) has added outdoor dining. I haven’t tried it out the new patio yet – which opened last week – but it looks beautiful!

New outdoor dining at The Russell on South Main Street. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

  • The Bridge Family Center announced in a news release that they have proudly welcomed two new members to the Board of Directors: Stacey Samuel, an attorney with Travelers Insurance Company, and Robert Laurie, a partner with Gfeller Laurie LLP. According to the release: Since graduating from the University of Connecticut Law School in 2017 with a focus in Intellectual Property Law, Samuel has practiced at several firms in the Greater Hartford area and is now working as an Associate Claim Counsel at Travelers. Stacey was also recently appointed a community service liaison for St. John’s Episcopal Church in West Hartford, where she will engage local schools in community projects. Laurie served on the Bridge’s Board of Directors from 2007-2016 and was Board President for 4 of those years. Laurie and his wife, Tamara, were Honorary Chairs of the 2022 Children’s Charity Ball. As a partner at Gfeller Laurie LLP in West Hartford, he is a commercial litigator who represents clients in various industries including financial services, manufacturing, and life science. “The Bridge is very fortunate to have the commitment and expertise of Stacey and Bob. As evidenced by what she has accomplished in a short period of time, Stacey is driven to meet the needs of her clients and is a results-oriented individual. Similarly, Bob was a very productive board member making significant contributions to the organization and the community during his previous terms on the Board. Stacey and Bob will be tremendous assets to the Bridge, and we look forward to working with them to fulfill our mission,” stated Margaret A. Hann, Executive Director of the Bridge Family Center.”

Courtesy of The Bridge Family Center

  • Hartford Flavor Company is located in Hartford (30 Arbor St.), but owner Tom Dubay grew up in West Hartford, so I’m sharing their news here that they have added “The Cafe at Diana’s Lair” to their operations. “Whether you come for a tour or a cocktail, you will want to stay for the food! Whether you want a meal or a snack, we’ve got something for you! Menu options include Charcuterie Board, Fresh Sourdough Bread from Small State Provisons with your choice of organic butter (Salted, Sage, Chive or Lavender Honey), and both traditional and Vegan Pizza! If you’re craving something sweet, try Vanilla Bean Gelato with a Brownie and a drizzle of Wild Moon Liqueur over top!” an email announcement sent out last week states.
  • The American Heart Association (AHA) announced in a news release that they have welcomed West Hartford resident Scott Selig as development director of Greater Hartford and eastern Connecticut Heart Challenge. As the Heart Challenge development director, Scott will work on Heart Walk and Cycle nation events by recruiting companies as participants and potential teams, managing executive volunteer leadership, and volunteer committees, to reduce health disparities across Connecticut. “I’m so thrilled to use my experience and passion to help others to provide better heart health in Connecticut,” Selig said in the release. “The American Heart Association has been providing educational resources and scientific research for close to one hundred years.  I am honored to work for an organization with so much history and impact.” Selig, who lives in West Hartford with his wife, Rebecca, as well as four daughters and a rescue dog, was most recently vice president of Business Development at Harvest Development Group LCC, a small nonprofit consulting firm. Prior, he was Manager of Business Development at Yale New Haven Health, and interim executive director at the University of CT Hillel Foundation, where he worked on a variety of fundraising initiatives, including grants and corporate fundraising.

Scott Selig. Courtesy photo

  • ICYMI, the Seniors Job Bank has appointed a new executive director and program assistant. Details can be found here.
  • In case you missed it above, please note: There will NOT be a newsletter on Monday, July 4! If there is enough Business Buzz for the holiday week, the column will appear on Wednesday, July 6.

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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