A round-up of openings, closings, and other news about West Hartford businesses.
*Please note that BUSINESS BUZZ is announcing an exciting new partnership with NBT BANK and an exciting NEW product coming this April.*
By Ronni Newton
It’s March – a spring month!
It wasn’t all that springy around West Hartford last week, although I was lucky enough to miss the Friday night/Saturday sloppy mess during a very quick trip to visit my dad in South Florida. Ted and I were supposed to leave Thursday morning, but late Wednesday night got an email that the plane had been canceled because of “crew availability” and the flight was rescheduled for the next day! We were flying Breeze Airways, and their flights to Vero Beach (the cutest airport I have ever seen) and there weren’t any other options that were workable so unfortunately we just had to make the trip very short.
I had originally planned the trip to work around the Mayor’s State of the Town luncheon at the Pond House, which was supposed to be last Tuesday, but then switched to Thursday due to the Tuesday snow and I was going to have to miss it – until my trip got postponed. (Click here for full coverage of the presentation.)
In less than 48 hours, we had two wonderful visits with my dad, lunch with his wife, a few hours on the beach, two great breakfasts outdoors, and two great dinners including Saturday night when not only did I have some great tacos but we were able to watch both the Duke vs. UNC and UConn vs. Villanova basketball games at the same time! Salt water and palm trees are good for my soul, and thankfully our car wasn’t buried in a snowbank when we got back late Sunday afternoon.
There were just 13 positive reported cases of COVID-19 in West Hartford over the past seven days (as of Sunday) and a positivity rate of 6.3% – continuing a good trend. While the data doesn’t take into account the home tests that don’t get reported to the state, it’s good to see those numbers dropping. Hartford County is now among those counties in Connecticut consdiered “low” risk according to the CDC, with only Litchfield, Middlesex, and New Haven counties remaining at “medium” risk. Maybe I will soon be able to delete this paragraph – and I sure hope so! In the meantime, please continue to have patience since not everyone has the same level of comfort, continue to look out for each other, support our local businesses – and stay safe and healthy.
If you’re looking for news about West Hartford in print please note that many stories from We-Ha.com, as well as other local news, is published in the twice-monthly issues of the West Hartford Press.
If you have information to share about local businesses, please provide details in the comments or email Ronni Newton at [email protected].
Here’s this week’s Buzz:
- “We’re almost there,” Zainab Hayajneh said. She and her husband, Omar, are very excited to be opening the Zaytoon’s Mediterranean Restaurant at 1126 New Britain Avenue in Elmwood, and the wait is just about over. Zainab said on Sunday that they have passed the Health District inspection and are awaiting a few other inspections that are scheduled for this coming week, and then should have their certificate of occupancy – with opening “within 10 days at the latest.” They’ve been training new employees at the Park Road location, but she said it will be important for them to also be training in the new space because the layout is very different – and the 80-seat restaurant is much larger. The menu will will include a variety of Middle Eastern cuisines – Lebanese, Palestinian, and Jordanian (both Zainab and Omar are originally from Jordan) specialties – some of which are similar to the menu at the original location, but also some new dishes, and some surprises, Zainab said. The menu will definitely include the Israeli salad, “because it’s everyone’s favorite,” she said. As for the decor, Zainab said she purposely chose the blue Moroccan tile because it’s the color of the Mediterranean, and that’s the vision they are trying to create. The 165 Park Road location of Zaytoon’s Bistro, which opened in 2017, has become a popular mainstay of the neighborhood and will remain open as well. The original location is BYOB, ad the new restaurant will be as well. Back in June 2020, the Town Council approved changes to the Elmwood Shopping Center façade and also approved outdoor seating for the new restaurant – and Zainab said they will be applying for a permit for outdoor seating along the side of the new space. I can’t wait to sample the new menu and a full feature story will follow as soon as they are open.
- Another restaurant we’ve been eagerly waiting for is Gran Gusto – opening in the former Rizzuto’s space at 111 Memorial Road in Blue Back Square – and that’s coming very soon as well. I lucked into meeting owner Raffaele Gallo while walking by last week, and he gave me a quick tour and said the restaurant should be opening in roughly a month. There’s been some renovation done, including new booths, new chairs, new paint, and some minor layout changes. Gallo is the principal of Gallo Restaurant Group, which currently operates Gallo Ristorante in Ridgefield, and said the West Hartford location will be a bit more upscale Italian, and also include grilled dishes and plenty of seafood. His partner in Gallo Restaurant Group, chef Guiseppe Castellano, will be the executive chef of Gran Gusto and is finalizing the menu. The restaurant will be open for lunch and dinner seven days a week, and will also include outdoor seating.
- I noticed last week that a “coming soon” sign is now up for Americana Restaurant & Bar, which will be opening at 179 Park Road, and a check of town records indicates that the permitting process is underway. The owner and operator is established restaurateur – Enrique Rodriguez – who along with his wife, Julie, owns the MofonGo franchise at Parkville Market in Hartford; Las Tortas MX, Fowl Play, and Burrito Loko at Parkville Market and at the Assembly Room in New Britain; and in June 2022 opened Burrito Loko and MofonGo Express near the CCSU campus.
- In non-food-related news, there are already some residents who have moved into 540 New Park, and a ribbon cutting will be forthcoming this spring. The mixed-use transit-oriented development was developed by Trout Brook Reality for the West Hartford Housing Authority, and includes 52 residential units, of which 80% are affordable. The lobby includes a fabulous mural (I haven’t been inside the building, but I happened to see the mural on Instagram) by artist Ben Keller, whose work can be seen throughout West Hartford and elsewhere in the state.
- Mentioned in the Mayor’s State of the Town is that One Park Road is pre-leasing the first phase. Much more to come as this long-anticipated project, which will bring 295 new apartments to the corner of Park Road and Prospect Avenue, prepares to offer significant new housing opportunities in the community.
- Teri Osborne, manager of Ten Thousand Villages (967C Farmington Avenue), noted that while Wednesday, March 8 is International Women’s Day, they will be celebrating all month long. “Not only are over 60% of makers women, many or our artisan partner groups are led by inspiring women as well,” she said in an email. “We’ll be celebrating their stories and how they have improved their lives and their communities. We’ll also be having a soap drive to help a local nonprofit, My Sisters’ Place. Now through the end of the month, we will be featuring handmade Palam Rural soaps to be donated to My Sisters’ Place, a wonderful nonprofit in Hartford working to end homelessness.” Osborne said the soap drive has been a great success, thanks to “our caring and generous customers,” and they are excited to make it an annual event. “Our customers have given so much support to our artisan partners around the world, and we are grateful for the opportunity to give back to our local community as well.” Click here for a link to see “How a Bar of Soap Became a Bridge to Success.”
- Club Pilates (the Corbin Collection, 1445 New Britain Avenue) posted on social media that they are having a soft opening of their West Hartford location from March 16-19. Visit the website for more details.
- West Hartford native and lifelong resident Matthew Durham, a 2020 graduate of Conard High School who also attended Braeburn and Sedgwick, played violin throughout his school years. He is currently attending Berklee College of Music and is in an all-Berklee band called Enfierce that just released their second EP. Matthew (center in the photo) is a vocalist and songwriter, and you can listen to samples here.
- This week’s sad news: Panache has closed permanently due to “health concerns” according to a sign on the door. Anyone who has not connected with them regarding unsold consignment items should contact 508-205-1468.
- ICYMI, preliminary plans have been submitted for the development of the former UConn campus by West Hartford 1 LLC at the intersection of Trout Brook Drive and Asylum Avenue. Click here for the complete story, including feedback from the town’s Design Review Advisory Committee.
- The purchase of the former Children’s Museum property from Kingswood Oxford by Continental Properties for the development of a luxury residential development was announced last week. Full details can be found here.
- West Hartford Mayor Shari Cantor presented the State of the Town at a Chamber of Commerce luncheon at the Pond House on Thursday. Click here to read the 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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