A round-up of openings, closings, and other news about West Hartford businesses.
By Ronni Newton
It’s the Monday after Thanksgiving, and a very Happy Hanukkah to all who celebrate!
I am very happy that when I looked back at what I had written on this day in years past, the weekend experience was much more like it was two years ago rather than last year.
I’m writing this column on Sunday afternoon, from Nantucket. We had a wonderful Thanksgiving dinner at our daughter and son-in-law’s house in West Hartford – what we hope will be a new tradition – and then left for the island first thing Friday morning – a tradition we have had for many years, and one we very much missed last year. Today is my husband Ted’s 60th birthday, and he was very happy to be able to have a celebration with his parents (who live on Nantucket year round) as well as his brother and sister-in-law. It was the first of several birthday celebrations with more to continue when we return home to West Hartford on Monday afternoon!
One of the things I really enjoy about visiting Nantucket the Friday after Thanksgiving is welcoming the Christmas season at the annual tree lighting. Unfortunately, despite waiting in line for an hour to pass through the intense security screening in place due to President Joe Biden’s presence at the tree lighting, we missed the main event. Security was certainly much tighter than it was when Biden was vice president, when we crossed paths with him two years in a row at the Nantucket Pharmacy, where he was getting hot cocoa for his family right before the event.
We went back to town the next morning and saw the tree, and supported multiple local merchants on “Small Business Saturday” by doing some holiday shopping.
Millie was very happy to be back in her happy place, and even followed a seagull into the water Saturday afternoon. The air temperature was in the high 30s, and the wind was whipping up the surf, and we were very glad she ran right back out of the water before being swept out to sea. We were not really happy that she then decided to roll in a sandy, muddy tide pool and then roll around some more to further coat herself with sand.
We did get our presidential sighting on Sunday when we saw the motorcade transporting President Biden back to the airport, and then we were able to watch Air Force One take off from behind a fence at the end of the runway.
We didn’t do any West Hartford dining out in the past week, but we did purchase some sea scallops straight from a local scalloper on Nantucket and I made this scallop casserole (from his mom’s recipe) Saturday night for Ted’s birthday dinner celebration.
This is my goal each year, and knowing that the season will be in full swing when we return home Monday (I hope not impacted too much by Omicron variant worries): I hope to take some deep breaths, and enjoy the sights, sounds, tastes, smells, lights, and spirit of the holiday season. And whatever holidays you celebrate, I hope you can do that, too.
Please continue to support our local businesses, wear your masks indoors if you are not vaccinated – and stay safe and healthy.
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:
- West Hartford is soon to be home to a flagship location of a new brand – a combination of the award-winning restaurant G-Zen (located in Branford) and the award-winning food truck G-Monkey – which will be opening in the space briefly occupied by Citizen Chicken & Donuts (and before that Hartford Baking Company) at 625 New Park Ave. “[We are] tying in the history and magic of G-Zen along the fusion and success of the G-Monkey truck in creating the new concept: “G-Monkey Plant-fueled Fast food,” said Ami Beach Shadle, who together with her husband, acclaimed chef Mark Shadle, are the passion behind both the food truck and the fine dining restaurant – both of which will absolutely continue to operate in their current iterations. “G-Zen and G-Monkey are EVOLving (Love) into the newest and elevated version of all of our combined passion, mission-based work, and plant-based culture with our new vision of redefining fast food in a new light completely in our first flagship location in West Hartford with this hybrid model of the best of G-Zen and G-Monkey,” said Beach Shadle. “We are redefining fast food and shattering all stereotypes of what fast food is,” she said. The fast casual quick foods will be made with “plant-based real foods, whole foods, hand-crafted food, non-GMO foods, focusing on organics as much as possible and all in compostable and environmentally friendly packaging.” They won’t be serving the burgers, shakes and fries in styrofoam that you may associate with fast food, but they will be serving plant-based burgers, sweet potato fries, and healthy tonics that are “truly nutritious and delicious food that you can feel good about feeding you and your loved ones.” There is a strong focus on gluten-free, and grain-free items are also numerous. The new West Hartford restaurant, which will be called G-Monkey, will launch the new brand which they hope to expand to make the highly-regarded cuisine accessible and approachable. There will be kids meals, too. G-Monkey, which they hope to open by the spring (aiming for Earth Day, Beach Shadle said) will include some indoor and outdoor seating, but will be geared to those on the go. Renovations to the interior of the space will be minor, but it will have an edgy, modern look. Beach Shadle is from the West Hartford area, graduated from Watkinson, and is very exciting to be returning, and in particular to New Park Avenue. “We are most interested in the revitalization of New Park Avenue, making that the up and coming area,” she said. They are also planning to be part of, and collaborate with, the local community. While G-Zen never closed during COVID and was able to quickly pivot to take-out, the G-Monkey food truck was very successful, and that led to this new, approachable concept that features the tagline: “Love the food that loves you back.” Mark Shadle, the award-winning chef , will physically be in the new G-Monkey restaurant, Beach Shadle said. “This is our life blood.” Items planned for the menu, according to Beach Shadle, include: Colossal Double Coconut Bacon Cheese burger; Epic Chili Cheese fries; Naked Burger Bowl; Buddha Bowl; Grilled Tempeh Rueben; Feisty Monkey Soba Noodles; gluten free and organic daily soups; tonics and desserts like Ny Style Vegan cheesecake. And while the G-Monkey Junkies, the obsessed followers of the food truck, will always know they will have a fixed destination to find the food they love, the truck will continue to operate seasonally, Beach Shadle said. See below for many more photos! More information about the business can also be found on their website.
- A Westfarms spokesperson has confirmed that BoxLunch will be opening on the upper level of the shopping center, on the part that is physically in West Hartford, next to Sephora. The following is from the BoxLunch website, where the West Hartford store is already listed: “Welcome to the Westfarms BoxLunch Store! Looking for a store that lets you give back while getting great gifts? BoxLunch in West Hartford, CT is that store, offering a large collection of pop culture merchandise with a cause. BoxLunch helps provide a meal to a person in need for every $10 spent on our pop-culture themed clothing and accessories. Geek out with our selection of science gear. Fill your house with magical Disney merchandise. Or bring out the nostalgia with merchandise from your favorite childhood TV shows and movies. Get the coolest collectibles around with Funko Pop! figures. Looking for the perfect gift for a friend or family? BoxLunch in West Hartford, CT is your destination for gifts that give back!”
- “A dream I’ve always had is being a Main Street lawyer,” said attorney Rich Rochlin, and that’s exactly what he now is. Rochlin opened his new office last week, Rich Rochlin, Family Law and Mediation, at 12 North Main St., in the storefront location that was formerly the YMCA. “This opportunity came about, to be on the ground floor,” he said. Rochlin said he signed a long-term lease, loves the West Hartford community, and is very happy for the opportunity to be more visible, to help more people. Rochlin, who has been a lawyer for 21 years and formerly practiced “Big Law” with a Hartford firm, opened his first West Hartford office in 2016 on South Main, and moved to the third floor of his current building a few years later. As a young lawyer he focused on finance work, but although it was good training, he didn’t enjoy it much. “Halfway through my career I struck out on my own, and migrated to family law. “I approach every situation as a collaborator, not an adversary,” he said of his approach. “There are times that doesn’t work, but when families are involved it’s better to be a collaborator.” He said he is ready and prepared, however, to use his adversarial skills when needed. Rochlin also serves as a mediator, with clients directly as well as with other attorneys who may be representing parties who are seeking divorce. Rochlin, who grew up in a working class family the New Haven area and was raised by a single mom – his father was not around at all – was the first in his family to even go to college. He lives in Farmington now (right on the West Hartford line) with his wife and three young children, and is very excited about the new office, and the chance to continue to impact the West Hartford community. “At this stage I want to grow my practice, add another lawyer,” he said. “I also want to contribute to the community,” he said, including perhaps coaching and/or sponsoring sports teams and events.
- Pink Flamingo Party Co. opened the store Friday at 1001 Farmington Avenue! The brand’s first brick and mortar store, according to founder and owner Ashley Sodipo, “is the party store for personalized and customized party supplies including epic balloon art installations to elevate all of life’s big moments and special occasions.” Pink Flamingo Party Co. started as an online business about two years ago with curated party decor, event styling, and installations, helping people and organizations throughout Connecticut and New York celebrate their special moments. (Photo taken earlier last week when they were still getting the inside space ready, so ignore the clutter in the windows!)
- Deanna Dewey, owner of 4D design & decorating, and her husband, Stephen Dewey, an architect, have operated their respective businesses at 127 Park Rd. for several years, and also leased some office space in the building to landscape designer Kim Colapietro of K Enterprises. A cake business had occupied the lower level. Deanna Dewey and Colapietro had planned to host a craft and plant class together, and then COVID came along, and as things evolved the cake business departed, the Deweys realized they didn’t need as much space, and and one thing led to another and Colapietro is now taking over more of the building, and is operating a retail shop. The shop is currently featuring Christmas ornaments, unique signage, and season plants, Dewey said. The two will be pairing up to hold some classes soon as well, she said.
- School of Rock (20 Isham Rd.) will be holding an official ribbon cutting Dec. 3 at 2:30 p.m. followed by a grand opening celebration at 4 p.m. Owner Scott Rownin said there will be food and drink trucks, along with a performance of their “teacher band” to celebrate the occasion, along with guided tours of the school. They will be offering sign-up discounts that day as well.
- Westfield Bank is inviting its customers and community members across Western Massachusetts and Northern Connecticut to help economically disadvantaged children this holiday season. Westfield Bank has partnered with the Western Massachusetts Campaign of the Marine Toys for Tots Foundation to collect toys in all the bank’s Massachusetts branches. Additionally, all Connecticut branches – including the location in West Hartford at 977 Farmington Ave. – will be donating to local charitable organizations. Donations boxes have been placed in all branches, and donations will be accepted through Monday, Dec.13. All toys donated should be unused, unwrapped, and in their original packaging. Toys that look like realistic weapons and toys that contain food will not be accepted. All toys will be collected and distributed to communities throughout Western Massachusetts and Northern Connecticut in time for the holidays. “After a successful “Thanks for Giving” food drive, Westfield Bank is proud to further our mission of charitable giving,” said James C. Hagan, President and CEO of Westfield Bank. “We are happy to partner with the Marine Toys for Tots Foundation and other charitable organizations to help give local children extra joy this holiday season.”
- Not West Hartford, but definitely of interest to the local community is “Winterfair: Hartford’s Holiday Market,” which, according to a news release, is “an all-ages market that seeks to connect the historic Pratt Street to the similarly named Winterfest ice skating rink in Bushnell Park. Pratt Street and Trumbull Street will be activated with holiday-themed events and activities, and will have vendors in vacant storefronts and vendors on the street.” Winterfair opened Friday, and will hope to create a spectacular holiday experience with a total of 23 market days culminating on Dec. 31 for the annual First Night Hartford New Year’s Eve celebration. “This market will be a place for local makers, creatives, craftsmen, and entrepreneurs to share their talents with the local community, all with the purpose of shopping small and local this holiday season, over 100 small businesses are expected to participate. A full list of vendors can be found on www.winterfairhartford.com,” the news release states. “Winterfair is also collaborating with Hartford based Hanging Hills Brewing Company to host an indoor beer garden at 88 Pratt St. dubbed the Hanging Hills Winter Garden. The pop up beer garden will be open during the operating hours of the Winterfair. Hanging Hills will offer a wide selection of their craft beer menu to help toast to the holiday cheer.” Remaining days for the market are Dec. 2-5, Dec. 9-12, Dec. 16-24, Dec. 29-31. Most weekday hours are noon-8 p.m. and weekend hours are 10 a.m.-6 p.m. There will also be special events and theme weekends.
- Tomorrow is “Giving Tuesday.” There are many worthwhile nonprofits very much in need of assistance that would appreciate donations.
- ICYMI, Holiday Stroll returns to its regular format this year and will take place this Thursday! Click here for the details.
- Last call! Best of West Hartford voting will remain open through 11:59 p.m. Nov. 29. Click here to vote for your favorite West Hartford business or service in dozens of categories.
- The WeHa Bear Fair has relocated to Westfarms – which is now looking bear-y happy for the holidays. Complete details here.
- A host of state and local officials were in West Hartford Center last week promoting the SBA’s “Shop Small,” focused on Small Business Saturday but also supporting local businesses throughout the holiday season. Click here for the complete story.
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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