Blue Back Square Business Elmwood Park Road The Center

West Hartford Business Buzz: March 12, 2018

SPoT Coffee should open in Blue Back Square in early- to mid-April. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

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

By Ronni Newton

So Mr. – or Ms. – Groundhog, we need to talk.

I was singing the praises of Chuckles IX, the resident groundhog at the Lutz Children’s Museum, who forecast an early spring. And we had a few nice, warm days in February, so I thought maybe we were good, but it now appears that Punxsutawney Phil and West Hartford’s own Cider were right about winter continuing.

But isn’t the prediction supposed to be for six more weeks of winter? That would bring us to Friday, March 16. I’m challenging all groundhogs to leave their holes by that date, because there are some of us who are really, really ready for spring. I’ve dusted off my “Bah Humbug” coffee mug to use on Tuesday morning (I really have one of those, and be on the lookout for it on Instagram), but it definitely needs to be retired for the season.

The snow has melted around my daffodils, and on March 11 they were looking rather healthy. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

My daffodils survived last Wednesday’s snowstorm. I’m hoping they will survive this week’s evil white stuff as well.

I got back from Florida last Monday night (getting a taste of warm weather, being able to go for a run in shorts and a tank top, and wearing flip flops has perhaps made me more anxious for winter to be gone for good) and jumped right into a busy week that included reporting on the Conard vs. Hall-Southington hockey game, presentation of the superintendent’s budget, a snowstorm that caused power outages (this time I didn’t miss this opportunity to take photos of downed trees and power lines, and only got yelled at by Eversource once), two events in Hartford, and the opportunity to tell the story of Rollo and Charlotte – two West Hartford dogs who have gone through quite the ordeal in the past two weeks.

Sam came home for spring break on Friday, so we’ve been having more normal dinners (i.e., I haven’t had cereal for dinner in a few days) and already need to restock the refrigerator.

As you likely noticed, the Monday/Wednesday/Friday We-Ha.com newsletter has looked a bit different for the past few issues. We have moved from the manual newsletter that Creative Director Joy Taylor has been producing for the past 3 1/2 years, to an automatic version. We know it looks different, and not everyone is happy, but we’re still tweaking some things. We also hope to be adding a calendar feed sometime soon. Thanks so much to Joy for handling this task, and staying up late waiting for headlines and photos when meetings or games lasted late into the evening! She’ll still be sending out breaking news alerts, so she’s not off the newsletter hook completely.

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:

  • If you know me personally you know that I am a major coffee drinker and like many I have been eagerly awaiting the opening of SPoT Coffee in Blue Back Square. In a January column I cited a company news release that indicated plans to open in March, but I was a bit skeptical back then because I had seen the still-gutted interior of the former White House Black Market space. The corporate headquarters is in Canada and it’s been a bit hard to find a contact person, but on Friday I finally caught up with Dan Vincent, who is responsible for the company’s  marketing and advertising. “We are scheduled to open in early to mid April,” Vincent said in an email. The awnings and signs are up, mural painting is in progress, and it appears that there is just some finish work left to be done. I hope to have a sneak peek once the actual opening day is scheduled!
  • It’s not quite in West Hartford, but close enough and of interest to enough people to deserve mention: Burlington Coat Factory is now open in the former Sports Authority space on New Britain Avenue just past Westfarms! According to the company website, the store opened on March 9. For details about hours and other store information, click here.

    Value Office Furniture/2nd Chance Planet will be moving from 74 Park Rd. to 22 Andover Dr. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

  • Gregory Spear purchased Value Office Furniture in June 2017, and will be moving the company from its current location at 74 Park Rd. (about 7,000 square feet) to space that is nearly double (about 12,000) square feet at 22 Andover Dr. (off the Oakwood Avenue extension) over the course of the next several weeks. Spear said that he was already running 2nd Chance Planet and was looking for space when he met Value Office Furniture’s former owner, Terry Danaher, and learned that he was selling the business. It provided a great opportunity to support 2nd Chance Planet’s mission of reducing recidivism by employing people who have been incarcerated or are coming out of rehabilitation programs, and Spear said he jumped at the opportunity. “Right now we employ people and provide support services, but I want to build out a training program so they can get jobs elsewhere,” Spear said, by providing work history and skills. Spear said that the company is a Connecticut Benefit Corporation, a for-profit company with a social mission, and employees work under the “Newman’s Own” model. “One-hundred percent of the profits go into the mission,” Spear said, really even more when considering that employees’ wages are really supporting the mission as well. Look for a full feature story after the company move is complete.

    Alan Lazowski. Submitted photo

  • Congratulations to LAZ Parking CEO and Chairman Alan Lazowski, who has been elected to the Board of Directors of the NAACP. “I am honored and humbled to be a part of the oldest and largest civil rights organization in the country,” said Lazowski said in a written statement. “As a son of Holocaust survivors, I feel an obligation to fight against hate, bigotry and racism of all kinds. Since founding our company in 1981, we have been committed to recruiting a diverse workforce, hiring immigrants and giving second chances. I look forward to working with the NAACP in furthering their mission, especially as it relates to criminal justice,” According to a news release, Lazowski founded LAZ Parking in 1981 while attending the University of Connecticut. LAZ is now the second largest parking and transportation company in the nation, with over 11,500 employees managing revenues in excess of $1.4 billion and operating 2,750 parking locations in 30 states throughout the country.
  • Resident Jessica Keating shared the following message in an email: “Calling all high school families who are about to embark on the college search and application process! I am a long time West Hartford resident and a current Director of School Counseling who has just started a private college planning business, Fantastic Futures. I can help you with any or all of the aspects of the process, including but not limited to evaluation of the high school profile and creating a list of fitting schools, completing applications and adhering to deadlines, planning for the college visit, writing a winning college essay, preparing to ace a college interview, and navigating the scholarship and financial aid search. Fee, hours and meeting location are flexible based on your needs. Contact me today to set up a plan that works for you!” Keating can be reached at 203-464-9937 or by email at [email protected].
  • If you’ve noticed – like I have – that some work seems to be going on in the former Chalkboard space at 1126 New Britain Ave. in Elmwood, you’re not imaging things. There’s no signed lease to report yet, but according to Economic Development Specialist Kristen Gorski, the building owner is making some power upgrades and other improvements as an incentive to a potential tenant.
  • Get ready to laugh! The first-ever We-Ha-HA Comedy Night will be held on Tuesday, March 27, at World of Beer in West Hartford’s Blue Back Square. Comedian and promoter Paul Gregory is lining up a great slate of performers. Information about the event and how to purchase tickets can be found here.

    I look quite miniature surrounded by UConn head football coach Randy Edsall (left) and Yard Goats President Tim Restall.

  • I thought this photo would also be good for a laugh. I know I’m petite, but I really look small next to UConn head football coach Randy Edsall and Yard Goats President Tim Restall! Both were guest speakers at the Simsbury Chamber of Commerce’s Business Leaders breakfast last Friday, held at Dunkin Donuts Park. The topic was “Building an Organization from the Ground Up.” Common themes: good communication within the organization, teamwork, setting and living up to high standards, respect, accountability, and checking the ego at the door. Great advice, and my personal thanks to the team at Alliances by Alisa Media Relations for the invitation.
  • We-Ha.com has been extensively covering high school sports throughout the winter season, primarily thanks to the hard work of reporter Marlon Pitter, and West Hartford Public Schools is fortunate enough to have two teams that are making deep runs in the playoffs. Both play this week. On Monday night, Conard boys hockey plays at Yale in the Division II semifinals. The Hall girls basketball team has made it to the championship game (for only the second time ever!) and will play at Mohegan Sun on either Saturday or Sunday. We’d love to find a business sponsor to support the coverage of these games, for an article that will assuredly get lots of page views. Contact me at [email protected] or [email protected] if you’re interested in the opportunity.
  • Congratulations to Robinson+Cole lawyer Evan J. Seeman who has been named to the Board of Directors of Camp Courant, the largest free summer day camp in the nation. Seeman is a member of the firm’s Real Estate and Development Group, and according to a news release concentrates his practice in three areas – religious land use litigation, land use and zoning, and real property litigation. “Hartford’s Camp Courant serves over 1,000 of Hartford’s children, ages five to 12, typically between 500 – 600 children per day for six weeks each summer. The Camp prides itself on helping children learn to develop into healthy, responsible adults through its recreational, educational, and cultural programs,” a news release states.

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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