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West Hartford Business Buzz: March 20, 2017

Tate Norden, owner of Iron & Grain, has been working with the Town of West Hartford on a proposed food truck ordinance. Photo courtesy of Iron & Grain

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

By Ronni Newton

Welcome to spring – which arrives today at 6:29 a.m.! It certainly doesn’t look very spring-like outside, but I am going to hang up my daffodil flag and hope that my actual daffodils have survived the most recent onslaught of winter.

It was really hard to leave Vieques, Puerto Rico and return to snow in West Hartford. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

As many readers probably know, I have no good reason to complain about winter these days since I completely missed the latest storm. We (my husband, both kids who were on spring break, and I) had intended to leave for a long-planned trip to Vieques, Puerto Rico, on Tuesday – but thankfully were able to change our flights and escape Monday morning to miss the storm. We spent a day in San Juan and then four glorious, warm, sunshiny days in Vieques. Snorkeling and swimming in the Caribbean and eating every meal outdoors, in my opinion, beats shoveling snow any day. Of course we did have to shovel our car out of the parking lot at 2 a.m. Saturday when we returned, but I know we won’t get any sympathy.

I was unplugged for much of the trip, other than times when we had wifi and it was working properly, and I am very grateful to Creative Director Joy Taylor who wonderfully managed the We-Ha.com site in my absence. Many thanks also go to Matt Redman who took care of our house and dog – and did quite a lot of snow blowing and shoveling!

And although snow was the major talk of the town last week, there’s still plenty of other business news to share.

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:

Tate Norden, owner of Iron & Grain, has been working with the Town of West Hartford on a proposed food truck ordinance. Photo courtesy of Iron & Grain

  • West Hartford may soon become more food truck-friendly! The West Hartford Town Council will hold a public hearing on Tuesday, March 28 (6:30 p.m. in the Town Hall Room 314) regarding a proposed ordinance that would not only allow food trucks in the town’s industrial zone (essentially the New Park Avenue corridor) but also allow for the establishment of a food truck park. West Hartford resident Tate Norden, who with his cousin, chef Adam Belward, launched the Iron & Grain food truck concept in 2015, has gained an enthusiastic following, but has limited ability to do business in his own town. Norden, who has a marketing background, said that in a previous job working for Nestlé Purina he was traveling around the country pitching the idea of a dog-oriented food truck. “I saw the impressive food truck culture and cuisine,” Norden said, and that spurred him to start Iron & Grain. “There are some food trucks operating in Connecticut, but it’s not as saturated or as prevalent as it is in other parts of the country,” Norden said. West Hartford is a food hub, with great restaurants and chefs, and Norden is hoping to also make it a hub for mobile food vendors – which now provide really great food by small local businesses, often at lower cost than restaurants, and have long lost the stigma of serving greasy and low-quality fare. Norden said he started working with West Hartford Zoning Enforcement Officer Brian Pudlik last summer on a plan to allow food trucks to operate in industrial areas, subject to multiple regulations. Ordinances that already exist in places like Oklahoma City, Boulder, Atlanta, and throughout Texas and the West Coast, were used as guidelines. The draft ordinance – which at 27 pages is extremely detailed, would carefully regulate all aspects of the food truck business and would also specifically allow for the establishment of a food truck park in West Hartford where a rotating lineup of up to five vendors – including Iron & Grain – could operate on a more permanent basis. Regulations impacting the food truck park, for example, stipulate that it can be open only until 11 p.m., must include two permanent bathrooms, and be handicapped accessible. Norden said he has developed a specific plan for the food truck park, which he will submit for approval if the ordinance passes. The food truck park, he said, is intended to fill a need, not “cannibalize the local restaurants,” and will increase tax revenue. “It’s a perfect fit for a town like West Hartford with its great food scene,” Norden said. “I want to help West Hartford become a front-runner, a pathfinder for the food truck scene in Connecticut.” The concept has been very successful elsewhere in the country. “We’re not reinventing the wheel,” Norden said.
  • Café Louise has been providing gourmet catering since 1993 for its wide range of private and business clients, and now has officially transitioned its Elmwood location (1156 New Britain Ave.) into the grab-n-go style Café Louise Express. As mentioned in a previous Business Buzz column, owner Louise Albin is now running her catering operation primarily out of Indian Hill Country Club, but is now offering gourmet sandwiches, soups, salads, and meals for lunch or dinner at Café Louise Express. The location is open Tuesday – Friday 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., and is closed on Mondays.

    West Hartford resident Harrison Poltorak has just opened the Rebel Dog Coffee Co. Photo credit: Katie Newton

  • West Hartford resident Harrison Poltorak, a 2012 graduate of Conard High School who earned a marketing degree from Central Connecticut State University, has just launched a new business. Rebel Dog Coffee Co. is located on Route 10 in Plainville (393 Farmington Ave.), just over the line from Farmington, and according to its website is “focused on our local community, high quality products at a fair price, and exceptional customer service. We want our guests to feel welcome and comfortable and create a more personal customer experience. We also want to share our skills and knowledge of the specialty coffee industry with our customers to help guide them towards the ‘perfect cup.’ We are strong advocates for direct trade, and supporting local businesses to ensure that we create the best possible products.” Rebel Dog Coffee Co. is open from 7 a.m. through 9 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday and from 7 a.m. until 2 p.m. on Mondays. The cafe will hold its grand opening celebration on Tuesday, March 28. For more information, follow Rebel Dog Coffee Co. on Facebook.
  • We’re going to keep the food and drink theme going today with mention of Taste of Bishops Corner, which is coming up on March 29, from 5:30-7:30 p.m. Participating restaurants include Harry’s Pizza, Abby Dabby, and TCBY, and the Pond House, featuring cuisine from Zest280KOMA Japanese Steakhouse – the Bishops Corner restaurant known for its lively hibachi meals, sushi rolls and other Japanese staples, has also signed on as a participant. Look for a final update coming on Wednesday. For more details and the link to order tickets, click here.
  • Also in food news, Savoy Pizzeria & Craft Bar is launching takeout service beginning today. Takeout customers can use the convenient curbside parking now established at the back entrance of Savoy to either run in and pick up their orders – or have the orders brought right out to the car. Call 860-469-6033 to order.
  • Finally, straying slightly from food and drink, but still in the hospitality industry are some updates on the Delamar West Hartford Hotel, including renderings of the exterior and many of the interior spaces. Construction is really progressing at a rapid pace and on track for a June opening according to company officials. 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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1 Comment

  • Say NO to food trucks. The WH budget increase this year is very high for commercial businesses in the town, many fledgling restaurants. Don’t make it harder for them to capture people who go out for lunch. This is very unfair to them, the businesses pay high rents and don’t get much, one thing they didn’t have to compete with was food trucks. Food trucks can go anywhere – let them go to other towns to capture lunch crowd biz.

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