Bishops Corner Blue Back Square Business Corbins Corner Elmwood Park Road The Center

West Hartford Business Buzz: May 6, 2024

Jazzercise of West Hartford will take over the space at 132 Shield Street. Photo credits: Ronni Newton

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

Business Buzz is sponsored by NBT Bank, and we are very thankful for their support!

By Ronni Newton

Last week was certainly not the quiet week I had hoped it would be, and below you will find another jam-packed column. And unlike last week when I thought the town would be quiet, I know that there is plenty happening this coming week.

There are many things that keep me up at night (it’s not the 3-4 cups of coffee I average each day, which does not actually keep me awake) because I do take this job very seriously. When things hit the fan (or haters express their hate) and frustration reaches a near breaking point, it makes me even more thankful for those who do appreciate the role of We-Ha.com in keeping the community informed – including the guy who shared that sentiment with my husband in the grocery store on Sunday afternoon. I’ve been at quite a few fundraisers over the past few weeks (several more are coming up as well), and talked to many people from the community who have also shared some very kind words, and I just want to publicly thank all of our readers for their continued support. The news isn’t always about cute puppies or butterflies, but I do love this town, where I have lived for 26 years, and I’m not going out purposely searching for “gotcha” moments either.

Thanks to those who have stepped up to help with sports coverage – particularly Conard student Jack Fitzgerald and Hall parent Michelle Bonner as well as Hall student Grayson Rivers, and several photographers who have also contributed. I’ve lost count of how many sports stories we have had this past week (click here to find them), but prior to that we didn’t have a breadth of coverage of various teams or equal Conard and Hall coverage this spring due to the times games were scheduled. We can’t be everywhere, and Paul Palmer is not able to get to games on weekday afternoons. If anyone else has a sports story to contribute, email me at [email protected].

I am very excited about our summer interns, and several start this coming week! I’ll share the details as you start seeing their bylines.

There’s quite an overlap this week between my visits to local restaurants and the official part of this column, and I am going to save most of the photos for the bullet points. I will share the food and drink Ted and I enjoyed at WeHa Brewing and roasting on Friday night during the final weekend of the CT Beer Tour for a Cancer-Free Future that resident Greg Hammond has organized as a fundraiser in his quest to become Greater Connecticut’s 2024 Visionary of the Year for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. It was great to hang out with Linda Geisler (Celebrate! West Hartford’s coordinator and one of my longtime best friends), Director of Social and Leisure Services Helen Rubino-Turco and her husband, Paul Turco, and of course Greg and Karen Hammond, among others, at Friday’s event. Tacos, not surprisingly, were my chosen accompaniment to an IPA.

Chicken Tinga tacos at WeHa Brewing and Roasting. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Chicken sliders and potato wedges at WeHa Brewing and Roasting. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

From left: Helen-Rubino Turco, Linda Geisler, and Ronni Newton supporting CT Beer Tour for a Cancer-Free Future. Photo credit: Ted Newton

Flatbread pizza at WeHa Brewing and Roasting. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

On Saturday afternoon/early evening we attended the Ron’s Run for the Roses Kentucky Derby-themed fundraiser at the Farmington Polo Club. I don’t have all of the details yet about how much was raised and a full story will follow. Ted and I did have a fun time and were glad to support the West Hartford-based Ron Foley Foundation which raises awareness and supports families impacted by pancreatic cancer and supports research for treatment and cure.

Ted and I in our Derby Day attire at Ron’s Run for the Roses, May 4, 2024.

Barbara Foley, founder of the West Hartford-based Ron Foley Foundation. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Mike Mahoney of RLM Co. was the honorary chair of the 2024 Ron’s Run for the Roses. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Dinner at Ron’s Run for the Roses. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

If you’re looking for news about West Hartford in print please note that many stories from We-Ha.com, as well as other local news, is published in the twice-monthly issues of the West Hartford Press.

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:

Tricia Raiti stands outside of her soon-to-open studio at 132 Shield Street. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

  • West Hartford resident Tricia Raiti, who opened Jazzercise of West Hartford in May 2022, renting space from Lisa Matias Dance Studio in Building 2 of 635 New Park Avenue, shared the exciting news last week that as of June 1, she will be opening her own studio at 132 Shield Street – in the 2,100 square foot space at the end of the strip, across the street from WeHa Brewing & Roasting and that was formerly a bank. “It’s just going to be Jazzercise,” she said, and not shared space with another dance studio – although she may eventually add yoga and kids classes through the Jazzercise brand, as well as more strength-only and stretching classes. Having her own space will allow the number of classes to expand – immediately from eight to 12 classes a week. “We have outgrown using someone else’s space,” said Raiti, who now has five certified Jazzercise instructors, plus herself, teaching classes. Raiti became a certified Jazzercise instructor in 2017 and when she began renting space from Lisa Matias Dance Studio in 2022 she had three classes a week and zero members. Now they have more than 80 members, ages 12-76, and support many local causes as well. “Some people are hesitant to try [Jazzercise] because we describe it as dance-based cardio,” but while it’s all set to music, Raiti said she is not a trained dancer – just energetic! The build-out of the former bank is underway, and will include an elevated stage, new flooring (it’s currently concrete), a new sound system, and soundproof walls. One of her first jobs was as a bank teller, Raiti said, so she feels right at home in the space, and even plans to use the former vault as the space where she will have babysitters watch clients’ children during the summer. (Don’t worry; they won’t be locked in.) She offered child care for ages 2 and up last summer, with students from Conard High School providing the babysitting on site during Monday, Wednesday, and Friday 9:30 a.m. classes for an additional fee of $5, and plans to bring that benefit back this year. Over the past years there have also been issues with non-operational restrooms at 635 New Park Avenue that won’t be a problem anymore because they will have their own bathrooms at the Shield Street site. “I am going to do this full time,” said Raiti, who formerly worked in career coaching and higher education, but plans to pause that part of her career. She shared the news of the new studio with members last week, on the business’ two-year anniversary. “They were so excited,” said Raiti, who is also over-the-top excited about the June 1 opening. Look for news of a grand opening celebration to follow as well.

Jazzercise of West Hartford will take over the space at 132 Shield Street. Photo credits: Ronni Newton

Jazzercise of West Hartford will take over the space at 132 Shield Street. Photo credits: Ronni Newton

  • “Finally!” was the message I got in a text from Deanna Damen, owner of Cake Gypsy, late last week. I’ve been talking with Damen on and off since she first announced plans well over three years ago – in December 2020 – to open a space in Elmwood. Original permits had expired, and she had to get new inspections for the 1123 New Britain Avenue space, which still has the “coming soon” sign from 2021. But the new inspections have been completed, and they are now hiring staff and anticipating opening this month in West Hartford – which is where she first wanted to open when she launched the business more than a dozen years ago. “We will be expanding our menu with other desserts, coffee drinks, frozen drinks, and will be offering gluten free and vegan treats too!” Damen said in a text thanking me for following up for all these years. “It really seems so surreal that it’s finally happening,” Damen said.

Cake Gypsy will be opening soon at 1123 New Britain Avenue in Elmwood. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Outdoor dining corral in front of Arugula on Farmington Avenue in 2023. Photo credit: Ronni Newton (we-ha.com file photo)

  • West Hartford resident Ally Rocha, who has befriended the owners of Park Lane Pizza, had a chance to speak with the owners and see the space last week. She shared the following update and photos on Facebook as well as with me: “I am very happy to report they are getting towards the end of the renovation project as it originally was windstorm damage which turned into getting the building up to code and renovating the inside and making the outside look good as well. The owners are looking to re open towards the end of this month,” Rocha said. “I can confirm 100% all the jukeboxes will be at each table again. They are also refurbishing all the booths. As well as some extra fun add on’s you all will be pleasantly surprised.” Rocha said she’s tempted to head into the refurbished kitchen to make a pizza with “Welcome Back” spelled out in pepperoni on the reopening day!

Interior renovation underway at Park Lane Pizza. Photo credit: Ally Rocha

Interior renovation underway at Park Lane Pizza. Photo credit: Ally Rocha

Interior renovation underway at Park Lane Pizza. Photo credit: Ally Rocha

  • Work on the build-out that will be transforming the former G-Monkey space at 625 New Park Avenue into Sichuan Alley is progressing, and the windows are now papered-over, but the opening has been delayed, owner Michael Jiang said in an email last week. He said the planned opening date is July 1. Much more to come!

The windows have been papered over and the work is underway for the build-out of Sichuan Alley at 625 New Park Avenue. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

  • Salt + Lime Mexican Cantina officially opened to the public on Friday, and the reaction on social from those who visited over the weekend, as they celebrated Cinco de Mayo, was extremely positive. Ted and I had a chance to attend the friends and family event on Thursday night, in advance of official reopening of what was formerly Americana (179 Park Road, still owned by Enrique and Julie Rodriguez, but it’s now the concept they had really always dreamed of) and we absolutely agree with the rave reviews. It was a nice warm night and we got to sit on the beautiful patio, but the interior has also been expertly redecorated, and the menu has been transformed. While Enrique developed the menu, the executive chef is Isaac Calihua and the new team includes General Manager Felipe Hernandez and Laura Hernandez. The menu include chimichangas, fajitas, carne asada, enchiladas, and burritos. “We want people to know us for Mexican food. This menu is going to set us apart,” Enrique said in a previous interview. The chips and salsa were so good we asked for more, and the street corn appetizer is going to be a new favorite. I’m allergic to avocados (I know … it’s tough given how much I love Mexican food) so we didn’t get the guac, but I heard it’s excellent. Ted tried the carne asada tacos and I had the Salt + Lime burrito (stuffed with carnitas, grilled chicken, chorizo, lettuce, and cheese and topped with cheese dip, pico de gallo, fresh jalapeno, and sour cream), and all get a very enthusiastic thumbs-up. Margaritas and mojitos were excellent as well! They are open daily for lunch and dinner. For the full menu, visit the website. More photos of the interior can be found at the end of the column.

Mojito (left) and house margarita at Salt + Lime. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Street corn from Salt + Lime. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Salt + Lime burrito. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Carne asada tacos from Salt + Lime. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

The transformation is complete and Salt + Lime is now open at 179 Park Road. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

The transformation is complete and Salt + Lime is now open at 179 Park Road. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

The transformation is complete and Salt + Lime is now open at 179 Park Road. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

The transformation is complete and Salt + Lime is now open at 179 Park Road. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

  • Congratulations to El Santo (970 Farmington Avenue) on celebrating their second anniversary last week! The outdoor seating area looks particularly vibrant this season, and chef and co-owner Xiomara Zamudio shared a few updates that I was unaware of – including that they have started offering salsa lessons (no charge) on Thursday nights from 8-10 p.m. The back room has been spruced up, and they have also instituted a dress code for their late night weekend hours.

Xiomara Zamudio at the 2-year anniversary celebration of El Santo. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

The margarita at El Santo was one of the best margaritas I have ever had. All fresh, no sour mix. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

El Santo is celebrating their second anniversary, and their outdoor seating looks great this year. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

  • Oksana had a ribbon cutting Friday at the salon at 7 North Main Street, celebrating their recent membership in the West Hartford Chamber of Commerce. Oksana, the namesake of the salon, is originally from Moldova and moved to the U.S. in 1989. She opened her first salon in Longmeadow, Massachusetts, in 2008 and the West Hartford location, which opened in June 2022, is their second location. Oksana, who co-owns the business with her husband, Bob Villeneuve, works at the West Hartford location four times a month, on Saturdays and Mondays.

Ribbon cutting at Oksana, 7 North Main Street, on May 3, 2024. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Oksana and Bob Villanueve at the ribbon cutting on May 3, 2024. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

  • A business-related message from West Hartford Athletic Director Jason Siegal: “Please be advised that neither the Hall nor Conard athletics program work with third party vendors to solicit local business sponsors to create schedule cards or posters. If you or your business is approached by such party, looking for sponsorships, please ignore such request. If at anytime, you have questions about athletic fundraisers, please do not hesitate to contact the athletic office directly. While we very much appreciate community support, we don’t want local business’s falling prey to illegitimate fundraising campaigns. Please contact the Athletic Director, Jason Siegal, at any time.” He can be reached at [email protected].
  • Starbucks in Bishops Corner is getting a makeover, and according to information shared with me by a reader who confirmed with store management, the Starbucks will be CLOSED TEMPORARILY beginning May 12, with the work expected to be completed by July. I hope the Hall High School students and Starbucks fans in need of their caffeine fixes during finals can find some convenient alternatives. Below are the sketches for the new look of the interior posted on the town’s website.

Plans for renovation of Starbucks at 2475 Albany Avenue in Bishops Corner. Town of West Hartford website.

  • I shared some photos above, but wanted to note here that Thursday is the last day to donated to the CT Beer Tour for a Cancer-Free Future. West Hartford resident Greg Hammond, who decided he wanted to raise money for research into the disease that took the life of his dad in 2015, launched the fundraiser in support of the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society and his goal is to also become Greater Connecticut’s 2024 Visionary of the Year for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. He and his family and friends – a team dubbed “The Hammond Hoptimists” – are looking to raise at least $100,000 for blood cancer research through the CT Beer Tour as well as through personal donations and corporate sponsorships. Greg said he’s really close.

Last chance to help support the CT Beer Tour fundraiser for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.

  • Congratulations to Non-Public School Nurse Beth Bornstein, who was selected as the Nurse of the Year by the Association of School Nurses of Connecticut by the Association of School Nurses of Connecticut (ASNC), the West Hartford-Bloomfield Health District has announced. The award is presented to a nurse who works above their expected professional role in collaboration with nursing colleagues, school administration, faculty, and students to maximize their educational experience by being a leader in school health. This recognition is intended to publicly recognize school nurses statewide who demonstrate excellence in school nursing practice and leadership in school health. Bornstein, a former emergency room and ICU nurse who joined the Health District in 2015 and is assigned to Northwest Catholic High School, will be acknowledged for her professional work and dedication at the ASNC Spring Dinner Meeting, “Celebrating CT School Nurses,” on Wednesday, May 8, which is National School Nurse Appreciation Day. She will also receive a proclamation from Mayor Shari Cantor at the May 14 Town Council meeting.

Beth Bornstein. Courtesy photo

  • “Are you tired of battling feelings of self-consciousness, anxiety, or loneliness on your own? You’re not alone,” said Lauren Polzella, who has just launched her practice as a clinical social worker, offering personalized therapeutic services in West Hartford. The following details were include in a news release: With a focus in holistic wellness, Lauren incorporates mindfulness-based practices, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), and Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) into her therapy services. Her expertise covers a wide range of concerns, including anxiety, depression, ADHD, trauma, body image issues, and major life transitions. The journey to healing begins with reaching out for support. Lauren is a proud member of Beautiful Mind Counseling Services, LLC, and encourages referrals via email for a streamlined process. For expedited scheduling of your first appointment, simply include your insurance carrier and preferred contact method. The group administrator or Lauren herself will promptly assist you in getting started. She has been verified by Psychology Today, and said she “understands the challenges you face and is here to guide you on your path to healing.” In a world where it can seem like these emotions are an inevitable part of life, Lauren offers hope. “Everything you need is already within you. Change is possible,” she affirms. With her support, you can identify the patterns and beliefs that have been holding you back, and in turn, gain a deeper understanding of yourself. Lauren’s approach is rooted in warmth, compassion, and empowerment. “I believe in the journey of healing,” she explains, “one that empowers you to discover your innate strengths and resilience.” Together, she assures, your best self awaits. She can be reached at 860-470-4827 or [email protected].

Lauren Polzella. Courtesy photo

  • Jessica Esterson and Traci Friedman, both of West Hartford, are the new co-chairs of  the Lillian Fund, a giving circle for women at the Jewish Community Foundation of Greater Hartford., the organization has announced in a news release. “We are excited to have Jessica and Traci leading the Lillian Fund’s philanthropic initiatives especially during our giving circle’s 25th anniversary year,” said Carly Norman, Development Officer at the Jewish Community Foundation. Launched in 1999, the Lillian Fund giving circle empowers women and children to pursue personal and professional opportunities. Members support this goal by providing gifts to the Lillian Fund and awarding an annual grant to one nonprofit. Grants provide support for education programs, domestic violence services, mental health counseling and job training, to name a few, in Greater Hartford and Israel. Each year, the Lillian Fund encourages a gift of $100 to vote on its annual $10,000 grant. To celebrate the Lillian Fund’s 25th anniversary year and Mother’s Day, the Lillian Fund is launching an additional grant under Jessica and Traci’s leadership. “The Lillian Fund is inviting donors to add $25 to their $100 annual gift and help us create at least one 25th anniversary grant this year of $2,500, allowing us to support another nonprofit and empower even more women and children,” said Traci Friedman. “Donors can help us celebrate 25 years of impact while honoring their grandmother, mother, daughter, aunt or female friend for Mother’s Day,” said Jessica Esterson. The gift deadline for the Lillian Fund’s campaign is May 8. An honorary Mother’s Day card will be sent by the Lillian Fund to women who are being honored by donors. For more information, please email Carly Norman, Development Officer at the Jewish Community Foundation,[email protected], or visit www.jcfhartford.org.

Co-chairs Traci Friedman and Jessica Esterson. Courtesy photo

  • Congratulations to West Hartford resident Kathryn Thaisz, who has been named the 2023 New England Chapter Outstanding Member at the Aging Life Care Association’s 40th Annual Conference in Minneapolis. She is a West Hartford native (a 1999 graduate of Hall High School) who has owned a care management practice in town since 2017. Visit her website for more details.

Kathryn Thaisz. Courtesy image

  • The Hartford Business Journal reported recently that 962-966 Farmington Avenue is being offered for sale for $9 million. The Chase Bank branch is located at 960 Farmington Avenue, and while JPMorgan Chase Bank N.A. owns the entire building they are looking to sell a condominium interest in the remainder (12,060 square feet of the overall 16,800-square-foot building), where Ichiro, Max’s Oyster Bar, and Chipotle are located.

962-966 Farmington Avenue is for sale, the Hartford Business Journal reported. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

  • ICYMI, we shared the news last week that although G-Monkey has closed their brick and mortar location in West Hartford, they are scheduled to be a regular with their newly-rebranded food truck at GastroPark through the rest of the year. Complete details can be found here.


Advertiser Spotlight!

We-Ha.com is very thankful to our long-term advertisers, and we want to show our appreciation by spotlighting them in this column. This week … meet RM Bradley Management, a full service commercial real estate firm, specializing in property management and real estate brokerage. Originally founded by West Hartford resident Richard Mulready in 1975, they are now run by CEO David Fagone of Simsbury, and President & COO Shane Mulready of West Hartford. RM Bradley has over 95 employees in both Hartford and Boston and manages over 7 million square feet of property providing trusted advice and highly responsive brokerage, asset management, property management and advisory services to a wide range of individuals, companies, government agencies and nonprofit entities.

If you are a long term, regular advertiser on We-Ha.com and have a 60 to 75 word submission for a future Business Buzz please send to Bob Carr at [email protected].

Remember, if you have any business news to share, add it in the comments section below or email Ronni Newton at [email protected].

The transformation is complete and Salt + Lime is now open at 179 Park Road. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

The transformation is complete and Salt + Lime is now open at 179 Park Road. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

The transformation is complete and Salt + Lime is now open at 179 Park Road. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

The transformation is complete and Salt + Lime is now open at 179 Park Road. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

The transformation is complete and Salt + Lime is now open at 179 Park Road. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

The transformation is complete and Salt + Lime is now open at 179 Park Road. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

The transformation is complete and Salt + Lime is now open at 179 Park Road. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

The transformation is complete and Salt + Lime is now open at 179 Park Road. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

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.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

About the author


We-Ha.com is the place to go for the latest information about West Hartford – a town that "has it all"! We-Ha.com is part of and proud of our community, and we bring a hyperlocal focus to news and features about the people, schools, businesses, real estate, sports, restaurants, charitable events, arts, and more. Contact us at: [email protected] or [email protected].


  • Ronnie, I just wanted to chime in with how much I appreciate this site and all the work you do. I have lived in a lot of different places, and West Hartford by far has some of the most informative and pertinent form of local reporting available thanks to you and this site. Thank you for doing what you do!

Leave a Comment

Translate »