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West Hartford Business Buzz: November 27, 2023

Jonathan Esposito has opened Rize Mortgage on North Main Street in West Hartford Center. Photo credit: 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

It’s the Monday after Thanksgiving, and I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday!

I looked back at what I wrote in the introduction to this column the weekend after Thanksgiving last year, where I wrote that I probably could have copied and pasted most of it from the previous year, and could probably copy and paste most of it again – including, although it was once again in a different location, our sighting of President Biden’s motorcade.

I’m writing this column on Sunday evening from Nantucket. Just like last year, we had a wonderful Thanksgiving dinner with most of the extended family at our daughter and son-in-law’s house in West Hartford – and then left for the island first thing Friday morning – a tradition we have kept for many years other than in 2020.

We have traditionally loved welcoming the Christmas season at the Nantucket tree lighting on the Friday after Thanksgiving, but having the president in town does complicate that event since there are limited entry points and long security lines. We completely missed the lighting two years ago because the lines were too long, and last year we skipped it entirely because it was raining. This year we thought we were being smart and getting there in plenty of time, but the actual lighting of the tree happened much earlier than we anticipated. There was a still a large crowd and plenty of security (President Biden was getting ready to leave as we arrived) but at least we did have a chance to hear some carols and see the tree.

Our kids (and grandbaby) joined us on Saturday and it was great to have the opportunity for Ted’s mom got to spend some quality time with her great grandchild!

And we did catch the presidential motorcade heading to the airport on Sunday afternoon – and watched Air Force One take off!

Air Force One taxiing on the runway at Nantucket Airport. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

A few more photos from the weekend are from the fantastic dinner Ted and I had at Fusaro’s (one of our favorite Nantucket restaurants) and a beach walk with a spectacular sunset on Saturday.

We missed the lighting, but did get to see the tree after the main event.

Millie is always excited to visit the beach. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Sunset at Surfside Beach, Nantucket. Nov. 25, 2023. Photo credit; Ronni Newton

Arancin at Fusaro’s on Nantucket. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Dinner at Fusaro’s on Nantucket Photo credit::Ronni Newton

Scallops with capellini at Fusaro’s on Nantucket. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Anthony’s Pizza at Fusaro’s on Nantucket. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Looking ahead to this week, we have a TPZ hearing regarding the wetlands application submitted by the owner of the former UConn property, and Holiday Stroll on Thursday night.

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:

Jonathan Esposito has opened Rize Mortgage on North Main Street in West Hartford Center. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

  • West Hartford native and resident Jonathan Esposito has an incredible work ethic and a commitment to controlling the controllable – an attitude and philosophy that served him well as a student-athlete in high school and college, and in his career. He’s now the owner of the already-successful Rize Mortgage Company which has made an immediate impact on the industry, and his new highly visible storefront location at 10 North Main Street in West Hartford Center – right next to Sally & Bob’s – will celebrate its grand opening this Friday. As a running back at Conard High School (Class of 2011), Esposito set eight school records on the football field [for those interested, the football records included most career yardage (4,570), touchdowns (64) and carries (638)] and then he went on to play football at Princeton University where he graduated in 2015 with a degree in liberal arts that he parlayed into a business development role in the tech start-up arena and then pivoted into the real estate industry. “They taught you how to learn,” he said of his education at Princeton. As a senior, he was interviewing for jobs in investment banking and other finance disciplines, Esposito said, when he met with the CEO of Chop’t (then a new company) and that led to an introduction to a relative who was involved with a tech start-up in New York. “I took a huge leap of faith,” he said, and signed on to work in sales development. It paid off because that company ended up being one of the fastest-growing tech start-ups in New York and was soon acquired, as was the next start-up he helped build from the ground up. In January 2020, on the eve of the COVID-19 pandemic hitting New York City, the founders of the second company Esposito worked for joined a mortgage brokerage firm and encouraged him to join them. “I started investing in real estate right out of school,” said Esposito, who already owned some properties in New York and Connecticut, but had been looking to get involved with another tech start-up. “I knew it was a complete 180,” he said of moving from tech to residential mortgages, but the company was relationship-driven and networking focused and he realized he had the skills to be successful, and made the change. Esposito had left New York and was living at his mom’s house during the pandemic when a real estate agent friend urged him to settle here. “I always knew I wanted to be back in West Hartford,” he said, but he wanted the “perfect” house – either on Wood Pond or very close to the Center. “The stars aligned,” said Esposito, who moved into the Center in November 2020. “A day after closing was when I left my job,” he said, and joined the residential mortgage industry. “I was really fortunate, we had a really successful year in 2021,” he said, with interest rates low, and so many people refinancing. In 2022, when interest rates skyrocketed, that’s when the mortgage industry got tough, Esposito said, and he really had to rely on his networking skills. Some of his best collaborations are with realtors with whom he had a previous connection, like Deb Cohen at Coldwell Banker (her husband was one of his favorite teachers at Conard), Sherri Schwartz of Coldwell Banker (he was friends with her son), and Michael Sinatro of The Sinatro Company (also a Conard connection). “After last year, the time was right for me to launch my own brand,” he said, and Rize Mortgage officially launched in January 2023. Year-to-date, they are already the No.1 producing agency in Connecticut, and among the accolades he has received are being a “Top 1% Certified Partner, which is only awarded exclusively to the top 1% of producing loan officers by the No. 1 Mortgage Lender in the Country, United Wholesale Mortgage,” the Rize Mortgage website states. “I’m 100% referral-based – I’m thankful, and grateful,” he said. “I’m a big believer in control the controllable,” Esposito said, and he can’t control rates, the market, inventory, and home prices. “But I just know that I will work harder than anyone and always be available. That’s what it takes,” he said. Work ethic, proactive communication – those can be controlled. Rize Mortgage now applies another loan originator (in addition to Esposito), two assistants, two processors, and a closing team. They are also hiring a social media/videographer professional. They work through banks, direct lenders, and brokers. Esposito said he works really hard, and provides great service. “We know this is the biggest purchase of most people’s lives,” he said. Having the visible storefront was important as well, and the space has plenty of room for holding investor seminars and continuing education classes, which are planned for the future. On Dec. 1, Rize Mortgage will have a ribbon cutting at their new offices at 10 North Main Street. “I really want to be part of the community,” he said. For more information, visit their website.

Interior of Rize Mortgage at 10 North Main Street, where seminars and continuing education programs will be held. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

  • Chris Morton said when he and his wife moved to West Hartford a few years ago with their two Golden Retrievers, they struggled with grooming for one of the dogs – who was fearful and uncomfortable being around strange dogs. So, he and his wife, Collette, decided to create their own solution. “I love dogs, love animals of all kinds,” he said. He and his wife decided to start a mobile grooming service that would come to the pet, and on Friday, Nov. 17, Zoomin Groomin West Hartford officially opened for business. His business is the third in Connecticut for the franchise business, headquartered in Virginia, with plans to expand further in the Northeast. “Hopefully it will become full time,” said Morton, whose day job is heading am emergency response team that works on power restoration. Zoomin Groomin’s founding principles, he said, are to use only eco-friendly products (even their trash bags), and to use the best equipment. “I went all the way to Texas to get a power lifting table for the van,” he said, so there is no weight limit for dogs. “We are equipped to deal with any type of dog, and there are no cages, ever.” The van can park in a driveway or in the street, and is completely self-contained, including having a 65-gallon water tank with a heater. There’s even a window so pet owners can check on what’s happening. “It lends itself really well to dogs with anxiety,” he said. Teeth, nails, and ears are always attended to with any of the grooming services, which include a bath/blow-out, feet/face/fanny, or full groom. Average process range from $60-$150, and once an intake form (click here)  is completed, he will call or text with the price. To find out more, visit the Zoomin Groomin West Hartford website. You can also call at 860-733-6001 or email [email protected]. Instagram: @zoomingroominweha.

Chris and Collette Morton. Courtesy of Zoomin Groomin West Hartford

An “after” shot of a dog. Courtesy of Zoomin Groomin West Hartford

Collette (left) and Chris Morton started Zoomin Groomin West Hartford after struggling to find grooming options for one of their Goldens. Courtesy photo

The new Peachbody sign has been installed at 276 Park Road. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

  • Join me Tuesday, Nov. 28 at Max Downtown, where from 5-6 p.m. I am honored to be one of the celebrity bartenders raising funds for the Connecticut Brain Tumor Alliance. The event is from 4-7 p.m. and I will be serving drinks alongside Alyssa Taglia, Christine Stuart, and Joe D’Ambrosio. Bartenders on duty from 4-5 p.m. are Bob Maxon, Matt Scott, Liz Salvatore, and Stephanie Simoni, and from 6-7 p.m. you will find Brian Shactman, Joey Bourgoin, Jimmy Altman, and Erika Arias behind the bar.

Some of the celebrity bartenders supporting the Connecticut Brain Tumor Alliance in 2022.

  • It’s not business, but another don’t-miss event takes place THIS MORNING, where if you tune into Good Morning America between 8:30 and 9 a.m. you will see and hear students (some are now alumni) from Conard High School who were part of the cast of “Frozen the Musical” performing on GMA. Conard was the one high school from the state that was awarded the rights to perform the award-winning musical, which played to sold-out audiences in March.

  • Congratulations again to the West Hartford Public Works Department, which was honored on Nov. 18 by the Connecticut Association of State Highway Officials (CASHO) with the Distinguished Service Award for 2023 –  “in recognition of their outstanding contributions to the community and the state’s transportation infrastructure.” According to a news release, “This prestigious award is presented to an organization that has demonstrated unwavering commitment, innovation, and excellence in maintaining and improving their Public Works systems. West Hartford Public Works has been recognized for its dedication to enhancing the safety and quality of life for residents and travelers in Connecticut. Most notable West Hartford Public Works action on Vision Zero Transportation/Pedestrian safety improvements, Sustainable Material Management practices, and over all commitment to Public Works maintenance excellence. West Hartford Public Works has consistently exemplified its commitment to service, maintaining and improving the roadways, and public infrastructure. Their tireless efforts have contributed to the overall well-being of the community and have made a significant impact on the Town’s transportation and recreational land networks. The 2023 Distinguished Service Award is a testament to the exceptional teamwork, leadership, and dedication of the entire West Hartford Public Works team. It acknowledges their commitment to excellence and their role in ensuring that Connecticut’s roadways remain safe, efficient, and well-maintained. At the CASHO 50th annual awards banquet on November 18, 2023, West Hartford Public Works was celebrated for their remarkable standard for public service and infrastructure management and was acknowledged for their vital role in supporting Connecticut’s transportation systems.”

Front row (from left): Brooke Nelson, Municipal Parking Operations Manager, Mayor Shari Cantor, and John Phillips, Director of Public Works.
Back row (from left: Alex Trujillo, President of CASHO and East Hartford Director of Public Works, Keith Larson, Streets Operations Manager, Jim Brennan, Assistant Town Engineer, Brian Mitchell, Operations Manager, Greg Sommer, Town Engineer, Rick Ledwith, Town Manager, and Duane Martin, Director of Community Development. Courtesy photo

  • Fuchs Financial, a West Hartford-based financial services firm with expertise in wealth management, planning and retirement, is in the midst of a milestone month, with the addition of a third Connecticut office, two additional financial planning professionals, the launch of a weekly radio program on WTIC Newstalk 1080, a series of workshops in Greater Hartford, and a continuing series of webinars highlighting various aspects of retirement planning. A new office is now open in Middlebury, a relocated and expanded office is in Middletown, and the flagship office is in West Hartford at 433 South Main Street, Suite 322. For more information, visit their website.

Ben Fuchs. Courtesy photo

  • ICYMI, last week G-Monkey announced plans to close their brick and mortar restaurant location on New Park Avenue in West Hartford, and re-focus the business on the food truck and other endeavors. Read the complete story here.
  • Don’t miss Holiday Stroll in West Hartford Center and Blue Back Square – this Thursday from 5-8 p.m. Click here for full details.
  • Also happening this week is the TPZ hearing on the wetlands application for the development of Oakwood Park on the former UConn campus property. Details 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].

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  • Any updates on Cake Gypsy opening in Elmwood? They still have the “Coming Spring 2021” sign in the window but no visible progress in a while. Looking forward to trying eventually when they open.

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