A round-up of openings, closings, and other news about West Hartford businesses.
By Ronni Newton
The past week definitely didn’t have enough hours in it – and it seems to have both flown by and lasted forever.
Also, we’ve gone through a complete change in season since Mother’s Day – when I was wearing a sweater – to full-out summer.
The past week included a wonderful graduation ceremony for my son, after which we celebrated at Bricco (see a few photos below) – a celebration that had to happen right away because later in the week Sam had his wisdom teeth removed and isn’t quite ready to eat normally yet. There were six of us at dinner, but I couldn’t get close enough to the other food items to photograph them!
If I haven’t posted a press release that you have recently sent me it’s because we have been inundated with announcements about the many events returning this year after a COVID hiatus, as well as new events and initiatives launching this spring. There are also a number stories I’ve been working on for a while – some related to events I have attended – but have still been unable to finish because unexpected things keep popping up – including great things that need to be reported right away like West Hartford resident Lhakpa Sherpa breaking her own record by summiting Mount Everest for the 10th time, and Conard senior Maya Palanki being named one of two U.S. Presidential Scholars from Connecticut! I love doing photo galleries from the Hall and Conard proms, but even those are time consuming.
I did have a chance for a brief stop at GastroPark on Wednesday to meet Stanley from “The Office” – see bullet point below – and a coffee meeting at WeHa Brewing & Roasting also led to one of the bullet points below.
After planting lots of flowers during the day, on Saturday night I attended the Playhouse on Park “Encore” fundraiser at the very cool new event venue in Manchester – the Clerestory at Hilliard Mills in Manchester. Dress was “creative white cocktail” and while I had a bit of color in the dress I was wearing (borrowed from my daughter), many people were completely decked out in white. Full story to follow once I get the details about how much was raised. The food was catered by DORO Restaurant Group, and was delicious, and those photos will be with the story later this week.
My last event of the weekend (other than writing this column and several other stories) was yoga at LIFER Fitness on Sunday morning at 10 a.m.. Thank you to Harriet Hersh for the invitation! LIFER owner Deb Fountain participated in the class as well, and my daughter came with me, and it was a great way to start off the day! Every time I do yoga I realize how much I actually do like it, and how good it is for my body, and how I need to make it a regular routine …
A few weeks ago I noted that I eliminated my standard paragraph about mask mandates in this column since they have been lifted virtually everywhere except in most health care settings, but COVID-19 has not gone away, and West Hartford has been back in the red alert zone for the past five weeks (positive new cases per 100,000 of population are at the levels they were in February, and don’t include the positive home tests) and the entire state is now in the high transmission zone. Please have patience with each other and our choices, continue to look out for each other, support our local businesses – and stay safe and healthy (especially as the infection rate appears to be climbing again).
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:
- Anna Landi told me during a meeting last week that she and her husband, Davide Di Pietro, were looking to make a change in their lives, to find a place with a better economy and a great culture where they can raise their 6-year-old daughter – and they have chosen to relocate from Rome (yes, Rome, Italy) to West Hartford. And not only are they moving here, but they are also changing careers, launching a new business, a brand that they hope will expand in the region and beyond! MORE Italian Pasta Lab will be opening this year in the former Freshii space at 54 LaSalle Road in West Hartford Center. Landi – who currently works as a senior controller for a business in Rome, and Di Pietro – a biologist, wanted to bring their daughter “a brighter future,” she said. Their goal: “We would like to live in a little city, near a big city,” she said, and West Hartford is right between New York and Boston. “For my business, this is a great opportunity. It’s strategic. Here there is a high quality of life,” Landi said. Before making the decision that they wanted to relocate here, neither she nor her husband knew anyone in West Hartford. When people from Rome move to the U.S., she said, they often chose Florida or Texas, for the weather and for the tax situation, but she said she and her husband both like what this area has to offer, including strong schools that can accommodate an elementary school student who is not fluent in English. As for the business, Landi feels very lucky to have found a storefront right in West Hartford Center. She said she had written to Economic Development Coordinator Kristen Gorski in the fall inquiring about spaces but nothing looked promising until just before Christmas when Gorski contacted her to let her know the former Freshii space was vacant. They will be installing shelving to showcase the product, and most of the renovation the space needs is cosmetic, although they will remove a portion of an existing wall and replace it with a window to separate the public area from the laboratory where the pasta is made – leaving it visible so the process can be observed. “We will make different shapes of pasta, and sell it raw with the sauces in jars,” she said, and will also offer a kit that includes pasta, sauce, and cheese. The pasta will be available in multiple colors, and striped, and a variety of types including fettuccini, pappardelle, spaghetti, tortellini, and fusilli. Ravioli will be available in several shapes including flowers and hearts, and custom shapes and colors will also be offered. The pasta is just a few ingredients – essentially either flour and water, or flour, egg, and water. The former is vegan, and the latter is vegetarian. The colors will all be created with natural, vegetable-based dyes, including beet, pumpkin, and tomato. In addition to selling product directly to the public, Landi said they hope to sell to restaurants and catering businesses, and will also look to offer pasta making classes for children as well as chef service for small parties. The store will be fun to visit, Landi said, with an Instagram wall with a changeable background featuring places in Italy. They will also have a game wheel that customers can spin to win prizes. “The pasta machine will arrive in July,” she said, directly from Italy. She’s hoping MORE Italian Pasta Lab will be able to open by August. Landi has headed back to Italy, and will return a few more times for short stays while the business is getting up and running, and will be able to secure her visa for a longer-term stay once the business is up and running. “In Italy I manage three or four companies. Now I am ready to manage my company,” she said. The name chosen – “MORE” – is because “my intention is to give to people more [than what they expect] – much more – more taste more healthy food.” The first plate in an Italian meal is pasta she said, and it’s a strong part of the family experience and being together. Landi and her husband plan to initially rent, and hope to purchase a home in West Hartford in 2023.
- While having a meeting over coffee at WeHa Brewing and Roasting last week, I ran into owner Cody McCormack who shared that they have transitioned to a new plan for offering food, and are partnering with a newly-launched business, Phatty Wagon Kitchen, that will take over the dining operation. Phatty Wagon owner Nick Glenn wanted to take his passion for food to the next level, and said he will be partnering with WeHa Brewing and Roasting, running their business in the existing kitchen, alongside the brewing and roasting operation at 141 Shield Street. The food service will begin on Wednesday, May 18, and will be available Wednesday through Sunday, beginning at 11:30 a.m. Food will be available until 9 p.m. on Wednesday and Thursday, until 10 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, and until 6 p.m.. on Sunday. Phatty Wagon Kitchen is looking to build its own brand, and Glenn said afood truck will be coming soon for outside events. More information about Phatty Wagon, including more photos of their mouth-watering looking menu items, can be found on their website.
- Floor & Decor seems to be getting close to opening in the former ShopRite space at the corner of Kane Street and Prospect Avenue, and they are hiring for multiple jobs according to a sign posted on the construction fence and the website. The company “is a leading specialty retailer of hard surface flooring, offering the broadest in-stock selection of tile, wood, stone, related tools and flooring accessories at everyday low prices. Founded in 2000 and headquartered in Atlanta, Floor & Decor is one of Fortune’s 100 fastest-growing companies. At Floor & Decor, homeowners and professional contractors have access to superstore selection at warehouse prices with showroom quality,” with an extensive selection of in-stock products, the website states.
- Expanded outdoor dining is in place for the season, and ArtBarrier murals are in the works! Barriers were painted on Sunday in Blue Back Square by Sneh Detroja and her crew (in front of The Place 2 Be and Kaliubon Ramen) and by Drew Unikewicz and crew in front of Vinted. The road was closed to traffic while the painting was taking place, and LaSalle Road and a stretch of Farmington Avenue (from Dale Street to South Main Street) will be closed next Sunday, from 6 a.m. until 2 p.m. while artists and their helpers paint the barriers in the Center. The public is invited to observe, and there will be sidewalk chalk available for children to express their creativity as well.
- Leslie David Baker, aka Stanley from “The Office” whose character is rather grumpy other than on “pretzel day,” judged a pretzel competition at GastroPark and signed autographs as part of a fundraiser for Friends of Feeney. Eric Feeney, who launched and runs the nonprofit that helps out families who are dealing with heartbreak or tragedy, said he learned the actor was planning to attend a Yard Goats game last week and reached out to his agent to secure the visit. The fundraiser was an amazing success – attracting 215 “friends of Feeney” and raising $10,000. And the winning pretzels, receiving a 10 out of 10 from Stanley, were GastroPark’s pretzel made with cinnamon sugar and strawberry rhubarb filling, which tied for top honors with the Brazilian steak sandwich on a pretzel bun created by the Samba food truck. “Stanley” was very warm and friendly – and I don’t think it was just because pretzels were involved – and graciously signed an autograph for my son, Sam, who has watched the entire “Office” series at least five times but was recovering from having his wisdom teeth extracted that morning and couldn’t attend the event.
- Mayor Shari Cantor and Michael Cantor were honorary chairs of the very successful Connecticut Children’s Medical Center gala, held Saturday, May 7 at the Connecticut Convention Center. The event had a “Scottish Highlands” theme, and all of the co-hosts received a copy of comments by Princess Merida of DunBroch, a Disney princess from Scotland who is the protagonist of the Disney/Pixar animated film “Brave.”
- Mayor Shari Cantor, along with the mayors of other area towns, also recently served as host of another fundraiser. The Rose Gala, held April 9, was the first gala to take place at the newly-renovated Clerestory at Hilliard Mills – a former woolen mill – in Manchester, a property owned by West Hartford resident Drew Angelo who also organized the event with Jane Owen of Jane Owen Public Relations, who recently relocated with her husband, film producer Fernando Ferro, from California to West Hartford and now operates a branch of her business in town. The event supported MACC Charities, a nonprofit that assists individuals and families in crisis with basic needs. Notable guests included “Yellowstone” and “Teen Wolf” actor Ian Bohen, and Olympic Gold Medalist Lindsey Jacobellis. Michael Jai White, the internationally-famous actor who has recently launched a growing film studio in Connecticut, Jaigantic Studios, served as co-host of the event.
Westfield Bank has appointed Jamie Garcia as senior vice president, commercial loan officer, with an office at the bank’s Financial Services Center at 977 Farmington Avenue in West Hartford. Garcia is responsible for commercial lending activities throughout Connecticut and will actively work with existing Commercial Lending, Cash Management, and Retail Banking teams in the state, James C. Hagan, president and CEO of Westfield Bank, announced. She formerly served as a senior vice president and relationship manager with People’sUnited Bank, and has a bachelor’s degree in management and a Master of Business Administration from Bentley University. “We are excited to welcome Jamie to our growing team in Connecticut,” Hagan said. “With her extensive lending experience in the Connecticut market, she is the perfect fit to helpWestfield Bank build business relationships and grow our presence in the nutmeg state.”
- Toddler Tuesdays are return to Blue Back Square this Tuesday, May 17, from 10-11:30 a.m. “Join us with your child, ages 2 to 5, for a FREE kids event,” an announcement reads. The first Toddler Tuesday will feature “Story Time with Mother Goose” and a fun craft event. The next Toddler Tuesday, planned for May 31, will feature “Spring Story Time” and face painting. Additional Blue Back Square activities can be found on their website.
- ICYMI, between the two of them, Nicole Moleti and Krista Wells have not just six children but also six jobs – the newest of which is author. The West Hartford residents, under the pen name Addison McKnight, had their first novel, a psychological thriller entitled “An Imperfect Plan,” published last week. Read the complete story here.
- There are quite a few pieces of good news related to Westfarms, including new-to-market brands opening soon, a popular brand returning, and some store refreshes. 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].
Like what you see here? Click here to subscribe to We-Ha’s newsletter so you’ll always be in the know about what’s happening in West Hartford! Click the blue button below to become a supporter of We-Ha.com and our efforts to continue producing quality journalism.