A round-up of openings, closings, and other news about West Hartford businesses.
By Ronni Newton
Even though I just wrapped up the December issue of West Hartford LIFE, I am having trouble believing it’s already Nov. 18.
Many of my activities this past week, however, made me realize just how quickly time is passing by – starting with my annual visit to Santa at Westfarms. You’re never too old, right – especially when it’s for a story.
Katie and I spent a few hours on Saturday down in Madison finalizing some plans for her wedding next June. It seemed so far away when we first booked the date, but that was more than a year ago and the next seven months will probably fly by.
On Sunday I went to the Craft Festival at St. Peter Claver (which really made me realize that the holidays are upon us) and did a bit of shopping. After that we went to the UConn vs. Florida men’s basketball game at Gampel Pavilion. It was an exciting game, a great win for the Huskies, and a chance to see Sam at work. He has a student job with UConn’s basketball equipment department, and part of his role includes attending some of the men’s and women’s basketball games where is the official “sweeper” and also seems to be in charge of all of the basketballs during warm-ups. It’s been fun seeing him at games and even catching glimpses of him on ESPN all these years (right after I wrote this he sent me a clip of an ESPN highlight of Sunday’s game in which he appears), but now that he’s a senior there won’t be many more chances to do that.
Next week will be the week of Thanksgiving – yikes!!
Only a certain number of photos can fit in the body of this column but this week there are many extras, so don’t miss scrolling all the way to the bottom!
If you have tips about businesses opening or closing, or doing something worth sharing, please provide that information in the comments or email Ronni Newton at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Here’s this week’s Buzz:
- Several businesses have just opened in West Hartford, including Code Ninjas, which is located at 176 Newington Rd., in a storefront that has been vacant for a while but was previously a yogurt shop. Owned by Tim and Dennis Canlas, Code Ninjas, which is in soft-opening mode now, provides “game-based coding education” for kids ages 7-14. Tim Canlas likened coding today to what typing was 20 years ago – something that everyone needs to know how to do, and will one day soon be a mandatory skill. “We demystify it, really. We start them off with the foundation,” he said of learning coding. The kids play and build their own video games, starting with an MIT-developed program called Scratch and progressing to Java and other more advanced programs. It’s skill-building and educational, but also fun. Code Senseis (aka coaches), lead the kids through the different levels, and they earn different colored wristbands – akin to the belts earned in martial arts – as they progress. The program anticipates children attending two hours a week – in either one or two sessions – during any time the center is open – generally arriving between 3-7 p.m. weekdays and between 9 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturdays. Up to 30 kids at a time can be accommodated in the center, and will work on a laptop connected to two separate screens. There are also whiteboards spread throughout the Dojo room where instructions and other information will be posted. Kids can be dropped off and parents do not need to remain, although they are welcome to observe if they want to. Tim Dunn, who brings 30 years of experience in education and athletics, is manager of the West Hartford Center, and Amy Fichman and Xintong Ren-Gruzka are lead Seneis. “This is a great opportunity for me to be working with youth,” Dunn said. “It’s a fun environment,” he said, and will prepare kids for the ever-changing technology landscape they will face in the future. Dunn would like to have “graduates” return as Code Senseis and mentor the younger kids as they move through the program. Code Ninjas will have its grand opening on Dec. 8, and will also be available to host birthday parties and will host camps in the future. Call 860-295-4297, email email@example.com, or visit codeninjas.com for further information. See more photos of Code Ninjas below.
- Mosaic Sun is now open at 968R Farmington Ave. (former Beaudoir location) in the Brace Road parking lot, across the courtyard from Barb’s Pizza. The shop opened on Tuesday, and owner Nancy Samuels-Cowan said, “We’ve gotten a really good reaction so far, especially since Silver Dahlia has closed and people say we need a gift store like this.” Mosaic Sun offers an assortment of jewelry, much of it imported from Israel, as well as some Judaica (more to be added in the future), and an opportunity for people to custom design their own pieces of jewelry. Prices range from $8-$200, and Samuels-Cowan said it’s “not fine jewelry, but not costume,” with most items crafted from sterling silver, gold-filled or gold-plated, bronze, or brass. There are also accessories like scarves, gloves, keychains, and a selection of vintage items Samuels-Cowan curates from estate sales. In addition to retail, Mosaic Sun will be hosting in-store parties. See more photos below, and for more information visit the website www.mosaicsunstudio.com, call 860-424-1710, or visit the Mosaic Sun Facebook page.
- Playa Bowls had a ribbon cutting Friday with Mayor Shari Cantor and the Chamber of Commerce, and the grand opening was Saturday. I love the teal exterior, and just stepping inside is a breath of the tropics even before you sample the healthy “bowls full of sunshine.” The menu includes bowls and smoothies made from fresh and healthy ingredients like açaí, pitaya, coconut, greens, chia, banana, and oatmeal, as well as cold brew coffee and smoothies. The franchise business is owned by Mike Bogdan and Mitch Jackson, who became friends at UConn and are very excited to be partnering for this venture, which is located at 51 Memorial Rd. in Blue Back Square (former Potbelly space). There’s seating around a gas fireplace, and communal tables to encourage gathering and a sense of community for people of all ages. Playa Bowls is open daily from 8 a.m.-8 p.m. Additional details are available here, and more photos are below. Follow on Instagram (@playabowlsweha) to learn more about the West Hartford location.
- Cookshop Plus reopened Saturday in the new location at 60 LaSalle Rd. in West Hartford Center! It took longer than expected, but the owners are really happy with the new space. The J.René Coffee cafe that is part of the new location will be opening shortly, and look for more information to come once the operation is in full swing!
- Garage, a casual clothing and accessories brand for young women, opened on the lower level of Westfarms, right near Center Court, in late October. “With a spotlight on denim, they feature everyday basics and ‘gram-worthy trends made to inspire confidence. Created in Montreal, its mission is to empower each other to be confident, authentic and unapologetic in individual style,” a press release states. For more information on the brand: https://www.garageclothing.
- Ryan Keating of Keating Agency Insurance, along with Experience We-Ha and Finest Hours Hartford will be hosting a Linkedin Local event on Monday, Dec. 2 at Spaces, 71 Raymond Rd. This will be the fifth networking event of this type in the Greater Hartford area, and past have has as many as 200 people attend. Linkedin Local is an international movement to facilitate more face-to-face networking, the Dec. 2 event will also include a toy drive component – and Santa! The cost of admission is $10 – or a toy. Click here for more details.
- ‘Tis the season, and Westfarms General Manager Kevin Keenan shared the following in a news release about a number of holiday season specialty stores which have just opened or are preparing to open! “The Gingerbread Workshop, located on the lower level, is a decorate your own gingerbread house experience. This favorite holiday tradition is the opportunity to have family fun and leave the mess behind, taking home your holiday house to enjoy for the season. … Bringing you the most treasured ornaments and items for gift giving and collecting, Christmas Treasures is a one-of-a-kind store dedicated to all things Christmas. Personalization of items is available while you shop. It is located on the upper level of the Macy’s wing. … Give the gift of comfort and warmth from Sheepskin Gifts & Alpaca Too featuring a variety of specialty made sheepskin and alpaca slippers, sweaters, throws and more. The store is located on the upper level near Center Court. … Harry & David, located on the upper level next to Microsoft, has exceptional, gourmet holiday gift baskets and towers of treats pre-packaged to grab and go. And, of course, is best known for its fruit box sets and Royal Riviera Pears. … Sees Candies, a long-time Westfarms holiday retailer, will be back with its chocolates, brittle, toffee and lollypops made from the finest and freshest ingredients since 1921. They will be located by Center Court on the lower level. … UConn fans can give the gift of official Husky merchandise from Huskymania. Located in the Center Court the specialty kiosk will be open on the weekends throughout the holiday season. … From NYC’s Soho Squishables brings luxury plush toy animals to Westfarms. From food and animal shapes to mythological creatures and some that defy classification, its mission is to make the world a cuter place. The store is located on the lower level in Center Court. … Bluprint, a unique gifting option already boxed to go, gives the inspiration, expert instruction and supplies you need to confidently tackle any creative project from start to finish. Choose from sewing, wine making, baking, painting and even more options with the tailored, step-by-step project kits. The seasonal kiosk is located on the lower level of the Macy’s wing.”
- In other holiday news related to Westfarms, Santa has arrived (see my photo with the big guy in the intro above) at Center Court! Children of all ages can enjoy the state-of-the-art Santa’s Flight Academy en route to meeting Santa at the end to pose for a photo. “We are excited to welcome Santa Claus back to Westfarms to continue our shopper’s tradition of telling him their wish list and having their photo taken,” Kevin Keenan, Westfarms general manager, said in a press release. “Our immersive holiday experience is a place for creating special memories and has become a tradition many families look forward to each year.” Santa’s Express Lane passes and photo packages may be purchased online in advance of the visit. Hours of operation are Monday-Saturday 10 a.m.-8 p.m. and Sunday 11 a.m.-6 p.m. For more information, please visit www.shopwestfarms.com/holidays.
- Best wishes to resident Steve Jewett! The following press release was received last week from Jewett and Duby McDowell of Hartford-based McDowell Jewett Communications: “Steve is leaving MJC in January to focus more time on building his new firm, Attorney General Strategies, which he opened earlier this year in Washington D.C. He also has a busy year ahead with the 2020 elections and playing a role in running the Democratic National Convention. Steve will continue to work on a few PR clients in Connecticut and wants to remind everyone that despite a lot of plane rides he’s not going far and will continue to live in West Hartford. Duby will remain as president and will be running the firm with the same level of commitment and the same dedicated, talented staff. The firm will be known as McDowell Communications Group. It’s been a great run. Over the course of 8+ years we have worked closely with tremendous clients who are central to the business and political life of Connecticut and the region. We have partnered with Dominion Energy; Jackson Labs when they expanded into Connecticut; and the Delamar as it obtained approval to build its beautiful hotel in West Hartford. We also worked to get the City of Hartford to fund the Yard Goats ballpark, and collaborated with our many partners to advance and revise multiple pieces of legislation at the State Capitol. Then there are all the crisis clients we can’t talk about. We have greatly enjoyed working together and expect to be collaborating in the future.”
- RE/MAX Premier Realtors, which was located at 75 Brace Rd., was incorporated last week into Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage, with an office at 992 Farmington Ave. I’m unsure of all of the details, but many of the realtors seem to have made the switch.
- 0 Degree West Hartford, which was the town’s first Thai rolled ice cream shop when it opened in July 2017, closed the shop at 120 Park Rd. on Nov. 3 – but is not leaving town for good. Thank you to my friend Jen for sending over a photo of the sign in the window indicating that 0 Degree will be reopening in early spring at 276 Park Rd., next to I Love Sushi.
- The United Bank branch at 102 LaSalle Rd. (in the building with the post office) will be closing as of Dec. 14 according to a sign posted at the location. United Bank has been purchased by People’s United, which has a branch on Farmington Avenue.
- ICYMI, the West Hartford Town Council approved changes to a Special Development District last week which will allow Ulta Beauty to execute its lease and open a store at 1553-1559 New Britain Ave. The store will include beauty-related products, as well as an eight-seat salon at the rear of the space. More details can be found here.
- Sheehan Hilborn Breen Funeral Home is collecting toys and gift cards for Operation E.L.F. as well as Connecticut Children’s Medical Center. Click here for details.
Remember, if you have any business news to share, add it in the comments section below or email Ronni Newton at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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