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West Hartford Business Buzz: November 23, 2020

The Barrel Room at New Park Brewing will provide event space as well as overflow space for the Tap Room during COVID-19. Courtesy photo

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

By Ronni Newton

It’s the week of Thanksgiving, and what a difference between this year and last year.

I looked back at my column from the Monday before Thanksgiving last year, which followed the annual Conard vs. Hall football game. In addition to always being an intense sports contest, it’s such a great community event that attracts thousands of spectators, and just one of the many events I miss this year.

I was searching the We-Ha.com site for something in a story a few days ago, and happened upon some of the articles I wrote in late March and April. Back then we thought the pandemic would be long since over even before the summer, and never would have imagined we would be at the point we are at today.

While the experts warned about a second wave, like many (most) people, I thought we could avoid it.

This year, as we approach Thanksgiving, we’re not focused on the danger of undercooking a turkey. This year, the humans pose more of a health danger.

The mayor, as well as the police chief, put out a plea to the community last week to stay vigilant, to forgo large Thanksgiving celebrations this year with people from outside of your household. It’s hard for me (there will only be four at our table this year), and it’s hard for many of us, but the danger is real. We’re also skipping our annual visit to my in-laws the day after Thanksgiving this year.

It’s not the same, but we will be seeing our extended family via a Zoom call on Thursday.

One of my good friends has been suffering with COVID-19 for the past few weeks, has had a fever every day. Although he avoided being hospitalized, he said it’s been awful, and not a disease he would wish on his worst enemy.

I saw a woman being interviewed on the TV news Saturday night. She was in a crowded airport. She said she knew she wasn’t supposed to be traveling cross country for the holiday, but she really wanted to see her children.

The health – and the welfare – of our community depends on people making smart choices.

What will be normal is that I will roast a too-large turkey, like I do every year. (Even the past few years, when we have gone to my daughter’s future mother-in-law’s house for Thanksgiving dinner, I brought one of the turkeys.) I love turkey sandwiches and making turkey soup, so lots of leftovers aren’t a problem here. The more stuffing the better, too.

And to make sure that turkey doesn’t become a health danger, using a meat thermometer to make sure it’s fully cooked is a good idea.

Lamb biryani from Taste of India. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

This weekend’s dinner was take-out from Taste of India on South Main Street. It was delicious, and I completely forgot to take a photo before I started eating!

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Please note that we will only be sending out two newsletters this week, 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.

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Read last week’s tip and feature on STAY on Park here.

Please continue to support our local businesses, and please wear your masks if you are in public places, and stay safe and healthy.

Keeping it in the Community Tip: Shop Small and Shop Local

This coming weekend will be the kickoff to the holiday shopping season. As we’ve discussed throughout this column, small and local businesses need your support more this year than ever. Did you know that for every $100 you spend at a local business, $68 will stay in our community. In addition, local businesses are more likely to support and utilize services of other local businesses. With so many options out there this holiday season, we encourage you to shop local to help keep dollars in our community and stimulate our local economy. #shopsmall #shoplocal

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Keeping it in the Community: Small Business Saturday and other shopping “holidays”

We’re not going to feature one particular business this year, but rather an entire group of businesses – our local businesses.

The holiday shopping season officially launches the day after Thanksgiving, with Black Friday. (Shopping on Thanksgiving, an event which in the past few years has come to be known as “Gray Thursday,” hasn’t gotten much mention this year and most stores and shopping centers, including Westfarms, are remaining closed for the holiday.)

In addition to Black Friday, there is Small Business Saturday, Artist Sunday, Cyber Monday, and Giving Tuesday – all shopping “holidays” intended to benefit different types of businesses and organizations.

While some of these so-called holidays are not traditionally associated with local businesses, participating in these initiatives can be critically important for our local economy.

Small Business Saturday is an obvious connection, but even if you’re shopping in a big box store on Black Friday (which is probably going to be a bit less chaotic this year, at least I hope that’s the case), you’re helping support the local economy, helping keep that particular location of a chain store open and employing local residents.

Artist Sunday is intended to promote the purchase of art for holiday gifts. The WEHA Artists Emporium, which has announced its annual Finders Keepers Art Hunt, will be hosting an online art market for Artist Sunday this year. The Noah Webster House & West Hartford Historical Society is holding a Holiday Market the first weekend of December (outdoor and online opportunities available), featuring local-made products, which will be detailed in a complete story later this week. Many local artisans will also be participating in the Hall High School SafeGrad “Shop the Halls” event on Dec. 3-6.

Even while Cyber Monday shopping, you may be able request pick-up at a local store – which for some companies counts toward their local sales.

Giving Tuesday can focus on our local nonprofits.

Below is an excerpt from an email written by Wendell G. Davis, the New England Regional Administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration. It applies to Small Business Saturday, but I think the words resonate for all of the upcoming shopping events.

“As we all know, 2020 has been a year fraught with challenges. Our nation’s small businesses dealt with unimaginable changes and setbacks as they weathered the storm of the coronavirus pandemic.

“Through it all, the U.S. Small Business Administration has been at the forefront of our country’s recovery effort. In fiscal year 2020, the SBA approved more loans in value and volume than it had in its entire 67-year history. In six days, with the Treasury Department, the SBA built and launched the largest economic response program aimed at small businesses in American history – the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP).

“PPP was an undeniable success across New England and the entire country. In New England more than 266,000 businesses received approximately $29 billion in forgivable loans over the life of the program. PPP was a lifeline for small businesses and helped the American workforce by providing critical economic relief, allowing businesses to stay open and keep workers on the payroll.

“Now it is time for us as citizens in our communities to do our part to support the continued recovery of our Nation’s 31.7 million small businesses. This year, we know that small businesses, need our support now more than ever as they navigate, retool, and pivot from the effects of the pandemic. Shopping and dining local this holiday season will help our communities as they continue with their recovery efforts.

“We can show our support by shopping small on November 28, 2020 – Small Business Saturday. Celebrated each year on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, between Black Friday and Cyber Monday, Small Business Saturday is a way for consumers to make an impact in their community by supporting independently owned businesses during the holiday season. The day is designed to support local businesses that create jobs, boost the economy, and preserve neighborhoods around the country. It was created to help independent businesses capture a larger piece of the critical holiday season consumer spending, while also helping address small business owners’ most pressing need: getting more customers through their doors.

“Since 2011, the U.S. Small Business Administration has been a formal cosponsor of Small Business Saturday, which was founded by American Express. Each year, we encourage independent businesses to leverage Small Business Saturday to help drive more traffic to their businesses – whether it is through their doors or their e-commerce site during the holiday shopping season.

“The holidays might look a little different this year; however, we can still share joy by shopping small and supporting our favorite small businesses and their employees on Small Business Saturday and throughout the holiday season. If you do not want to head out to the shops because of safety concerns or restrictions, you can always shop online. Many businesses have built up their online shops so that they can continue serving customers even when heading to the store isn’t feasible.

“Do some research and search the web to find out what your community is doing to support businesses on Small Business Saturday and during the holiday season. Some communities and chambers of commerce are hosting virtual shopping events to showcase local businesses.

“Visit your favorite store’s website to see what your shopping options may be. Although finding the best way to support independent retailers might require a little advance planning, it is worth the extra effort, because the money you spend goes directly back into our communities.

“I want you to join me in shopping small not only on Small Business Saturday and through this holiday season, but as often as possible. Our local shops and restaurants are depending on our continued support.”

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:

The Barrel Room at New Park Brewing will provide event space as well as overflow space for the Tap Room during COVID-19. Courtesy photo

  • West Hartford’s own New Park Brewing is back in the news again, but this time it’s due to an expansion – a project that has been in the works for more than two years! New Park Brewing has been gradually taking over vacated spaces at 485 New Park, and after accumulating five adjacent spaces on the Darcy Street side, The Barrel Room will at long last be opening this week. When the brewery first opened in March 2017, there was the tap room and a 7-barrel brewing system. New Park Brewing has since expanded to a 15-barrel system, with 12, 15-barrel tanks and temperature-controlled storage. The latest expansion, in spaces that previously were occupied by a painter, gasket repair business, and a photo studio, will be event space that will eventually accommodate 94 people. “We didn’t want to close our tap room for events,” co-owner John Doyle said, but there were many requests to hold events at the brewery. In addition, head brewer and co-owner Alex Dee is “very passionate about mixed-fermentation, barrel-aged beer,” Doyle said, and there is now space for that to take place. The expansion has been a labor of love, and an investment by countless local builders and artisans. There are handblown glass elements, a reclaimed chestnut bar, and a barn door salvaged from one of the spaces, with a window salvaged from another one of the spaces, that serves as the entrance to The Barrel Room. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, The Barrel Room will host events of no more than 25, and Doyle said if nothing is scheduled, it can also serve as overflow for the tap room where COVID has limited capacity to just 50. New Park Brewing must serve food whenever it is open, and has been doing that through resident food trucks. They are currently hosting Tyler Anderson and AJ Auricchio’s Ta-QUE truck. Future plans include creation of their kitchen, which will be used for the brewery as well as events, perhaps partnerships with top area chefs for special dinner events. “It would be really nice to see the space packed,” Doyle said, but he knows it will happen and they need to be patient. And if further restrictions are reimposed, New Park Brewing is prepared to pivot back to delivery and take-out service only. Additional photos can be found at the end of this column.
  • Five weeks ago we announced that Caribe Restaurant was preparing to open in the former Prospect Cafe space at the corner of Prospect Avenue and Park Road, and they are on schedule for their early December opening, Berlin Pineda, daughter of owner Milagros Pineda, advised this week. Caribe is hiring servers, bartenders, chefs, and line cooks (email [email protected]) and planning to open the first week of December.

Caribe Restaurant is coming soon to the corner of Prospect and Park. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

  • In addition to Warby Parker (featured in last week’s Business Buzz) and the reopening of Brio on Dec. 7 (also noted in last week’s column), Westfarms has some festive and seasonal stores that have opened for the holidays. The following is from a news release: Luxury music brand Yamaha Pianos has made its Connecticut showroom debut for the holidays. Yamaha, widely known for its luxury grand pianos, uses innovation in modern materials and sound to create pianos of exceptional tone and breathtaking beauty. The collection of pianos can be seen in Westfarms Center Court. … See’s 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. … Westfarms also welcomes back Christmas Treasures to its holiday line-up featuring holiday gifts, customizable ornaments and holiday decorations. The seasonal store is located on the lower level near Center Court. “We are proud of our growth and the commitment to our retailers and shoppers at Westfarms during these unique times,” said General Manager Kevin Keenan. “We remain dedicated to enhancing our shopping experience with first to the area new luxury brands and seasonal favorites that will complement our existing line up at Westfarms.”

Photo credit: Ronni Newton (we-ha.com file photo)

  • Karen Roche has just reopened her hair salon, Karen Elizabeth Hair, in a new location in West Hartford Center. “I call it the #nofearhair year. Together we can keep spreading beauty throughout the world.Join me as my journey continues! Thank you to all of you that have touched my life! I hope that you realize what a difference you have made in my life and my families lives. I hope that you truly realize that you have always been my success,” Roche posted on her website. Karen Elizabeth Hair is now located at 10 Dale St., and she can be reached at 860-300-2422.
  • In a post on Facebook last week, someone noted that AAA Driving School was closing permanently as of Dec. 31. When I saw that, for clarification I reached out to Amy Parmenter, manager of Public and Government Affairs for AAA, and both she and Kurt Gray, director of AAA Driving Schools, noted that only the behind the wheel training is ending as of the end of the year. The classroom instruction, which due to COVID-19 has been taking virtually, will continue.
  • Internet provider GoNetspeed announced last week that they will be expanding to another 25,000 households in West Hartford as well as Southington, Rocky Hill, Hamden, North Haven, Fairfield, and Bridgeport in the first half of 2021. A recent expansion in West Hartford, Wethersfield, and Newington has just been completed, bringing the service to approximately 15,000 additional households, the company said. The map below shows the area in West Hartford where GoNetspeed is currently available, and more details can be found at www.gonetspeed.com. “The demand for fiber Internet across the state of Connecticut has been overwhelming,” said Michael D’Angelo, SVP of Sales and Marketing for GoNetspeed. “We are building as fast as we can to reach neighborhoods who have shown interest in our service. If you don’t see your area on the map, tell your friends, family and neighbors to submit their interest at www.gonetspeed.com. We look at these submissions to help us decide where to expand next.” GoNetspeed offers a flat rate of $50 per month (guaranteed forever) for a starting bandwidth of 150 Mbps, with service provided on 100% fiber connectivity.

GoNetspeed availability

  • When the Arethusa Farm Dairy store opened at 975 Farmington Avenue in West Hartford Center in June, one of the things that people were immediately really excited about was the ability to locally purchase Arethusa’s signature eggnog. Eggnog season is now in full swing, and in honor of the 10th anniversary of the signature eggnog, Arethusa is bottling it this year in a special edition glass bottle. “Each year, their seasonal glass eggnog bottle features a different calf from their herd. This annual collector bottle serves as the perfect reminder that the holidays are here,” Arethusa said in an email. To create the eggnog, “Arethusa milk and cream are blended with cage free eggs, vanilla and the finest West Indies spices to create a decadent seasonal treat that provides the perfect accent to any holiday celebration.”

Arethusa 10th anniversary eggnog. Courtesy photo

  • The annual West Hartford Holiday Stroll, which traditionally attracts huge crowds to the Center and Blue Back Square, is being reinvented this year as “Stroll Your Own Way.” The overall initiative, which incorporates all of the town’s neighborhood associations, is still being rolled out (look for a story to come later this week), but the holiday window decorating contest has already been announced, and judging will begin Friday, Nov. 27. According to a press release from the West Hartford Chamber of Commerce, businesses and establishments throughout West Hartford are encouraged to deck their windows and email a photo of the display, along with the business name, to Chris Conway at [email protected]. A gallery of the photos will be available beginning Friday, Nov. 27, and the public can vote for their favorite through. Dec. 31. The top vote-getter will be named “Best of the Season.”

Creative holiday decoration on the window at Luna Pizza in 2018. Photo credit: Ronni Newton (we-ha.com file photo)

  • Congratulations to Michele Maresca, an attorney with Robinson + Cole, and James P. Carroll, owner of JP Carroll Roofing, both of whom have been recently welcomed as new members of the Bridge Family Center Board of Directors and will each serve a three-year term. Maresca is a member of Robinson + Cole’s Real Estate + Development Group and handles the full range of commercial real estate transactions. She was selected to the Connecticut Super Lawyers list for 2018 and 2019 and named a Rising Star in the Connecticut Super Lawyers list from 2013 to 2017. Carroll started his business in 1987 as a home builder and transitioned to roofing in the early 1990s. He currently serves as President of the Connecticut Roofing Contractors Association. When not working, Jim is an avid race car driver. “We are very excited to welcome Michele and Jim to the Board. They are both long-time friends and supporters of the Bridge and have a strong commitment to our children and families. Their expertise, guidance, and deep ties within the community are tremendous assets to our organization and those we serve,” stated Margaret Hann, Executive Director of the Bridge Family Center.

Michele Maresca (left) and Jim Carroll, both of West Hartford, have been named to the Board of Directors of The Bridge Family Center. 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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A repurposed barn door, outfitted with a window salvaged from one of the other spaces, serves as the entrance to The Barrel Room at New Park Brewing. Courtesy photo

Special taps imported from the Czech Republic in the Barrel Room at New Park Brewing. Courtesy photo

The Barrel Room at New Park Brewing will provide event space as well as overflow space for the Tap Room during COVID-19. Courtesy photo

New Park Brewing is also producing mixed-fermentation barrel-ages beers. Courtesy photo

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