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West Hartford Business Buzz: May 25, 2020

A West Hartford resident has founds a way to make celebrations special during the COVID-19 pandemic. Courtesy photo

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

By Ronni Newton

Today is Memorial Day, the unofficial start of summer, and even though things are very different this year, I hope that many of you are enjoying a long weekend and the beautiful weather.

I’m going to keep my introduction short because 1) I need some downtime (haven’t had a single day off since early March) and, 2) as I write this on Sunday afternoon, I am looking at flats full of flowers, vegetables, and herbs purchased yesterday that are begging to be planted.

West Hartford had to cancel the traditional Memorial Day parade and ceremony, but the town has prepared a moving and heartfelt tribute to those who gave the ultimate sacrifice. It will be aired on West Hartford Community Interactive beginning at 10 a.m. Monday (the time the parade typically begins). Some preview information is here, and the link to the YouTube video will be added at 10 a.m.

One final comment: We would love to help West Hartford businesses share their message with the community. Whether you are reopening and want to shout it from the rooftops, or just looking to keep your brand awareness alive while being closed, or somewhere in between, We-Ha.com reaches an enormous and engaged local audience.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, the number of visitors to the site and total page views have grown tremendously, although sadly our revenue has also seen a large decline. In the past 11 weeks, since the coronavirus has dominated the news, We-Ha.com has had more than 245,000 unique visitors and more than 750,000 page views! Those are a lot of eyeballs on the site, and advertising through digital media doesn’t only allow for viewing of a static ad, it also allows potential customers to click through to your website or another landing page.

We are so thankful to all who have supported us, and while I usually try to keep my distance from the advertising operations, I want to make sure that the value of local news continues to be recognized.

We’ve gone out of our way to help local businesses as much as possible, not just through this column but also through listing all of the restaurants and their status. We are working on a similar feature for retailers.

If you are interested in an advertising opportunity, contact either Kaushik Makati at [email protected] or Bob Carr at [email protected].

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:

A West Hartford resident has founds a way to make celebrations special during the COVID-19 pandemic. Courtesy photo

  • A West Hartford mom, Tracey George, said she was trying to figure out what to do to make her daughter’s 18th birthday special this year since she wasn’t going to be able to spend it with her friends due to the social distancing requirements of the COVD-19 pandemic. George, one of the original owners of Blaze and Bloom, is originally from Minnesota, and said one of her hometown friends had posted a photo of an inflatable “Happy Birthday” in her yard – and shortly after George saw that, “Inflate the Day” was born.”It just exploded,” George said. She’s a paraprofessional with West Hartford Public Schools, usually working in the library and office at Norfeldt, but during the initial transition to distance learning she wasn’t working (she’s now doing one-on-one tutoring and check-ins), and her husband was furloughed, so they were looking for a project. They found a supplier – luckily early on, because now they are impossible to find – and have now amassed 15 different inflatables. “This was kind of a side thing, but now we are very busy,” she said. This Sunday, they had 10 orders to fill. The inflatables are set up by 8 a.m. and remain in place until 7:30 p.m., and all that’s required is an electrical source at the site to plug in the inflatable. Inflate the Day supplies the extension cords. “Most people don’t even know we have been there,” she said. The cost is $50 in West Hartford and Hartford, and slightly higher (for example, $70 in Windsor and $60 in Avon) if they have to travel. “We wanted everybody to be able to do it,” George said, and are keeping the price as reasonable as possible. There are multiple Happy Birthday cakes and a cupcake available, as well as “Happy Birthday” signs. The graduation inflatable is also getting plenty of use the days, and there is also a Batman and and “I Love You” inflatable. George and her husband do the set up and said her son, a college freshman, and daughter, a senior at Hall, take the inflatables down each evening. “We’re having a lot of fun doing it, and it’s made the quarantine go by quickly for the George household,” George said. They’re a small business, a local business, she said. “We’re just making people happy.” For more information about Inflate the Day or to order an inflatable, visit the website.

    Ooh La La Boutique owner Darlene Salonia stands in front of “The Wings Over West Hartford” in front of her store’s new location. Courtesy photo

  • As you approach Ooh La La Boutique‘s new space at 55 Isham Road (former location of the Green Tea House), you’re looking at a solid brick wall – at least you were previously looking at a blank brick wall, Darlene Salonia, owner of Ooh La La, said. “When I was first getting ready to move, before the pandemic, I wanted to do a wall with wings,” she said. COVID-19 has made those wings even more important. “The Wings Over West  Hartford,” as Salonia is calling the mural, created by her friend, Canton artist Judy Bird, provide an uplifting feeling amid the sadness and isolation of the pandemic. “People are looking up, not down. They are really responding in a way we haven’t seen before.” The mural includes several elements important to Salonia, and pertinent to the times. There is a mask, a heart, a sun, her kids’ initials, a dog, and the Blue Back Square logo. Salonia hopes that when people pause for a photo in front of the mural, they will tag #theoohlalaboutique, and she will share their images on her Instagram page. “It’s all about positivity, its a really nice feeling,” she said. Salonia is willing to reopen Ooh La La at its new location as soon as possible, and is just waiting for the final sign-off on her permit. In the meantime, she is selling masks and other items for curbside pick-up.

    Newly-renovated interior of Goldberg’s Bagels. Photo credit: Ted Newton

  • If you haven’t been to Goldberg’s (1131 New Britain Ave. in Elmwood) lately, you’ll be in for a pleasant surprise. Owner Chad Kirby has just completed some renovations to the interior, which allow for a much more efficient system of picking up orders and – this is really important for someone like me who is vertically challenged – it’s much easier to see which bagels are available! Once the restriction on interior dining is removed the space will be able to become fully operational, but in the meantime you can call in your orders (860-231-8688) for takeout. A few tables are also available on the patio. A big thank you to my husband, Ted, for not only picking up a supply of bagels for us, but also for helping me out by taking a bunch of photsos (another is below).
  • Dave Austin, owner of of Fresh Ink (216 Park Rd.), said that his local business has a new line of COVID-19 appropriate shirts for sale that benefit Foodshare, created by graphic designer Cindy Heintz. Fifty-percent of each shirt is donated to Foodhsare, which benefits the hungry and food insecure in Hartford and Tolland counties.To see the line of shirts, which feature messages such as “WeHa Can Do It” and “This is my Quarantine Shirt,” visit the Fresh Ink website.

    We Care Computers has been refurbishing computers for students in need. Courtesy image

  • A West Hartford information technology company is collecting and refurbishing computer equipment to provide to students throughout Greater Hartford. We Care Computers (2437 Albany Ave.) is collecting donated computer equipment, refurbishing it, and providing these devices to local students free of charge. They are working with school districts, municipalities, and nonprofit organizations to get the computers to the students who need them and have donated over 30 computers so far, the company said in a news release. Avi Smith-Rapaport, owner of We Care Computers, said he had been hearing that there was a significant need for computing equipment among students that have been forced into remote learning over the past couple of months. “I had been told by many people throughout the community that there was a shortage of computers for remote learners because of COVID-19.” Smith-Rapaport said. “I got the idea for donating refurbished computers when I realized there was an inventory of available machines from organizations upgrading their equipment.” Donations have come in from individuals, businesses, schools, and a few other organizations. “We continue to post our need for used equipment through social media and our newsletter,” he added. “We will continue to provide computer equipment as long as there is a need.” We Care Computers will gladly accept donated equipment as well as cash donations so they can expand the numbers of students that can receive computers. They have started a GoFundMe campaign, WCC Students in Need. For more information email Avi Smith-Rapaport at [email protected] or call 860-836-4191.
  • ICYMI, there has been lots of business news this week as “Reopen Connecticut” gets underway. In West Hartford, the town is finalizing a plan to allow restaurants and retailers to expand outdoor operations into public rights of way and other spaces. Read more here.
  • Mild weather and sunny skies Wednesday made for a positive experience on the first day of reopening for West Hartford’s retailers and the patios of restaurants. More details can be found here.
  • The list of West Hartford restaurants available for take-out and delivery has been updated to include those with outdoor dining. Click here for the full list. Information about retailers will follow shortly.

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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Newly-renovated interior of Goldberg’s Bagels. Photo credit: Ted Newton

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