Blue Back Square Business The Center

West Hartford Business Buzz: September 11, 2017

Prai will open this fall in the former Murasaki location at 23 LaSalle Rd. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

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

By Ronni Newton

I usually make an attempt to be upbeat – if not funny then at least sarcastic, or at the very least lighthearted – in my intro to this column. Today, on the 16th anniversary of 9-11, and after days of worrying about the impact of Hurricane Irma, I’ll instead be serious, and attempt (I did try) to be brief.

A few people have sent me notes asking that I refrain from sharing personal information in the intro to this column. Others say they like it. Please skip ahead to the bullet points if you’d rather get straight to the Business Buzz!

As I’ve mentioned in previous columns, my father and stepmother moved to Florida at the end of June. They live in a condo in Delray Beach, a community about the size of West Hartford that’s on the east coast of Florida, just south of West Palm Beach. My father is 85, which he hates to admit, and right now says he’s “walking like an 85-year-old” with a cane because he’s having some issues with his hip. He no longer drives.

On Monday, when hurricane warnings began in earnest, he told me he planned to evacuate Wednesday morning to a hotel in Orlando with my stepmother and her former sister-in-law Janet. (No one in the family speaks to her ex-husband, but she’s still friends with her ex-sister-in-law. Don’t ask.) Not an ideal safe place, in my opinion, but at the time it looked to be a better option than staying put.

On Wednesday afternoon he left me a message from his landline, so I knew something was up. Apparently the hotel in Orlando was not going to honor their reservation so they decided to stay in the area. And instead of staying in their own condo, which is a few miles inland from the beach, on Thursday they went to Janet’s condo. In Hillsboro Beach, which happens be farther south. And on a barrier island. And facing the ocean. It does have hurricane shutters.

I kind of flipped out on Friday, tried explaining quite rationally why they should leave, just get in the car and go somewhere inland, to a shelter, anywhere. When that didn’t work I started yelling. I yell a lot, but I rarely yell at my father. But at that point there were no flights available, Janet’s husband was stuck in New York and she didn’t want to be alone, and none of them thought a shelter was an option.

I eventually realized that nothing I said would make them leave (and Janet, who unlike my father and stepmother has an iPhone and texts) texted me to ask me to stop making them even more worried than they already were.

It’s a helpless feeling when you’re 1,200 miles away from a loved one and and incapable of helping, of doing anything other than letting them know that you care and love them. That’s all I’ve been able to do.

The storm changed track, sparing the east coast the worst of it, and while they have had high winds and have lost power and running water, they made it through Saturday night and Sunday. It’s hot, the wind is howling, the condo is pitch black at all hours because of the hurricane shutters, but I have been assured that everyone is fine. I’m eternally thankful to Janet for taking care of my father and stepmother, for having plenty of water (including buckets filled in advance to flush the toilet) and food and an iPhone she is using judiciously to keep us updated.

I also heard from my friend Reynaldo Cruz Diaz in Holguin, Cuba, today. He was out covering the hurricane as it slammed into Cuba. “I was in kind of a bad area, but on a safe spot,” he told me a in a Facebook message. He also sent me this link to the photos and videos he had taken: http://www.ahora.cu/secciones/holguin/31478-cuando-freyre-conocio-a-irma-fotos

Many people have friends and family in Florida, and my prayers continue for all who have been impacted by Irma.

And on the anniversary of 9-11, a moment of silence and reflection.

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:

  • Prai will open this fall on LaSalle Road! In July we reported the sad news that the owners had decided to retire and close Murasaki, a longtime (27 years) family business that had been located at 23 LaSalle Rd. in West Hartford Center for 14 years. I’m excited to say that the space won’t be vacant for long. Kit Tongsri, whose family owns the Thai restaurants Siam Glastonbury and Siam Hartford, said that the family will be opening Prai this fall. There’s a sign on the door that says it will open in September, but Tongsri said in a phone conversation Friday that early October is more likely. The menu of the family-owned restaurant, she said, will be “mixed Asian,” a blend of Thai, Japanese and Vietnamese cuisines. Currently updates are being made to the dining area, which will seat about 35. “It will have a new feel. It looked crowded and needs to be updated,” she said. Kit Tonsgri said that her brother, Ron Tongsri, who is currently the head chef at the Glastonbury and Hartford restaurants, will move to West Hartford full time. More details to come as the opening nears!
  • Division West Bistro & Bar at 36 LaSalle Rd. will have its grand opening to the public on Thursday. I interviewed the owners last week, and look for a feature story on the restaurant coming early this week!
  • The Delamar West Hartford Hotel will have its grand opening on Tuesday. Look for a full feature on the hotel this week, too.

    Paul Martel, president of YHB Investment Advisors, Inc. in West Hartford Center, has been selected as a finalist for the 2017 Invest in Others Award. Submitted photo

  • Thanks to YHB Investment Advisors, the The Town That Cares Back-to-School Backpack Drive received 12 new backpacks and $225 in monetary donations. Several YHB staff members also volunteered to help to distribute the backpacks to students and their families. “The recipients were happy, grateful and hopeful for the new school year,” reported Barbara Kreitner, who also provided the photos included below. Community service is ingrained in the mission of YHB Investment Advisors. The company also advised that President Paul Martel, has been announced as one of three national finalists for the Global Community Impact Award as part of the 11th annual Invest in Others Awards. According to a news release, “Martel is being honored for his work with Fundacion Internacional Buen Samaritano Paul Martel, Inc. (FIBUSPAM), which will receive a $5,000 donation from the Invest in Others Charitable Foundation. If Martel wins his category, the donation will increase to $20,000. The Invest in Others Awards program recognizes the charitable work of financial advisors and financial services firms in communities across the country and around the world. Advisors are nominated by their peers for actively giving back to non-profits to improve their communities and make a difference in the lives of others. There are five award categories for advisors and two for financial services companies. Invest in Others received hundreds of nominations this year and finalists were selected based on their leadership, dedication, contribution, inspiration, and impact on a non-profit and the community it serves. Nominations were blindly reviewed by a diverse panel of judges representing industry associations and national media outlets.”

    North Atlantic Business Advisors ribbon cutting. Photo credit: Ira Nozick (courtesy photo)

  • The West Hartford Chamber of Commerce held a ribbon cutting on Aug. 10, officially welcoming the new business North Atlantic Business Advisors. The consulting firm offers coaching for small to medium businesses as well business brokerage with a specialization in ownership transfer. Owner Mark Passacantando said at the ribbon cutting, “We are happy to be here in West Hartford. We want to plant lots of seeds in West Hartford, and West Hartford has good soil.” Pictured at the ribbon cutting are (from left) Morgan Hilyard from the West Hartford Chamber of Commerce, Newington Mayor Roy Zartarian, Passacantando, West Hartford Chamber Executive Director Barbara Lerner, and Dave Calibey of BigThunk Internet Marketing who serves as chair of the West Hartford Chamber. For more information about North Atlantic Business Advisors, click here.
  • Don’t forget to VOTE for Best of West Hartford. The location and format for the awards show has changed and because of the exciting venue change (to the Cinépolis Theaterin Blue Back Square), the event has been rescheduled Sept. 27, so the voting has been extended. Click here for more information , including remaining sponsorship opportunities, and click here to vote!
  • Innovation Destination Hartford recently interviewed West Hartford resident Mark Lehmanco-founder of the Family Resource Development Center, LLC, about his new startup Dorm Room Counseling, a “teletherapy” counseling service that enables him to provide counseling services online to students from the privacy of their own dorm rooms.

    Courtesy photo

  • The Farmington Avenue location of Hartford Baking Company will be holding a special Calle Ocho Cuban night on Sept. 14, from 7-9 p.m. The menu will include Cuban sandwiches, dirty rice, mojitos, yucca, plaintains, plus a few surprises, all served family style. Click here to purchase tickets through eventbrite.
  • Several West Hartford residents will be honored Oct. 3 at the Connecticut Women’s Education and Legal Fund (CWEALF) Annual Awards Dinner “One Woman Makes a Difference” at the Aqua Turf. According to a press release from CWEALF, West Hartford residents being honored include Tekisha Everette, executive director of Health Equity Solutions, who is being honored for her pursuit of social justice through advocacy and policy work aimed at eradicating health care inequalities; and Betty Gallo, founder and partner at Gallo & Robinson LLC who is being honored for her 40 years of fierce advocacy and lobbying in support of nonprofits here in Connecticut. Also being honored as a group are the Organizers of the Connecticut Chapter of the Women’s March. The group of organizers is being honored for their dedication to social justice and the incredible organizing and advocacy they have undertaken around the state. The organizers include West Hartford residents Jillian Gilchrest, Sarah Raskin, Evelyn Mantilla, and Beth Kerrigan. Other honorees include UConn Associate Women’s Basketball Coach Chris Dailey and Esperanza Center for Law and Advocacy owner Yazmin Rodriguez, who is being honored for her work fighting for the legal rights of immigrants and vulnerable populations in the state. For tickets or additional information, contact Brenna Doyle at CWEALF, 667.209.8228, [email protected] or go online to www.cwealf.org/onewoman.
  • ICYMI, we recently profiled West Hartford business owner Jim Carroll, of J.P. Carroll Roofing, about his driving passion. Click here to read that story.
  • UConn Law School will honor the achievements of several alumni including a few West Hartford residents. Click here for 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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YHB Investment Advisors at the Town That Cares Back to School Backpack Drive. Submitted photo

YHB Investment Advisors at the Town That Cares Back to School Backpack Drive. Submitted photo

YHB Investment Advisors at the Town That Cares Back to School Backpack Drive. Submitted photo


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  • Ronni,
    I’m laughing a little because I would have reacted exactly as you did to “Irma and The Delray Trio.” (Agita and a big mouth are part of each day for me.) Your article was so thoughtful for the sharing.
    I’ll never forget 9/11 as long as I live. And now with Harvey and Irma we MUST give back. Surely that is part of why you, as a journalist, do what you do.
    Thank you for sharing.

    • “Irma and the Delray Trio” – love it!! And I am able to laugh a bit now because they are safe. My father learned this morning that his own condo did not sustain any damage and as soon as the power is restored they are going back. Still no power in Hillsboro Beach either, and I’m sure it’s toasty on the 5th floor with no AC (heat index is 100 with a dew point of 76) and I am sensing they are getting cranky which is probably better than be terrified! Thanks!! ~Ronni

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