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West Hartford Business Buzz: March 18, 2019

West Hartford resident Hecheng Chen has opened Chosen 1 in the former O'Porto space on Park Street. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

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

By Ronni Newton

I hope everyone had a fun weekend!

Mayor Shari Cantor and I pose with Kenny, captain of the Philadelphia Aqua String Band Mummers in West Hartford. March 16, 2019. Photo credit: Ryan Keating

West Hartford Center was the place to be on Saturday night! As part of a St. Patrick’s Day weekend celebration, the famed Philadelphia Aqua String Band Mummers arrived just after 8:30 p.m. – and clad head-to-toe in sequins and beads, playing their instruments – they paraded into Union Kitchen. The performance continued on the street, and in McLadden’s.

I’m usually behind the camera at these kind of events, but thanks to Ryan Keating for snapping this photo of me with Mayor Shari Cantor and Kenny, captain of the Mummers! Click here to read the full story.

My week had plenty of other excitement, including the beginning of our master bathroom renovation project. After two days of jack-hammering, the contractor said you could have set off a grenade in the bathroom and not impacted any other room in the house because it has about 6 inches of tile/mud/concrete, and who knows what else in the walls. It looks like a bomb did go off right now with a few lone pieces of tile left in the shower and the walls down to the studs.

Bob Carr and I spent Thursday at Google’s New York headquarters at the Pubtelligence conference.

I was out of town for the start of the construction on Thursday – which was a good way to escape the noise, but that wasn’t actually the reason. Bob Carr, our business manager, and I attended the Pubtelligence conference (“pub” is for publishers) at Google’s New York headquarters, sponsored by Ezoic. It was very informative, and I came home with all sorts of great ideas.

Thursday was my first time taking CTrail from Hartford, and although I did have a somewhat long layover in New Haven on the way home, it was a pretty good way to travel.

Although it got chilly again on Saturday night and Sunday was a bit blustery, the weather is definitely starting to feel much more spring-like. I did see a few snowflakes in the air as I was heading out for a run on Sunday morning, and I hope I don’t need to eat my words.

I am heading to some warmer weather (although it’s supposed to be rather rainy), and by the time you read this I will probably be on the plane, en route to visit my dad in Delray Beach, FL. I’ll be back in town for Friday, and am hoping things are quiet in West Hartford until then.

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:

West Hartford resident Hecheng Chen has opened Chosen 1 in the former O’Porto space on Park Street. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

  • West Hartford resident Hecheng Chen has opened a new Cajun seafood restaurant – Chosen 1 – located just over the Hartford line in the former O’Porto space at 2074 Park St. Chen is also the owner of Ichiro Hibachi and Icy Rolls in West Hartford, the Bonchon franchise in Storrs, and Wayback Burger in Granby. The interior has been transformed with a casual beachy vibe, and the menu includes a variety of both steamed and fried seafood. I had a chance to sample several menu items at Chosen 1 last week, and definitely give the restaurant a thumbs-up! The specialty is definitely the steamed seafood, which Chen said is first cooked in its sauce in a wok (I had garlic butter), and then transferred to the steamer bag. Offerings include king crab legs, snow crab legs, whole Dungeness crab, shrimp, clams, mussels, and crawfish, served with sausage, potatoes, hard-boiled egg, and corn on the cob. Meals are available in single-size, or served on a shovel (really!) for a crowd – and sizes in between. Many more photos of the food and interior can be found at the end of the column. “I want to make a difference here,” Chen said of his location on Park Street, hoping to replicate the popularity of O’Porto. He’s also getting set to open another restaurant just down the street in West Hartford. Mr. Chow Asian in the former Chengdu space at 179 Park Rd. is currently in build-out stage and should open in the next few months.

    Ribbon cutting at Skeleton Key, March 15, 2019. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

  • The West Hartford Chamber of Commerce held a ribbon cutting Friday at Skeleton Key, as the adventure emporium in Blue Back Square opened its third and final game – “Virus” – to join the existing games Scarab and Starry Night. Ryan Knowles, president of Skeleton Key Entertainment (in addition to West Hartford, there is another location in Lynnfield, MA) said that he and engineer/”magician” Kevin Frasier have personally created all of the games. And Knowles, who was the company’s first employee three years ago, has a PhD in Egyptology from Boston University, so you can bet that the Scarab game in particular has a very interesting and authentic backstory.  I didn’t want to find out too much about the games because I haven’t had a chance to play yet and don’t want to spoil the experience, but I did walk through all of the rooms (each game has two), and bought a gift certificate as a birthday present for my daughter before I left! Because there are two rooms for each game, Knowles said that Skeleton Key is able to accommodate groups every 45 minutes. (Players have a full hour to solve the puzzle.) The adventure emporium is suggested for ages 10 and up, but an adult should plan to accompany each group of those under age 16. Deadbolt, the restaurant adjacent to and associated with Skeleton Key, will open for lunch beginning Monday – to coincide with the opening of Spaces (also on Monday) right across the parking lot. Click here for more information about Skeleton Key, and here for the menu and other details about Deadbolt.
  • “Two years flies by when you’re having fun,” Hartford Baking Company announced in a press release this week, noting that their second anniversary in West Hartford Center (965 Farmington Ave.) is on March 22. In honor of the anniversary, on Friday, March 22 there will be “two for one sandwiches all day long” (buy one sandwich, receive another for free), and the first 50 customers in the door will receive a free loaf of specialty bread. “We are thrilled to be a part of West Hartford Center. It’s a vibrant community of shops and restaurants. It was an instant success and it’s still going strong. We look forward to continuing to develop this location and add more community events, more specialty products, and more of the things that we know our customers love,” said President Scott Kluger. Coming up in April, it will be “Grilled Cheese Month” at Hartford Baking Company – with a different, specialty grilled cheese weekly at the Center and New Park Avenue locations. The full list and line up of sandwiches will be announced soon. Hartford Baking Company is open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

    Photo credit: Ronni Newton

  • I meant to include this last week, and apologize for the omission! As many may have already realized, Cinépolis, West Hartford’s movie theater in Blue Back Square, is closed temporarily for renovation, and even though some of the movie listings say to call for times, or even show that movies are being shown at the theater, the lobby is full of drywall and it is most definitely not open. “We are excited to provide a refreshed concept to our guests this summer. Our refreshed new look will include reclining leather seats, push button waiter service and more,” states the website. Blue Back Square Marketing Director Amy Cholowa said that the theater will “be opening for the Memorial Day blockbuster hits.”
  • More details to follow, but there will be a Salvation Army retail store moving into the PriceRite Plaza at 983 New Britain Ave. Kathy’s Urgent Care, which already has a location in Newington, is also preparing to open in that shopping center.

    Shannon TIgue. Submitted photo

  • Welcome to Shannon Tighe, who recently joined the West Hartford-based Bridge Family Center as director of Clinical Operations for their Outpatient Psychiatric Clinics located in West Hartford, Avon, and Rockville. She is responsible for the overall operations of the clinics including staffing, compliance, licensing and regulation, revenue management, and improved efficiencies. “Shannon is a healthcare management professional with over a decade of experience. Her passion for providing clients with the most effective and efficient care possible aligns perfectly with our mission,” said Margaret Hann, Executive Director of the Bridge Family Center. “The position of director of Clinical Operations was created to ensure we maximize our productivity and potential and Shannon’s abilities will be a great asset as the Bridge continues to grow and evolve to best meet the needs of our communities.” Tighe comes to the Bridge from La Frontera Center, Inc. in Arizona, where she advanced from a case manager to supervisor of Crisis and Inpatient Services. She has an MBA from the University of Phoenix and a bachelor’s in social and behavioral sciences from the University of Arizona.

    Marsha McCurdy Adell (left) and Dr. Tracy Brennan. Courtesy photos

  • Congratulations to West. Hartford residents Marsha McCurdy Adell and Dr. Tracy E. Brennan, who have been named to the Board of Directors of the Connecticut Coalition Against Domestic Violence (CCADV), the state’s leading voice for survivors of domestic violence and those organizations that serve them. Adell is a 20-year veteran of the West Hartford Fire Department, and also brings over a decade of experience as a certified diversity professional implementing strategies to create an inclusive environment and programs that raise awareness and improve cultural competence. She is an active local leader, having served in leadership roles with West Hartford’s Human Rights Commission, Initiative on Racial and EthnicDiversity, and the Foundation for West Hartford Public Schools. “Marsha is a community leader who will be a phenomenal asset in our work,” said Karen Jarmoc, CEO, CCADV. “Her expertise in strengthening diversity and inclusion will bolster our efforts to make our services more accessible in a way that meets the needs of a diverse population of survivors.” Brennan is a board-certified obstetrician and gynecologist practicing with Women’s Heath Connecticut. In 2017, Women’s Health Connecticut received the Lawrence & Shirley Bostrom Pillars of Change Award at CCADV’s annual awards ceremony, First100 Plus. Since 2002, Dr. Brennan has been voted a “Top Doc” in her field of ObGyn, and received Connecticare’s Golden Heart Award for highest patient satisfaction in the state of Connecticut and has been a recipient of a Patient’s Choice Award, a Compassionate Doctor Award, and voted one of the Best Doctors in America.“Dr. Brennan has long been an ally of the work we do at CCADV,” said Jarmoc. “She was crucial in establishing a partnership with CCADV to facilitate domestic violence screening and education throughout Women Health Connecticut’s practice. Her commitment and passion to supporting survivors in a trauma-informed manner will be hugely beneficial to guiding our work.” In addition to Adell and Brennan, Sean Gallagher was also named to the Board of CCADV.
  • I’ve been asked about the “West Hartford Inn” sign that has been placed above the door of the former Los Imperios space at 904 Farmington Ave. According to Economic Development Specialist Kristen Gorski, the sign is just being placed there for visibility purposes, and West Hartford Inn is still searching for a tenant for the restaurant space.

    India will be closing its Blue Back Square location at 54 Memorial Rd. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

  • Saving the bad news for the end. INDIA owner Prasad Chirnomula announced Friday “with a heavy heart” that he will be closing his Blue Back Square restaurant, with the final dinner being served on Saturday, March 23. “I want to thank all the diners of West Hartford and the neighborhood who have supported us for the entire tenure. I also want to thank the entire management of Blue Back Square. Thank you to my Sous Chef Akshay and our managers AJ, Mohammed, Nisha, and the other staff members who worked their tail off and a special thanks to my then business partner Tom Brandt. The decision of closing is purely a financial reason, while the expenses have increased and the revenues have been stagnant if not declining because of supply and demand,” Chirnomula said in an email. “I’ve been battling it for a while,” he told me Friday in a phone interview. He lives in Redding, and just re-established his restaurant in New Canaan (now called Chef Prasad’s), and although he launched the fine dining Indian restaurant in West Hartford “with utmost excitement and demand” and still loves the West Hartford community and the support of residents and the hospitality industry, it just wasn’t working out. “I have been in the Connecticut culinary world for the past 30 years but I saw something different in West Hartford that I have not seen elsewhere in Connecticut, it’s the bonding of the hospitality industry including the restaurant owners, chefs, cooks, managers, servers, bartenders, and the dishwashers,” Chirnomula said. Going forward, he plans to continue running the New Canaan restaurant, and focusing on his catering business. Chirnomula said he has also really enjoyed teaching at local schools and running classes in the New Canaan restaurant, and plans to continue that as well as consulting for restaurateurs planning new ventures. He is also hosting a tour of India this October, a “once-in-a-lifetime” luxurious introduction to the food and culture of the country. “I don’t think I can ever leave the industry,” he said. “We so enjoy Chef Prasad Chirnomula, he is a tremendous chef,” said Blue Back Square Marketing Director Amy Cholowa. “We are proud that we were able to support INDIA in their time here. We wish him the very best. As a vegetarian, I know I will be missing his delicious dishes.” No word yet about what may be going into that space.
  • One more possible closing to report: Cosmos International at 770 Farmington Ave. I heard about this on Sunday afternoon, and wasn’t able to get the manager on the phone to find out any specifics. Cosmos is currently still open, but there is a sign in the window that says that the building and business are for sale. I’ll provide any updates as soon as I can.
  • Don’t miss this week’s Experience We-Ha podcast: an interview with DirectLine Media’s David Chmielewski! 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].

Like what you see here? Click here to subscribe to We-Ha’s newsletter so you’ll always be in the know about what’s happening in West Hartford!

[Editor’s Note: This story has been updated.]

West Hartford resident Hecheng Chen has opened Chosen 1 in the former O’Porto space on Park Street. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

West Hartford resident Hecheng Chen has opened Chosen 1 in the former O’Porto space on Park Street. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Seafood served on a shovel at Chosen 1. Photo courtesy of Hecheng Chen

West Hartford resident Hecheng Chen has opened Chosen 1 in the former O’Porto space on Park Street. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

West Hartford resident Hecheng Chen has opened Chosen 1 in the former O’Porto space on Park Street. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

West Hartford resident Hecheng Chen has opened Chosen 1 in the former O’Porto space on Park Street. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

West Hartford resident Hecheng Chen has opened Chosen 1 in the former O’Porto space on Park Street. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Seafood gumbo. West Hartford resident Hecheng Chen has opened Chosen 1 in the former O’Porto space on Park Street. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Calamari and Cajun fries. West Hartford resident Hecheng Chen has opened Chosen 1 in the former O’Porto space on Park Street. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

West Hartford resident Hecheng Chen has opened Chosen 1 in the former O’Porto space on Park Street. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

West Hartford resident Hecheng Chen has opened Chosen 1 in the former O’Porto space on Park Street. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

West Hartford resident Hecheng Chen has opened Chosen 1 in the former O’Porto space on Park Street. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

West Hartford resident Hecheng Chen has opened Chosen 1 in the former O’Porto space on Park Street. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

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2 Comments

  • I went to Cosmos on Sat and saw the sign but the store was most definitely open and they were stocking shelves. I would be very careful making such a speculation that its closed based on the signs posted and not having confirmed with the management- very poor journalism. They might be trying to sell it, but its open.

    • I called and was unable to speak with anyone who would provide details. I am reporting based on the sign that is clearly posted in the window.

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