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West Hartford Business Buzz: May 4, 2020

BK&Co. will be among the businesses participating in the West Hartford Chamber of Commerce's inaugural virtual business showcase on Thursday. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

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

By Ronni Newton

I’m happy to be able to begin my column talking about what a beautiful weekend it was! I hope that everyone had a chance to get outside – even if only into the yard or to take a walk around the block – because it really was spectacular!

April is in the books – and I say good riddance. It’s easier (at least for me) to stay positive and have hope when the weather is warmer, the flowers are blooming, the leaves are returning to the trees, and we can get outside and find enjoyment even if we need to maintain our physical distance from those outside our families.

I also have hope because, although we are still in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, as long as the metrics continue in the right direction we may see some reopening of the economy – with outdoor dining being permitted and the opening of “main street” retail – and easing of restrictions later this month.

The state has indicated that some zoning ordinances may be temporarily suspended to allow for businesses to operate, and that could be exciting for West Hartford. Things won’t be back to the old normal, but in conversations with town leaders there is a strong awareness of the need to make West Hartford’s “new normal” even more vibrant, diverse, and inclusive than ever!

“We treasure our thriving centers throughout town,” Mayor Shari Cantor told We-Ha.com following the governor’s announcement of the reopening strategy. “We are anxious to support them, with safety as a priority.”

I’ve virtually attended every single one of Gov. Ned Lamont’s press briefings since the daily events began in March, and will continue to report on any and all news that is relevant to West Hartford, and to rely on our relationship with the CTMirror as well as CTNewsJunkie.com for statewide happenings.

CT Live has been on hiatus from its normal TV spot on NBC Connecticut, but host Taylor Kinzler has been doing a daily Instagram Live video for the past several weeks. On the day that I would have been doing my normal spot on CT Live, I will be joining Taylor on Instagram Monday at 11:30 a.m. (@nbcctive) to talk about West Hartford Business Buzz!

Tuesday, May 5, is not only Cinco de Mayo, but it’s also been designated as #GivingTuesdayNow – a global day of giving and unity – as well as #GivingNewsDay, to encourage support of the news organizations which, in spite of diminished advertising revenues, continue to work harder than ever to keep people informed about the COVID-19 pandemic and everything else that is happening.

The following is from the Knight Foundation:

“Local journalists are working around the clock to provide information that can literally save lives, as communities seek to navigate a global health crisis that is playing out differently from place to place. At the same time, the economic slowdown is forcing layoffs and shutdowns in already beleaguered local newsrooms.

“There is a way forward. Let’s help local news organizations get the subscriptions, memberships and donations they need to keep providing public service – health information that keeps us safe, economic information that will help us restart the economy, and civic news that underpins our democracy.

“#GivingNewsday on May 5 is an opportunity to support local news organizations that are supporting us. Or, if you are not in a position to provide financial support, amplify the value of local news.
#GivingNewsday coincides with #GivingTuesdayNow, an emergency session of the global giving day to help meet the needs created by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ways to contribute:

“Subscribe, become a member or donate to your local nonprofit news site or public broadcasting station. You can find your local news outlets with this tool from the New York Times; newsforgood.org lists many nonprofit news sites.”

I’m thrilled to note that We-Ha.com appears on the New York Times’ list, and that will bring you straight to our donation form! (And don’t be put off by the Glastonbury address. That’s where our sales director lives and he picks up the mail at the post office closest to his house. We are VERY MUCH located in West Hartford!) There is also a donation tab at the end of this article, and every article, and at the top right of the home page.

And last, but definitely not least, a very Happy Birthday to my son, Sam, who turned 22 on Friday! He definitely would not have chosen to spend his 22nd birthday unable to go out and celebrate with friends, but we hope there will be opportunities to make up for it sometime soon.

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:

Kimberly Boutique will be participating in the West Hartford Chamber of Commerce’s inaugural business showcase on Thursday, May 7. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

  • The West Hartford Chamber of Commerce will be hosting its inaugural virtual business showcase, with a very timely theme –  “Mother’s Day is on the Way”! It will be held online via Zoom on Thursday, May 7 from 7-8 p.m., simulcast on WHCi – Channel 96, Facebook Live ,and YouTube Live. The virtual event will feature a selection of Chamber of Commerce member retailers presenting Mother’s Day gift ideas live from their stores. Virtual attendees and viewers will then be encouraged to reach out to the individual businesses to purchase and arrange for pick-up or delivery. “Just because a store is closed to customers, it does not mean they are not open to do business,” said Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Chris Conway. “The Chamber has had to get creative in the ways it supports its member businesses during COVID-19. This virtual business showcase is a wonderful way to allow our businesses to feature great gift ideas for Mom that people can get directly from a local shop.” The inaugural showcase will feature some familiar West Hartford businesses, including BK&Co, Kellie Burke Interior, and Balboni Custom Jeweler. The lineup also includes Kimberly Boutique. “I am looking forward to being a part of the Chamber’s first [virtual] business showcase,” said Kimberly Boutique owner Kimberly Mattson Moster. “It will be fun having clients in my stores again, even if it is only virtually. Hopefully, people will enjoy being able to see what is happening in town safely from the comfort of their homes.  And I am eager to see the familiar faces of my fellow small business owners, I miss them.” Thursday night’s event is the first in a planned series. Future virtual showcases will have themes like “Gift Ideas for Dads & Grads,” “House & Home,” and “Health & Wellness.” “The Chamber will leverage the scope and breadth of its membership to curate the businesses who will present during the events,” said Conway. Interested attendees can register on the Chamber’s website, and will be emailed a Zoom link to view the showcase via Zoom shortly before the start of the event at 7 p.m. on Thursday. For more information about this event or the West Hartford Chamber of Commerce, visit WHChamber.com. You can also email [email protected] or call 860-810-5663.
  • West Hartford small businesses will also have an opportunity to express their concerns directly to U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, who will participate in a one-hour virtual small business forum on Friday, May 8, at 3 p.m., co-hosted by the Town of West Hartford and West Hartford Chamber of Commerce. “In an effort to provide continued support to the West Hartford business community during these challenging times, the Town and Chamber have organized a call with Senator Blumenthal which will allow him to further discuss items such as the latest stimulus package, provide feedback on any small business-related legislation and what to expect in the near future. The forum will also give our business operators an opportunity to ask questions with the senator,” the town and Chamber announced in a joint press release. To register for the free event, click here.
  • Nurses are among the biggest heroes in the fight against COVID-19, and nurse’s day is this coming week so it’s a time to celebrate these healthcare professionals event more. West Hartford’s Chick-fil-A owner/operator Daryl Jackson and Kaoud Rugs are teaming up to donate meals, which will be delivered Monday to the nurses at Hartford Hospital. “They contributed 100 lunch meals and we matched each meal by contributing an additional sandwich, so total we will feed about 200 of the warriors on the front line of the COVID-19 fight,” Jackson said. He said he was approached by the Kaoud family (Abe, Maurice, and Charlie), and their giving nature inspired him to want to jump in and participate in the good will. “We are blessed to have these heroes fighting for us each and every day. I knew the Kaoud family was a pretty amazing group of people but now knowing they have such big hearts, I hope we can work together more to spread some good vibes in our community,” Jackson said.

    From left: Sally and Bob’s owners Helen Brower and Cesar Contreras and Sooceropolis owner Milton Ortega. Courtesy photo

  • There are so many great stories of our West Hartford businesses giving to others, but another that has come to my attention is a donation made by Sally and Bob’s, which teamed up with Socceropolis, to deliver breakfast sandwiches last Wednesday morning to the warehouse staff and drivers at Foodshare in Bloomfield. Foodshare Executive Director Jason Jakubowski sent over some photos, and expressed his sincere thanks for the donation. In addition to its normal operations, Foodshare has had about 1,500 cars per day lining up for its distribution at Rentschler Field, and will give roughly 20 pounds of food to each person. Many of the recipients are those who have recently become unemployed and never before had to rely on a food bank. See more photos at the end of the column.

    Iron & Grain is offering specialty cocktails to go, each made with at least one local ingredient. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

  • The Iron & Grain food truck has been vending food and cocktails to go on one or two days each weekend from 641 New Park Ave. while the GastroPark is under construction but they also have a catering license, and Tate Norden, who owns both the food truck and the Gastro Park, said they are launching the “Deliver Like a Viking To Go Cocktail Program,” and will be delivering specialty cocktails in the signature Chevy Viking prepared by mixologist, Hilary Brooks. The cocktails – a rotating choice of four made from locally-sourced ingredients – are delivered in 32-ounce mason jars (to serve 5-6, and leftovers can last a few days in the fridge), with very simple instructions to serve (like shake and pour over ice). According to Norden, Brooks, the former tasting room manager and mixology instructor at Hartford Flavor Company, can prepare specialty cocktails to order as well. “I always use at least one local ingredient,” Brooks said. “I want to keep that as a commitment.” Currently the local ingredients include liquors (from Hartford Flavor, Wild Moon, Continuum, and others) and mixers, but as the growing season begins, fresh vegetables, fruits, and flowers will also be incorporated. “It’s a really great way to support a lot of local businesses,” Brooks said. Most weeks the cocktail delivery will be for the weekend, but this week, in honor of Cinco de Mayo, margaritas can be ordered for delivery on Tuesday by 5 p.m. if you order by Monday at midnight. Delivery is free in West Hartford and bordering towns. A portion of orders from the Mother’s Day menu (which includes a rose margarita) will be donated toward the Foundation for Women’s Cancer, which Brooks said is personal for both her and Norden. “It’s something extra for all the moms in our lives,” she said. More information, including the Mother’s Day menu and the regular menu, can be found on the Iron & Grain Facebook page, and email [email protected] to order.
  • A few more restaurants that have been closed have announced partial reopening plans. Max Restaurant Group is offering family share packs to go on the weekends from Max’s Oyster Bar (964 Farmington Ave.) as well as Max Fish in Glastonbury. Max Restaurant Group also has Mother’s Day specials. Click here for details.

    Pho 135 meals distributed to healthcare workers and first responders. Facebook photo

  • As of yesterday, Pho 135 (135 South Main St.), which has been closed for the past several weeks, has reopened for the purpose of giving out free, ready-to-eat meals every Sunday between noon and 2 p.m. “We would like to prioritize to the following groups: 1st response health-care workers; elderly individuals (If you pick up for a family of these members, we limit 2 meals per pick up),” Pho 135 posted on Facebook. This past Sunday they gave out 75 meals, owner Tiffany Nguyen said, and look forward to doing the same next weekend. Volunteers to help deliver would be welcomed, and message Pho 135 on Facebook if you would like to help.
  • ICYMI, “Support Our Center” launched this week and will run through May 10, with gift cards purchased at participating merchants matched by landlord LaSalle Road Partners and the West Hartford Center Business Association – up to $10,500 – for a donation that will be made to frontline healthcare workers at local hospitals. Click here for the full story.

    Photo credit: Hunter Marotto

  • The John Boyle Decorating Center in the Stop & Shop plaza on Newington Rd. in Elmwood has closed its doors and moved to Vernon. Thanks to Hunter Marotto for letting me know and snapping a photo!
  • For information about the state’s plans for reopening, which were outlined Thursday, and how it might impact West Hartford, click here.
  • Elmwood will be blooming again this spring and summer, the Elmwood Business Association announced this week, and will those flowers ever be welcome! Click here for more information.
  • 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].

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.

A donation of breakfast sandwiches for Foodshare drivers and warehouse workers is dropped off Wednesday morning. Couretesy photo

Donation to Foodshare warehouse workers and drivers from Sally and Bob’s. Courtesy photo

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