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West Hartford Business Buzz: June 29, 2020

The Town Council approved modifications to the Special Development District for Elmwood Plaza, which in part will allow a restaurant with outdoor dining to move into the former Chalkboard space. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

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

By Ronni Newton

I’m taking a few days off – really.

There’s one virtual meeting tonight that I will be covering, but after that my goal is to sit on the beach and read a book (or, ideally, several books), and to leave my computer untouched for at least 24 hours, which has not happened since at least the beginning of March. If anything does happen in West Hartford, fabulous interns Dexter McCann and Melanie Grados will be there to report on it.

After a ferry ride, Millie hopped into the back of the Jeep and is ready for a few days at the beach – and so am I!

We will not publish a newsletter this Friday, and will instead be observing the official federal Independence Day holiday. Note: for those who have Friday trash and recycling pick-up, that will not be impacted by the holiday.

As you can tell from the photo, Millie is very excited to be back in Nantucket, her happy place. She spent Sunday afternoon running up and down the beach, playing with another dog, and getting in the way while the rest of the family enjoyed the new corn hole game that Sam gave Ted for Father’s Day.

Last week was a busy week of events with several Town Council meetings, both Conard and Hall graduations, a Witness Stones installation (story to follow), and the dedication of the Pride crosswalk in Blue Back Square.

Last week was also when the final shoe dropped, when the difficult decision to postpone my daughter’s wedding until the summer of 2021 was made. This past Saturday should have been Katie and Matt’s wedding day, and then it was moved to July 30, but then they came to the realization that it wouldn’t be able to be the celebration they wanted to have, and even though it was going to be outside and the size of the gathering would be technically permissible by that point, too many people were uncomfortable about it and there were complications of people coming from states where they would have to quarantine, and they decided there were too many risks.

We are very sad, but third time’s a charm – I hope.

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:

  • At Tuesday’s Town Council meeting, one of the actions was the approval of changes to the Special Development District to permit exterior façade renovations at Elmwood Shopping Center (1126-1148 New Britain Ave. aka “Epstein Plaza”) to convert and create new tenant space within the existing building footprint, modify current parking restrictions, and permit outdoor dining “as an approved accessory use for all restaurants within the [Special Development District (SDD)].” When I mentioned the upcoming vote in the column a few weeks ago, I noted that the application also included plans to convert the 4,109 square foot former Chalkboard space in that plaza to restaurant space. The name of the restaurant had not been mentioned previously, but at Tuesday night’s discussion, attorney Lew Wise noted that the the owners of Zaytoon’s Bistro (165 Park Rd.) would be opening another restaurant at the New Britain Avenue space. Zaytoon’s owner Omar Hayajneh confirmed plans to open a second Zaytoon’s in the former Chalkboard space, with a similar menu to the Park Road location that opened in 2017, but in addition the new space will also include a market with to-go and other items! Landlord Seth Epstein will likely turn the space over to Zaytoon’s by September, Hayajneh said, and he anticipates taking about six months to do the build-out with hopes to open by “maybe February or March,” Hayajneh. As part of the same update to the SDD, the façade will also be extended along the side of Pepe’s Pizza and a service business, likely a physical therapy clinic, will open in what is currently 2,330 square feet of storage space in that section of the plaza.

    The former Ruby Tuesday’s will be transformed into Maggie McFly’s, which will also include a façade update. Town Council document

  • The Town Council also approved the plans for façade changes at Westfarms which will allow the build-out of Maggie McFly’s to begin build-out. It will likely take 10-12 months once permits are obtained, but when the restaurant opens it will include outdoor dining and the “mausoleum” look of the solid concrete wall of the portion of Westfarms that faces New Britain Avenue will be transformed. Maggie McFly’s first announced its plans to open at Westfarms in February. The vote, which was to update the Westfarms Special Development District, will permit outdoor dining at any other restaurant on the outer portion of the West Hartford section of the mall.

    Cinepolis will reopen July 10. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

  • Connecticut has been in the second phase of reopening for a few weeks, but some of the businesses that were permitted to reopen have delayed the process a bit. A few of the Blue Back Square businesses that have just reopened include Muse Paintbar and the MedSpa. Vinted is planning to reopen on July 8, and will also have a dining corral installed on Memorial Road, and the Cinépolis movie theater is set to reopen on July 10. Rizzuto’s is also reportedly working on reopening plans.
  • The article I wrote in early April about West Hartford’s Building Department successfully adapting their inspections to a virtual platform has been published in the Building Safety Journal and appeared in the most recent BSJ Weekly newsletter, which goes out to more than 110,000 construction and code professionals. The process developed by Supervisor of Inspections Tim Mikloiche has allowed construction in town to continue for the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic.

    Amy Samunek. Submitted photo

  • Welcome Amy Samenuk, selected as the new director of Enrollment and Financial Aid at Renbrook Schoole, following a national search”for a leader to drive their admission and enrollment strategy,” Renbrook announced in a press release. Matt Sigrist, Head of School, shared: “I am pleased to announce the culmination of that search, having identified Amy Samenuk as the choice, among a very talented pool of applicants, who possesses the personal qualities and the ambition to lead these most important efforts at Renbrook for years to come.” She is currently senior associate director of Admission at Suffield Academy, and is a graduate of John Carroll University.
  • We-Ha.com is approaching its sixth anniversary next week (we had a “soft opening the Monday after the Fourth of July) and I’m excited to announce that this past week we surpassed 10,000 followers on our Facebook page!
  • I’m also excited to announce our new collaboration with CTNewsJunkie.com. You may have already noticed the byline of Christine Stuart and several other reporters appearing on this site, and I look forward to working with CTNewsJunkie to provide enhanced coverage of statewide news.
  • This week’s sad news includes the permanent closing of a Bella Gusta at 981-A Farmington Ave. “Our business model as a ‘Tasting Room’ no longer fits the current way of doing business,” co-owner Lynda Przybylski said. She also provided the following: “We will truly miss all of our wonderful customers and sincerely thank everyone for 10 1/2 years of patronage. We have met so many wonderful people and shared so many great times. We will miss each and every one of them. We would also like to let you know that although we are closing the storefront, we will continue to sell on-line and hope folks will stay with us during this new endeavor. We are working out the bugs but are hoping to do some sort of free shipping in order to get the product to our customers.” Their website is bellagustaoils.com. “We wish all of the businesses in WEHA all the best in the future and again thank West Hartford for 10 amazing years. What a great experience we had!” added Przybylski and her husband, Alan.
  • Maria Benson, owner of Body + Sole Day Spa (192 Park Rd.) also shared last week that she is closing her West Hartford location on Aug. 31 after nearly 25 years. “The past several months have been a time like no other for all of us. Having had more time off than I’ve ever had in my career, it has given me a lot of time to think about my future and what I want it to look like moving forward. As I seek to simplify my life, I have made the decision to retire Body + Sole after almost 25 amazing years,” Benson said in an email to members of the Park Road Association. She said she is not leaving West Hartford completely, but rather will be working at Face It Med Spa alongside Anita Wolf and will maintain her Glastonbury studio. “The relationships that have been formed throughout the past 25 years have meant the world to me. I met many of you when I was a 28-year-old young mother, with a passion and drive to bring the first spa to West Hartford and give the community and beyond the very best in the beauty and wellness industry. It has been my honor to have had the opportunity to do so and as always, I am dedicated to giving you the very best quality in services and products and look forward to seeing you at my beautiful new location.
  • ICYMI, Docs Urgent Care had a drive-through testing event on Sunday and should be opening this week at 983 New Britain Ave., where they will also offer rapid COVID-19 testing. More details can be found here.
  • As of July 1, the Town of West Hartford entered into a right of first refusal contract for the former UConn (now Ideanomics) property at Trout Brook Drive and Asylum Avenue. The lease for the ball fields, and a commitment to maintain the grounds, goes into effect July 1 as well. Click here for the full story.
  • Please wear your mask in the Center! The town is sharing that message in many ways, including having the Fire Marshal’s Office on site over the weekend doing outreach. More information can be found here.

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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