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West Hartford Business Buzz: March 16, 2020 [Updated]

West Hartford logo. Courtesy of Town of West Hartford

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

By Ronni Newton

What a difference a week – or even a day or an hour – makes. Like many of us, I feel like I have entered a tunnel, with no idea of its length, or how many twists and turns there may be until the light is visible on the other end.

Late Monday morning I have had to go back and edit this article because some of the information is now outdated. In a conference call Monday at 10 a.m. open to media, Gov. Ned Lamont, Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York, and Gov. Phil Murphy of New Jersey issued a regional mandate, requiring all restaurants and bars to operate only as take-out or delivery as of 8 p.m. Monday. Gyms and fitness centers, and movie theaters, are also required to close as of 8 p.m. Monday.

On Sunday night, West Hartford Mayor Shari Cantor declared a State of Emergency for the town.

Lamont issued another executive order Sunday night as well, and among his actions were closing all schools in the state after Monday. At that point, restaurants and bars were allowed to remain open, but were asked to reduce occupancy by 50%. Faith organizations are also being asked to limit capacity.

March came in like a lamb weather wise, and two weeks ago most of us were still carefree in our behavior (my family went skiing) perhaps aware of but blissfully unconcerned being impacted by COVID-19, the novel coronavirus that is pretty much the only thing on our minds now.

Everything seems surreal. It’s unprecedented, unimaginable. I’ve said that about other crises, but this is different from the October snowstorm in 2011, and different from the 9-11.

I would ordinarily be writing about my beautiful daffodils in bloom and the beautiful early spring weather.

Last Monday I interviewed Jeff Dooley, voice of the Yard Goats, at Dunkin’ Donuts Park for a feature story for West Hartford LIFE. We spoke about the team getting ready to open their season on April 9.

On Monday night, We-Ha.com sports reporter Marlon Pitter covered the Conard boys basketball team hosting and winning their first-ever home playoff game, and intern Asaad Hicks covered the Hall-Southington boys hockey team’s home win in the Division III championship.

I had to search my calendar to remember the chain of events, because it’s been such a blur starting with the CIAC’s cancellation of winter sports tournaments, the governor’s declaration of a public health emergency, announcement that West Hartford Public Schools would close at the end of the week for at least two weeks, the suspension of professional sports seasons, the cancellation of March Madness, and the delays start to Major League baseball which has also delayed the Yard Goats season opener.

With each new announcement, the gravity of the situation grows, and what we previously thought was unbelievable has become a trivial blip in comparison.

Our worlds have been turned completely upside down this week, and unfortunately I don’t think we can expect a return to “normal” any time soon. Even if no West Hartford residents have yet tested positive, I’m sadly certain that people are already infected.

At Big Y last week, I used the hand-sanitizing wipes to hold onto the cart.

On Monday I was very calm, but by the end of the week I was freaked out, and not just because I dared to set foot in grocery stores on a search for toilet paper.

As a community journalist, my job is to keep everyone informed with relevant, local news. I intend to ensure that We-Ha.com remains the best possible resource it can be for the community as we deal with this pandemic.

We need to take care of each other however we can, and we need to flatten the curve.

My son is home now, missing at least part, if not all, of his final semester of college at UConn. He’s not happy with my rules about social distancing. Saturday was my daughter’s 25th birthday, and the immediate family had dinner together to celebrate, which I honestly hope wasn’t too big a crowd. The dog is the only one who is happy for the extra attention and extra walks.

Please, please, please heed the advisories our government leaders – however draconian they may sound when they’re issued. Public health decisions are often unpopular at the onset, but in hindsight it’s much better to err on the side of caution.

Business this week is not business as usual, and neither is this column. I had some regular business news to report that I had collected earlier in the week, and while those items are not necessarily going to be impacted by the current situation, as of Sunday night it just doesn’t feel appropriate.

I also couldn’t come up with an appropriate feature photo, so I used the town logo as extra emphasis of the need to feel we are all in this together.

Please support your local businesses in the best and safest way possible. There are so many people doing so many good things in our community, and some good suggestions below for how to help.

Comments and additional suggestions are very much appreciated.

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].

Stay safe and healthy.

Here’s this week’s Buzz:

  • Alex McDonald, owner of Luna Pizza, wanted to make sure people who are impacted by the coronavirus are able to have access to food, and will be both donating food and using Luna’s drivers to deliver food to predetermined drop-off locations in West Hartford and Hartford that are still being finalized and to be announced later in the week. Kat Kluger, who is assisting Luna in organizing the program, said there will be no requirement to prove need. “It’s so people who need food can get food,” she said. Thus far, participating establishments in addition to Luna include Hartford Baking Company, The Place 2 Be, and le Banh Patisserie. Hartford Golf Club, which had filled orders for events that have now been canceled, will also be donating food. Kluger said complete details will be forthcoming by the end of the week, and volunteers as well as additional participants would very much be welcomed, as would donated gift cards. Email [email protected] to volunteer or for more information.
  • I was going to list the restaurants that are now promoting delivery or “zero contact” to-go options, but the list is much too long. If you’re craving a meal from your favorite West Hartford restaurant, it’s likely they will be able to accommodate you. This includes wine, beer, and spirits from the Wise Old Dog, which is offering concierge delivery beginning Monday at 3 p.m. Owner Jacob Studenroth said to email the desired “order” to [email protected] with the subject line “order” and let them know what in general you would like (for example, he said, “2 bottles of Sancerre, a 4-pack of local craft beer, 2 cheap Italian red, and a bottle of Ketel,” and staff will help pick out the final order. Someone over 21 must be home to accept delivery, and IDs will be required.
  • In a move that is now required in New York and Massachusetts, Kaliubon Ramen in Blue Back Square (54 Memorial Rd.) has announced that they are open for take-out only. They have also temporarily closed the Wethersfield location.

    Waiter Wheels. Courtesy photo

  • Waiter Wheels, a long-time Connecticut restaurant food delivery service, is offering a non-contact drop-off option. “Waiter Wheels can drop off the food at your front door with no interaction what so over. And, for the months of March and April, any end user that chooses this delivery option will receive a one-time use free delivery promo code CLESS20,” the company announced last week in a news release. “Also, each driver will be given hand sanitizer with instruction to use before and after each delivery. This extra step is for the safety of the driver and the end user. Similarly, for any participating restaurants who choose to sign up with Waiter Wheels by March 31, 2020, they will have the $200 set-up fee waived. ‘​Food is meant to be shared. Food is about community. And when the community can not get together to break bread – let’s face it, it’s unnatural and a bit depressing​. We want to bridge the gap between the safe and appropriate measures folks are taking to stay healthy, and the need in all of us to eat, drink and be happy​.'” he said. For more information, Waiter Wheels can be found online or on Instagram and Facebook at @waiterwheels.
  • To continue to support your local businesses, you can also purchase gift cards to use at another time. Mayor Shari Cantor, in response to Monday morning’s announcement, said, “These exceptional restrictions affect so many people that will need support during these challenging times. If you are able to support these treasured establishments – you can  by purchasing gift cards or ordering take out.”
  • I was in touch with Westfarms spokesperson Amanda Sirica on Monday morning to find out what was happening there. “We’re considering all of our options,” she said. Because stores are independent operations governed by their own corporate offices, she advised customers to call before coming to a particular store. “Store hours will vary,” she said.
  • The list of businesses that have announced special provisions are in place to keep premises clean and the atmosphere safe for customers probably includes every business that welcomes the public.

    Stop & Shop is one of the local retailers temporarily changing operating hours. Photo credit: Dexter McCann

  • Welcome back to Dexter McCann, one of last summer’s interns who is back on an extended spring break and will also be back for the summer! He jumped right in and put together information about changing hours at local grocery and drug stores due to the coronavirus. Click here to read the complete article.
  • A few businesses have notified me that they are closed temporarily. They include LIFER Fitness (20 Jefferson Ave.) and Uncle Chow (179 Park Rd.). If you know of a business that’s closed during this pandemic, please add it in the comments.
  • “I believe strongly the epidemiologic principal of flattening the curve. I want to be able for all of us to get back to our normal lives, too,” said Kathryn Pascucci, a physician in West Hartford. On Sunday she launched a GoFundMe campaign with a goal of $5,000 to assist local businesses, and as of late Sunday had raised $825. “I understand that our local businesses will feel an economic impact if people stay home, and hope that the ability to support businesses through this fund will make at least some difference and will remove that as a consideration when people are going out into public” Pascucci said. “The sooner we all comply with this the sooner we can resume normal activities and more importantly contain the virus, protect vulnerable people, and help our medical system deal with the burden of the virus. People are still going to gyms and parties thinking that if the place is open they should go! It’s just prolonging this period and exposing more people who could get sick or pass the virus to someone who could potentially die. This isn’t like the environmental crisis and using paper straws, we can make a huge impact in a short time!” To donate, click here.
  • There are so many people who want to help others during this time of uncertainty, and just one example is Lisa Barall-Matt, a realtor with Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage in West Hartford Center, who has formed the WeHa Angel Alliance. “As we all respond to the COVID-19 virus some in our community might need help. If any neighbors living in West Hartford who are considered higher risk for COVID I am available to run errands for groceries or prescription pick up. Higher risk neighbors in our community are those with a serious chronic medical condition like heart disease, diabetes, or lung disease. I am fortunate to work a flexible schedule that allows me to do shopping during the day when store traffic is light. If you or a loved one in West Hartford need help let me know. This is a FREE service I am offering to do my part during this uncertain time,” she posted on the Neighbors & Friends in West Hartford Facebook page, where about 100 people have already signed on. Comment below if you would like to assist.
  • Speaking of Neighbors & Friends in West Hartford, I want to give a shout-out to administrator Patti Albee, who is doing to much to help the community. She’s started posts about finding babysitters to help out while parents have to work but their kids are out of school, volunteers, ideas for what to do when your kids are home, information about purchasing gift cards from local businesses, and many more topics. I am personally so grateful for everything Patti does (and her patience as an administrator of a group of more than 17,000 people), and I know many others are, too! If you’re looking for virtually any type of information related to West Hartford, you can probably find it on the Neighbors & Friends page.

    Courtesy image

  • As of Sunday, Corned Beef and Brews for a Cure is still happening at World of Beer in Blue Back Square, and it has a to-go option as well. “On St. Patrick’s Day 2020 we’re going to eat our way to a cure. Everyone knows someone who’s life has been affected by cancer. All day today we’ll be selling corned beef sandwiches with a side and a corned beef and cabbage entree. 100% of the proceeds from those items will go directly to the Ron Foley Foundation. As an added bonus, the Guinness Engravers will be in the tavern from 7-9pm! Anyone who buys one of the corned beef entrees will be able to make a custom engraved Guinness glass to keep as a cool souvenir. The entrees will be available from open to close so please, make the trek out here, have a delicious meal, throw back a couple Guinness’s, and help us fight back against cancer. You could even order corned beef to go and the sales STILL go to the charity. Let’s see if you can make us run out of corned beef …” An announcement Monday morning indicated that this event has now been canceled and will be rescheduled for a future date.
  • If you were planning to attend any other event in the next few weeks, it’s likely canceled. I started a list, but it’s so long it’s just not possible to keep it up and if you have something scheduled check with the host. Really (says the mom in me), you should be practicing social distancing and avoiding large gatherings. Many of the events that have been canceled, however, benefit nonprofits that will need help more than ever. If you planned to attend one of these events, please consider donating.
  • ICYMI, there were a few podcasts this past week, including this interview with the principals of Keating Agency Insurance, and an interview with Annisa Teich of West Hartford Coworking.

I hope we will get back to the regular Business Buzz very soon, but in the meantime we will all be facing a new and every changing reality.

I’m proud to be part of this wonderful, caring community, and I know we will come through this together.

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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