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West Hartford Business Buzz: March 22, 2021

Joey's Pizza owners Anthony Sullo (left) and Gary Gello hold up a Harry's Pizza. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

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

By Ronni Newton

Happy spring to all! I won’t deny that I like to rush into this season, but now it’s not just meteorological spring since astronomical spring began Saturday, March 20, at 5:37 a.m.

And, this weekend has actually felt like spring! Flowers are starting to bloom (thanks to my neighbors for allowing me to photograph their crocuses for the We-Ha.com Facebook page cover photo), I can see the bright green tufts starting to pop out of the grass, and most of our outdoor furniture is back out on the patio (thanks, Ted!).

I know it’s a myth that you can stand an egg on its end only on the vernal equinox – but it’s the day I always think about it, so when I was making breakfast Saturday morning I did it anyway!

I was a huge college basketball fan even before starting college, and March Madness is one of my favorite times of the year. After the cancellation last year due to COVID-19, I was so glad when the plans came together for the tournament to take place this year. Although, sadly, my Dukies didn’t make the tournament for the only time I can remember (I know they missed it in 1995 but my daughter was born in the middle of March that year and everything was such a blur), and the UConn men made a disappointingly quick exit, I’ll enjoy rooting for the UConn women and watching the rest of the tournament without any vested interest.

I did really enjoy interviewing University of Hartford basketball coach John Gallagher last week, and following the Hawks’ journey to The Big Dance. I look forward to We-Ha.com becoming a more integral part and supporter of the #Neighborhood when next year’s sure-to-be-successful season arrives.

On Friday evening, Ted Glanzer and I teamed up to report on a protest in West Hartford Center, a rally against racism and in support of the Asian American and Pacific Islander community in the wake of a tragic shooting incident earlier in the week in Georgia. Like many other violent incidents that have taken place over the past year, the shooting served as a flashpoint that ignited frustrations which have been brewing for decades.

In my opinion it’s not enough just to say you personally are not a racist, to say that everyone is equal. That’s important of course, but it’s only part of the answer. In order to make progress, it’s so important to really strive to understand and become educated about what life is really like for those who are “different” in any way, to really comprehend what is at the root of why entire populations have been marginalized.

I am so impressed by the young people in our community in particular – those who participated in this rally, and in recent Black Lives Matter and other rallies in town. They are our future, and they seem to have an empathy I haven’t seen in past generations. They are really striving to understand, they want to be educated, and they give me hope.

On Saturday night, instead of our usual dinner out or takeout, Ted and I enjoyed the Noah Webster House’s Taste of Ireland event – a delicious eat-at-home dinner (there was a great program that went along with it) that included this Irish Stout Steak Pie, Irish Soda Bread, and much more.

Irish Stout Steak Pie. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Another reason we didn’t go out to eat on Saturday was because I had already had a dinner to highlight at one of our West Hartford restaurants earlier in the week. On Thursday night I had dinner with the team from Eat In Connecticut at Artisan at the Delamar Hotel. I had the scallops with parsnip risotto and carrots. It was so good, and I am still thinking about it! That dish, along with the rest of our meal, is pictured below.

Oysters on the half shell at Artisan. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Farmstead cheese board at Artisan. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Scallops with parsnip risotto and carrots from Artisan. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Prime Angus hangar steak from Artisan. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

We hope you’ve been following our Keeping it in the Community feature, which is a collaboration with the West Hartford Chamber of Commerce and the town’s Economic Development Department.

Read the most recent “Keeping it in the Community” that focuses on Fit University Star.

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Keeping it in the Community Tip: Local businesses are your source for home repair and home design

Spring has sprung! Now that the days are longer, the snow has melted, and temperatures are rising is there a home project you have been itching to do?

Our community full of businesses where you can find the right tools and materials for your DIY project. Whether it is for something inside or outside the home, you need only look in your own backyard – figuratively of course – for assistance. Items such as paint, wallpaper, flooring, and fixtures can be found in both specialty stores and some of our larger retailers. The same can be said for garden, masonry, or home exterior projects. Don’t forget the decorations! We have some the best places to view and purchase furniture and home décor in the state.

Do you have a more ambitious project in mind? No problem! West Harford is full a skilled professionals in home contracting, landscaping, interior design, and more.

By keeping your business local, you are not only improving your home, but also enhancing our community.

Larsen Ace Hardware is located at 982 Farmington Ave. in West Hartford Center. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Keeping it in the Community Spotlight: Larsen Ace Hardware

Right in the middle of West Hartford Center is Larsen Ace Hardware. A fixture on Farmington Avenue, the store formerly known as Pfau’s was purchased by the Larsen family – also owner of a Larsen Ace Hardware in on Route 44 in Canton – in 2015.

Since people have been home more over the past year, retailers that specialize in products for the home, as well as for outdoor living, have been doing a booming business. Last spring and summer there was an increased focus on gardening and grilling, and items for the patio were flying off the shelves until the first flakes flew.

Kathie Ledoux, manager of Larsen Ace Hardware in West Hartford Center, said the store has had continued success “fulfilling customer needs in a safe and contactless environment.”

Changes to their business model since COVID hit have led to offering online and phone ordering as well as providing – and encouraging – curbside pick-up and delivery.

“Offering helpful recommendations on products and services” is something else that sets Larsens apart, Ledoux said. When you’re interacting with them you’re dealing with someone who is local, not just a voice on the phone or an anonymous chat, and they take the time to really understand what your needs are. [My husband just bought an electric lawnmower from Larsen Ace Hardware, and they spent plenty of time determining exactly what his goals were before the purchase was finalized.]

For those who do shop in the store, Ledoux said all associates and customers are required to wear masks at all times. Surfaces are sanitized on a regular basis, and social distancing is required.

Larsen Ace Hardware is located at 982 Farmington Ave. (860-523-4201, website larsenacehardware.com).

Larsens offers much more than just hardware, and stocks products for lawn and garden, and extensive assortment of grills and tailgating items, paint, outdoor furnishings, and accessories. The photos below are a sampling of what they currently have on display.

Interior of Larsen Ace Hardware, 982 Farmington Ave., West Hartford. March 2021. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Interior of Larsen Ace Hardware, 982 Farmington Ave., West Hartford. March 2021. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Interior of Larsen Ace Hardware, 982 Farmington Ave., West Hartford. March 2021. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Interior of Larsen Ace Hardware, 982 Farmington Ave., West Hartford. March 2021. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Interior of Larsen Ace Hardware, 982 Farmington Ave., West Hartford. March 2021. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Interior of Larsen Ace Hardware, 982 Farmington Ave., West Hartford. March 2021. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Interior of Larsen Ace Hardware, 982 Farmington Ave., West Hartford. March 2021. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Interior of Larsen Ace Hardware, 982 Farmington Ave., West Hartford. March 2021. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Interior of Larsen Ace Hardware, 982 Farmington Ave., West Hartford. March 2021. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Interior of Larsen Ace Hardware, 982 Farmington Ave., West Hartford. March 2021. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

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Please continue to support our local businesses, and please wear your masks if you are in public places, and stay safe and healthy.

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].

Here’s this week’s Buzz:

Harry’s Pizza will be available at Joey’s Pizza Pie. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

  • In a twist on the name of an iconic movie and some iconic West Hartford businesses, we bring you: “When Harry Met Joey.” The following message is courtesy of Anthony Sullo and Gary Gello, owners of Joey’s Pizza Pie at 353 Park Rd. in West Hartford: “Last weekend we said goodbye to a pizza icon in West Hartford Center, Harry’s Pizzeria & Tavern located on South Main Street … but for the LOVE of pizza and tradition, Joeys Pizza Pie is excited to announce that Bob, the owner of Harry’s, has provided us with his recipe for their secret sauce and cheese blend that has become the Harry’s Pizza signature flavor! Starting next week, we will proudly feature the ‘Harry’s’ pie as one of our specialty pies on our menu. Pair this pie with any of our toppings to re-create the Harry’s experience we have all come to love!” I spoke to Sullo, and he said that initially he reached out to Bob Hagemeier of Harry’s to ask about hiring some of his employees. “Then the idea popped into my mind,” Sullo said. “Their pizza is very similar to ours, but [for that specialty pie] we’re going to be doing it the Harry’s way,” he said. “Anthony and I got together to find a way to continue to offer West Hartford a traditional Harry’s Pizza, the way it’s always been made,” Hagmeier said. Sullo and his head chef came over to Harry’s before it closed to be sure the experience would be end up being authentic. “We found a lot of similarities in terms of quality of product, attention to detail, and overall craftsmanship. The end result is a Harry’s/Joey’s collaboration that I believe West Hartford will love,” said Hagmeier. A few more Joey’s notes: For now they will remain take-out only, but Sullo said he is considering bringing back some of the tables. Since COVID, they have redesigned the interior to provide more space for the takeout window, and have started selling pizza by the slice as well. Some more Harry’s notes: Hagmeier said they have secured commercial kitchen space in Bristol where they will be making par-baked frozen pizzas that are offered for sale at Geisslers Supermarket and Highland Park Market. Their pizzas are also served at Black Hog Brewery (Oxford), Brass Works Brewery (Waterbury), Still Hill Brewery (Rocky Hill), The Spigot (Hartford), Cliff Side Brewing (Wallingford), and New England Cider Co. (Wallingford). Sullo and Gello took over the former Barb’s Pizza on Park Road and turned it into Joey’s Pizza Pie in 2011, before Hagmeier and his partners purchased Harry’s in the Center. But for those who recall the convoluted inter-relationship between the original owners of Harry’s Pizza, this just adds another piece to the pie, so to speak. Also, please note that Harry’s Bishops Corner is a separate business, as is the Barb’s Pizza that’s now located in the Brace Road parking lot in the Center.

Joey’s Pizza owners Anthony Sullo (left) and Gary Gello will keep the legacy of Harry’s Pizza going by offering their proprietary recipe as a specialty pie. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

  • The former United Bank branch at 102 LaSalle Rd. (same building as the post office) has been empty since December 2019, when the bank was purchased by People’s United which already had a location on Farmington Avenue in the Center. The LaSalle Road space will soon be home to another – unrelated – PeoplesBank. The Western Massachusetts-based full service bank, which has a strong focus on municipal and institutional clients, recently acquired First National Bank of Suffield, giving them their first Connecticut location. The West Hartford branch will be the second in the state. Just to make it slightly more confusing, People’s United Bank is being purchased by Buffalo-based M&T Bank.

PeoplesBank will be opening a branch in what was formerly United Bank – before it merged with the other People’s Bank and became People’s United Bank. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

  • As capacity restrictions are lifted, COVID infections remain relatively low, and more people have been vaccinated, West Hartford restaurants are beginning to expand their hours and offerings. Chef/managing partner Zach Shuman and Bean Restaurant Group CEO Edison Yee said last week that beginning the first week of April, Union Kitchen will once again be open seven days a week – and will be offering happy hour seven days a week as well, from 3-6 p.m. Lunch service, which had been weekends only, will now be offered Wednesday through Sunday. Diners often ask to order from the full menu during brunch, Shuman said, rather than from a separate Sunday brunch menu, so going forward there will be an “egg of the day, toast of the day, and sweet bread of the day” to augment the regular menu on Sundays. The spring and summer menu will begin on April 5, Shuman said. They’re very much looking forward to the return of outdoor dining (see more on that below), but while they aren’t able to get to 100% capacity due to the need to maintain 6 feet of distancing, Shuman said they will be able to expand two about 82-83 seats at Union Kitchen now that capacity isn’t limited to 50%. Full capacity at Union Kitchen is 131, he said. We-Ha.com Sales Director Kaushik and I had lunch at Union Kitchen last week – pictured below!

Rare tuna sandwich and truffle fires from Union Kitchen. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Union Kitchen burger and truffle fires. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

  • Economic Development Coordinator Kristen Gorski said the town is working closely with West Hartford Center and Blue Back Square businesses on plans for this year’s expanded outdoor dining corrals. They have already received input through a survey, and in a week or so will hold a meeting via Zoom with impacted businesses to discuss the roll out of plans. The opening of outdoor dining may need to be staggered because a portion of the Center (near the intersection of LaSalle Road and Farmington Avenue) is still being impacted by an MCD project.
  • In just a few weeks, Maximum Beverage should be making their move across North Main Street in Bishops Corner, to a new location next to Anytime Fitness and below Whole Foods. The Town Council approved the plans last summer. “We had been waiting on some structural steel to retrofit our entrance and we now plan on a move and opening mid/late April,” Marketing Manager Matt Whitney said. According to Whitney, as of now the opening is planned for the week of April 18. More details to come as it gets closer.

Rendering of future Maximum Beverage location at 340 North Main St. Town of West Hartford image (we-ha.com file photo)

  • Local Stop & Shop stores have been selecting a different hunger organization each month to benefit from the sale of their Bloomin’ 4 Good bouquets, and the West Hartford Food Pantry is the current recipient. Through March 31, the Food Pantry will receive a $1 donation for the sale of every Bloomin’ 4 Good bouquet (those with the red circle sticker) sold at the Newington Road Stop & Shop (176 Newington Road). It’s a good incentive to brighten up your home with some fresh flowers!
  • The Connecticut Green Bank has advised that HighlandWindow Co. from West Hartford recently received a SmartE Loan Top Performer award for their contribution to the deployment of clean energy and leadership in their industry in 2020. In recognition of their contributions to the deployment of clean energy and demonstrated leadership in their industries in 2020, the Connecticut Green Bank announced the honorees of their annual PACEsetter Awards and the Smart-E Loan Top Performers. Since 2012, the Green Bank has supported the creation of more than 23,000 job years and over 50,000 clean energy projects, thanks to our network of contractors, interested home- and building owners, and lending partners. “Connecticut’s clean energy workforce has been strong and growing since 2015, until the pandemic caused a major setback. While the path to a full recovery will be long, our contractors are safely back to work – creating jobs, combatting climate change, and reducing energy burdens for families and building owners across the state. With this backdrop, we are particularly excited to recognize these projects and contractors that highlight the diverse ways our programs made a difference in our communities in 2020,” Bryan Garcia, president and CEO of the Green Bank, said in a news release. “From boutique inns, churches, and community centers, to our homes and neighborhoods, clean energy is powering our daily lives and helping us prosper. In the face of a challenging year, these leaders demonstrate that we can create a thriving future in Connecticut.”
  • This is in Hartford, but of regional interest. The Harriet Beecher Stowe Center and The MarkTwain House & Museum are excited to announce that they are both reopening to the public for guided tours starting Thursday, April 8 and Saturday, April 10 respectively. Both organizations are eager to welcome back visitors after having been closed for a large part of 2020. Advance online ticket reservations are highly recommended due to reduced tour capacity, and masks are mandatory. For more information, visit stowecenter.org/visit/tour or marktwainhouse.org/visit.
  • ICYMI, restaurants, retail, gyms, offices, houses of worship, and other sectors had capacity restrictions lifted on Friday as the state reaches a new stage of reopening, although physical distancing and mask requirements remain in place. Complete details can be found here.
  • The state, tribes, and Connecticut Lottery reached an agreement for gaming last week. Now it’s up to the General Assembly to ratify the deal. Click here for more information.
  • Sunday was Rock Your Socks Day in support of World Down Syndrome Day, but several West Hartford businesses will continue to support the Down Syndrome Association of Connecticut throughout the month of March. Full details can be found here.

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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