A round-up of openings, closings, and other news about West Hartford businesses.
By Ronni Newton
This has been a frosty cold week, with the beautiful fall foliage finally on display in all its glory. It’s also been a very long week.
But first the autumn colors, which have just been spectacular. There are still enough leaves on the trees and the beautiful sunrises and sunsets this past week have really illuminated them. Notwithstanding the dread that many feel about needing to rake them, but the leaves on the ground look pretty, too. Thanks to Chelsea Kahl-Devine for sending me this great photo of her puppy, Quinn, amid the colorful leaves.
Election night is notoriously a marathon experience for reporters, and not unexpectedly it was just after 3:30 a.m. when I turned off the light after finally finishing up writing about West Hartford’s municipal election. Prior to sitting down to write, it was fun (but challenging) participating in an election night show hosted by West Hartford Community Interactive, and I very much appreciate the collaboration with Executive Director Jen Evans, John Lyons, Rocky Holland, Pat Kazakoff, Dawn Ennis, Chris Williams, and Thomas Rome for making the show what I hope was entertaining and informative.
Congratulations to the newly-elected members of the West Hartford Town Council and Board of Education, and thank you to all who ran and were willing to participate as volunteers in very important roles guiding the town and its schools. While I can’t say that the lead up to the election was all warm and friendly, I do hope that differences can be put aside for a focus on what is in the best interest of West Hartford’s residents, taxpayers, and the school community.
And thank you to those whose service will be concluding when the new Town Council and Board of Education are sworn in on Nov. 16.
This was a long week not just because of the election, but also because of several sad things that happened, among them the death of former Conard girls soccer coach and teacher Kerrie Massaro.
There are multiple Veterans Day events in West Hartford this week, so look for coverage of those, along with reports about the high school playoffs getting underway. In case you missed it, Conard twin brothers Gavin and Callum Sherry made history on Friday in the CIAC State Open Cross Country Championship, and along with the Hall boys and girls teams have qualified for the New England Championship this week.
We didn’t go out for our usual Saturday night dinner because we were attending the Noah Webster House Real Ale Fest – a great event featuring some innovative and delicious brews. Who would have thought that Fruity Pebbles and Cinnamon Toast Crunch would add great flavor to beer, or that a waffle dipped in beer was a thing? While the portable heaters were wonderful and I honestly wasn’t too cold being outside for the event Saturday night (and I am a total wimp), I wasn’t near a heater when the results were announced and I didn’t want to take off my mittens to write down the info. I’ll publish the full results later this week!
I also had a great lunch with a friend at Flora on Thursday (hadn’t been there in way too long), and Thursday night really enjoyed listening to Minor Moon (led by singer/songwriter Sam Cantor, son of Mayor Shari Cantor), during an event at New Park Brewing that seemed so shockingly “normal”!
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:
- Build-out is getting underway at the former DeRobertis Jewelers storefront at 52 LaSalle Rd., for what will be a new retail concept being launched by Lux Bond & Green. “”It’s not going to be Lux Bond & Green, but it will be part of the family,” John Green told me. He said the name will be revealed in the next few weeks, but did say that it will be a jewelry and watch store. While the space is next door to the existing Lux Bond & Green store, it is not physically connected and will be a completely separate location and business. “It will be a welcoming and cool new store on the street … a great place to shop like Lux Bond & Green, and another locally-involved community store,” Green said. Several staff members have already been hired, and providing great customer service will be a critical component of the business, he said. The space has been vacant since Rosie and Gene DeRobertis retired at the end of May and closed the nearly 90-year old family business that had been located on LaSalle Road for 21 years.
- Best Cleaners is now open at 17 Sedgwick Rd. Shawn McCann is owner of what has been a family-owned Connecticut-based business for more than 65 years. I stopped in on Saturday and met Manager Amber Poulin, who told me the store had its soft opening on Oct. 30. Poulin, who just recently moved to West Hartford and is very excited about the new store opening and getting involved in the community, has been with the company for more than five years, and was formerly manager of the Unionville location. A seamstress, Summer, will be available in person in the West Hartford location on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays, Poulin said. Shirt pressing is done onsite, while the cleaning will be done at the Berlin location. This is the 14th location, and Best Cleaners offers delivery, same-day service, and utilizes the “environmentally-friendly GreenEarth cleaning method,” according to their website. A ribbon cutting is planned for Nov. 18.
- WeHa Fit is on the move, and will soon be relocating from 20 Jefferson Ave. in West Hartford and taking over the vacant former Degras space at 261-265 Park Road. Owner Mike Walker said they are aiming for a Dec. 1 opening. Walker describes his approach on his website as follows: “Getting in shape shouldn’t be a punishment. It’s an amazing and empowering lifestyle decision that anyone can make. I believe in finding the pleasurable side of fitness; and while there may be a sore muscle or two along the way, the benefits of fitness is worth the discomfort. I have developed my training regimes by working with a variety of people, and always love adapting programs for new clients.” Follow on Facebook or Instagram (@mikewalkerfit) for updates.
- Retailer Squishable is now open as a holiday pop-up at Westfarms, on the lower level next to the AT&T store. For those who don’t know, Squishables are “fluffy round spheres” in shapes like animals and food items. Some creatures are available “undercover,” disguised as other objects, and they come in a variety of sizes, according to the website.
- The West Hartford Chamber of Commerce is going crazy – Donut Crazy, that is. “A specially crafted West Hartford Chamber donut will be on sale for one day only,” the Chamber said in an email. “Proceeds from sale of the donut will benefit the Chamber and support their efforts to serve the local business and nonprofit community. specially designed Chamber Donut will be available at Donut Crazy (993 Farmington Ave.) on Friday, Nov. 12, from 7 a.m.-7 p.m.
- Cake Gypsy is getting close! The walls are cheerfully painted (with yellow and white stripes), the display cases are installed, and owner Deanna Damon said “we are about 99% finished.” A few more pieces of equipment need to be installed and another permit is still outstanding, and hopefully within a few weeks they will be open at 1123 New Britain Ave. in Elmwood.
- Voting for the 7th annual Best of West Hartford starts later today! The community will be able to vote for their favorite West Hartford business or service in a variety categories through Monday, Nov. 29, 2021. The link for voting will be available later today, and also mark your calendars for the awards event on Monday, Dec. 13 at Westfarms.
- There are lots of congratulations in this week’s column, and we’ll start with Mick D’Arcy, a West Hartford resident and longtime head coach of the Central Connecticut State University women’s soccer team who has been named Northeast Athletic Conference Coach of the Year for 2021! The following is from the NEC website: “Now in his 22nd season, D’Arcy guided the Blue Devils to their sixth straight NEC Tournament appearance and 17th overall under his leadership. Considered the dean of NEC coaches, D’Arcy has led the program to nine conference championships and nine regular season titles. He is now the lone coach to be recognized as the NEC Coach of the Year in four consecutive seasons and his eight NEC Coach of the Year honors are three more than any other recipient in league history. Under D’Arcy’s leadership, CCSU has posted a 30-3-1 regular season mark in conference play over the last four years. He has guided CCSU to NCAA Tournament wins vs. Boston College (2003) and Rutgers (2019).”
- Congratulations to West Hartford native and Northwest Catholic graduate (Class of 2009) Garrett Hickey, who has been named the head boys basketball coach at Norwalk (CT) High School! He previously served as an assistant coach at Fairfield Prep for four seasons, and before that was an assistant at Albertus Magnus from 2015-2017. He led Albertus Magnus to the GNAC title in 2017, and also coached at Notre Dame-Fairfield when they reached the 2015 state final. Hickey, who teaches middle school English in Bridgeport and now lives in Black Rock with his wife, has a bachelor’s from Assumption College and earned his Master’s Degree from Sacred Heart University in 2015.
- Congratulations to West Hartford resident Deborah Hopper, who has been named human resources and talent development leader at Farmington-based local investment advisor Connecticut Wealth Management (CTWM). “We are delighted to welcome Deborah Hopper to the Connecticut Wealth Management team,” President and CEO of CTWM, Kevin C. Leahy said in an email. “Her expertise in implementing talent management best practices and programs across the employee life cycle will make a substantial impact on our teammates professional growth.” Before joining CTWM, Hopper owned an HR consulting firm and was the HR director at Hartford Golf Club. She also held senior-level HR positions in several large organizations with complex businesses such as Prudential Financial, CIGNA, The Hartford, and Allstate Insurance Company. At Prudential Retirement, Hopper also created and led the Talent Development and DEI functions. “I am honored to bring my skillset to the Connecticut Wealth Management team,” said Hopper. “I am particularly looking forward to leading strategic HR initiatives while fostering a culture of collaboration within a work environment that recognizes, values and rewards excellence. My role is to support the full team in their commitment to serving our clients.”
- State Rep. Jillian Gilchrest (D-18th) of West Hartford was elected to serve as the Eastern Regional Democrat representative to the Women’s Legislative Network Executive Board in an unanimous vote by the National Council of State Legislatures (NCSL). The 15-member board is crucial to providing direction to the Women’s Legislative Network. “As an advocate for women’s equality, health, and safety at the State Legislature, I am so honored to have been voted favorably to serve as the Eastern Regional Democrat representative to the Women’s Legislative Network Executive Board,” said Gilchrest. “I look forward to learning from my colleagues and sharing policy proposals that will improve the lives of women and girls across our country.”
- Leadership Greater Hartford celebrated its Polaris Award winners – to honor exemplary leaders who serve as “guiding lights” in the Hartford region and and best embody the organization’s three pillars of “Community, Leadership, and Connection.” There are plenty of congratulations in order! During the Oct. 28 virtual ceremony, the University of Hartford’s Women’s Business Center (WBC) was selected to receive this year’s Polaris Connections Award for its Women of Color Business Panel Series. The WBC provided the following details in an email: “The Women of Color Business Panel series came together over the summer of 2020. The WBC staff felt it was important to act in support of racial equity and justice, and Client Services Administrator Darchelle Hutchins proposed to expand the WBC existing panel programs with a new panel series that would allow women entrepreneurs of color to share their diverse perspectives about the path to business ownership. The planning team for the series included Hutchins along with Milena Erwin (WBC Program Manager), Elaine Thomas-Williams (Business Advisor), and Shelli McMillen (Marketing Manager). The first panel was presented in September 2020, and it featured an open and frank discussion of the biases encountered by black women as well as suggestions for motivation to keep participants moving forward. This series is now presented quarterly, and it endeavors to create community while moving all women in business toward their dreams. The Polaris Award recognized all four women from the Women’s Business Center as a team.” Jason Jakubowski, president and CEO of Connecticut Foodshare, and a West Hartford resident, was also honored during the ceremony with the Polaris Visionary Award.
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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