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West Hartford Business Buzz: October 19, 2020

Caribe will be opening in the former Prospect Cafe location at 345 Prospect Ave. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

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

By Ronni Newton

The last few zinnias of 2020. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

I hope everyone enjoyed the weekend – some beautiful autumn weather after a very rainy Friday!

It was certainly cold on Sunday morning, 33 degrees when I headed out for a run around 8 a.m. My front lawn was covered with frost, and I was very glad I spent some time on Saturday cutting the last of the zinnias from my garden. I also harvested a few last leaves of basil, and dozens of still-green plum tomatoes. The squirrels had been eating the red ones before I could pick them, and although those that remained are very green, I am hoping they will ripen so I can at least make one dish this year with my own tomatoes.

It was too chilly (for me) to eat outside on Saturday night – although many of West Hartford’s restaurants were doing a great outdoor business and had the heaters cranking. It was a perfect night for ramen, however, and Ted had never been to Kaliubon Ramen in Blue Back Square, so that was this week’s restaurant adventure!

Beef Ramen from Kaliubon Ramen. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

We enjoyed a great dinner: Brussels Sprouts Salad, the Kaliubon Ramen (their signature ramen bowl, and my favorite), and Beef Ramen. Additional photos are below.

John Lyons and I are hosting two separate Facebook Live events this week, and we hope our readers will watch and participate. Tonight is the 1st Congressional District debate, hosted by the League of Women Voters of Greater Hartford and West Hartford Community Interactive, featuring incumbent Rep. John Larson and two challengers who happen to be from West Hartford: Republican candidate Mary Fay and Green Party candidate Tom McCormick. Directly following the debate, John and I will speak with each candidate, one at a time, about the debate itself and some of the issues they covered, and the community will be able to pose questions via the We-Ha.com Facebook page.

On Tuesday at noon, Town Clerk Essie Labrot will chat with us about the election and the absentee ballot voting process on Facebook Live. Viewers will be able to pose questions on the We-Ha.com Facebook page.

Both Facebook Live events will also be available for viewing on West Hartford Community Interactive’s Comcast and Frontier cable channels, website, and YouTube channel, and on several other Facebook groups.

Last week I mentioned a new feature that will be part of this column and “Keeping it in the Community” launches this week. Included in this regular feature, which is a collaboration with Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Chris Conway and West Hartford Economic Development Coordinator Kristen Gorski, are tips for how you can support local businesses, as well as a mini-feature on a local business.

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: Become a Customer

Over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, it has become more difficult than ever to sustain a small business, as businesses across all industries are being negatively impacted. Our small businesses are the backbone of our economy, providing jobs and establishments that are unique to our community.

For our first week of “Keeping it in the Community,” we ask for you to Become a Customer. With more people home these days, it’s simple to find what you need online and purchase that item with the click of a button. When ordering these items, please consider supporting a small business and more importantly a local business. Within our community, we have hundreds of businesses, from mom and pop shops to franchisees to locally owned, who rely on their customers. Even if you are strapped for time, many establishments have options to fit your current needs such as online ordering, call-in ordering, curbside pick-up, personal delivery, and in-person options. With so many options available, please keep in mind that your support can help keep our favorite businesses in business in our community. So we ask, if your considering buying something, we hope you can use your purchasing power to help keep our small and local businesses afloat!

Keeping it in the Community: Kimberly Boutique and Kimberly Gift

Kimberly Boutique and Kimberly Gift, 968 Farmington Ave., West Hartford. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Owner Kimberly Mattson Moster, owner of Kimberly Boutique and Kimberly Gift at 968 Farmington Ave. in West Hartford Center, said she made some major changes to her business model due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We really beefed up our website during the closure,” she said. She also relied much more heavily on a social media presence, posting photos or videos of new arrivals twice a day, and hosted a virtual fashion show.

She had to furlough her employees while the store was closed, but kept the business going on her own, selling through the website and Instagram, and walking around the store with her phone doing FaceTime shopping with customers. She would drop off merchandise at people’s homes – and pick up what they decided they didn’t want – and also did a lot of curbside drop-off. Kimberly Gift sold a lot of puzzles that way, she said.

“When we first reopened it was by appointment only,” Kimberly said. “But as time went on we felt traffic wasn’t an issue.” She still has early morning appointments for those who are compromised and prefer to be alone in the store.

Kimberly said she also changed the type of merchandise she carries.

“I canceled all my dressy stuff,” she said. “Now 50% of what I carry is t-shirts, sweats and loungewear, blankets. We have tons of outerwear for being outside,” Kimberly said.

Her top seller: a super soft blanket in a bag that people can tote with them for outdoor dining.

One of the toughest things to get used to: “No hugs. We used to hug our clients all the time,” Kimberly said.

Kimberly Mattson Moster models a blanket, one of her best sellers this fall. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

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:

Caribe will be opening in the former Prospect Cafe location at 345 Prospect Ave. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

  • I’m so excited to announce that Caribe Restaurant will be opening in the former Prospect Cafe space at 345 Prospect Ave. (corner of Prospect and Park Road). Owner Milagros Pineda signed the lease just a few days ago, and her daughter, Berlin Pineda, said the goal is to open Caribe in West Hartford in late November or early December at the latest. Caribe has an existing restaurant at 686 Park St., in the Frog Hollow section of Hartford, and Berlin said for now that location, which is more focused on take-out and heavy on foot traffic, will remain open. “We want to upscale it a bit, create more of an elegance,” Berlin said of the West Hartford location, where she expects to expand the business’ reach. Her family’s background is Dominican, Berlin said, and the menu will focus on Spanish dishes, she said, describing it as Latin/Hispanic/Caribbean with a focus on rice, chicken, seafood, and steaks. The main specialty will be mofongo – which includes a base of fried green plantains mixed with garlic, broth, and olive oil. Traditional soups will also be a mainstay of the menu, Berlin said. There won’t be many major changes to the space – which is why it won’t take long to open. “We are doing mainly painting,” Berlin said, “making the decor different, bringing in our culture. The vibe will be very different,” she said, but the exposed brick and the industrial lighting will remain. They will have a full bar. Caribe has been a fixture in Hartford since 2000, when her parents started selling lunch out of their apartment. “We were selling 100 lunches a day,” Berlin said. After 20 years in business, “we are super excited to bring a different flair, to change up our business a bit.”  They won’t really be able to use the patio until next spring, but Berlin is looking forward to when it can be used, and to be able to host artists and live music. They are also looking forward to the One Park Road apartments opening across the street.

    Effie’s Place is celebrated its 30th anniversary on Park Road in West Hartford, and opening Effie’s Express in Parkville Market in Hartford. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

  • While one Hartford restaurant is expanding to Park Road in West Hartford, another Park Road restaurant is doing the opposite. Park Road mainstay Effie’s Place (91 Park Rd.) will be opening a satellite location – Effie’s Express –  in the Parkville Market on Park Street in Hartford (1390-1420 Park St.). “We will have gyro, rotisserie, Greek salads, spanakopita, hummus, falafel, and more Greek favorites,” owner Johnny Paindiris said. The target date for the opening is the first week of November.
  • Effie’s Place is deserving of a second bullet point, because they celebrated their 30th anniversary on Park Road this weekend! Johnny Paindiris’ parents, Charles and Effie Paindiris, opened the West Hartford location in October 1990. Congratulations!!

    Gochujang BBQ Ribs from Mecha in West Hartford. Courtesy photo

  • “COVID-19 has put a hold on large-scale public gatherings in 2020, leaving many nonprofit events, like the Hartford Rib Off, without a means to raise funds.  It has also made the restaurant industry struggle. We want to help both,” Hartford Rib-Off organizers said in a news release. Beginning today, and through Sunday, Oct. 25, Connecticut chefs, bartenders, BBQ Pit Masters, and restaurateurs from all over great Hartford are coming together to serve dishes and drinks inspired by anything BBQ throughout the entire week – with 50% of the proceeds from those dishes or drinks, going to the Hartford Rib-Off charities which this year include Journey Home, The Hole in the Wall Gang Camp, and the Hartford Rib-Off Scholarship Fund. “What we love about The 2020 Hartford Rib Off “Week of BBQ” is that it allows people to contribute in a small way, regardless of busy schedules or wallet size, by simply ordering a dish or a drink at one of their favorite participating restaurants while also going out to support our restaurant industry in these difficult times,” Rib-Off organizers said. In addition to the participating restaurants, local restaurant delivery companies, Waiter Wheels and Dine-IN Connecticut are donating $2.50 from each customer’s order that includes an HRO BBQ inspired dish at their participating partner restaurants. Participating West Hartford restaurants include Flora, Mecha, Plan B Burger Bar (also in Simsbury, Glastonbury, Milford, and Southington), Ocho Cafe, and Union Kitchen. Other participants include Banh Meee (Hartford), Black-Eyed Sally’s (Hartford), Carbone’s Kitchen (Bloomfield), Carbone’s Prime (Rocky Hill), City Steam Brewery (Hartford), CraftBird Food TruckFiddleheads Cafe (Hartford), Fork and Fire (Farmington), Nala’s Kitchen (Hartford), Popover Bistro & Bakery (Simsbury), Portly Pig BBQ (Parkville Market, Hartford), Que (Southington), Republic (Bloomfield), Taino Smokehouse (Middletown), The Half Door (Hartford), The Food Crate, Tisane Euro Asian Cafe (Hartford), The Rockin’ Chicken (Hartford), The Spicy Green Bean (Glastonbury), and Trumbull Kitchen, (Hartford). The most up-to-date list of participants can be found online at visit www.HartfordRibOff.com and more information is also available through social media (@hartfordriboff on Facebook and Instagram).

    BBQ Jackfruit appetizer at Flora in West Hartford. Courtesy ph

  • Loco Urban Street Food has started its delivery service out of Toro Loco in Farmington, and hopes to kick it off out of the former Park & Oak space in West Hartford in the next two to three week, owner Tony Camilleri said. As the name implies, the menu will be street food – “all really good, hand-held sorts of things,” Camilleri said, including burritos and a “a really cool and fun spin on everything we do,” he said. Much more information to come!
  • The APK Charities 5K Ruck to Support Veterans will be virtual this year, like so many events, and anyone ruck, walk, or run anytime between Nov. 1-7.  In West Hartford, Fleet Feet will be sponsoring a 5K Ruck on Saturday, Nov. 7, beginning at 9 a.m., and is asking that participants fill their rucks with non-perishable canned goods that can then be donated to The Town That Cares Fund to stock the West Hartford Food Pantry. “Fleet Feet is thrilled to host this 5K Ruck for Veterans on Nov. 7,” owner Stephanie Blozy said. The perfect thing to do this year, outside and healthy to support veterans like Andrew Perdersen Keel (the APK name sake). If you can not join us in WeHa on the 7th, ruck, walk, or run anytime virtually and drop off your canned goods at Fleet Feet in West Hartford Center. All you have to do is register and then show up ready to do the 5K on Saturday, Nov. 7. The apkcharities.org website tells you how many canned goods to put in your RUCK (or you can use a backpack). We RUCK rain or shine.”
  • There was a lot of positive Park Road news in this week’s column, and ICYMI there was some other great Park Road news earlier this week! Beachland Smoke is now open at 140 Park Rd., and I can’t wait to go back and have some more of the barbecued chicken thighs and brisket I sampled last week. Click here for the full story.
  • Also happening on Park Road, Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz, Attorney General William Tong, Mayor Shari Cantor, state Sen. Derek Slap, and Town Councilor Ben Wenograd visited J.Réne Coffee Roasters last week and sampled some of the specialities as part of the celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month. Click here for more details.
  • Restaurant Bricco owner Billy Grant announced Friday that his LaSalle Road restaurant will remain closed for two weeks for cleaning and out of an abundance of caution after two employees tested positive for COVID-19. Full 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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Brussels Sprouts Salad from Kaliubon Ramem. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Kaliubon Ramen from Kaliubon Ramen. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

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