A round-up of openings, closings, and other news about West Hartford businesses.
By Ronni Newton
I hope everyone had a Happy Mother’s Day on Sunday – in spite of the dreadful (to quote Ryan Hanrahan) weather!
Saturday was spectacular, and it was so hard to imagine that the beautiful spring weather wouldn’t continue. Ted and I took a walk around the block after dinner and it was still so nice and warm and clear, but then on Sunday we woke up to dreariness and a cold rain.
We picked Sam up from UConn on Saturday (or I should say we helped move him back because he does have his car with him, but needed our SUV to get all of his stuff home, and my help packing up the kitchen of his on-campus apartment). Saturday night we went to Max Burger where we finally got to buy him his first legal beer (his 21st birthday was about a week and a half ago, but he was busy with “finals” [i.e., going the the bar with friends] so we hadn’t seen him to celebrate. And 15 hours later he was gone again, off to spend a few days in the Nantucket house with friends (we sent along a fairly long list of tasks that we didn’t get to last weekend) before our renters arrive.
Thanks to Sam for my early morning Mother’s Day present on Sunday, and for Katie for taking me to get a much needed and much appreciated pedicure later in the day! We tested out the new Charming Nails & Spa (312 Park Rd.) and loved the relaxing and friendly atmosphere and the massage chairs – and it was very clean.
Now that many colleges are done for the semester, I’m looking forward to welcoming several summer interns. Both Lauren Cohen (Conard graduate, attending William & Mary), and Dexter McCann (Hall graduate, attending the University of Wisconsin) are starting with We-Ha.com on Monday! You’ll be hearing more from – and about – them very soon, as well as intern Zoe Pierce later this month.
Now, for this week’s very exciting business news, some of which you can also see featured on CTLive Monday at 11:30 a.m. on NBC Connecticut!
If you have tips about businesses opening or closing, 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:
- I am beyond excited to announce that Arethusa is going to be opening a location in West Hartford Center! The Bantam/Litchfield-based business will be opening a dairy store and cafe in half of the now-former Toy Chest location at 975 Farmington Ave. (see more about Toy Chest below), and owners George Malkemus and Anthony Yurgaitis are hoping to be open very soon. They have already met so many people from West Hartford and surrounding towns, and George said they have been looking for a space on Farmington Avenue for quite a while. “Every single lunch and dinner in the restaurant, I can’t tell you how many people say they are from West Hartford or Farmington,” George said. “I said to Tony, ‘Let’s come to West Hartford,’ and we kept looking and when this came up, we went for it.” Tony expressed his excitement about opening in West Hartford as well. “I feel very comfortable that we chose the right location. We’re really looking forward to bringing our dairy products to West Hartford and telling our story, and we also hope many people come visit our farm and keep the dream alive.” … For those who don’t know anything about Arethusa, George and Tony, longtime partners in life as well as in their roles as top executives of Manolo Blahnik in New York, bought a historic dairy farm in Litchfield 20 years ago from the Webster family. The very abbreviated background story (click here for more details) is that the couple, who were living in New York City, initially just planned to preserve farmland, and to give the farm back its original name of Arethusa (named for a small pink orchid that grows on the property), but a few years later they started raising dairy cows, and now their Holsteins, Jerseys, and Brown Swiss number more than 300 (spread out on 300 acres) and have won many awards. In 2009, they began bottling Arethusa Farm milk, and soon added yogurt, ice cream, and cheese. They purchased and renovated two buildings in Bantam, where the dairy operation is now located along with a retail store, the bakery and cafe Arethusa a mano, and the acclaimed restaurant Arethusa al tavolo. The farm also now includes Arethusa Gardens which supplies Arethusa al tavolo with fresh produce. It’s “the dairy built on stiletto heels” – reads the headline of a New York Times article on June 24, 2011. And there is an Arethusa Farm Dairy store that opened in New Haven in 2014 … Dairy products (milk, blocks of cheese, yogurt, ice cream, etc.) and baked goods like bagels and croissants will be for sale at the West Hartford location, which will also include an ice cream shop and cafe with everything made from scratch either on the premises or in Bantam. Think grilled cheese, sandwiches, salads, cheese plates, and outdoor seating. “It’s the only place we’ve ever been able to offer outside dinning … the only place we can do it the way we want,” said George. The decor will be black and white – “clean and classic,” George said. Customers have been driving to Bantam to purchase their eggnog at holiday time, George said, and that will be available in West Hartford as well. “We cannot tell you how excited we are,” George added. “West Hartford is such a vibrant area, it has such a great spirit, a great feeling,” said Tony. … The lease was signed last week, for 2,500 square feet plus space in the basement, and property manager Mike Mahoney of RLM Co. said he is also so excited to welcome Arethusa to West Hartford, and they are anxious to get open as soon as possible. And while George and Tony are ending their relationship with Manolo Blahnik at the end of 2019, in addition to operating Arethusa Farm and its associated operations, they will continue to build SJP, the fashion line they have developed with Sarah Jessica Parker. “We’re still involved in the shoe business with SJP … we’re excited about both businesses,” Tony said. They also hold an extremely popular sample sale, which funds the Arethusa Farm Scholarship at UConn’s College of Agriculture, Health, and Natural Resources. See more photos below of Arethusa’s other locations to get an idea of what the West Hartford space will look like.
- The theme of this week’s column could be “Bantam expands to West Hartford,” because another piece of really big West Hartford Center news is the opening Saturday of Blueprint CT Home in the former Silver Dahlia space at 970 Farmington Ave. “Our store in Bantam is the same distance from Arethusa,” said Louis Lemieux, owner of Blueprint CT Home. The businesses are diagonally across the street in Bantam, as they will be in West Hartford when Arethusa opens. He said he had discussed a desire to open a West Hartford location with Arethusa owners George Malkemus and Anthony Yurgaitis, but the fact that they signed leases at the same time is completely coincidental. “We call it the Litchfield invasion,” Lemieux joked. He describes Blueprint as a “luxury lifestyle and home design boutique,” and said they offer vintage and modern furnishings, textiles, ceramics, glassware, and objet d’art. “Anything that’s not mass market,” Lemieux said, with handmade high quality gifts from around the world, as well as featured Connecticut artists. “We’re a high touch business,” said Lemieux, and he and his employees like to tell the stories of the pieces they have in the store. “We specialize in gifts for people who are very hard to buy for,” he said, and offer specialty men’s items, and concierge gift service for special occasions. They also keep a list of what their customers’ likes are. Like Arethusa, the Bantam store has many customers from West Hartford, Avon, and Farmington, and an additional tie to the area is that Jenna Brescia, who is the general manager of both stores, is a longtime member of Wampanoag Country Club in West Hartford. “I was a weekend New Yorker,” Lemieux said, an executive with a home in Roxbury (he’s now bought a house in Watertown), when he opened the first store in Bantam several years ago. “West Hartford has a really great vibe,” he said. When he learned that Silver Dahlia was vacating the West Hartford Center space, he jumped at the chance, and less than two weeks after signing a lease (Silver Dahlia closed on April 28, and Lemieux’s lease was effective May 1), the store opened Saturday morning. It’s been a speedy and amazing transformation, with new flooring and updates to the walls and lighting, a new sign in place, and the store artfully arranged. Blueprint CT Home is open Monday-Wednesday from 10 a.m.-6 p.m., Thursday through Saturday from 10 a.m.-7 p.m., and Sunday from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Lemieux said that hours may be extended further if there is demand, and if someone is in the store customers are welcome. “It’s a fun treasure hunt to find things that people haven’t seen before,” he said, and there is a wide range of prices. “Something can be beautiful but not expensive,” he said. Visit the website, or follow Blueprint CT Home on Facebook or Instagram (@shopblueprintct) for more information, and see additional photos from the West Hartford store below.
- I’m going to jump back across the street with this next item – the re-opening of Toy Chest at 973 Farmington Ave., one storefront east of its former location. Toy Chest was open last Sunday, and closed Monday and Tuesday while they moved all of the inventory, and re-opened Wednesday morning in the new space. “We’re very excited, it’s updated and looks so much brighter,” said owner Marilyn Caruso when I popped in Thursday to see the new space. “The reaction has been great, and everyone has been ecstatic,” said Manager Ed Dunn. “The inventory fits in so well – it’s all the same merchandise – but kids come in and say, ‘Wow!'” (See more photos below). Caruso said she is also excited about having Arethusa take over part of the store’s former space and thinks they will be a great addition to the Center. “They’re great guys, and I’ve heard nothing but good things about them,” said Dunn. “And this is so different from anything we have now.”
- Also in the Center (and eventually moving across the street), James Kostelis will soon open Fifth State Barber Company in the Central building at 970 Farmington Ave. Kostelis had been working as a barber at Patsy’s on LaSalle Road until the end of last week, and will be working temporarily out of WORKsTATION (977R Farmington Ave.) until his own barber shop space is ready in the next few weeks. “It has been my dream to open my own barbershop,” Kostelis said in an email to customers that he shared with We-Ha.com. Anyone interested in an appointment can contact him at fifthstatebarber.com.
- Trollbeads will have its grand opening in Blue Back Square (former Goldberg’s location on Isham) on Friday, May 24. More to come!
- On Tuesday the West Hartford Town Council will be considering an ordinance to permit “cottage food operations” in town, allowing residents to create and sell food items prepared in their own homes, subject to certain conditions. There’s a public hearing at 7:15 p.m. in Legislative Chambers (Room 314) at Town Hall, and the meeting begins at 7:30 p.m. To review the terms of the ordinance, click here.
- Crown Market in Bishops Corner (2471 Albany Ave.) has welcomed a new executive chef! Andrea Gussak, who formerly worked at Margery Gussak Catering, has more than three decades of Kosher catering experience. “She’s already upped our game and added dozens of new items! If you haven’t already … come on in and check out her new and exciting dishes!” Crown posted on their Facebook page.
- There was lots of business news throughout last week! ICYMI, there will be a pop-up Tara’s Closet in Bishops Corner beginning June 2, with drop-offs accepted the prior week. Click here for more information.
- Congratulations to West Hartford native David Waren, named president and CEO of the Jewish Federation of Greater Hartford. Click here for details.
- Welcome to Physical Therapy and Sports Medicine, which has had its headquarters in West Hartford for years but opened the first clinic in town last Monday at 135 South Main St. (at the corner or Sedgwick/Park Road, bringing the company’s “PT for Life” approach to a healthcare practice that benefits many people (and could benefit so many more). Click here to read the full story.
- Many people are really excited to hear that GoNetspeed has expanded, offering an option for high-speed fiber optic internet service to a new swath of West Hartford. Details here.
- To see all of the business news, click on the “Business” category above.
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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