A round-up of openings, closings, and other news about West Hartford businesses.
By Ronni Newton
Spring will arrive tomorrow! Well, at least according to the calendar, it will arrive at 12:15 p.m. EDT on Tuesday, March 20.
I usually, and eagerly, consider it to be spring on March 1, meteorological spring, but I think this year it was going to snow that day so it felt so wrong to even be thinking it was spring. Last Tuesday’s snow seems to have completely melted (thank you sun!) and I have my fingers crossed that this week’s possible nor’easter seems to be staying away.
It’s still cold outside, however. Way too cold. It’s not “breezy,” it’s “blustery” and there’s a wind chill.
I took a photo of my daffodils on Sunday afternoon to show that they survived last week’s snow, but when I compared it to last week’s photo it didn’t really look any different so I think maybe they are comatose (perhaps not quite the right term, but you know what I mean, and when I asked my husband for a better word he suggested “stunned” or “stopped hoping”) awaiting a warm-up. On Saturday, Facebook’s “On This Day” feature served up a photo from March 17, 2016 – of my daffodils in nearly full bloom. That’s what you see here.
This was a busy week, and even though it was interrupted by a snow day, it was filled with an incredibly diverse array of activities and events.
On Monday, the Town Council received the FY2019 budget from Town Manager Matt Hart. The Board of Education as well as the Town Council will be hearing comments from the public at upcoming hearings, the first of which is a newly-scheduled Board of Education hearing at King Philip Middle School on Thursday, March 22, at 7 p.m.
Wednesday was the national school walkout, and although members of the press (and any other adults not affiliated with the schools) were not permitted on any West Hartford campuses during the event, I spoke with students before and after for this story. I was so impressed by their maturity and passion.
I also attended the Go Red for Women luncheon on Wednesday, and the fascinating and engaging Connecticut Forum session on Journalism and the News at the Bushnell on Friday night.
On Saturday, I was court side at Mohegan Sun Arena, photographing the Hall girls basketball team as they faced Mercy in the finals of the CIAC Class LL championship. Sadly, they didn’t win, but being runner-up is definitely not-too-shabby, and it was a great opportunity for the girls to play in a such a great venue.
One last note – I’ve gotten lots of comments about the newsletter. We’re still working on the look of it, so please be patient!
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:
- A long-time West Hartford institution, Harry’s Pizza, is about to get a makeover. The business changed hands in September 2017, when longtime owner Barbara Lang sold it to Bob Hagmeier as well as some other investors, including David Palten of West Hartford. [Note that Harry’s Bishops Corner has for years had different ownership from the Harry’s in West Hartford Center, which moved from Farmington Avenue to 39 South Main St. in August 2011. Lang still owns Harry’s Pizza in Glastonbury.] “We want the community to know that we have nothing but respect for what Harry started more than 30 years ago,” Palten said Friday as he provided some details about the updates. “This is a great opportunity to revitalize the inside and bring Harry’s back to the glory days – and do more.” The same great pizza will remain a staple of the menu, with cooking overseen by Hagmeier’s wife MaryAnn, whose family hails from Naples, Italy, Palten said. Physical changes will include a major update to the interior, giving it an industrial look with barn wood and brick on the walls, new seating, and adding a 15-seat bar with high-top tables. Beverage offerings will be expanded to include a combination of hyperlocal craft beers, specialty whiskeys, and craft cocktails, and there will also be new food items on the menu, including personal pizzas and calzones, Palten said. The footprint will not change, the kitchen will not be renovated, and Palten said that Harry’s will remain open on the weekend for takeout through the duration of the construction, which is estimated to last about six weeks. There will be a clear path to the kitchen from Thursday afternoon through Sunday evening, and construction will take place during the time the restaurant is not open, he said. “It will be the same great pizza,” Palten emphasized. Pending final approval from the fire marshal, the construction should start just after Easter and be completed in mid-May. And if anyone is interested in an authentic and original Harry’s booth, Palten said to let them know. Everything that is being ripped out will be donated. Also, Harry’s will be hiring bartenders and other staff, and anyone interested can call 860-231-7166.
- Panera Bread has launched a delivery service in West Hartford as well as other locations. As of March 13, franchise owner Howley Bread Group announced that the entire menu is now available to customers who live or work near cafés in West Hartford, Southington, Hartford (State House Square), The Shoppes at Buckland Hills (Manchester), Wethersfield, Glastonbury, Enfield, Farmington, Newington, and Groton. Orders must be at least $5, and can be placed online at PaneraBread.com or through the Panera Bread app. A standard delivery fee of $3.50 applies. “It is exciting to offer delivery service to our guests,” said Howley Bread Group Senior Vice President Tom Howley. “Panera delivery makes it easy to enjoy your favorite soup, salad or sandwich at your home or office on days when it’s not convenient to make it into a bakery-cafe.” As an alternative, Rapid Pick-Up of online orders is also available.
- I don’t have any details other than this photo sent to me by a reader, but it appears that Green Teahouse will be expanding from Blue Back Square with a location at Westfarms! More details definitely to come!
- Play It Again Sports in West Hartford Center is for sale – and although a sign to that effect has been posted on the door, owner Elizabeth Hicks said is not closing and sent the following email to customers last week: “After 27 years, I am planning to retire and will be selling the store. (THE STORE IS NOT CLOSING). Next year I turn 70. My husband and I will be off to live our dream and work on our bucket list. I opened Play It Again Sports, West Hartford in May 1991. Over the years, I have been very fortunate to develop a solid customer base of over 20,000, including two to three generations in some families. So, I am looking for someone to buy the store who will love it as much as I have. I’m looking for someone who will continue to bring good value and knowledgeable customer service to our great customers. If you, or someone you know, loves sports and enjoys helping people, please call me, Elizabeth, at 860-523-4692.”
- Congratulations to Ronit Shoham! Most people in West Hartford have benefitted from something that Shoham has done for the community, and now Malta House of Care has named her a member of the “Wonder Women Class of 2018,” noting that she “starts, runs, or supports dozens of organizations to make the Greater Hartford community more accessible, inclusive, and successful – all as a volunteer.” Shoham will be officially recognized at the gala on May 9. Click here for more details.
- A double congratulations to Ryan Keating of Keating Agency Insurance! Keating was just elected treasurer of the Professional Insurance Agents (PIA) of Connecticut. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, because Keating’s father, Michael, is a past president of the association. In addition, Keating was elected to the board of governance at the Hartford Club last month! The Hartford Club, a 145-year staple of the Greater Hartford community. “It is exciting and an honor as the Hartford Club recently underwent many renovations to preserve and upgrade to be the place for events, networking, and social activities in downtown Hartford,” Keating said.
- YHB Investment Advisors, Inc., an independent investment advisory firm based in West Hartford Center, is excited to announce two recent staff promotions. According to a YHB Investment Advisors, Rocky Hill resident Michelle DiMartino has been promoted from Senior Portfolio Administrator to Chief Compliance Officer & Senior Portfolio Administrator. In addition to her portfolio administration experience, DiMartino has held a variety of positions in accounting and finance within the insurance and long term care industries. West Hartford resident T. Matthew Manning has been promoted to Senior Portfolio Manager. In his expanding role, Manning will continue to deliver personalized service and custom portfolio management to individuals/families, institutions, and non-profit organizations throughout the country. He has over 12 years of investment, financial analysis and corporate finance experience.
- Have you popped in to The White Rabbit at 214 Park Rd. yet? It’s a treasure trove of antiques, furniture, vintage clothing and toys, gifts, and local art. West Hartford artist Marilyn Holt, owner of Spirited Touch Designs, is “over the moon excited” that her necklaces, hearts, and gourds (yes, gourds like none you’ve ever seen), will be for sale at this unique shop. Using natural objects including pine cones and interesting wood fragments with alcohol inks in resin, Marilyn’s creations are truly one-of-a-kind. Marilyn is part of the WEHA Artists Emporium, and is just one of the local artists whose work is featured at The White Rabbit. Art by painter Karen Helfeld Israel is also for sale at the shop. (Thanks to Joy Taylor for this blurb!)
- West Hartford residents Ana Oliveira and Jeff Hoberman are in the midst of transforming Peabody’s Café at 712 Hopmeadow St. in Simsbury to Ana’s Kitchen Café, maintaining the coffee house menu and atmosphere, but expanding the menu. More details are available in a story by Hartford Courant reporter Jordan Otero Sisson published last week.
- This week’s sad news is the imminent closing of Toys ‘R’ Us. When my kids were young we were frequent visitors to the Toys ‘R’ Us store in Corbin’s Corner, and although I won’t pretend I always loved going there, it was a rite of passage as the kids got old enough to be out of the cart and walking alongside me, helping pick out birthday presents for their friends. Even though I deliver the news about West Hartford in a digital format, I’m in the camp that likes to touch things before buying them, and don’t do much online shopping and it makes me sad when brick and mortar retailers succumb to their online competitors. I don’t know when the local Toys ‘R’ U store will close for good, but sales have started, and this article on money.cnn.com gives some information about the company’s master plan.
- Finally, ICYMI, the Home Design District of West Hartford has launched a new branding campaign, promoting the area as a destination for service, solutions, and quality products. Click here for the complete story.
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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