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West Hartford Business Buzz: May 10, 2021

Marc's Appliance Warehouse will be greatly expanding and moving from 75 Prospect Ave. to 80 South St. Courtesy photo

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

By Ronni Newton

I hope all of the moms out there had a Happy Mother’s Day!

I’ve actually started writing this column on Saturday afternoon rather than waiting for Sunday, so I can attempt to fully enjoy a *nearly* work-free Mother’s Day with my family, but there will definitely be some photos and updates to be added on Sunday.

I’m working on this column Saturday in between running legs of the “Ragnar WeHa 2021” – an event that was born last year as a way to safely escape quarantine.

This year, a group of 19 women, most from West Hartford – coordinated by West Hartford Board of Education member Ari Steinberg – planned to run a total of at least 219 miles over the course of Friday through Sunday. It’s not an official Ragnar Relay (most of these women are veterans of the relays, which involved consecutive runs staged from two different vans for as many hours as it takes to complete a roughly 200-mile distance), and a 10-mile commitment by each runner is much less than what’s required in an actual Ragnar, but with the Cape Cod Ragnar canceled for the weekend, it’s the next best thing. And, we’re raising money and collecting donations for the West Hartford Food Pantry.

Many members of the Ragnar group met up at the Town Hall parking lot on Saturday evening to drop off our donations and take part in a group run. (We were outside, and alll 100% vaccinated, which is why we are not wearing masks.) And because I ran my third and last leg of the Ragnar on Saturday evening (two runs in a day, something I haven’t done in years), Ted and I didn’t go out to dinner – but this food photo of the donations to the Food Pantry is much more important.

As many members of the Ragnar WeHa 2021 team (there were 19 in all) gathered at West Hartford Town Hall Saturday night to drop off Food Pantry donations and go for a 3-mile run. Photo credit: Nicole Garfield

Ragnar WeHa 2021 collected and filled more than a full carts with donations to the West Hartford Food Pantry. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

And in the end, the group logged a total of 243.57 miles!

When I wrote Business Buzz at the end of Mother’s Day weekend last year, I had just celebrated both of my kids graduating from UConn during a virtual ceremony, where I watched as their names scrolled across our TV. UConn is holding in-person graduation for the Class of 2021 this year, and including the Class of 2020 as well. It was split into multiple ceremonies, and on Monday, we will attend Sam’s graduation at Rentschler Field.

This year my Mother’s Day started with a great breakfast cooked by Ted (while Sam was still asleep), and continued with a trip to Brignole Vineyard. We did feast on a great sampler platter from Zaytoon’s Bistro (so we did contribute to West Hartford restaurant dining this weekend after all).

Yummy Mother’s Day breakfast prepared by Ted (omelet with peppers, onions and mushrooms, and homemade cornbread). Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Sam and Katie – with our sampler platter from Zaytoon’s Bistro – at Brignole Vineyards on Mother’s Day. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Millie got to accompany us to Brignole Vineyards. (Bandana from Ooh La La) Photo credit: Ronni Newton

One unrelated, but important note.

We-Ha.com remains thankful to our loyal advertisers. We know things remain tough for many businesses – but if you can advertise and keep your name out there, many people will see those ads.

In the upper righthand corner of the We-Ha.com site you’ll also see our “Be a Supporter” button.

We-Ha.com has traditionally been advertiser-supported, but as you hear from all types of media outlets, that model is very difficult to sustain, and we welcome the additional support of the West Hartford community. Independent, digital, news organizations are increasingly moving to a mixed model of reader contributions along with ad sales because honestly, it’s the only way we can survive. We would love to be able to hire more staff and cover more of the events and stories you are looking for, and we welcome any assistance you can provide.

Please continue to support our local businesses, and please wear your masks if you are in public places (just a little while longer), 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:

Marc’s Appliance Warehouse will be greatly expanding and moving from 75 Prospect Ave. to 80 South St. Courtesy photo

  • Marc’s Appliance Warehouse will be greatly expanding its operations with a much larger showroom, storage space, and parking, as they relocate from 75 Prospect Ave. to 80 South St. Business owner Marc Labrie, who also owns his existing Prospect Avenue building, said the move will likely happen in mid-September. The location was formerly the PPG paint store, and is right near the new West Hartford Lock location. The available space at the building is nearly 7,000 square feet, Labrie said, and he plans to use roughly half of that for a showroom. “With the recent departure of Sears and SK Lavery, we have seen a continued uptick in foot traffic and just ran out of space in our current location,” Labrie said regarding the reason for the move. The current showroom is roughly 2,000 square feet, he said, and there is storage in the basement – all of which will be available for rent once the move is complete (if any businesses are in need and interested, let Marc know!). Marc’s Appliance Warehouse has been in business in West Hartford for more than 25 years, opening in 1994, and has been in the current location since 2000. Prior to that they were located at 600 Oakwood Ave. near JO*DI’s Sound Center. For more information, visit the website.

Work is underway to transform the former Pachanga space at 280 Park Rd. into Fuego Picante. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

  • We announced a few weeks ago that Fuego Picante, which has operated a very successful food truck featuring Mexican food, is planning to open a brick and mortar restaurant in West Hartford, and that location has now been revealed. Fuego Picante is opening in the space recently vacated by Pachanga at 280 Park Rd., owner Omar Bello confirmed. He was waiting to share the location until he signed the lease and took over the space, which happened on May 1, and as can be seen in the photo above, they are already hard at work on the transformation. He said he is still hoping to be open by the first or second week of June, and details about the menu will follow. In the meantime, if you’re craving their food, Fuego Picante is a frequent visitor to GastroPark.

JAR + Bar is finishing up work on the patio and preparing to open Wednesday at 179 Park Rd. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

  • The patio has been rebuilt (final touches are being added), the menu (tapas from every continent) is being finalized, and JAR (Just Another Restaurant) and Bar will open to the public on Wednesday, May 12 in the former Uncle Chow Asian Fusion restaurant at 179 Park Rd. I’m not going to say too much because a full story will be coming later this week once I have a chance to visit and sample the offerings.

The sign reading ‘Toro Mexican Street Food’ has been installed. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

  • Progress is being made and the sign is up at Toro Loco Casita, which is in the process built out in the former Petals and Paws space at 22 Raymond Rd., next to Whole Foods. Toro Loco Casita will feature Mexican street food, “a down and dirty taqueria,” chef/owner Tony Camilleri said.

Renovations for Toro Casita are being finalized on the building that formerly housed Petals and Paws at 22 Raymond Rd. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

  • Congratulations to Ooh La La on their 10th anniversary! The Blue Back Square women’s clothing boutique opened in May 2011, and is launching a special celebration this week. Look for a feature story in the next few days.
  • West Hartford-based floatation therapy center, Float Forty-One was chosen by How2Media, the producers of “World’s Greatest!…”, to be a part of the popular television series. The feature is set to air May 15, 22, and 29 on Bloomberg TV at 3:30 p.m. Eastern. For co-owner Sarah LaTeano, the celebration is about more than just the feature, it’s a reason to reconnect with the community after a tough year. “We opened for just a few short months before COVID hit and took wind out of our sails,” said LaTeano. “While we have been blessed with a loyal and growing customer base looking for support during a stressful time, we want to help shine a light on other businesses like us who opened just before or during the pandemic.” On May 26, Float Forty-One will host a special open house celebration from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m., joined by friends including Cross Culture Kombucha, West Hartford Coworking, F45, and more – food and friends to be announced. “World’s Greatest!…” is a 30-minute show dedicated to highlighting the world’s greatest companies, products, places, and people. As part of the show, How2Media sent a film crew to spend time at the company’s facility in West Hartford to uncover the “story behind the story,” sharing with viewers why Float Forty-One was selected as the best in their category, and therefore featured on the show. “We think their story will be meaningful as well as educational to our viewers,” said Gordon Freeman, Executive Producer of the show. With so much stress and anxiety weighing us down these days, it comes as no surprise that people are seeking alternative ways to find relief and heal that don’t involve therapy or medication, and Float Forty-One is a pioneer in the world of float centers. “Now more than ever, we need a way to take a moment and remove ourselves from the headlines and heaviness,” says LaTeano, “Flotation therapy provides an almost other-worldly feeling of weightlessness, in a safe, distanced, and sanitized environment. The power of this combination right now is undeniable.” An exclusive trailer of the feature episode can be seen below, and you can also visit www.float41.com/partners-events for more details.

  • Park Road had its clean-up day a few weeks ago, and Saturday will be Elmwood Community Clean-up Day. The effort begins at 8:45 a.m., at 10 Princeton St. More details on the flyer below.

  • The Max Cares Foundation is offering hospitality scholarships to high school and college students who are going on to study culinary arts and hospitality management. Scholarships of up to $2,500 are provided that can be used for educational expenses. Deadline to apply is May 15. Five scholarships were awarded to Hartford area students in 2020, and Max Cares Foundation President Rich Rosenthal said, “It’s an understatement to say the hospitality industry was hit hard by the pandemic. Max Cares Foundation is stepping up to help develop the next generation of leaders in a field that is going to be rebuilt and reenvisioned over the next several years.” More details and the application can be found here.
  • Sarah Drake, who is originally from West Hartford but currently living in London, has organized “THERE WILL BE LIGHT,” an international online concert and fundraiser with performers from Broadway to the West End and beyond. According to the Facebook event page, “the concert will be launched on May 14 8 p.m. GMT (3 p.m. EST) in support of Acting for Others, a charity that provides financial and emotional support to all theatre workers in times of need. Come celebrate the world reopening with some musical theatre and pop tunes!” Click here for complete details.
  • West Hartford-based Universal Connectivity just launched a brand new website that highlights business telecommunications systems that help connect people, the company advised in an email. “With a fresh and engaging user experience, the new Universal Connectivity website now offers visitors a clear message: You can feel confident and in control of your business telecom systems. Through the refreshed site, visitors can browse and learn more about how the company serves its mission to connect humans to humans, humans to machines and machines to things.” To view the new website, click here.
  • YHB Investment Advisors, Inc. welcomes Byron Nilsson, who recently joined the West Hartford Center-based business as an assistant portfolio manager, responsible for portfolio management support, analysis, and client service. He most recently worked as a vice president for Société Générale in New York, where he managed risk in the corporate and investment banking division. Nilsson previously worked abroad in banking for several years in Paris, France, and has a B.S. in business management with a concentration in finance from Babson College.

Byron Nilsson. Courtesy photo

  • The Hartford Business Journal reported last week that West Gate Apartments in West Hartford were sold for $31.5 million and have been renamed Eagle Rock Apartments. The four-building property, which includes 186 units ranging from studios to two-bedrooms, is located at 1248 Farmington Ave.
  • The building that housed Cosmos International at 770 Farmington Ave. is in the process of being sold, and the business is closed as well. I’m hoping to get more details soon on the buyer and the status of the business.

Cosmos International has closed at 770 Farmington Ave. and the building is in the process of being sold. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

  • Anna’s Hair Perfection at 766 Farmington Ave. appears to have also closed.

Anna’s Hair Perfection at 766 Farmington Ave. has closed. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

  • The news has mostly been good, and we have not had too many businesses closing lately, but Esquire Cleaners at 1143 New Britain Ave. has also recently closed for good. The space will be available for lease soon.

Esquire Cleaners at 1143 New Britain Ave. has closed. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

  • ICYMI, We-Ha.com reported Monday that the former Taylor and Modeen Funeral Home building at 136 South Main Street is going to be demolished and a Hartford HealthCare building to include an imaging center and the offices of several medical practices will be located there. The news generated many comments on Facebook from residents who disapproved of the building’s modern style, and the fact that there was no public hearing (not required because it meets the zoning standards for the parcel). Read the full story here.
  • Expanded outdoor dining corrals were deployed last week, vaccination rates are high in West Hartford and infection rates are low. Complete 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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  • can you give an update on two separate situations , who or what is moving into the former Grant’s location on Farmington Ave? and who or what has purchased the former UCONN property?
    Thank you,
    PS I love your column
    Patrick Mahoney

    • Hi Patrick! I am eagerly awaiting being able to report on both of those items. The UConn property sale has not closed yet and the buyer has not wanted to make their intentions public yet. I don’t know who they buyer is. The restaurant going into former Grant’s location is getting close to being complete but does not yet want any publicity. I hope to be able to share something about that one later this month. Thanks for reading!! ~Ronni

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