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West Hartford Business Buzz: March 30, 2020

The West Hartford Chamber of Commerce held a virtual Connections meeting on Friday morning using Zoom. Screenshot

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

By Ronni Newton

It’s hard to keep track of what day it is, and I feel like I have lost track of how long it has been since our lives were suddenly upended by the COVID-19 pandemic.

As of Saturday, nine West Hartford residents had tested positive for the coronavirus, but there are likely many more who are infected. My heart goes out to them, and I pray for them, for their families and friends, and for everyone worldwide who have been touched by this disease.

“Thoughts and prayers” only go so far, but I don’t know what else to say.

I do know what I will be doing, however, and that is continuing to practice social/physical distancing and washing my hands early, often, and thoroughly.

As I type this, I’m listening to a recording of the now-renowned Dr. Anthony Fauci debunking some of the “myths” about COVID-19. I think it’s making me feel a bit better – for now. At least I won’t be afraid because I haven’t bleached the cereal box before pouring it into my bowl.

I’ve had days over the past few weeks when I’ve been really optimistic, when I feel like it won’t be long before we are looking at COVID-19 in the rearview mirror. The days when I have the time to go for a run are great, not just for my physical health but also for my mental health.

And then there are days when I feel very scared, not for myself in particular, but for our society, for life as we have known it, for our businesses, for relationships that people have with each other that have changed so suddenly and so dramatically.

Millie, sporting her new haircut and posing on her favorite ottoman with her two hedgehogs, has been a welcome diversion while we are staying home. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

I can’t escape the news, and although maybe I could close out the Johns Hopkins University and worldometer tabs that have been open on my computer for the past two weeks, I still need to keep up with what’s happening locally.

I’m spending a lot of time playing with my puppy, Millie, and am so thankful for the unadulterated joy she shows for life, and the laughs she brings us every day. Taking her to get a haircut was one of the highlights of last week. (We’d had an appointment for a while, and thankfully the groomer was still open because she had gotten very matted and the fur was covering her eyes.)

I’m thankful for zoom and how it has helped maintain some connectivity for so many of us. I’ve been using it to meet virtually with other journalists in New England and around the country, and even attended my first-ever West Hartford Chamber of Commerce “Connections” meeting on Friday morning – lured by the fact that I could attend “as is” – which meant in my sweaty running clothes.

And of course it’s good for virtual happy hour as well!

My husband had some free time because although he’s working from home he’s not driving to Springfield every day, and he’s on jigsaw puzzle number three. He’s watched a lot of movies and makes sure we actually eat dinner every night.

My son is back to school at UConn – the online version that takes place in our basement – augmented by late-night Xbox sessions with his buddies. They have all shaved the scruff off their chins but left [somewhat silly looking] mustaches since no one is venturing out of the house except to walk dogs or maybe go to the grocery or package store. He won’t allow a photo of the stache, but trust me.

Prai Kitchen, West Hartford Center. Photo credit: John Lyons

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.

I thank everyone for reading We-Ha.com during this crisis. We are trying hard to 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 that happens. 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].

In the next week or so, we will also be placing a contribution portal on the site. We’ve been talking about it for a while, since We-Ha.com ad revenues have essentially been flat since 2017 while our costs for freelance writers, server space, and technical support have been increasing. Sadly, despite an average of about 80,000 page views a month (with all the breaking news in the past few weeks it’s now actually up to 130,000 page views in the past month), advertising support of the businesses in West Hartford has actually diminished and our revenue is increasingly driven by ad serving companies that serve regional or national advertisers.

With events now canceled and businesses strapped for cash, over the past few weeks we’ve lost some even more advertising revenue, although we are working harder than ever.

More to come on that in the next few days.

Also, look forward to a special issue of We-Ha.com (or maybe it will be Woo-Hoo.com) in the middle of this week!

One of the most high-impact stories I did last week was an interview with Dr. Rob Fuller at UConn Health Center, which included a tour of the COVID-19 Patient Evaluation facility he planned and constructed with the help of his family and others at the the Health Center.

I was struck by many of the things he said, but these words in particular: “This will be the REAL thing – in capitals. The first time anyone in living history will face this tidal wave of patients,” Fuller said. “It’s the first time on my own turf that we’re being clobbered by a disease.”

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:

Screenshot of West Hartford Chamber Virtual Connections on Instagram

  • It’s an understatement to say it’s not “business as usual” for most businesses, but the West Hartford Chamber of Commerce is clearly going above and beyond in offering resources and maintaining networking opportunities for its members. The Chamber regularly holds “AM Connections” every other Friday morning (at 7:30 a.m. at the library, which is generally way too early for me to be both dressed in presentable clothing and able to think clearly), but I agreed to attend the now-weekly Virtual AM Connections since I was told I could “come as you are.” I therefore arrived on zoom straight from a run (and if you look carefully you’ll see me in the middle of the “Brady Bunch” zoom grid). It’s interesting to “mingle” virtually, but that’s exactly what happened for the first 15 minutes, before Executive Director Chris Conway (who was dressed professionally!) kicked off the meeting with a few inspiring quotes from JFK. Roughly 60 Chamber members from a variety of businesses had a chance to do their regular 30-second commercial, many of which were explanations of how they were keeping going in a suddenly-transformed economy. While Balance Massage & Wellness Center owner Cailin McBee has had to close her facility, she explained how she is continuing to engage with clients through videos and Javil John of Relax the Back is providing online advice for using everyday objects to reduce pain. Some organizations and individuals (ITN, Service Master, Eric Bergenn) shared ways that they are volunteering or giving back to the community during this unprecedented time. Others urged people to use this time to write positive reviews for businesses they appreciate. More information about the resources being offered by the Chamber can be found on their website.

    Submitted image

  • From Float Forty-One, which recently opened in Bishops Corner and has had to close due to the statewide ban on non-essential businesses: “Despite being closed and unable to host floats, we’re still dedicated to helping our community however we can in these turbulent times. Let’s face it, our medical professionals are being hit the hardest by this crisis. We could use your help to give back to our local Medical Professionals, a lot of them already use floating as a way to recharge and will absolutely need to float once this is all over. Please HELP US float as many medical professionals as we can! We are currently offering all floats and gift certificates for 25% off and for every float that we sell we’ll be able to donate a float to a medical professional.” To apply the discount, click here and use the code “spreadthelove”.

    Fauci doughnuts at Donut Crazy. Facebook photo

  • West Hartford’s Donut Crazy (993 Farmington Ave.), known for its unique and seasonally-appropriate doughnuts, is currently open only for carry-out and take-out, but has introduced a special item that is creating quite a stir and attracting more customers. The following was posted on the Donut Crazy website Saturday: “Due to high, special demand we introduce to you our #faucidonuts In honor of all of the doctors, nurses and first responders. For every 1 donut you purchase, we will donate 1 donut to our doctors, nurses, and everyone in the medical community who are working tirelessly to care for our loved ones and keep us safe.”
  • Sadly, most “real life” events have been canceled for the foreseeable future, but there are many virtual events still taking place. Please know that you can use the We-Ha.com event calendar for your virtual events! Click here to add an event.
  • West Hartford-based Eat IN Connecticut started a series last week as this unprecedented upheaval in the industry began, by live-streaming with Connecticut Food Industry thought leaders through a series of Instagram stories called, “The State of the FoodIN.” This ongoing series, every Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday night at 8 p.m., invites guests to connect with the community and the ailing restaurant industry to offer guidance. Now, it has also grown into a burgeoning platform for these chefs, restaurateurs, farmers, and foodies to collaborate and support one another in this shifting landscape. “Food is better shared. So is information,” said EAT IN Connecticut co-founder Jeannette Dardenne. “We have always been a company about virtual connection, so when matters in the restaurant industry started unraveling, we knew that we had the platform and the contacts to help by launching this initiative.” The first State of the FoodIN featured James Beard finalist (and West Hartford resident) Tyler Anderson of the TANDA Restaurant Group. Other headliners included Dan Maiser of the 85th Day Restaurant Group and Scott Dolch of the Connecticut Restaurant Association. Next week will feature Connecticut-based Chef Jacques Pépin (March 31), Chris Prosperi of Metro Bis (April 1), and Renee Giroux/Patti Pope on April 2. “There is no more giving industry than those in the food industry,” added co-founder Kristen Fritz. “So when we first approached folks, they immediately stepped forward to be voices for comfort and consolation. What we didn’t expect is that there would also be problem-solving and so much humanity mixed into each *LIVE* segment.” According to national sources, the Restaurant Industry is the country’s second largest private employer, and in Connecticut many of those employees were either let go or furloughed in the last two weeks. Eat IN Connecticut has an instagram following of almost 20,000 people and many of them are unique to Connecticut. The co-founders are trying to utilize every public avenue they have to give voice to the current plight of the industry in hopes that through connections even more solutions can be cooked up. They currently field sign-ups from those interested in participating. They can be reached at [email protected]. To view some recent videos, click here.
  • Speaking of restaurants, here’s an important notice from the Metropolitan District Commission (MDC): Due to the shutdown of many food preparation establishments across the State of the Connecticut due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Metropolitan District (MDC) is reminding facilities of the proper shut down procedures for indoor Active Grease Recovery Units (AGRUs) commonly known as “grease traps.” Facilities that have already shut down or are planning to do so, should unplug or de-energize the AGRU to prevent equipment damage caused by long periods with no drain water inflows. Failure to unplug or de-energize AGRUS during facility closures can also create a potential fire hazard. Prior to the facilities re-opening after a shutdown, AGRUs must be re-energized and put back into proper working order. The units are often known by names including but not limited to, Big Dipper, Grease Guardian or Grease Stopper. The units are frequently located under 3 bay sinks, pre-rinse sinks, workstations or other fixtures that are likely to discharge fats, oils, and grease (FOG). Manufacturers have reached out to the MDC to relay to this information to facilities that have AGRUs installed. For any facilities with questions, please contact the MDC at 860-278-7850 ext. 3239.
  • Deby Van Ohlen and Wendy Payton aren’t able to open their Nurturing Hands massage studio (777 Farmington Ave.) right now because it’s not deemed an “essential business,” but to assist their clients they have created an instructional video for seated self-massage that they hope will be a helpful stress reliever. Click here to watch.
  • Thanks to John Lyons for the photo above (in the intro) of Prai Kitchen, which is located at 23 LaSalle Rd. in West Hartford Center. It’s part of a series of photos he took around town on Sunday. Look for the gallery on We-Ha.com later today.
  • This isn’t business, but I love the idea sent to me in an email from a reader, and our American flag is proudly hanging in front of our house. “During this most emotional and stressful time, I have been reaching out to friends and family to please hang out their American flag … Can we remind all of us to hang our American flags once again to support all who are out there working to keep us safe.and healthy. We are all in this together! 🇺🇸”
  • ICYMI, many healthcare businesses have quickly been able to pivot operations to incorporate Telehealth – avoiding the need for in-person consultation. West Hartford-based Physical Therapy and Sports Medicine Centers has found success with the new technology. Read more about it here.
  • West Hartford’s Homegrown Studio has been spreading positive messages throughout the world. Read the full story here.
  • The owner of the West Hartford Fred Astaire Dance Studio has transformed his costume-making acumen and is now making much-needed facemasks for people in healthcare jobs. Click here for details.
  • Congratulations to the new leadership at the Seniors Job Bank – who are currently working virtually to match seniors with individuals or businesses that need their skills. More information can be found here.
  • We’ve been continuing to update our comprehensive list of West Hartford restaurants with information about 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.

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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