Bishops Corner Blue Back Square Business Elmwood Park Road The Center

West Hartford Business Buzz: October 5, 2020

Aldi is planning to expand and upgrade its West Hartford store. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

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

By Ronni Newton

It’s been a bizarre week, and that’s an extreme understatement.

A few days removed from the Tuesday night debate kerfuffle, and we now have a situation where the president is hospitalized with COVID-19 just a month before the election. I try to publicly stay completely out of partisan politics – and I believe I am remaining true to that pledge – but I would like to add my wishes for a complete recovery for the president and first lady, as well as for all those afflicted with COVID-19 –  and my hope is that we can have transparency, respectfulness, and peace over the next several weeks and months.

A few other non-business items I’m going to include here include an introduction to my newest intern, Mackenzie McDonald. A West Hartford native and 2020 graduate of the University of San Diego with a degree in communications studies, Mackenzie is in West Hartford for the next several months and I am very much looking forward to having her on the We-Ha.com team! Read her first story – a feature on resident Barnaby Horton and his quest to run all four races of the Hartford Marathon next weekend – here.

I also want to express my sincere thanks to a few others who I teamed up with this week – my son, Sam, and my husband, Ted!

We are lacking a dedicated sportswriter this fall, and when I found out both Conard and Hall boys and girls were playing soccer this past weekend, I really wanted to provide full coverage with lots of photos and a “real” write-up. I call myself a “mediocre” sportswriter at best. (Some may call me worse, and I will fully admit that while I am a sports fan, I am also highly distractible and have trouble paying close enough attention to catch all the nuances necessary to write a good sports story.)

Thank you to Sam, who wrote the story about the boys game, even though it meant interviewing his former Conard coach, and to Ted, who wrote the story about the girls game. Having others focused on the action while I took photos was very helpful.

You can read the boys game story and see the photos here, and the girls game story and see the photos at this link.

I don’t know how many games/meets/matches we will be able to cover during this strange fall season, but I would also like to invite any parents (or other guests) who do attend varsity high school events to send me photos and any highlights ([email protected]). I have asked the coaches to do the same, and will try to do a weekly sports round-up to be included in the Wednesday newsletter.

The Bombay Chimichanga at Ocho Cafe was a great post-soccer reporting treat. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

On the way back from the girls game at Hall Saturday night, Ted and were starving and greatly enjoyed some fabulous margaritas and dinner at Ocho Cafe in Bishops Corner! (More food and drink photos below.)

It was one of the first times in months we actually ate inside (I was freezing from being out for hours photographing the game), and we felt very safe in a booth that had plexiglass barriers between us and any other patrons.

I had my first COVID test this past week – required before a medical procedure – and it was way easier and less uncomfortable than expected. (Also, it was negative!) I also got a flu shot Tuesday after covering Mayor Shari Cantor and her husband, Michael Cantor, getting their vaccines. I will admit that I don’t get a flu shot every year, but this year health professionals are even more urgently encouraging everyone to get one, and I wanted to do my part.

Please continue to support our local businesses, and please wear your masks if you are in public places, and stay safe and healthy.

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:

The existing bus shelter near ALDI and Chick-fil-A will be demolished and replaced with a. structure with clear walls if a proposal to the Town Council is approved. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

  • Grocery store ALDI is hoping to receive approval from the Town Council – required because its 511 New Park Ave. location is in a Special Development District – to expand its existing footprint to include the current loading dock area. Also included as part of the submission, which the Council will discuss during a public hearing on Oct. 13, is enlarging and improving the current bus shelter on the property, installing new landscaping, and improvements to parking and traffic flow. The expansion will add 1,040 square feet to the building, to provide additional refrigerated and frozen food storage, according to the application. A new 1,333 square foot loading dock is propped. “They are proposing renovation to the new store concept,” West Hartford Economic Development Coordinator Kristen Gorski said of the application. The ALDI store opened in December 2009, and according to Gorski is one of the chain’s few remaining stores in need of a refresh, which will also include reworking the aisles for more efficient shopping. The proposed renovations to the bus shelter  involve demolition of the existing concrete structure, and replacing it with a shelter that meets Department of Transportation specs, with clear walls to “eliminate visual hindrance issues.” Following the public hearing at 7 p.m. on Oct. 13, the Town Council will be scheduled to vote on the proposal. Prior to the hearing, the Town Plan and Zoning Commission and Design Review and Advisory Committee will also discuss the application.

    West Hartford’s outdoor dining corrals, like these along LaSalle Road, have been very popular throughout the warm weather months. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

  • West Hartford has developed a reputation as a dining mecca, and since the construction of outdoor dining corrals in the Center, it’s been a hot spot for outdoor dining in the region. An executive order by Gov. Ned Lamont’s allows for outdoor dining on public property outside of a town’s local ordinance requirements, and as of now that extension runs through Nov. 12, Economic Development Coordinator Kristen Gorski said. “We will extend it as long as we can,” she said, adding that the same working group that created the existing dining corral plan is brainstorming about additional opportunities to supplement dining capacity during the cold weather, and also discussing redeployment of the corrals next spring. Most restaurants have installed some type of heater since the weather has turned colder, and some have been floating the idea of installing “bubbles or igloos,” Gorski said, but there have not yet been any applications. The West Hartford-Bloomfield Health District as well as the fire department will be represented in the discussions and will have a say in any decisions made.

    Ignite Fitness Avon location. Courtesy photo

  • Less than two years after opening in West Hartford, Ignite Fitness is expanding. “We have just secured our second location in Avon! We will moving into the second floor of the former Truffles location at 300 West Main St.,” owner Kimberly Zengerle said. The location will be in the same plaza as other “like-minded, community-focused businesses, including Imagine Float and Beans and Company, which should be a perfect complement, she said. “In these challenging times we know maintaining health (physical and mental) and fitness have become even more important than ever. With no general member base, our smaller client based model has allowed us to keep our clients in West Hartford mindful and focused on their health goals through providing a safe, controlled, effective, and motivating environment either in our club or through our virtual training system,” said Zengerle, and she is excited to bring the same experience to Avon. West Hartford clients will also have access to the Avon facility. Pre-enrollment has begun, and follow Ignite on social media (@ignitefitnessavon) of call 860-479-1833 to request an appointment time to meet me in the pre-enrollment office.
  • Resident Molly Mellinger has recently launched a new business, Hera Creative Consulting, and she is offering copy editing, thesis editing, legal research and support, and tutoring. “My target customer would be either a parent looking for support services with school for their child (essays, projects) or a professional with their own small business needing back-up like editing, research, grabbing the phone if necessary – being flexible from task to task,” she said. Mellinger said she is a “language professional who serves as project support,” and is able to be flexible about her clients’ changing needs, including enhancing job productivity. She has also launched a series of interviews called Hera’s Wreath – “about being a creative person functioning in society in whatever way ‘creative’ is defined by the person.” To reach Mellinger, email [email protected] send a Facebook message through the Hera Creative Consulting page (www.facebook.com/heracreativeconsulting) or call/text 203-525-4583.
  • From a news release last week: “International recycling leader TerraCycle, today announced a new partnership with leading fashion retailer Nordstrom, to help divert hard-to-recycle beauty packaging waste from landfills through the Nordstrom BEAUTYCYCLE recycling program. With less than 2 percent of the 120 billion plastic packaging units produced annually by the beauty industry being recycled, Nordstrom and TerraCycle are teaming up to intercept and property recycle these hard-to-recycle items and ensure that they will never be landfilled, littered or incinerated.” The Nordstrom store at Westfarms is participating in the program, and the public is invited to dispose of any brand of beauty packaging waste (think mascara containers, lipstick tubes, all those small jars that otherwise go into the trash) in the TerraCycle Zero Waste Boxes. “When full, the boxes will be returned to TerraCycle for processing and the collected waste will be cleaned, melted and remolded to make new products,” the release states.
  • If you’re dropping off empty product containers at Nordstrom, you may want to make one of your final trips to Lord & Taylor, which is closing, according to some sources at the end of the year. They’ve been advertising 40-60% liquidation sales.

    Signs on the window of New York Sports Club indicates a temporary closing, or a closing due to bankruptcy. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

  • The New York Sports Club gym in Blue Back Square closed abruptly this week – with many people reporting they headed to the gym Thursday morning only to find it dark and locked, with a note on the door that says the club is “temporarily closed.” The same thing has happened at roughly 30 New York Sports locations (it’s not just West Hartford) and I have been trying through multiple sources to get details about what has taken place, but NYSC didn’t even notify their landlord of their plans. The parent company, Town Sports International filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in mid-September. There was a sign on the door of the Blue Back gym Friday from Hartford HealthCare, which has been utilizing the space at NYSC for their Hartford Hospital Rehabilitation Network patients, that says: “We were notified of the abrupt closing of NYSC due to lease negotiations through their bankruptcy procedures on 10/1.” In the meantime, Barbie Wilson, club manager with Big Sky Fitness, reached out with the following message: “All Big Sky Fitness locations (Newington, Simsbury, New Britain, Vernon and Farmington) will honor NYSC memberships. NYSC members just need to stop by any Big Sky location to get started.”
  • We previously reported that the co-working company Industrious was going to be opening on the second floor of the Corbin Collection, above REI. Since COVID-19 changed the way people are working, those plans appear to be dead, and Economic Development Coordinator Kristen Gorski said that property owner Seritage is once again marketing the available space.

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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Margaritas at Ocho Cafe. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Fish tacos at Ocho Cafe. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

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  • Unfortunately, due to the unique circumstances of this presidency you can’t mention the trumps and stay apolitical. I found the mention completely unnecessary if you are trying to publicly stay out of politics.

    • Of course. Biden is much more corrupted than Trump. Harris is not any better. Shouting populistic slogans and making “officially” couple million bucks a year… Washington is a cesspool. Always been always will be!

    • Hi Danielle. I believe that it is an important current event and believe my comments were stated in an apolitical way – at least that was my intent.

  • I think it would be cheaper for these restaurants to offer deliver not through grubhub or these other apps. Saves 30% and gives the restaurants more control over the delivery. I know we’d order more from them.

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