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West Hartford Business Buzz: November 21, 2022

A pop-up collaboration with RiseUp will be opening in the former West Elm store in Blue Back Square. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

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

By Ronni Newton

It’s the Monday before Thanksgiving – which seems to have come up very quickly!

I’m very much looking to my forward to spending the holiday with a big group again this year – my daughter Katie and her husband Matt are again hosting for both of their families, and I still get to bring a turkey which means lots of leftovers and turkey soup – and then we’re heading to Nantucket on Friday to spend time with Ted’s family.

Millie is ready for Thanksgiving, sporting her new turkey bandana from Sew What Treasures. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Please note that as usual for Thanksgiving week, we will only be sending out two newsletters – on Monday and Wednesday. While the news doesn’t take a holiday, the We-Ha.com team is trying to take Thursday and Friday off for some much-needed family time, and we hope our readers will also be relaxing and/or holiday shopping. Of course we will be responding if there is breaking news.

Please also note that if you have Thursday or Friday trash and recycling collection, it will be delayed a day this week.

I was off my photography game on Wednesday evening when I attended the “Power of Food” at Artisan at the Delamar Hotel. I wasn’t there to be reporting on it, but I forgot to take any photos until it was dessert time (see below). There were some people at the event – which was hosted by resident Marci Moreau and LUX Magazine as well as the Delmar and Artisan – I hadn’t seen in years, and it was also a great fundraiser for the West Hartford Food Pantry.

Dessert at the ‘Power of Food’ event at Artisan. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

We’ve had a lot of high school sports news in the past few weeks, culminating with some final games Saturday. The fourth quarter of the annual Conard vs. Hall Mayor’s Cup football game was very exciting, and you can find the full game story and an extensive photo gallery here. Many thanks to Paul Palmer for doing double duty on Saturday and also covering the Hall vs. Greenwich boys soccer Class LL final that night – which unfortunately was not a win for the Titans. You can find all of our recent sports content by clicking on the “Sports” tab at the top of any page of this site, with stories written by Paul, by me, and submitted by coaches or other representatives of various teams.

My son and his girlfriend, and his college roommate, came into town Saturday afternoon and stayed until leaving for the UConn men’s basketball game on Sunday. We had a fun (and yummy) dinner accompanied by margaritas at Ocho Cafe Saturday evening. There were at least four or five groups celebrating birthdays, and there was lots of Happy Birthday singing by the wait staff!

Margarita at Ocho Cafe. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Frozen strawberry margarita at Ocho Cafe. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Bombay Chimichanga at Ocho Cafe. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Chicken chimichanga at Ocho Cafe. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Tacos al Pastor at Ocho Cafe. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

There were 31 positive cases COVID-19 in West Hartford over the past seven days (as of Saturday), and a positivity rate of 8.1%, up a little from last week but still among the lowest numbers we’ve had in a long time. It is the season of respiratory viruses, however, and this year many more people seem to be sick with other types of viruses. (Click here for more information from the West Hartford-Bloomfield Health District about the symptoms of various viruses and how to protect yourself.) One day I hope to be able to delete this paragraph completely, but in the meantime, please continue to have patience since not everyone has the same level of comfort, continue to look out for each other, support our local businesses – and stay safe and healthy.

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].


See your business name and ad below. Let us know if you’re interested in sponsoring Business Buzz by emailing [email protected]!

Here’s this week’s Buzz:

The former West Elm space will be a ‘Winter Workshop’ pop-up. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

  • The former West Elm store at the corner of Memorial and Isham roads in Blue Back Square is being transformed into a “Winter Workshop” – a pop-up creative community space in collaboration with RiseUp for Arts, Charter Reality, and Image Marketing that will launch at the Holiday Stroll (Dec. 1, from 5-8 p.m.) with special visits from holiday characters. Through the season the Winter Workshop will feature a variety of holiday-themed art displays and events including DIY classes for wreath- and ornament-making, tablescape decorating, and more, as well as kids’ activities. RiseUP for Arts will be decorating the space inside and out, will host a holiday tree decorating contest, and will also utilize the space to launch their “Holiday Exchange” program, “providing a unique opportunity for local small businesses to gather, market to the public, and occupy a first-rate prominent retail space during the busy holiday shopping season in the heart of West Hartford,” states an email from Blue Back Square owner Charter Reality and Development. There will be handmade gifts available created by local artists, who will also be on hand to mingle with the community. “Bringing art to the public has always been a major focus of our redevelopment plans for Blue Back Square, and this latest initiative with RiseUP for Arts is the perfect opportunity to do so throughout the entire winter season. We love seeing families of all ages attend our free summer events in the Square, and are confident that having an indoor space to bring everyone together during the holidays will resonate with the local West Hartford community,” Paul Brandes, principal of Charter Realty and Development, said in an email. “Blue Back Square has been a great partner in supporting the arts in the community. We are excited to have another opportunity to work with their team to bring some holiday cheer to the Square. This is also a paid opportunity for local artists to showcase their talents,” added Matt Conway, Executive Director of RiseUP for Arts. Charter’s team has already decorated for the holidays, and look for the complete Winter Workshop events calendar to be posted this week at www.bluebacksquare.com.

The tree is up in Blue Back Square between Rosa Mexicano and Cheesecake Factory. It will be lit during the holiday stroll on Dec. 1. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

  • Saturday, Nov. 26, is Small Business Saturday, and it’s a great reminder of the critical role our local small businesses have in our lives and their importance to the economy. It’s a great day to support all small businesses, and the day West Hartford will be getting a new small business. The independently-owned River Bend Bookshop will officially open its West Hartford shop on Saturday at 161 Park Road, and owner Meghan Hayden and her staff have been very busy getting the space – a former hair salon – transformed and ready. I got a peek last week and although the shelves were not in place yet, everything is freshly painted and books are being sorted by employees including West Hartford residents Jillian Puzzo and Taryn Balchunas, as well as Rich Sahlin, who will be assisted by some staff from the Glastonbury location. There’s the kids’ room, which will be the largest gathering space and will host events after the new year, a separate room for non-fiction, and the front of the space will house fiction. “Everywhere there’s good wall space we’ll have a bookshelf,” Hayden said. The entry hall will feature a rotating display of seasonal titles, and will start off with books for book lovers, she said. The shop, Hayden said, is “a bookstore for everyone. We are just as comfortable with classics as we are with contemporary literature,” she said, and staff is very familiar with what’s trending on Booktalk. I’ll be stopping back as soon as possible to grab some photos of the finished space, and of course do some shopping. More about River Bend can be found here.

River Bend Bookshop at 161 Park Road will be opening on Nov. 26. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Meghan Hayden inside what will be the kids room at the soon-to-open River Bend Bookshop. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

The interior of River Bend Bookshop is painted and ready to go, with shelves arriving this week in advance of an opening on Nov. 26. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Books are being sorted by (from left) Rich Sahlin, Taryn Balchunas, and Jillian Puzzo. River Bend Bookshop will open on Nov. 26. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

  • Excitement is brewing at WeHa Brewing & Roasting (141 Shield Street) where the kitchen is reopening on Wednesday, founder and owner Cody McCormack said. The newly-created Lucky 13 Kitchen, a collaboration between the Spanish-themed Mama Nena food truck, Tony Camilleri of TRG, and McCormack, will offer “fun small bites” including maple pork belly sliders, loaded fries, queso dip, and empanadas, and will include gluten-free and vegan options. Food will be available during taprooms hours which are Wednesday and Thursday from 2-9 p.m., Friday from 2-10 p.m., Saturday from noon-10 p.m., and Sunday from noon-6 p.m. There will be happy hour specials as well as brunch in the near future, and look for food photos and more details in the next few days!

Mo & Lo IPAs from WeHa Brewing & Roasting. Photo credit: Ronni Newton (we-ha.com file photo)

  • November is National Veterans and Military Families Month, and it’s also the start of the season of giving, both of which make holding a ribbon cutting at Float 41 in November very much appropriate. The West Hartford Chamber of Commerce is still catching up on ribbon cuttings that got backed up during COVID, and Float 41, which opened at 345 North Main Street in Bishops Corner in January 2020, has probably had the longest wait. Chamber President and CEO Chris Conway said at the ribbon cutting and celebration that holding the event right around Veterans Day was a perfect connection, however, since business owner Sarah LaTeano is herself a veteran, and of the more than 10,000 floats that have taken place in the West Hartford space, more than 1,000 have been free floats to members of the community, including veterans, health care workers, and teachers. Float 41, which recently added a salt cave, is currently offering service credits when gift cards are purchased. For more information, visit their website.

Ribbon cutting at Float 41 on Nov. 9, 2022. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Ribbon cutting at Float 41 on Nov. 9, 2022. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Ribbon cutting at Float 41 on Nov. 9, 2022. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Ribbon cutting at Float 41 on Nov. 9, 2022. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Ribbon cutting at Float 41 on Nov. 9, 2022. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

  • The Green Teahouse has announced that after months of planning and renovations, the store will be opening in its new space at Westfarms on Tuesday, Nov. 22. “Our new location (on the lower level, nearby Macy’s and next to Cinnabon) is a welcoming and charming space, with many Asian-inspired elements that reflect our founders’ heritage,” Manager Laura Neves said. “Our guests can relax at one of our tables with a cozy hot cup of tea, or a handcrafted Bubble Tea along with a homemade Chinese mooncake, or other sweet treats. Our luxury loose-leaf teas from around the world will still be our main focus and we’ve added some scrumptious blends for the holiday too (like Cozy Cardamom). With the holidays upon us, guests can shop our tea gift collection, including stylish tea sets and Tea-To-Go Tumblers,” she added. More information can be found on the website www.thegreenteahouse.com.

Green Teahouse. Courtesy image

  • When I was in Blue Back Square last week, I saw that wraps are now on the windows of the former Rizzuto’s space, noting that Gran Gusto is “coming soon”! I’ll continue to watch for progress and look forward to providing details about the opening.

Wraps are up on the windows of the former Rizzuto’s Restaurant where Gran Gusto is preparing to open. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

  • While walking around Blue Back Square I also noted the signage has changed at The Medspa (65 Raymond Road) which recently was purchased by Greenwich Medical Spa, which is expanding their footprint in the Hartford area. According to a news release, GMS offers a full suite of Non-Surgical Facial Treatments, Medical-Grade Facials, Injectables, Body Contouring Treatments, Laser Hair Removal, Men’s Treatments, and an Acne Clinic with a 90% success rate within three-four months. The West Hartford Medical Spa location is GMS’s sixth location and fifth in the State of Connecticut. “We are excited to deepen our relationships in the Hartford area and to expand into West Hartford,” Marria Pooya, CEO, Founder and Visionaire of GMS, said in the news release. “We are grateful to identify successful businesses like The MedSpa that align seamlessly with our 5-star premium services, high caliber clinicians and team members.” “This acquisition, like our most recent one, allows us to broaden our reach and support more communities with our mission to help people feel better about themselves.” Roni Rodman and Dr. Glen Brooks, partners of The MedSpa developed their luxurious Blue Black Square Medical Spa with multiple spa-like treatment rooms and caring staff from just one shared room at The Delamar Spa, four years earlier. “We are honored to hand over our baton to the award-winning Greenwich Medical Spa, which was voted Best MedSpa by Connecticut Magazine readers in 2022, and business with 16+ years of success,” said Rodman.  “GMS prides itself in offering state of the art technology, stellar patient experiences, personalized service and result driven treatments, and this ethos has made them one of the most trusted MedSpa in our region which aligns directly with our principles,” said Rodman in the news release.

Greenwich Med Spa has purchased the Medspa in Blue Back Square. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

  • Some extensive work is now underway at 25 Kane Street where the former D’Angelos is being replaced by a Starbucks, that will include not only indoor and outdoor seating but also a drive-through. It’s taking a little longer than planned (the goal was to have been open by August), and the work looks more extensive than what I thought was happening since it looks like most of the building has been demolished. I’ll provide updates when they are available – and also look for more details coming about plans to construct a Starbucks – also with a drive-through – at 433 South Main Street. The latter is part of a larger project that is the subject of a Town Council hearing on Nov. 30.

The former D’Angelos building at 25 Kane Street is in the process of becoming a Starbucks with a drive-through. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

  • While I was on Kane Street, I also grabbed a photo of the former Hibachi space in Prospect Plaza, where construction is now fully underway to transform it into Planet Fitness.

Work is progressing on Planet Fitness, in the Prospect Plaza space formerly occupied by Hibachi and Prospect Pizza. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

  • Planet Fitness is also incorporating the space that had been Prospect Pizza, but the longtime local restaurant hasn’t gone far. They have been closed for nearly two weeks, but plan to reopen just a few spaces to the east, at 38 Kane Street, on Nov. 21, according to a recording when I called the phone number listed on their website.

Prospect Pizza is moving a few spaces down, to 38 Kane Street in Prospect Plaza. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

  • Congratulations to the Town of West Hartford, which was officially honored as one of the inaugural group of five “Climate Leaders” in the state by Sustainable CT at an awards ceremony at West Hartford Town Hall last week. Mayor Shari Cantor, in accepting the award along with Energy Specialist Catherine Diviney, noted that West Hartford is a firm believer in the Sustainable CT program, and was one of the first communities to join the program when it was created in 2018. “I can’t tell you how much we have benefitted as community from our participation in just four years. … 
    Not only does the program give us an actionable framework to move forward, but we have taken full advantage of all the resources that are available at no cost to registered towns – technical assistance, trainings, equity coaching, and of course, the Community Match Fund,” she said. Lynn Stoddard and the staff of Sustainable CT are wonderful to work with, she added, “and I know all of us municipalities who participate in the program feel the same way and thank you for your hard work.” West Hartford is currently silver certified, and is committed to “going for gold,” Cantor said, but will do it right. “It’s easy to get wrapped up in the points and awards, but Sustainable CT is about more than that. It’s about connecting, learning, taking the time to build relationships, ensure everyone’s voice is heard, and working towards our goals together. It’s a process, and that’s often more important than the result.”

From left: Town Manager Rick Ledwith, Mayor Shari Cantor, Energy Specialist Catherine Diviney with the Climate Leader award plaque. Courtesy photo

West Hartford has progressed from bronze, to silver, to a Climate Leader recognized by Sustainable CT. Courtesy photo

  • West Hartford’s own Chip Adams is an accomplished Santa, and last week made his film debut as a staff member in the documentary “Santa Camp,” now streaming on HBOMax. He’s third from the right in the photo below (red blazer and white beard).

“Santa Camp.” Courtesy photo

  • West Hartford resident Amanda Elgie has recently launched her new business, Amanda Elgie Voice, and provides voiceover narration for commercials, phone systems, corporate narration, eLearning and more. She was recently featured on the WFSB 6 p.m. news in their Money Matters segment and said in addition to operating on Fiverr and other voice over platforms, she can be found at www.amandaelgie.com for direct sales. “I am excited to work with local businesses in and around West Hartford to offer professional voiceover services from my home studio,” Elgie said.

Amanda Elgie. Courtesy photo

  • West Hartford resident Stephen Frenkel has recently launched a new executive coaching and consulting business, Voyager Executive Consulting, LLC. “My philosophy is that clarity and alignment set the stage for happiness, high performance, and reduced friction, at every level – from individuals, to teams, and to whole organizations,” he said. “At Voyager Executive Consulting, I help my clients clarify where they’re going and why, plan how they’re going to get there, and help them remove the obstacles that are holding them back. I believe that when people are happy at work, they have more energy and patience at home and in their communities, where it matters most.  I offer 1:1 coaching and team-performance consulting for leaders and teams that want to be their very best. More information can be found on the Voyager Executive Consulting website.

Stephen Frenkel. Courtesy photo

  • Congratulations to West Hartford resident and Certified Financial Planner Ben Fuchs, founder of Fuchs Financial, who has earned an additional professional credential as a Certified Private Wealth Advisor, extending his expertise in wealth management, planning and retirements services. With offices in West Hartford and Middletown, Fuchs Financial was founded by Ben Fuchs in 2019.  He has more than 15 years of investment experience and has created thousands of retirement plans for his clients. The CPWA professional credential is described by the nonprofit Investments and Wealth Institute as “an advanced professional certification for advisors who serve high-net-worth investors,” and is designed for seasoned professionals who seek the latest, most advanced knowledge and techniques to address the sophisticated needs of clients.

Ben Fuchs. Courtesy photo

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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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].

1 Comment

  • Please take a look at the Planet Fitness article.
    Under the picture you write “Park Road Pizza.
    In the body of the article, it is correctly identified as Prospect Pizza.
    You did this last week with the new Italian restaurant on 14-16 Park Road, then in the article you gave th÷ correct address as 14-16 Oakwood Ave. I respect the fact that you are busy. I love your devotion to everything WeHa. Please just spend more time proofing your work before posting. Thanks!

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