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Bishops Corner Blue Back Square Business Elmwood Park Road The Center

West Hartford Business Buzz: May 11, 2020

Ooh La La Boutique has relocated to 55 Isham Rd. in West Hartford's Blue Back Square. 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 – or as happy a Mother’s Day as they are able to have under what remain very unusual conditions.

I read back over the column I wrote on Mother’s Day a year ago, and although there was a mention of “dreadful weather,” it couldn’t have been as bizarre as what we experienced on Saturday. When the sky got very dark and the snow began swirling and one of our patio chairs blew across the backyard, I was really thinking we were facing Armageddon. Thankfully Sunday, while still breezy, was much more temperate.

This past weekend, and today, were days that had been marked on my calendar for several years, days to mark major milestones and accomplishments.

Sam stands next to his name during UConn’s virtual graduation ceremony on May 9. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Sunday was supposed to be Sam’s college graduation day. We would have watched him cross the stage at Gampel Pavilion, and celebrated later at a restaurant with his apartment-mates and their families.

Monday was supposed to be Katie’s pinning ceremony at UConn, followed by an intimate graduation and celebration with the 36 new Doctors of Physical Therapy and their families.

Instead, both kids posed in front of our family room TV, where we viewed a virtual graduation ceremony being broadcast on YouTube. To their credit, UConn did a very nice job with the virtual graduation. The speeches were short but inspiring, and it was nice to see everyone’s name scrolling across the scene – and to be able to stop the video so Katie and Sam could both stand in front of their names.

Katie stands next to her name during UConn’s virtual graduation ceremony on May 9. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Thankfully Katie had purchased her doctoral robe and hood, and a new cap, earlier this year. Sam hadn’t bought his, but wore Katie’s robe from her undergrad graduation three years ago, along with her new cap. She wore her old cap that she had previously decorated with pearls and sparkly letters marking the degree she earned in 2017 and the DPT degree she anticipated earning from UConn this year.

Ted, Sam, and I had a Zoom happy hour Saturday with his now-former apartment-mates and their families. We celebrated with takeout.

Katie had a final capstone project that she had to present and defend to earn her doctorate. She did that last Thursday, and she said mercifully it was an audio-only presentation because not only was she dressed in the “groutfit” she had been wearing to paint the door of her shed, but she was having last minute WiFi problems and ended up sitting on the floor in a corner of her living room where the signal was strongest. “Dr. Katie,” as we now call her, managed despite the challenges.

We unearthed (don’t ask where in the house they were stashed several years ago) two bottles of Corona to use for this photo on graduation day.

Managing, and improvising, is what we are all doing these days as we try to navigate this uncertain environment, and anticipate some kind of ever-evolving “new normal.”

I was one of a team of 24 to run the “Ragnar WeHa 2020” this weekend. While we didn’t quite do the actual handoff of the slap band/baton for each of our three legs, we collectively logged many more miles than the 200-mile goal, raised money for Feeding America, and managed to support each other while maintaining physical distancing. It was wonderful and empowering to be part of a team of strong women (which included team leader and Board of Education member Ari Steinberg and Mayor Shari Cantor) many of whom I didn’t previously know!

The week ahead will be “busy,” (aka lots of hours at the computer) as the Town Council meets (virtually) to adopt the FY2021 budget, a new We-Ha.com intern (Melanie Grados) joins the team, and we hear more from the state regarding plans to reopen segments of the economy in just 10 days. I’ll be bringing you more information about how that directly will be impacting West Hartford.

Most of the members of the Ragnar WeHa 2020 gathered for a physically-distant finish line photo.

I gave my newly-minted college graduate son, whose degree is in economics and statistics, the task of tracking West Hartford-specific COVID-19 data on a graph, and will be sharing that this week as well.

Please keep physically distancing, 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:

Ooh La La jeans display at the new store. Courtesy photo

  • Some “normal-ish” business news leads today’s column. Ooh La La Boutique, which will celebrate its 10th anniversary in Blue Back Square this June, has moved locations. Owner Darlene Salonia moved spaces Saturday from 80 Memorial Rd. to 55 Isham Rd., the former Green Tea House space. Salonia said the plans have been in the works for months, and a while move in the midst of a pandemic isn’t necessarily a good recommendation, she’s excited about the new spaces which is larger and more versatile. “I have a big table, and I always wanted a community table,” she said. She also said she will be able to highlight and feature jeans and shoes in way that wasn’t possible in the old space. Salonia said she had ordered some great spring inventory before the pandemic forced the store to close to shoppers in mid-March, and initially didn’t do any marketing or selling at all. “It happened right during the changes of season, but at first I felt like clothes were irrelevant,” said Salonia. “Then I saw these cute masks, and thought it was something we could do.” Masks could be awful, but by selling attractive and comfortable masks (all made in the U.S., she said), Salonia felt she was contributing something positive. And then she said she gradually realized that people want to shop, want to feel good, so she has been posting photos of merchandise online and doing curbside pick-up of masks as well as clothing. Masks (see sample photos below) are available for women, men, and children, and can also be shipped anywhere in the country. Salonia said that for every 12 masks she purchases from the supplier, two get donated to first responders. Salonia plans to open the new Ooh La La space to customers on May 20, and will also be launching online sales. With a small boutique, that has already focused on appointment shopping, she is hopeful for the future. For more information, follow Ooh La La on Instagram (@theoohlalaboutique) or Facebook, or call 860-236-4444.

    Meçha Noodle Bar will be “slurping soon” at 975 Farmington Ave. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

  • I caught up with West Hartford Economic Development Specialist Kristen Gorski late last week, and she said that the town has a working group in place and  based on guidance from the state is “trying to approach things in a proactive manner” regarding the the need to address zoning issues to allow restaurants to have as much outdoor seating as possible when they are permitted to reopen as of May 20 – since outdoor dining is the only on-premise dining that will be permitted. For more information about the state’s guidance that was issued over the weekend, click here. Look for an update this week. Gorski said she has also been working closely with businesses to assist them in navigating applications for various loan and grant programs.

    JP Morgan Chase is almost ready to open at 962 Farmington Ave. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

  • Gorski also said that projects that were underway previously – including build-outs for Arethusa, Meçha Noodle Bar, and the restaurant that will be opening in the former Grant’s space – are still underway on Farmington Avenue in the Center. Also on Farmington Avenue in the Center, both Westfield Bank and JPMorgan Chase Bank are getting very close to being able to open.
  • Outside of the Center, there are some other businesses where build-out is continuing, including West Hartford Lock which purchased a building at 11 Sherman St. and will be moving to the new location, Infinite Beauty Bar at 202 Park Rd., and Fabletics at Westfarms.
  • Speaking of Westfarms, I was happy to get the scoop that, contrary to a news report that had been issued earlier in the day Thursday, Nordstrom at Westfarms is not among the 16 stores that the retailer will be closing. Click here for details.

    Carol Waxman. West Hartford Libraries Facebook photo

  • Congratulations to Carol Waxman, children’s librarian at West Hartford Libraries. The following was posted on the library’s Facebook page last week: Congratulations to Children’s Librarian Carol Waxman for receiving the Faith Hektoen Award, recognizing career achievement in the field of Children’s Services. Kudos to you Mrs. Waxman – we love you! More information is available at https://ctlibraryassociation.org/.
  • PM Pediatrics, a pediatric urgent care company that has a location in Corbin’s Corner in West Hartford, has begun offering COVID-19 antibody testing for children and adults living in the same household at 36 of its offices nationwide. According to a press release from the company: “Tests are open to anyone in a single household with at least one child. PM Pediatrics is waiving a co-pay for the testing but individuals may be responsible for cost through their insurance provider. The test is $65 for people without insurance. Testing begins at noon (local time) at most offices. The COVID-19 antibody test consists of a blood sample, drawn from a vein. An antibody is a marker in the blood that indicates the body’s immune reaction to an infection. PM Pediatrics is offering the IgG test which can help determine if a person has previously had COVID-19. Results are reported in approximately 2-3 days. All visits must be booked in advance via the PM Pediatrics Anywhere app. ‘Antibody testing helps provide our families with information to make better decisions about their health status. We are proud to serve our communities where we live and work,’ said Dr. Jeffrey Schor, co-CEO of PM Pediatrics. Antibody testing is the next evolution in PM Pediatrics medical outreach to patients and their families since the start of the COVID-19 outbreak.”

    Jill Hutensky (top) and Tiffany Donelson have been named to leadership positions on the CCP board. Courtesy photos

  • Congratulations to two West Hartford residents who have been elected to the Connecticut Council for Philanthropy leadership. Tiffany Donelson, vice president of programs, Connecticut Health Foundation, has been named CCP Board Vice Chair, and Jill Hutensky, senior vice president, Hartford market manager, Bank of America, is a new member of the CCP Board of Directors. Donelson has been on the board since 2018 and secretary in 2019. She previously held several leadership roles at Aetna, Inc., including as the deputy chief of staff for Aetna’s National Businesses Office and as a director in corporate strategy. Before joining Aetna, Donelson was a consultant at Ingenix Consulting and PricewaterhouseCoopers. In addition to the Connecticut Council for Philanthropy, she also serves on the boards of the United Way of Connecticut and Hartford Performs. Donelson received her M.P.H. in health policy and management at Emory University’s Rollins School of Public Health, and her B.S. in biology at Georgetown University. At Bank of America, Hutensky works with the local market leadership team to connect businesses, families and individuals to the resources and expertise across the Bank. She oversees brand reputation, communications, volunteerism and community impact, and stewards Bank of America Charitable Foundation in Hartford, which contributed more than $2 million in 2019. She came to this position after nearly 20 years in corporate communications, marketing, and corporate social responsibility. Huntensky has participated as a board member with several nonprofit organizations, including the Jewish Community Foundation and the Center for Children’s Advocacy, and currently serves on the board of the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts.
  • The Design District of West Hartford has announced a call for entries for three local 06110 businesses to win a spot in their upcoming digital marketing campaign set to launch in May. The neighborhood association hopes to give local businesses a boost and is planning to pool resources in order to build awareness and drive traffic to the up-and-coming section of West Hartford. The new campaign will feature a couple exploring all the interesting and under the radar businesses in the Design District and will air across social media channels and YouTube with a TV campaign slated for 2021. “The Design District is all about bringing small businesses together to create bigger opportunities than one business might be able to afford on its own,” said David Chmielewski, president of the Design District. “COVID-19 broke just as we were getting ready to start production on our spring campaign. Being on hold, we realized that we had an opportunity to bring more locals in on the action. We are excited to showcase the amazing people and places that make up our corner of West Hartford and look forward to bringing a boost to small businesses during a time when they need it most.” Entries to win a spot in the Design District digital campaign are now open and entrants must be independently owned and operated businesses located in the 06110 zip code. Details and a submission form can be found on the Design District website.
  • ICYMI, West Hartford’s newest mixed-use, mixed-income, transit-oriented development, 540 New Park, has secured funding and should be breaking ground later this year. Complete details can be found here.
  • The updated list of West Hartford restaurants open for takeout and/or delivery 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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Masks for women from Ooh La La Boutique. Courtesy photo

Masks for women from Ooh La La Boutique. Courtesy photo

Masks for men from Ooh La La Boutique. Courtesy photo

Masks for kids from Ooh La La Boutique. Courtesy photo

Ooh La La has moved to 55 Isham Rd. Courtesy photo

Ooh La La has moved to 55 Isham Rd. Courtesy photo

Ooh La La has moved to 55 Isham Rd. Courtesy photo

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