A round-up of openings, closings, and other news about West Hartford businesses.
By Ronni Newton
I would show a photo of how big my daffodils are getting, but that would mean going outside, where there is still a layer of icy, slushy glop on my driveway. As I write this on Sunday afternoon, I have not set foot outside and I have no plans to do so.
It’s been one of those crazy, busy weeks that started off with a snowstorm last Monday – which luckily ended in time for my chance to share last week’s Business Buzz column on NBC Connecticut’s CT Live! show. Click here to see the clip!
This past week I covered a heartfelt presentation to the fire department by a West Hartford mom and her pre-school son (one of my absolute favorite stories), the superintendent’s budget proposal to the Board of Education, a presentation about scam avoidance at the West Hartford Senior Center, several police stories, and a great performance of “Singin’ in the Rain” by Conard High School Musical Productions.
That’s not a complete list, but it’s no wonder I was tired by the end of the week – but fired up to moderate a “Cocktails and Conversation” panel at Playhouse on Park Friday night. The participants included the actors in “The Revolutionists” and four “badass” women from the community – Office of Early Childhood Commissioner Beth Bye, Judge Nina Elgo, artist Stefanie Marco Lantz, and Rev. Erica Thompson of Asylum Hill Congregational Church. A very appropriate way to mark International Women’s Day!
At the very last minute on Saturday I accepted my sister’s invitation to run a 5K with her (I mean less-than-two-hours-before-it-started last minute) – mostly because it involved pizza and beer at the end. It was good to get out and run hard for the first time in quite a while, and Saturday was a beautiful day.
Ted and I finally had a full dinner at Division West, and of course I couldn’t resist taking photos of our meal, which drives him crazy. (I do it anyway.) The photos are at the end of the column, after the many extra photos that go with today’s lead story.
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:
- Spaces is getting ready to open on March 18 (in the former REI store at 71 Raymond Rd. in Blue Back Square), and while there are a few finishing touches left to add, I was able to have the grand tour on Friday with Community Manager Morgan Hilyard. I’ve always liked taking architectural photos, and went a little crazy because I love the cool/funky industrial space and I think it’s extremely photogenic. (See photo gallery below.) While the central staircase that was a focal point of REI has been retained and looks virtually unchanged, Spaces is otherwise a complete transformation of the store into a co-working space that can accommodate several hundred people, and should definitely offer the kind of vibe that will foster innovation and collaboration. The first floor offers booths, desks, and a few “phone booths” for co-working members – those who don’t have dedicated desks – to use during business hours (8:30 a.m.-5 p.m.). There are five cruiser bikes that members can borrow to take a spin around Blue Back Square or the surrounding area to clear their heads, as well as an assortment of games like Jenga, Pick Up Sticks, and shuffleboard for community and team building. The soon-to-open cafe will be staffed with a barista, and will offer (for sale) breakfast options and sandwiches and beverages, including nitro brew coffee. There’s also a tap for beer, which will be served during events. Spaces has five conference rooms in a range of sizes, all with white boards and TVs for video conferencing, one-person offices (called “think tanks”), multi-person offices, and several suites, the largest of which can accommodate about 20 people. All offices have frosted glass exterior walls, and the lighting in the offices with windows have lights that sense the presence of natural light and adjust accordingly. Membership to the general space is $300/per month for an annual contract, and prices vary for dedicated desks, offices, and suites, which are available for use 24/7. The second floor, which offers sweeping views of the lower level, includes office and conference, space, a client kitchen, and open event space. Spaces has a collaboration with West Elm, which has provided many of the prints and accessories. “We’re expecting more than 200 people every day,” Hilyard said, and 50 percent of the offices have already been sold to those who work in a variety of industries – including marketing, recruiting, finance, and therapy. Hilyard said that for the first few weeks, prospective members can come and test out the co-working area on the first floor. “Things have been going really really well,” Area Manager Jonathan Celentano said. The Chamber of Commerce will host its Business After Hours at Spaces this Thursday (click here to register), and look for an Experience We-Ha live show coming from that event. Hilyard also said that surrounding restaurants and retailers will be offering discounts for Spaces members. For questions about becoming a member, contact Celentano at [email protected] or 860-322-7335. For questions about using Spaces for events, contact Hilyard at [email protected] or 860-999-9650.
- The Chamber of Commerce will be holding a ribbon cutting at Skeleton Key on Friday, March 15, at 2 p.m., celebrating the opening of the “adventure emporium’s” newest game – “Virus.” With “Starry Night” and “Scarab” already open, this will complete the available adventures. The associate restaurant, Deadbolt, will begin opening for lunch beginning Monday, coinciding with the opening of Spaces.
- Plans are still being finalized, but mark your calendars for what should be a very cool “Taste of New Park” on Thursday, April 18, from 5-7:30 p.m. Unlike the other “Taste of” events, this one is going to be a food truck festival, held in the parking lot of 616 New Park, right next to the Elmwood CTfastrak station. West Hartford-based Iron and Grain has already committed, and will be helping coordinate other food trucks. More details to follow.
- Comedy at the Elbow Room has been growing in popularity, and will now be taking place at least weekly. Comedian Paul Gregory, who is general manager of the Elbow Room and founder of the Stand-Up Underground will be bringing in nationally-known late night headliners and New England rising stars for West Hartford’s only regular comedy club. Tom Hickey of WHMedia said that the comedy club has grown out of monthly WeHaHA comedy nights sponsored by Dr. Steve Fischman that launched at World of Beer about six months ago, and quickly caught on. For space reasons the comedy events moved to the lower level of the Elbow Room a few months ago. During comedy events, the Elbow Room will still be open for dinner as usual, but there is a separate charge for those who wish to attend the comedy show. Upcoming shows include Saturday, March 16: Dave Temple; Saturday, March 23: All Star Show (“Best of Therapy Thursday”): Friday, March 29: Ray Harrington; every Thursday: Laughter Therapy Thursday – a showcase of New England’s funniest comics. According to Hickey, there will also be nonprofit nights associated with the comedy nights, with the first participant being A Better World Adoptions of Farmington. Tickets and more information are available on EventBrite or call the Elbow Room at 860-236-6195.
- Chris Conway is now in his third month as executive director of the West Hartford Chamber of Commerce and has announced some additional staff appointments. Jessie Reed Bouclier, who has been working at the Chamber for several months, has been officially named member services coordinator, and Kate Jacobson Kobs has just been hired as outreach and development coordinator. Look for a feature story soon with more details.
- Luna Pizza (999 Farmington Ave.) has just started offering Tuesday night grab and go dinner specials large enough to feed four to six people, with a new menu every week. Last week they featured a half pan of Chicken Parm over linguini along with a half pan of house salad and a loaf of homemade cheesy garlic bread. Follow Luna Pizza on Facebook for weekly updates posted on Monday about the Tuesday special.
- Congratulations to West Hartford resident Lisa Berman, named the “Woman of Impact” for March by the Jewish Federation of Greater Hartford. According to her bio that accompanied the announcement, Berman “serves on several boards while balancing her volunteer work with a part-time career teaching reading intervention one-on-one or in a small group setting at Wolcott Elementary School.” Click here to read more.
- Devin Shea, one of the wedding planners with Engaged Connecticut, said that the “Intimate Wedding Planning Event,” a showcase featuring selected wedding professionals, will be held on April 6, from 10 a.m.-2 p.m., at 41 Grassmere Ave., West Hartford. Admission is free, goodie bags will be distributed, and there will be a chance to register to win a free night’s stay at The Inn at Mount Pleasant. Visit the Facebook event page for more details. Tickets are available at engagedct.com.
- “MAGIC” is coming to the Delamar Hotels, including West Hartford. “We can all use a bit of magic in our lives, and while Las Vegas remains a mecca for the mysterious and miraculous, now you don’t have to travel outside of Connecticut to be mystified and thrilled by world-class magicians,” a press release states. A series of live performances will feature some of of the “world’s most prolific sleight-of-hand artists to amaze audiences with unearthly acts.” The Magic shows will be held monthly, on Sundays, at 2 p.m. and 5 p.m., and will last 65-75 minutes, with a cost of $60-$75, including a glass of wine for those 21 and up. The show is open to ages 15 and up. For more information and to purchase tickets visit DELAMARMagic.com. The first show in West Hartford is “Chad Long: Expect the Unexpected,” on April 21 – a clever and interactive show that brings to life everyday objects like cards, coins, and rubber bands. Shows will also be held on May 19, June 16, July 21, and Aug. 18.
- ICYMI, don’t miss the next Culinary Corner Pub Crawl – a St. Paddy’s Day-themed event being organized by Eat IN Connecticut, on Saturday, March 16, from 1-5 p.m. Click here for the details.
- The latest Experience We-Ha podcast is live, and features Mandell JCC Executive Director David Jacobs and Board member and WFSB Channel 3 News Anchor Dennis House. Click here to listen.
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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