A round-up of openings, closings, and other news about West Hartford businesses.
By Ronni Newton
For the first time in many, many months, I am writing this column on Sunday night from somewhere other than West Hartford.
I left town early Friday morning, for the first time since mid-October venturing more than 10 miles from West Hartford.
The exit numbers on the Mass Pike have changed since the last time I had driven on the Mass Pike seven months ago. I think it happened just recently, and they now match the mile markers, but it definitely caught me off guard. The exit number on 495 are the same (for now), but the Mid Cape Highway (Route 6) also has exit numbers to match the mile markers, so the Hyannis exit for the Steamship Authority is now 68, not 6.
When Ted and I got off the ferry in Nantucket at noon on Friday, and were greeted by his parents, we exchanged our first hugs since Christmas 2019. They were some of the best hugs ever. Thank you to the vaccine for making that moment possible.
We are not here for a relaxing vacation, but interspersed between writing news stories for We-Ha.com (like the story I wrote on the ferry about several prominent West Hartford Republicans leaving the GOP), and editing West Hartford LIFE, and lots of work getting the Nantucket house ready for our seasonal renters, we did enjoy some beach time, some runs, a trip to the bakery for doughnuts, some local beers on the deck, and lots of quality time with my in-laws.
I don’t have any photos of dinner at a West Hartford restaurant this Saturday night (we grilled burgers), but below is what it felt like to set foot on the beach again.
But Ted and I did enjoy friends and family at JAR + Bar last Tuesday – including these yummy tacos! The link to the full story about the opening is below.
Nantucket in May is not always very pleasant weather-wise, but we have been very lucky on this trip to have sunshine and temps in the mid- to upper-60s without too much wind. Millie has also been thoroughly enjoying her happy place, chasing bunnies and seagulls, and trying to drink the ocean water.
As COVID restrictions are being lifted, we are revamping the “Keeping it in the Community Feature,” and look for a slightly different version of spotlights on local businesses to return soon.
In the meantime, Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Chris Conway shared the following photos from Sunday morning’s painting of the outdoor dining barriers in Blue Back Square, and Brian Colbath restoring the Pride crosswalk on Isham Road. Painting of the ArtBarrier murals in the Center will take place on May 23.
After the new guidance issued by the CDC last week, and the lifting of COVID restrictions as of May 19 (including wearing of masks indoors in many places for those who are vaccinated), I’m changing the end of this section of the column …
Please continue to support our local businesses, wear your masks indoors if you are not vaccinated, and stay safe and healthy.
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:
- Maximum Beverage plans to open its doors Monday afternoon in its new space at 340 North Main St. in Bishops Corner, completing a long-planned move across the street from the previous location at 333 North Main. The store was closed for about a week to accommodate the move, said Marketing Director Matt Whitney. While the new store – located behind and below Whole Foods, and next to Anytime Fitness – is roughly the same size, the parking situation is much better with 10 designated spaces plus plenty more available, and the layout of the store has accommodated an expansion of product on brand new wine racks. In addition, “we are right next to Crown Market, and will have more than 80 Kosher wines,” Whitney said. Israel is a perfect wine-growing country, added his dad, Maximum Beverage owner Brian Whitney. Maximum Beverage will now offer 3,000 wines, 2,000 spirits, and 1,500 beers. The number of spirits varieties has been increased by about 50%, Brian Whitney said. As of Memorial Day weekend, they will also be back to doing tastings, he said. A section of the store also features a humidor, with approximately 100 different cigars available. “It’s the cigar/whiskey/brown spirits section,” Matt Whitney said. The signs are up on the side of the building to direct customers, but other signage is still on pandemic-impacted back-order, which also caused a delay in the move. “The storefront took 10 weeks, and it should have been four,” Brian Whitney said. And when some of the glass arrived it was broken, hence the plywood until replacement arrives. For longtime West Hartford-ites who may still be wondering where the new space is, it was long ago occupied by Bradlees as well as Service Merchandise. More photos can be found below.
- Movies have returned to West Hartford! Cinépolis underwent a major renovation and reopened in the summer of 2019 with luxury seats and dine-in service, but then has opened and closed several times over the past year as COVID-19 restrictions have loosened and then tightened. We hope the reopening, which took place on Friday, May 14, is now for good! For details about the current movies being shown, visit the website.
- Workstation for Hair (977R Farmington Ave., in the Farmington Avenue parking lot) has transitioned to Mane Loft Salon. The new owner, Nicky Gateman, (@knot_and_mane) was formerly one of the stylists at Workstation for Hair, and bought out the lease. The format will remain the same, with shared space for independent stylists as well as private and semi-private salons, support for building a business, in-house education, and a fresh market. “It’s a great success story,” Economic Development Coordinator Kristen Gorski said.
- Arugula Bistro (953 Farmington Ave. in West Hartford Center) will be reopening Wednesday after being closed since January for what began as redoing the kitchen floors and turned into a major renovation (you know the story “If You Give a Moose a Muffin” …). I had a sneak peek inside last week courtesy of owner Christiane Gehami, but am holding off on the details until the space is 100% complete and I can provide photos of some of the food, which includes a new late-night bar menu, and seating not only in the expanded dining corral but also in a unique alleyway space. Gehami said her baby has grown up, and the interior is what she has always dreamed of.
- I can’t confirm this through official sources, and can’t confirm that the lease has been executed, but an article in BusinessWest.com about Massachusetts-based fast casual chain Hot Table, which specializes in paninis and salads, and cookies, states the business will expand to West Hartford, with plans to open next to Shake Shack in the Corbin Collection. More details to come!
- A father-daughter team of West Hartford residents, Ricardo Mariqueo and Bernice Mariqueo, have launched Aquaventuresct. The official launch for this summer season was Friday. They describe the business as follows in a news release: “This local business offers stand-up paddle board, kayak, canoe and paddle boat rentals out of South Glastonbury’s Seaboard Marina. With Aquaventuresct, you will be able to relax and enjoy the views of the Connecticut River through these enjoyable activities. They are centered upon helping others achieve their best summer ever by offering affordable rentals on the water. This new business is perfect for a relaxing time by yourself or with friends and family! Also bring your furry friend along as they are dog friendly!” For more information, visit the website or call 860-713-8892.
- I am pretty sure I missed this when it happened, but Westside Wines, located at 10 Raymond Rd. (across from Modern Tire) is now called Tilted Bottles, but remains a wine and spirits shop. “Your local West Hartford wine shop providing quality wine and spirits from around the world. We are truly passionate about wine and want to help you find the right wine for a weeknight meal, a special occasion or a large gathering,” the Facebook page states. For more information, call 860-233-1241.
- Virtually all COVID-19 business restrictions end on Wednesday, and that’s also the day the #CTDrinksOnUs campaign launches. A free beverage (from a pre-set list that includes alcoholic and non-alcoholic selections) will be available at participating restaurants to those who have received one or both COVID-19 vaccines. In West Hartford, the following restaurants are participating as of May 16: Artisan, Arugula, Bricco, Effie’s Place, Max Burger, Max’s Oyster Bar, Place 2 Be (opening later this week), Savoy, and Union Kitchen. For complete details, visit the Connecticut Office of Tourism website here.
- U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal and Phil Pappas from the Connecticut Brewers Guild visited New Park Brewing in West Hartford Friday to chat with owner John Doyle about the lifting of restrictions, will will allow breweries to be open even if a food truck or other food option is not on premises. Chef Eric Stagl, whose Craftbird food truck is in residence at New Park Brewing (providing delicious chicken sandwiches and more) for the month of May, was also present for the press conference Friday.
- While the mood may have been celebratory at New Park Brewing, elsewhere in the same complex at 485 New Park it was wistful as Blaze and Bloom Vintage prepared to close permanently as of Sunday. Jennifer O’Connell, the remains owner, said while she is closing the brick and mortar store, she will “keep the vintage memory alive on Facebook and Insta,” and said she will continue to paint and repurpose furniture and is glad to share style tips. Contact information can be found on the website, which remains active.
- Another door that closed in the past week is Barb’s Pizza in West Hartford Center – but as of June 1 there are plans for another owner to reopen the space under a new name (virtually unchanged otherwise) and for Barb’s Pizza to open their Cromwell location. Click here for the details.
- ICYMI, Hollywood came to West Hartford last week, and will return for a few more days of filming “Call Jane” this week. Click here for the full story.
- A business owned by the Peterson brothers has transitioned to Brothers. Read the story here.
- JAR + Bar is now open on Park Road! Click here for the complete 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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