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West Hartford Business Buzz: September 14, 2020

Blue Plate Kitchen has remained open, but is now under new ownership. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

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

By Ronni Newton

I hope everyone had a nice weekend, and enjoyed the beautiful weather!

Saturday was spectacular – maybe a little too chilly in the morning for my liking, but since I had planned a long run, I did appreciate the cooler weather. Knowing that the Hartford Marathon races are all virtual this year – plus running alone – hasn’t been as motivating to me, and while I am still planning to do the half marathon (which I do almost every year), I have been very lackadaisical in my training. I did manage 8 miles on Saturday morning, so as long as I keep upping my mileage, I should be able to get to 13.1 in four weeks.

Ted is bidding on something – not just looking at his phone!

We enjoyed some fun activities on Saturday afternoon and evening!

Ted and I attended the Ron Foley Foundation’s Park ‘n Picnic for Pancreatic Cancer (see some photos and more details below) at Folly Farm on Saturday afternoon. It was definitely different from Ron’s Run for the Roses, the organization’s annual fundraiser typically held in conjunction with the Kentucky Derby, but they did a great job planning a festive picnic, entertainment, and a very successful silent and live auction.

On Saturday evening I was very excited to attend the dedication of the Leslie Knope Promenade at Fernridge Park! I didn’t start off watching Parks and Recreation when it was originally on NBC, but after years of my kids comparing me to Leslie Knope, I started binge watching during the pandemic and LOVE the show! And the more I watched the more I could see why my kids made the comparison (which I have embraced and taken it as a compliment). And if you wonder why on earth West Hartford has an element of one of its parks named after a TV character, or if you just want to read more about it, click here for the complete story.

I had to pose next to the Leslie Knope Promenade plaque!

It was a busy week, with two first days of school to cover (see the Tuesday and Thursday stories here) and both a Town Council and Board of Education meeting to “attend.” The Board of Education did meet in person, in Room 400 at Town Hall, but in order to maintain physical distancing guests were not permitted to attend.

It’s now been six full months since our lives changed dramatically due to COVID-19. Friday the 13th of March was the last “normal” day, before schools shut down for what ended up being the rest of the academic year, many businesses closed or had to change the way they operated, sports went on hiatus, and people hunkered down and stayed home.

Driving across West Hartford Sunday afternoon to do a few errands, after watching the Patriots game (the Newton family, particularly Sam Newton, is now anxious to acquire some Cam Newton jerseys), it was actually great to see there were so many cars out on the roads, people in the stores, families enjoying ice cream cones in the Center.

The state has had a bit of an uptick in cases in the past week (West Hartford had just seven, which is better than the previous week), and I hope people will continue to take precautions to keep our community safe and healthy, and the kids in school.

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:

  • Just two weeks ago I wrote about Blue Plate Kitchen in this column, and mentioned that I had been in touch with Jay Dumond and he had confirmed potential buyers for the restaurant and shared the great news that it would be remaining open. While I rarely feature the same business in this column so soon, this was news that couldn’t wait: Blue Plate Kitchen has new owners! Miguel Proano and Carlina Fontaine have partnered to purchase the restaurant, and it happened so quickly they took possession on Friday. “We’re just so excited to not skip a beat. We closed on the business yesterday, and just swapped keys,” Proano said in a phone interview Saturday. “We’re keeping the name, keeping pretty much everything the way it is. We don’t t want to fix what’s not broken,” he said. He said that he and his wife have been coming to Blue Plate for years, as has Fontaine, and when he heard it was closing he reached out to DuMond, because he didn’t want to see the restaurant close – especially since it wasn’t for economic reasons. “I wanted to keep this West Hartford tradition alive,” he said. The new owners plan to do some updates to the interior, adding a few decorative touches and local artwork/murals – “more West Hartford-centric influences,” Proano said. Staff have all been invited to say, as has Chef Mario. “He is such a talent, and we are so lucky to keep him,” Proano said. According to a sign in the restaurant, Blue Plate Kitchen is temporarily BYOB, while the liquor license is transitioned. Proano and his wife also recently purchased and reopened the Pastrami on Wry sandwich shop in Manchester – also because it was a neighborhood icon that he wanted to ensure remained open. Blue Plate Kitchen posted the following on their Facebook page after the transition: “Hey Friends! We are so excited to announce that we’re officially under new ownership! We will remain OPEN and look forward to continuing to serve you. Thank you to everyone who reached out in support over the past few weeks. We are thrilled to be part of the West Hartford community!”

    Courtesy image

  • Our West Hartford businesses continue to give back, and Orangetheory and Pure Barre are collaborating to support the Food Pantry. “Will Burn For” is taking place on Saturday, Sept. 19, from 10-11:30a.m. at Eisenhower Park. “It is going to be an outdoor 90 minute fusion workout, half being an Orangetheory Fitness style workout, and half being Empower by Pure Barre, bringing both styles together to create an overall full body burn that is open to all fitness levels,” said Michelle O’Hala of Orangetheory in Bishops Corner. “Since COVID and the pandemic hit, a lot of people have had the fear of going back to their gyms. So the idea popped into my head to help people get moving again in an environment where they feel comfortable and safe, while also giving back to the community,” O’Hala said. Registration for the event is $30, and there is also a raffle ($10 for 10 tickets) with prizes donated by many businesses from West Hartford and other nearby towns. “All proceeds from the event will be going directly to the West Hartford Food Pantry,” O’Hala said. We are asking that all participants register ahead of time so that we can plan accordingly and follow all COVID and social distancing guidelines. We are also asking for participants to bring their own exercise mats & water bottles to also adhere with COVID guidelines by not sharing equipment.” To reserve your spot or purchase raffle tickets, email [email protected].

    Rendering of future Maximum Beverage location at 340 North Main St. Town of West Hartford image

  • On July 13, the feature story in this column was about Maximum Beverage‘s plan to move across the street, from 333 North Main St. to 340 North Main St., in the long vacant spot next to Anytime Fitness. Because the property is a Special Development District, changes to the façade and parking were subject to vote by the Town Council. There were several dozen letters in support of the project, and despite some concerns raised about parking, the plan received unanimous approval Tuesday night. One issue raised by Deputy Mayor Leon Davidoff, as a proposed amendment to the Special Development District, concerned the enormous piles of snow that often remain in place in the front of the shopping center well into the spring. Because the SDD includes three different building owners, it could not be made a condition of approval to require the owner of the building where Maximum Beverage will be located to place the snow elsewhere, but owner Peter D’Addeo agreed to approach the other owners to come up with a solution.

    Jake Beckwith (in baseball cap) with friends, at one of the three meals he had at Seoul BBQ on the same day. Courtesy photo

  • Most people don’t frequent the same restaurant for three meals a day, except for maybe a diner, and it’s not what you would expect to happen at Seoul BBQ (located on the West Hartford/Newington/New Britain/Farmington line, just past Westfarms), but that’s exactly what Jake Beckwith and several of his friends did. A big fan of the restaurant, he had come in twice on his birthday, and then twice another day, before owner Mark Moon challenged him to come for three meals in the same day, even though Seoul BBQ doesn’t serve breakfast. “I told them that they needed to plan their meals if they were going to make it through three meals in one day. Without sushi as sort of a cheat code – this quartet had their work cut out for them.” They dined at 11:30 Moon said they did not skimp on anything. “Mom’s dumplings were obviously ordered every time – and they did manage to order BBQ items at each meal -–so this wasn’t a bunch of soup for three meals. These guys really put it down. For me the best part of the whole thing was these guys telling me how much they love the restaurant, or this is their favorite place. It really means a lot to me all things considered these days,” Moon said.
  • Environmental Systems Corporation (ESC), a leading provider of building technology solutions throughout Connecticut, announced in a news release that they are pleased to announce the hire of Steve Severino. “Mr. Severino brings over 35 years of experience in telecommunications engineering design, sales, and marketing to his role as Senior Telecommunications Specialist. His experience includes overseeing projects and designing and implementing telecommunications systems in military facilities, as well as in call centers and various federal, state, and municipal government enterprise systems. Prior to joining the firm, Steve applied his vast experience to his position as operations manager for New England Communications (NEC) where he guided all aspects of day-to-day operations including scheduling and dispatching field technicians, reviewing project budgets and estimates, working with customer support, purchasing equipment and materials, and coordinating with vendors and customers to develop project schedules. Since joining the firm, Steve has integrated himself into ESC’s Building Automation, Mechanical Services, Fire/Life Safety, Security, and Energy Solutions divisions. He works with prospects, customers and vendors to provide advice in areas of infrastructure planning, operations and maintenance with an eye towards positively affecting the availability and reliability of core telecommunications services. Steve holds a T2 certification in Connecticut and a telecommunications technician certificate in the state of Rhode Island.”

    James Naughton performing at Park ‘n Picnic for Ron Foley Foundation at Folly Farm, Sept. 12, 2020. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

  • Our congratulations to the West Hartford-based Ron Foley Foundation on their incredibly successful Park ‘n Picnic fundraiser on Saturday. While it was sad to miss the traditional Ron’s Run for the Roses this year, the organizers did a great job coming up with a creative and safe way to gather on the meadow at Folly Farm for a drive-in celebration. The event included entertainment by actor James Naughton (a Conard High School graduate!), and was emceed by meteorologist Joe Furey. There were live and silent auctions, and a raffle, and according to founder and Executive Director Barbara Foley, the even raised more than $165,000. See a few more photos below.
  • ICYMI, DORO Marketplace opened last week, and is already generating lots of buzz around town and getting very positive reviews for the combination bakery, coffeeshop, and marketplace. The complete story, with lots of photos, 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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Executive Director Barbara Foley at Park ‘n Picnic for Ron Foley Foundation at Folly Farm, Sept. 12, 2020. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Park ‘n Picnic for Ron Foley Foundation at Folly Farm, Sept. 12, 2020. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

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