Blue Back Square Business Elmwood Park Road The Center

West Hartford Business Buzz: October 25, 2021

Gillette Ridge Wine & Spirits will be opening in the former Salvation Army Donation Center in Crossroads Plaza. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

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

By Ronni Newton

Is it really the last week of October? That was fast.

After warmer-than-average temperatures for what seems like months, it does finally fell like late October. The fall foliage peak color definitely seems quite delayed, and when Ted and I snuck in an extra-long lunch break last Tuesday for a hike with Millie up to Heublein Tower,  I was surprised to see so much green remaining. We had a few chilly mornings last week, and I wore gloves while running for the first time since sometime last spring, and by the weekend the leaf colors seem more fall-like.

I was so excited for the return of the Halloween Stroll in the Center and Blue Back Square this weekend! It’s one of my favorite events to photograph, and this year did not disappoint. Click here to see the story and photos.

After the Halloween Stroll Ted and I took a road trip to eastern Connecticut – where the fall foliage was definitely at its peak – and enjoyed a nice lunch at the Vanilla Bean Cafe in Pomfret followed by a walk around Putnam and a drive through Woodstock. When we lived in Virginia we used to poke around antique stores quite often but hadn’t visited one in years. Some very interesting merchandise was on display in Putnam!

Lunch on the patio at the Vanilla Bean Cafe in Pomfret. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Quinebaug River in Putnam, with floating flowers. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Antique store in Putnam. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

We made a late decision to go out for dinner Saturday night and were glad we ended up at Zephyr’s Street Pizza where we tested out the Yard Bird – a white pie with braised chicken thigh, fontina, Calabrian breadcrumbs, honey sriracha, and pickle relish, that definitely gets a thumb’s up!

Yard Bird pizza from Zephyr’s Street Pizza includes braised chicken thigh, fontina, Calabrian breadcrumbs, honey sriracha and pickle relish. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

A few housekeeping notes:

  • The deadline for letters to the editor regarding the 2021 municipal election is Friday, Oct. 29. That’s to ensure that the letters will be able to appear in the Monday, Nov. 1 newsletter, which is the last newsletter prior to the Nov. 2 election.
  • We continue to cover as many home high school sports contests as possible (see Paul Palmer’s story and photos from Conard’s football victory over Newington on Friday night), and I wanted to point out the great contribution of Jackie Mandyck, who sent over eight photos and a brief summary of the Hall girls soccer team’s defeat of Glastonbury last week (in Glastonbury!). Contributions from parents or fans of other teams will be gladly accepted.

Note that last week West Hartford repealed the universal indoor mask mandate (that had been reinstated in late August) and Mayor Shari Cantor ended the state of emergency that had been in effect since March 15, 2020. I have changed the wording below, and hope that those who remain unvaccinated will continue to wear their masks indoors, and that all will respect the practices of business owners who ask that all customers continue to wear masks.

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:

Work is beginning on the build out, and Gillette Ridge Wine & Spirits will be opening in the former Salvation Army Donation Center in Crossroads Plaza. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

  • Gillette Ridge Wine & Spirits, owned by Anand Palani, will be moving from 860 Cottage Grove Road in Bloomfield to the former Salvation Army Donation Center in Crossroads Plaza in Bishops Corner. According to manager Ian Spry, the move is planned to take place the first week of January. “We will be a full-service store with a very extensive wine collection, a large amount of spirits, mixers, kosher and dessert items. Also, we will have 20 doors of beer, seltzers and RTDs,” he said in an email. The Salvation Army had been in the space since 2016, but it was formerly the site of Dot Com Wines.

Hot Table is preparing to open before the end of the year in the Corbin Collection. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

  • The space soon to be occupied by Hot Table two doors down from Shake Shack in the Corbin Collection is nearly ready, and I happened to be driving by last week as owner John DeVoie was putting up an “opening soon” sign on the window. Hot Table specializes in made-to-order panini sandwiches (the Chicken Pesto Panini is a best seller), launched in Springfield in 2007. and has eight locations in Massachusetts and Connecticut (including Glastonbury and Enfield). The West Hartford location will be 2,500 square feet, seat about 50, employ about 25 people, and will be open Monday through Saturday from 11 a.m.-9 p.m. DeVoie said plans are to open by the end of the year. Visit hottable.com for more information.

Work is progressing on The Russell at 39 South Main St., with hopes of a mid November opening. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

  • Work is also progressing on the build-out of The Russell, in the space formerly occupied by Harry’s Pizzeria and Tavern at 39 South Main St. I got a peek inside and it’s looking good! Owner Hugh Russell said he’s still waiting for some equipment to arrive, and is planning on a tentative opening in mid November. The Jamaican restaurant already has a location at 187 Allyn St. in Hartford (the restaurant relocated there last fall, after many years on Pratt Street) as well as a takeout-only satellite space at 881 New Britain Ave. in Hartford that opened this spring.

Dick’s Sporting Goods will be opening soon in the former Bed, Bath & Beyond space just over the West Hartford line. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

  • Just over the West Hartford line, Dick’s Sporting Goods is almost ready to open in the former Bed, Bath & Beyond space. I’m pretty sure it’s technically in Farmington, but there are four different towns (West Hartford, Farmington, New Britain, and Newington) that converge in that area, and part of that shopping center is in West Hartford plus it’s close enough that I follow the tenants located there. I spoke to a representative from the corporate office when I stopped to take a photo last week, and he said it will be just a few more weeks, with a definite opening by the holidays. There are certain items that I used to get from Sports Authority, which I missed when it closed across the street, and I’ll personally be happy about the Dick’s Sporting Goods opening.

Connecticut Foodshare President and CEO Jason Jakubowski. Courtesy photo

  • Congratulations to West Hartford resident and president and CEO of Connecticut Foodshare, Jason Jakubowski, who was recognized by Access Health CT at its annual Community Summit last week. “As part of the annual event, AHCT recognizes a local community leader that demonstrates shared values, including resilience, determination and passion for delivering vital information and services to Connecticut communities,” the organization said in a news release, and the 2021 “Commitment to Community” award was presented to Jakubowski who has been instrumental within the industry for years, helping to alleviate food insecurity for Connecticut’s most vulnerable populations – a problem that increased significantly in size and scale during the public health emergency. According to Connecticut Foodshare, Connecticut’s population of people living with food insecurity grew by an estimated 14% during the pandemic, to more than 490,000 people, including 131,000 children. “Access Health CT’s strategic partnerships with food banks across the state has been critical since our inception,” said Access Health CT Chief Executive Officer, James Michel. “We applaud Jason’s leadership and his ability to connect Connecticut residents with the resources they need to live healthier lives – including the opportunity for Access Health CT to provide information about free and low-cost health insurance options to those in need.” Jakubowski oversees a dedicated team of 110 employees and more than 8,000 volunteers who deliver in excess of 40 million meals each year through a state-wide network of approximately 700 community-based agencies.

  • Congratulations also to state Rep. Tammy Exum (D-19th District) who last week was named one of the “Top 100 Influential Blacks in CT” by the NAACP Connecticut.
  • West Hartford-based Free Float Media’s newest podcast is looking for community input! Woke Data is a weekly show tackling one environmental, social, and governance (ESG) data point every week. With more and more calls for companies to “go green,” improve corporate policies, commit to more transparency, etc., the sustainability world is crowded with jargon and confusing numbers. Woke Data breaks through the noise to answer questions real people have: “How often do companies go back on their carbon pledges?”;“What companies are likely to give me a UTI?”; “Did CEOs actually get a pay cut during the pandemic?” Free Float is a start-up founded right here in town by two global analytics leaders, Matt Moscardi, a West Hartford resident, and Damion Rallis. The team also includes Conard alumna and producer Emma Damokosh, and West Hartford resident and ex-Pratt & Whitney engineer Ariana Barrenechea. Sustainable and ESG investing is set to hit 53 trillion dollars in assets by 2025 and Free Float is building the analytics engines for the largest global investors. Although their services are not for individual clients, they use podcasting and their analytics to make sustainability investing more accessible to everyone. They want to hear from you! You can submit questions through this google form (no emails are collected), or check out the show and write a question in place of a review! You can listen wherever you get your podcasts.

Patricia Bury. Courtesy photo

  • West Hartford Center-based YHB Investment Advisors, Inc. is pleased to welcome Patricia Bury as a portfolio administrator. She graduated from Central Connecticut State University with a BA in international studies and has been employed by Liberty Travel for the past 16 years. “We are excited to have her join our company,” YHB said in an email.

Inaugural Connecticut Professionals’ Leadership Academy graduates. Courtesy photo

  • Congrats to the 28 Connecticut residents graduated from the inaugural class of the Connecticut Professionals’ Leadership Academy, a program designed to strengthen leadership skills, develop and build relationships, and create a collaborative professional services community, and several are from West Hartford. They include West Hartford resident Ryan M. Keating, CIC, of West Hartford-based Keating Agency Insurance; Tucker Childs, CFA of West Hartford – Bradley, Foster & Sargent; Ian Green, CFA of West Hartford – Greenlight Retirement Plan Consultants; Cindy M. Cieslak, Esq. of West Hartford – Kallor, LLP; Tyler A. Dew, Esq. of West Hartford – Szilagyi & Daly; Eliot M. Bassin, CPA, CFE of West Hartford – Bregman & Company, P.C.; and James C. Hallinan, CPA of West Hartford – Jim Hallinan Pension Consulting, LLC. This landmark program brings together professionals from various industries and backgrounds, including accounting and finance, law, insurance, and architecture. Program application is open through Nov. 18 for the 2022 session, for early to mid-career professionals who are members of the partnering organizations seeking leadership training to propel them to the next level of their career. Learn more and access the application at www.ctcpas.org/LeadershipAcademy.

Big Brother Mike Isko and Little Brother Trey. Courtesy photo

  • Thanks to a generous donation of free tickets to Nutmeg Big Brothers Big Sisters by the Husky Ticket Project, dozens of “Bigs” (adult mentors) and their “Littles” (mentees) got to watch some thrilling UConn football action recently at Pratt & Whitney Stadium in East Hartford. Attendees saw UConn win its first football game in 721 days with its 21-15 triumph over Yale. Among those cheering UConn on were Big Brother Mike Isko from West Hartford (left) and his Little Brother Trey from New Britain (right). They’ve been matched since 2018 in the Big Brothers Big Sisters program.

Courtesy image

  • Westfarms will be holding its second annual Mall-O-Ween event on Halloween, Saturday, Oct. 30, from 9-11 a.m. “Bring children dressed in costume and walk the Boo-levard outdoors at Westfarms. Open to the public and free of charge, members of the community will receive a Mall-O-Ween bag and collect candy along the route from Westfarms retailers. Participants will also be eligible for surprise and delight giveaways,” a spokesperson said in a news release. For the event, Westfarms is partnering NBC CT and the local fire and police departments. “Mall-O-Ween is part of a larger Community First initiative to continue to thank our local community for its ongoing support of Westfarms and its retailers.”

Brett Bushnell

  • The West Hartford Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors and committee leaders were profiled in the the most recent issue of West Hartford Magazine, and we are going to spotlight one of them each week in this column. These are the people who are working hard – often behind the scenes – to facilitate support for our area businesses. Meet Brett Bushnell, treasurer of the Chamber (see above). You can find all of their headshots and bios (beginning on page 48) in the magazine by clicking here.
  • I get a lot of of unusual press releases, and often determine quickly if they are irrelevant and hit the delete button quickly, but in the Halloween spirit one did catch my eye this week. I’m happy to report that West Hartford is NOT among either the best or worst cities for vampires. “We looked for cities with plenty of warm bodies, blood centers, and homes with basements on the market. We also searched for cities with other vampire-welcoming qualities like many cloudy days, few churches, and no garlic festivals,” the press release states. The best is Naperville, IL, where according to “Lawn Love” there are 700 registered vampires in nearby Chicago (really) and ample cloud cover, basements, and blood supply. The warm and often-sunny Tempe, AZ came in as the worst city for vampires.
  • ICYMI, the Mandell JCC recently celebrated 120 years of presidents. Click here for the complete story.
  • The Noah Webster House is bringing back its Real Ale Fest after a COVID-related hiatus, featuring many local brewers. Click here for the details.

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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