Bishops Corner Blue Back Square Business Elmwood Park Road The Center

West Hartford Business Buzz: March 23, 2020

A nearly-deserted West Hartford Center on Saturday afternoon. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

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

By Ronni Newton

Last week’s column began: “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.”

Since then, the changes have been unprecedented. No one, no segment of the global economy or piece of the fabric of our society is untouched by COVID-19.

My heart goes out to all who are suffering from the coronavirus, to their families and friends who can’t physically comfort them, to those who sadly have succumbed to the disease.

The Town and Chamber of Commerce are trying to help local businesses as much as possible. There is now 30-minute free on-street parking in the Center and Blue Back Square, and dedicated. pick-up and delivery spaces in front of some restaurants. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

My heart goes out to all of the business owners – large and small – to those that are trying to find ways to remain open and to those that have had to close. Many may not survive this event that few could anticipate.

We speak in a brand new vocabulary now. Who heard the term “social distancing” until just a few weeks (or was it just days) ago? “Quarantine” is not a word I’ve used very often. I don’t think I had ever typed the word “pandemic” until recently. “Shelter in place” was usually reserved for stories about about impending serious weather events or some other grave danger. Then again, this is a grave danger.

And who, other than perhaps infectious disease specialists or epidemiologists, had ever heard of a coronavirus until a few months ago?

Everyone has their stories – which they can only share virtually or from a distance of 6 feet. My kids have lost their part-time jobs, and many people I know have either been furloughed or laid off from their full-time jobs. My daughter had her clinical cut short and my future son-in-law isn’t able to finish his student teaching. Neither of my children will be able to have a graduation ceremony this year. The day my son found out he wasn’t going to be able return to campus to finish his final semester of college was a real low point in our house. Compared to many stories that’s a minor event, but that doesn’t mean it didn’t break his – and my – heart. (And of course it was announced the same morning Tom Brady announced he was leaving the Patriots.)

My daughter’s wedding is planned for June 27. Who knows what will happen in the three months between now and then.

Instead of March Madness we’re watching marble races on EPSN.

“This is the strangest thing since Kristallnacht,” my 88-year-old father said to me a few days ago. He was not quite 7 at the time, living in Vienna, Austria, and it’s an event he could never forget. My father is currently living in a skilled nursing facility in Florida. They’re in lockdown now, and his wife can’t even visit.

On Sunday afternoon I interviewed Shea Williams. She was a year behind my daughter at Conard and I’ve probably interviewed her in the past regarding cross country or track. This time I spoke to her about her diagnosis and recovery from COVID-19.

A few days after 9-11 I wrote an essay about how afraid everyone was, about the uncertainty we all faced. I feel that way now, but it’s a different kind of demon we face, and it will take a collective spirit to work on behalf of the greater good to defeat or at least tame it.

The name Vernon Lee jumped out at me when I was reading Sunday’s Hartford Courant, because it was the name of my husband’s maternal grandfather. When I read the article – about the response in Singapore, Hong Kong, and Taiwan – Lee was quoted as saying the following: “The world is only as good as the weakest link.”

I’ve read the two lengthy articles by Tomas Pueyo on medium.com. The latest, “Coronavirus: The Hammer and the Dance,” alternately scared me to death and gave me optimism that we will be able to return to, if not the old normal, at least a new normal where people can share meals in restaurants, hug their friends, and travel past the boundaries of their backyards.

We need to work hard and stick together in this fight.

As I said last week, 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’m not sure when it will return to some semblance of normal, and I hope it’s a matter of “when” not “if.”

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 so many that need our help.

There are too many cancellations to list. If an event was supposed to happen in the next few weeks, it’s probably canceled or somehow turned into a virtual event.

I thank everyone for reading We-Ha.com during this crisis. We are trying hard to bring provide accurate and relevant local news about this community. Unfortunately some of our regular advertisers have been forced to cancel their ad campaigns, and we have had to accept more ads from a national ad placement firm. The ads are normally targeted to the individual or community demographic, but sometimes rogue ads slip by and we apologize in advance. If you see one you don’t like, click in the upper right corner and provide the reason. You can also screenshot it and email me at [email protected].

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:

SockStarz is located at 18 LaSalle Rd. in West Hartford Center. Photo credit: Ronni Newton (we-ha.com file photo)

  • Social Enterprise Novelty Sock Shop, SockStarz, will celebrate its first anniversary as an organization this week  with the release of its first annual Impact Report. Compiled by Harc staff, volunteers, and board members, the document – which will be released to the public on Friday, March 27 – provides details of the amazing success of the project, which provides both an additional revenue stream for its parent organization, Harc, and an additional workplace for the organization’s participants at the store at 18 LaSalle Road which opened last fall. “SockStarz has allowed us to get our message out to more people and gain even more support for our participants and their families who depend on our group homes, day programs, transportation, and life enrichment services,” said Harc Interim CEO Annette Hargrove, “but the impact of COVID-19 has hit our community especially hard.” The organization’s day programs at 900 Asylum Ave. in Hartford have had to close due to occupancy limitations, as has the shop in West Hartford Center. SockStarz will continue to celebrate Down Syndrome Awareness Day – which was March 21 – all month long, extending their 25% discount offer with code “AWARE” on all online orders (www.sockstarzusa.com). To get a copy of the report, visit sockstarzusa.com/pages/contact.

    Donation to the testing center at Hartford Hospital. Courtesy of WeHa Roasting Company

  • WeHa Roasting Company has partnered with Toasted Oat Cafe in Canton to provide breakfast and coffee to healthcare professionals, who are working tirelessly on the frontlines to control the COVID-19 outbreak. “We have a responsibility to support our healthcare heroes during these times and as a show of support we plan to provide breakfast and coffee daily to healthcare professionals at hospitals across the state,” said WeHa Roasting Company owner Cody McCormack. Anyone interesting in donating to support this effort, please call Toasted Oat at 860-352-2818 or visit WeHa Roasting Company’s website. With every $4 donation, a breakfast sandwich, hash brown, and cup of coffee will be given to a healthcare provider. More information can be found on Toasted Oat’s (@toastedoatcafe) and WeHa Roasting Company’s (@weharoastingco) social media pages.
  • Both the Town of West Hartford and the West Hartford Chamber of Commerce have put into place extensive resources to respond to concerns from businesses that are impacted by COVID-19. There are links to information from the Small Business Administration (SBA), Connecticut Business and Industry Association (CBIA), and relevant state and federal agencies. Click here for the Chamber’s “Emergency Business Resource” page, and click here to access the town’s economic development webpage. West Hartford Economic Development Specialist Kristen Gorski will also assist businesses and can be reached at [email protected].
  • The Mandell JCC immediately began the transformation of the organization into a virtual platform to keep members connected – to avoid feeling distant in a time of social distancing. Ten days ago, the JCC, like many businesses, closed its doors to its building and instantly began opening windows to new online experiences. “We have many opportunities beyond our physical spaces to continue building community in healthy, creative and meaningful ways,” said Mandell JCC Executive Director David Jacobs. Look for a complete story on the virtual offerings later today.
  • So many businesses have found ways to keep their customers engaged online, and many programs, including fitness classes, are available free of charge. Coach Milton, from Socceropolis, said he is hoping to keep kids moving “in a fun and educational way” and will be running free virtual soccer classes several days a week on his Socceropolis Facebook page. They will be pre-recorded so that parents can fit them into their children’s individual home schedules. To check them out, visit the Socceropolis Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/socceropolis
  • Scott Rownin, owner of the future School of Rock franchise in West Hartford, shared the following message: “We are trying to set up free online lessons right now, so we can give all of the kids something fun and creative to do, while helping our local musicians work while they are unable to gig or teach lessons in person.” Look for more information to come later this week once the website goes live.
  • Hartford HealthCare is asking for people and businesses to please donate personal protective equipment (PPE) so that medical professionals, patients, and families can be kept safe during this unprecedented crisis. They are looking for masks (N95 and disposable masks, including those that are homemade), disposable gowns, shoe covers, goggles, wipes, and more. Click here for more details.

    West Hartford restaurants can only offer take-out or delivery, but can now also include beer, wine, and other sealed containers of alcoholic beverages. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

  • The list of ICYMI business-related articles published this week is very long. Included is the announcement about restaurants only being able to offer take-out and delivery service, which – after pressure from organizations like the West Hartford Chamber of Commerce – was later modified to include sealed containers of alcoholic beverages as long as the establishment already has an appropriate liquor permit. “The West Hartford Chamber is tireless in finding creative ways to support our businesses in this unprecedented circumstance. We were not the only organization to appeal to our legislators and as a result they took action,” Executive Director Chris Conway said. Read more here.
  • Greater Hartford small businesses have banded together to launch the “Virus Support Community.” Click here for details.
  • The Town of West Hartford has temporarily modified some of its parking rules. Click here for more information.
  • In (sort of) non-coronavirus news, Ideanomics is looking to partner with another entity or entities to reignite the Fintech Village project on the former UConn campus. Full details can be found here.
  • Thanks to Dexter McCann, one of last summer’s interns who is back much earlier than expected from his sophomore year at the University of Wisconsin, and has rejoined We-Ha.com. He was able to create this searchable table (I have figured out how to update it, but could never have created it) which is a comprehensive list of West Hartford restaurants and whether or not they remain open offering any combination of take-out, curbside pick-up, or delivery. We apologize for any errors or omissions and will endeavor to fix them as soon as possible. See the list here, and email [email protected] with any corrections. Please include website, phone number, address, and services provided.
  • Luna Pizza, with the collaboration of Hartford Baking Company, is providing food to Hartford Hospital and raising funds and looking for other partners to support the effort. Click here for details.
  • The list of “essential services” that can continue to operate as we #StayHomeStaySafe was announced Sunday night by Gov. Ned Lamont. That information can be found here.

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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We-Ha.com is the place to go for the latest information about West Hartford – a town that "has it all"! We-Ha.com is part of and proud of our community, and we bring a hyperlocal focus to news and features about the people, schools, businesses, real estate, sports, restaurants, charitable events, arts, and more. Contact us at: [email protected] or [email protected].

1 Comment

  • Please make note of many yoga and fitness studios that are live Facebook broadcasting from home or back yard. Lifer Fitness, The Yoga Shop, Wabi-Sabi group, just to name a few. Thx. Harriet Hersh

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