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Bishops Corner Blue Back Square Business Elmwood Park Road The Center

West Hartford Business Buzz: June 8, 2020

Courtesy photo

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

By Ronni Newton

I hope everyone had a nice weekend and enjoyed the taste of summer!

Millie and a seal on Surfside Beach. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

I escaped from town for a few days – to my favorite summer place – but other than when we arrived Thursday afternoon the weather on Nantucket was definitely not summer-like. We were there to get our family house ready for the summer season (we still have most of our tenants coming, and a long list of extra sanitizing measures that must be taken to prepare for each group).

It was wonderful to also see my in-laws! We had to be socially-distant, outside, wearing masks, and we couldn’t give each other hugs, but it was still wonderful to see them in person.

Walking on the beach, we could almost forget for a few minutes how much day-to-day life has changed. It was almost normal – except for the seal! On Saturday there were several seals appearing to have a great time body-surfing, and one seal pup and our pup came almost face-to-face! We usually see them bobbing around during the summer – but not coming out of the surf and hanging out on the beach and making eye contact!

Not only has COVID-19 changed our world, but I think – and hope – that the rallying together of our community in support of racial equality is transformative. Last week’s protest was an incredibly powerful experience, and while I was unable to attend the student-led rally on Sunday, We-Ha.com interns were there to report on it.

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:

  • AAA has reopened, and those who are overdue for renewing their driver’s licenses (like my son) and/or obtaining a “Real ID,” non-driver license, or obtaining a duplicate license can once again do that at the AAA location at 815 Farmington Ave. in West Hartford, as well as other locations that are DMV licensing centers – but it’s now by appointment only. “The appointment system allows AAA to provide licensing services for the greatest number of people, while complying with COVID-19 guidelines and restrictions that limit store capacity and interpersonal contact,” Amy Parmenter, spokesperson for AAA in Greater Hartford, said in a news release. “The process for making an appointment online is extremely user-friendly and, to date, we have found that it is a winning solution for all involved.” Sibongile Magubane, commissioner of the Department of Motor Vehicles, said, “The Department of Motor Vehicles is proud of our longstanding partnership with AAA. Deadlines have been extended for licenses expiring between March 10, 2020 and June 30, 2020, but our external partnerships with companies such as AAA are providing the public with an immediate solution for renewing their driver’s license.” For more information including store hours, locations or to make an appointment, visit: AAA.com or DMV.com. The DMV is offering a 180-day extension period to Connecticut residents with expiring driver’s licenses, ID cards, and learner’s permits. Credentials that expire between March 10, 2020 and June 30, 2020 are automatically covered by the extension.

    Rendering of Maggie McFly’s at Westfarms. Town of West Hartford document

  • The West Hartford Town Council is continuing to meet virtually, and coming up are a few business-related public hearing that will be conducted on a virtual basis. One is for modifications to the Westfarms Special Development District to obtain “permission to undertake renovations to the façade of the former Ruby Tuesday Restaurant, including new signage and landscape enhancements, and requests permission to establish outdoor dining as a permitted use within the SDD in order to facilitate the establishment of a new restaurant: Maggie McFly’s.” Maggie McFly’s first announced its plans to open at Westfarms in February and if the project receives approval it will clear the way for the project to begin. The public hearing is scheduled for 6 p.m. on June 23.
  • Also set for public hearing on June 23 (at 5:45 p.m.) is a proposal to undertake 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)].” The application looks to convert the 4,109 square foot former Chalkboard space in that plaza (I’m not aware that a lease has actually been signed) to a restaurant, but the modification to the SDD is needed first.
  • Salons and barbershops were back open as of June 1 (I got my hair cut the very next day!) and along with all the businesses that are reopened there is a new establishment, Rebellion Barber Co. that has opened in Suite 9 of Salons by JC at 333 North Main St. in Bishops Corner. More information can be found on their Facebook page.

    Both Arethusa (at left) and Mecha Noodle Bar appear to have made a lot of progress toward opening in West Hartford Center. Photo credit: Ronni Newton (we-ha.com file photo)

  • Meçha Noodle Bar owner Tony Pham told me last week that they are “about 85% done” with the Farmington Avenue restaurant, and are hoping to be open in July!
  • The West Hartford Chamber of Commerce and the town hosted a small business forum last Tuesday featuring Mayor Shari Cantor. Economic Development Specialist Kristen Gorski said it went very well, with many questions asked and answered. A recording of the session can be found on the Chamber’s Facebook page as well as on West Hartford Community Interactive’s YouTube channel.
  • “We’ve started to re-energize conversations about potential leasing on the development front,” Gorski also said last week. For the past few months, 95% of her focus has been on COVID-19 issues, helping businesses navigate obtaining grants and loans, PPE, etc., but she said as businesses are reopening, the focus is beginning to change.
  • There are many updates to the list of open restaurants – including several that are just now reopening (like SPoT Coffee in Blue Back Square which reopens today) and others that have added outdoor dining for the first time (like Frida). Click here for the updated list! Send any changes to [email protected].
  • We’ve also got a list of retailers that have reopened since May 20. That list can be found here, and additions and other changes can be emailed to [email protected].
  • If you haven’t been to the Center in a few days you’re in for quite a surprise! There are corrals built for outdoor dining and some new traffic patterns. Expect the corrals to start filling up with tables and chairs for use this week, and expect restaurants in other parts of town to continue to expand their outdoor dining as well. The opportunity to expand outdoors is open to retail businesses as well. Complete details and photos of the corrals can be found here.
  • Phase 2 of Reopen Connecticut – which also includes indoor dining (at max 50% of capacity) has been moved up by a few days, and will begin on June 17. Click here for more information about what will be opening in this phase.
  • While many businesses have closed temporarily, most have plans to reopen as soon as regulations permit. One local business that is not reopening is Hair Cuttery, which was located in the Stop and Shop Plaza in Elmwood. Hair Cuttery has closed all of its New England stores.

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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