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West Hartford Business Buzz: October 28, 2019

Playa Bowls West Hartford co-owner Mitch Jackson (left) with Vasilika Cyfeku, handing out candy during the Halloween Stroll in front of the soon-to-open restaurant. Courtesy photo

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

By Ronni Newton

Happy Monday!

I got back late Saturday (actually very early Sunday) from the annual LION (Local Independent Online News) Summit in Nashville, and am so energized about what we are doing at We-Ha.com, and looking forward to implementing some new ideas I learned about from my peers.

I know that not everyone enjoys these introductions to Business Buzz (and a few people have emailed to tell me so) but when I went to the session on branding and the presenter recommended sharing information with readers about who you are personally, your passion for this work, and about building trust – I felt pretty good about this weekly rambling.

Some members of the Connecticut contingent at LION outside FGL Home in Nashville. Included are (from left): Kaushik Makati, Bob Carr, Ronni Newton, Doug Hardy of CTNewsJunkie, and Olwen Logan of Shoreline Web News

Other than the trip home (which involved many extra hours in the Nashville airport thanks to a plane that had a dead battery, missed connections, a sprint through two terminals at Dulles Airport to a later and very tight connection, a Clif Bar for dinner), it was a great trip. Nashville is a very cool city, and in addition to attending the conference we enjoyed some great music at clubs along Broadway, sampled the signature “hot chicken” dish at Hattie B’s, and visited a speakeasy.

Of course things weren’t quiet in West Hartford while I was gone, including a major fire, and am very thankful to Hunter Marotto for capturing so many great images from Saturday’s Halloween Stroll.

This will be an abbreviated week for me in town as well. I am very excited to head to North Carolina on Friday to attend my niece’s wedding!

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:

Bowls and smoothies from exotic fruits and super foods. Courtesy Playa Bowls

  • November is not a month typically associated with sunshine, but two entrepreneurs with strong local ties are planning to bring “bowls full of sunshine” to West Hartford when they open Playa Bowls in Blue Back Square before Thanksgiving. Mitch Jackson (a management consultant with Deloitte and former head of HYPE) and Mike Bogdan (who works in real estate and private equity) met as undergrads at UConn business school, and are excited to partner to open a community gathering place offering healthy food. Mike, now a New Jersey resident, lived in West Hartford through middle school, and Mitch (a former head of HYPE) lives in Glastonbury and spends much of his leisure time with friends in West Hartford. Mike said his former post-college roommate in Hoboken – Rob Giuliani – “moved down the shore,” and one summer he and a fellow surfing enthusiast, Abby Taylor, set up an umbrella stand and went to work with their blender, creating bowls and smoothies made from açaí (pronounced ah-sigh-ee) and other healthy ingredients. They had sampled açaí bowls on some of their surfing expeditions, but it wasn’t available on the East Coast. “My friends and I would have shore houses,” Mike said, and would wait in line at the cart for one of Rob and Abby’s concoctions. “Then he opened a real store, and the next summer he had three stores, and now there are 80,” Mike said. Of those, about 15-20 are corporate locations, and others are partnerships or franchises. When Playa Bowls was looking to expand in Connecticut (there is one location in Fairfield now), Mike jumped at the opportunity, and called his buddy Mitch. “It took one phone call,” Mike said. “[West Hartford] was always the first choice,” Mitch said of the plans to open in the former Potbelly space at 51 Memorial Rd. in Blue Back Square. “It’s a vibrant community, but also very family-oriented,” said Mitch of West Hartford. “It’s also very walkable,” he added, and he appreciates the great collaboration achieved thus far with Eat IN Connecticut as well as Blue Back Square management. The 1,900 square foot space will include a variety of seating options, including communal tables, and a “chill zone” around a gas fireplace to encourage gathering. “We want people to come in and spend time,” said Mike, whether it’s working on their laptops or hanging out with their families. The menu, which includes bowls and smoothies made from fresh and healthy ingredients like açaí, pitaya, coconut, greens, chia, banana, and oatmeal, as well as cold brew coffee, will be identical to other locations other than that they will not serve poké bowls in West Hartford. Mike, who lives about a mile from a Playa Bowls in New Jersey, said the Nutelloco Coconut Bowl is his favorite, while Mitch, who has a chocolate allergy and can’t do Nutella, said his favorite is the Tropical Bowl. “I love the granola and coconut flakes,” Mitch said, adding that Playa Bowls uses one of the purest açaí blends you can find. As for the opening date, “We definitely want to be open before Thanksgiving,” Mike said, with mid-November as the target date. At the grand opening, the first 50 people in line will get free bowls, and there will be t-shirts and other Playa Bowls swag handed out. They feel they are ideally located between New York Sports Club and CycleBar. “We want to be providing people with a healthy option, a snack, or breakfast, lunch or dinner,” Mike said. “A cool place to hang out with their families.” “We want people to come happy and hungry, but we don’t want to just be a restaurant, we want to be a community center,” Mitch added. There will be murals on the wall – spaces for people to take cool Instagram photos. A general manager has been hired, and while neither Mike nor Mitch will work there full time, they will be very much involved and eventually hope to open additional locations as well. To learn more about Playa Bowls food and the founders’ stories visit www.playabowls.com or visit on Instagram @playabowlsweha and @playabowls. Playa Bowls plans to be open seven days a week from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., with extended hours during the summer months. 

    Edge Fitness in Corbin’s Corner will be having a preview party on Nov. 2. Photo credit: Ronni Newton (we-ha.com file photo)

  • There has been a lot of anticipation for the opening of Edge Fitness in Corbin’s Corner (former Toys R Us space), and that will definitely be happening sometime in December. In the meantime, on Saturday, Nov. 2, from 9 a.m.-8 p.m., Edge Fitness will be hosting a preview party. “A food truck from Mission BBQ will be on site during lunch hours [11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m.]. We’ll have raffles, music, give away prizes and face painting for kids (late morning and early afternoon),” General Manager Anderson Prata said. Visitors can tour the gym, and they will be collecting non-perishables for the West Hartford Food Pantry. “Members who donate will receive a complimentary beanie and a t-shirt, as well as two weeks of complimentary Edge Strong classes,” said Prata. Prizes will be available for existing members, as well as those who sign up Saturday. “Everyone is invited to stop by to meet our team, see what a beautiful facility we’re building, and get to know more about all the amazing amenities for the best price in the industry. Also, anyone that refers three friends, receives a gift card and enters to win a huge TV.” Appointments are suggested for potential members, and Nov. 2 will be the last day to join the club under the current rate of $10 down for the Red membership, $1 for the Fit membership and $1 for the Total membership,” said Prata. Monthly dues won’t be charged until the day the club opens. More details on each type of membership, and other information can be found on the website: www.edgewesthartford.com, and their Facebook page
  • The Cookshop Plus move from 977 Farmington Ave. to 60 LaSalle Rd. is underway, but although they packed up the former store quickly, the construction and preparation for re-opening is taking a bit longer than the owners would have hoped and there is no brick and mortar store open right now as they await an inspection and certificate of occupancy. “To make up for any inconvenience, we are offering FREE DELIVERY to West Hartford on any order and FREE SHIPPING* on orders over $75,” Cookshop Plus posted recently on their Facebook page. Visit their website for details. “The space is looking really, really good,” co-owner Jimmy Hines said, but it’s just taking a bit longer. They are hoping to be open by this coming weekend.
  • As everyone knows, Thursday is Halloween, and that means “candy season” will be underway – with kids vying to see who can get the most of their favorite treats and adults trying to stay away from the “extra” bags of candy they purchased “just in case.” As a natural solution to this problem, West Hartford-based Elmwood Dental Group (1132 New Britain Ave.) has announced a “Halloween Candy Buy Back” event that will benefit Operation Gratitude. The nonprofit organization sends more than 200,000 individually-addressed care packages to military personnel deployed overseas and to their children left behind. They also send them to local veterans and first responders. Each package contains food, hygiene products, entertainment and handmade items, as well as personal letters of support. Each year they collect Halloween candy to include as well. “Not only will kids avoid tooth decay, they can put a smile on someone else’s face,” Elmwood Dental said in a press release. Here are the details: Trick-or-Treaters will earn $2 per pound of unopened, individually wrapped candy for up to a 3-pound limit. Candy can be weighed at the office on Friday, Nov. 1, 2019 from 7 a.m .to 4 p.m. and Saturday, Nov. 2 from 8 to 11 a.m. Everyone who donates will also receive a free oral hygiene goodie bag. All candy collected will then be donated to Operation Gratitude. “Of course, we want children to enjoy some candy in moderation, but every time we eat or drink something that contains sugar or starches, the bacteria in our mouths gobble them up to produce toxic acids,” said Dr. Ana Paula Gomes, owner of Elmwood Dental Group. “These acids cancreate holes in teeth and cause cavities.” When children are permitted to eat treats, it should be after meals when saliva production increases and helps was acids out of the mouth. She also recommends that children brush their teeth immediately after eating candy, and if that’s not possible they should at least rinse their mouths with water and then drink a glass of water. “We’re hosting the Halloween Candy Buy Back event to make families aware of sugar consumption overall in order to promote good oral care habits,” said Gomes. “The key here is to stop excessive eating of candy. It’s especially important for young mouths with developing teeth.” For more information visit www.elmwooddentalllc.com or call 860-331-8748. [This information has been updated.]

    Scones! Photo credit: Ronni Newton

  • I neglected to mention in last week’s column that I enjoyed some delicious scones at the UConn football game tailgate, made by La Cocina Catering, a social enterprise business of the Chrysalis Center that is a job readiness program for the catering and hospitality industry. La Concina Catering offers an extensive menu of breakfast items as well as salads, entrees, soups, and many other selections. From the website: “La Cocina Catering has a diverse menu and a variety of menu options. We cater for both personal and professional events: everything from business picnics and banquets to birthday parties and weddings. There is a lot of competition in the local area; however, we believe that our customized options and social mission set us apart from them.  We currently provide catering to local businesses in Hartford and surrounding towns, as well as private and public institutions. Our customer base is very diverse and offers our clients a rich and rewarding educational and professional experience.” Menu details can be found here.
  • Congrats to Crate and Barrel – one of the first businesses to open in Blue Back Square – on celebrating their 12-year anniversary in West Hartford!
  • The Best of West Hartford annual awards show event will be held on Monday, Nov. 4, from 5:30-8:30 p.m. at Flemings (which is a presenting/title sponsor along with Edens), and will feature a special fifth anniversary cake courtesy of Carol Murdock from Classic Cakes, a specialty drink (included with ticket price) that will be chilled as it flows down an ice sculpture luge. There will be a raffle, and all attendees will be automatically entered to win a night out on the town. Finalists in the content will be announced shortly, and for more information as well as to purchase tickets online through EventBrite, click here.
  • West Hartford-based Northstar Wealth Partners, LLC and High Hopes Therapeutic Riding, Inc. have announced the formation of the Glenn (Chip) Dahlke Endowed Memorial Scholarship Fund in honor of Dahlke – who worked for Northstar Wealth Partners and was one of the driving forces behind the creation of High Hopes’ Holiday Market, now entering its ninth year. “Northstar Wealth Partners was delighted to choose High Hopes as a vehicle for honoring the memory of our colleague,” Theresa Donatelli, partner and wealth advisor at Northstar, said in a release. “Chip was a vibrant force within our community, and his vision and forthrightness led to the creation of one of High Hopes’ most successful outreach and friend-raising events, our annual Holiday Market and Raffle,” said Development Director Sara Qua. “In turn, Northstar Wealth Partners has been a critical partner of High Hopes – as joint Event Sponsor of High Hopes’ June benefit for the past six years. That support has helped the gala grow into one of the Shoreline’s most popular events and, more importantly, High Hopes’ largest fundraiser,” she said. “This announcement enables three forces –  the legacy of Chip Dahlke, High Hopes, and Northstar Wealth Partners – to come together in a highly impactful way for our participants.” Donations can be made to the scholarship fund in a variety of ways. Contact Donatelli ([email protected]) or Qua ([email protected]) for more details.
  • A shout-out to Steve Potter from his sister, who made us aware that there is an article about the talented craftsman, a West Hartford native and 1973 Conard High School graduate, in the Autumn 2019 issue of Cape Cod Life Magazine. Potter, owner of the company Nausetwood, chip carves custom serving trays. Click here to read the article.
  • ICYMI, congratulations to West Hartford resident and State Sen. Derek Slap, who was named vice president of Advancement for The Village for Families & Children. Read the full story 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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