West Hartford Business Buzz: October 19, 2015

Samantha (left) and Jimmy Hines have moved to West Hartford from Australia and will open Cookshop Plus on Farmington Avenue. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

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

By Ronni Newton

I picked the right time and place to work out on Sunday: inside the gym around noon. Apparently it snowed at that time. In West Hartford. On October 18.

My son texted me to tell me. He was working for LAZ Parking directing traffic at Lyman Orchards. But that’s in Middlefield, in the country, not in West Hartford.

My daughter texted me to tell me. But she’s at UConn in Storrs, in the country, not in West Hartford. She dared to mention the dreaded “October snowstorm” words.

I saw some posts on Facebook about snow in West Hartford, and there were even photos. I don’t want to believe it and can’t say that I’m sorry to have missed it.

I was outside for a little while and it was way too blustery and cold for mid-October today. Yes, I will admit the season has changed. The heat is on in the house and I’ve sadly put away my sandals. I made my son (who chose not to wear Underarmour for working outside today) a big mug of hot cocoa when he got home. But the snow really needs to wait. It can and should wait until at least December.

Now that I’m done with my weather rant, there’s lots of great business news to report!

If you have tips about businesses opening or closing, 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:

Samantha (left) and Jimmy Hines have moved to West Hartford from Australia and will open Cookshop Plus on Farmington Avenue. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Samantha (left) and Jimmy Hines have moved to West Hartford from Australia and will open Cookshop Plus on Farmington Avenue. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

  • West Hartford Center is about to welcome Cookshop Plus! Australian natives turned West Hartford residents Samantha and Jimmy Hines are working to ready the space (formerly occupied by Second Time Around which moved down the street, and prior to that by Rugged Bear) and hope to be open by Thanksgiving. Cookshop Plus is a family-owned independent store with just one other location that Samantha’s parents have owned and operated for 12 years in Bowral, New South Wales, Australia. Samantha describes Cookshop Plus, which in Australia stocks more than 9,000 products, as a cross between Williams Sonoma and Sur La Table. “We plan to have a range of products, mid- to high-range, for everyone,” Samantha said, including several Australian brands. Hotwoods, a Sydney-based candle company, has created a custom scent for the West Hartford store called “Australian Outback.” The “Plus” in Cookshop Plus will include a coffee bar (featuring locally-roasted coffee and locally-made muffins) in the center of the upper level and eventually add a hands-on demo kitchen on the lower level. So why did an Australian couple choose West Hartford? Samantha said that her parents have friends in town and she and Jimmy got comfortable with the East Coast on a backpacking trip. “We fell in love with the town,” she said. They didn’t want to be just another store in a strip mall, and West Hartford had the right feel. “We are a small business in a small town in Australia. We’re close to Sydney but we have locals that we cater to,” she said. The store prides itself on product knowledge and customer service, which both Samantha and Jimmy said is a major differentiator. Even though Cookshop Plus won’t be open until late November at the earliest, look for Samantha and Jimmy outside on Saturday, Oct. 24, during the Halloween Stroll. “We’re very excited to get underway,” she said. For more information, follow Cookshop Plus on Facebook and Instagram (@cookshopplus).
  • ICYMI, because big news often comes late on Friday afternoons, Bluemercury has signed a lease to take over the soon-to-be-vacated Lululemon space at the intersection of LaSalle and Farmington. We reported in an August issue of Business Buzz that Lululemon will be moving to Westfarms (upper level near Nordstrom) later this month, and property manager and RLM Co. President Mike Mahoney confirmed on Friday afternoon that innovative cosmetics retailer Bluemercury will open by the spring.
  • Mike Mahoney of RLM Co. also shared some other interesting news. The owner of the building where his office is located – 10 North Main St. – recently got approval to build a solar carport array at the eastern end of the parking lot. Mahoney said that the solar panels will cover 26 parking spaces, and will be connected to the Eversource grid in the building. While it won’t provide all of the building’s electrical needs, the solar array “will help with our carbon footprint,” Mahoney said. The owner had to obtain a zoning variance because the panels have to be tilted at 15 degrees to function effectively. Because the parking spaces underneath the array will be covered, Mahoney predicts they will be very possible in both the winter and summer.
  • COSTCO is open! While not quite in West Hartford (in New Britain, right down the street from Westfarms and just past Target) the warehouse store is certainly close enough to attract interest from a lot of West Hartford residents. West Hartford Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Barbara Lerner said that COSTCO has already joined the Chamber, and she was impressed after attending the soft opening last week.
  • Third-generation family-owned West Hartford business Cunningham Supply has been purchased by The Granite Group. According to an article in Supply House Times last week, The Granite Group was Plumbing & Mechanical’s 2013 “Supply House of the Year.” Cunningham Supply President Kevin Cunningham said in the article, “These types of deals only work if the timing, people, products, cultures and values are in sync and in this case, the synergy is terrific! We are extremely proud of what our team and family has built over the past 67 years and we are now looking forward to being a part of The Granite Group.”
  • West Hartford-based Sage Solutions is a woman-owned small business in West Hartford with some good news to share. Owner Kathy Freda said that she has just expanded and hired her first employee, longtime West Hartford resident, Kate Thaisz. “We are gerontologists (not doctors, but we are psycho-social-behavioral experts in the field of aging) as well as Geriatric Care Managers. Most of our clients reside in West Hartford,” Freda said. She said it’s hard to describe what the business does in just one paragraph, but essentially they “help older adults and their families by crafting plans for improving quality of life of the elder. Many of us are in our 50s and 60s and we’re working full time, but our parents, who are in their 80s and 90s, need our time and attention and we just don’t have a lot to spare. We’re experts at assessing situations and then providing thorough and caring solutions,” Freda said. Our congratulations go out to Freda not only for the expansion of her business. On Friday she learned that she has been elected secretary of the Connecticut Legislative Commission on Aging.

Remember, if you have any business news to share, remember to add it in the comments section below or email Ronni Newton at [email protected].

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