Bishops Corner Blue Back Square Business Elmwood Park Road The Center

West Hartford Business Buzz: September 21, 2020

Sola Salon Studios will be opening a location in Blue Back Square. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

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

By Ronni Newton

It’s almost autumn, and it certainly has felt like a different season the past few days, prompting me to break a few of my self-imposed rules – but not all of them!

I purchased some mums on Saturday, and on Sunday morning I baked pumpkin chocolate chip bread. I also purchased a canister of pumpkin spice coffee at Trader Joes’s last week, but I have resisted opening that.

This week I have also: refused to wear socks other than with athletic shoes, eschewed drinking pumpkin spice coffee, and worn my white pants after Labor Day. Also, even though the temperature was below 50 degrees for two of my runs the past week, I did not wear mittens. I always say that 50 or below is “mitten weather,” but even though it was only 43 degrees when I set out for my 10-mile run on Saturday morning, I managed to resist and just wear a long-sleeved shirt that covers my hands.

Despite the very sad news Friday of the passing of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and despite the chill in the air, on a personal level my past week was a pretty good one. I managed to complete the aforementioned 10-mile run without any serious pain, so I guess the virtual half marathon next month is a go. It was great to attended three in-person meetings/events last week, and I had some delicious pizza from Luna Pizza Saturday night.

I also learned that my 88-year-old father’s positive COVID test was a false positive. (Grrrr … but better than an actual positive. It was scary to hear the initial news, but thankfully he never had any symptoms.)

This past week’s other exciting developments include being followed on Twitter by Buddy the Beefalo (that was honestly such a highlight of the day), and Michael Schur (as in the Hall High School graduate whose creative credits include The Office, Parks and Recreation, Brooklyn Ninety-Nine; and The Good Place) has agreed to an interview!

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 former Skeleton Key and Deadbolt space at 61 Raymond Rd. has been leased, and Robyn Rifkin, general manager of Blue Back Square, said that Sola Salon Studios will be doing interior build-out with plans to open likely in early 2021. According to the company website, Sola Salon Studios provides “beauty professionals with high-end, fully-equipped salon studios alongside the support and tools they need to launch their salon business in no time.” The business is franchise-based, and Brian Jersey is the owner of the West Hartford location. Existing Central Connecticut locations – also owned by Jersey – are in Avon, Glastonbury, and Rocky Hill. There are other Sola Salon locations in Westport and Wilton in Fairfield County, under different ownership. Sola Salon Studios was founded in 2004, and now host a community of more than 15,000 independent salon professionals and has expanded to more than 500 locations in the U.S. as well as Canada and Brazil. “We aim to make your transition to independence as smooth as possible. You are independent and unique at Sola, but you are not alone,” the website states. Skeleton Key and Deadbolt closed about a year ago, when owner Ray Weaver decided to fold the business.
  • An empty space in Bishops Corner will soon have a new tenant, too. Salsa Fresca Mexican Grill will be opening in the former Qdoba space in Bishops Corner (between Blue Plate Kitchen and Orangetheory), which has been vacant since Qdoba closed all of their Connecticut locations in November 2018 (hard to believe it’s been that long). West Hartford Economic Development Specialist Kristen Gorski confirmed that Salsa Fresca has already applied for permits, but with no change of use necessary in the 2,785 square foot space – just new furnishings and kitchen equipment – it should not take long for the fast casual Mexican restaurant to open. According to the company website, Salsa Fresca has two other locations in Connecticut (New Haven and Danbury) as well as a food truck, and eight locations in New York.

    Salsa Fresca Mexican Grill will open in Bishops Corner. Photo credit Keith Griffin

  • I’ve been watching for progress with the build-out of the former Grant’s space at 977 Farmington Ave., and although plans were submitted last December, and permits were issued in May, there doesn’t appear to have been much done other than gutting the interior. This past week, however, the Grant’s logo was removed and replaced with a decal of a bird, and the door now has a decal with the same bird and states “landing 2021.” The details are still being kept very much under wraps (the plans submitted in December 2019, under a placeholder name, call for a large-capacity restaurant which will include a pizza oven/pizza bar in the center as well as – in non-COVID times –  a 30-seat bar and multiple other dining areas, and a 44-seat outdoor patio). I had heard several names for the restaurant that were under consideration, and based on the decal I am pretty sure I know what the name will be, but since no one will confirm and I don’t want to spread false rumors I will wait until it’s official. Details to follow – at some point.

    There’s a new decal on the window of the former Grant’s space at 977 Farmington Ave. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

  • Work is ongoing on the Ulta Beauty store at 1553-1559 New Britain Ave., and the Town Council is scheduled to hold a public hearing and then vote on some changes to the landscaping plan. The plans for the store, which is a Special Development District, were approved by the Town Council last November. I had not even driven through that area in quite a long time, but although COVID has likely delayed things, there has been a lot of work done on the future Ulta space already. The requested landscaping changes involve incorporating many of the existing trees rather than cutting them down.

    Work is underway for the opening of Ulta, at 1553-1559 New Britain Ave. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

  • While I was traveling to the edge of West Hartford, I briefly left the boundary of West Hartford and saw that Pure Hockey is now open between to soon-to-open Ulta and the soon-to-close (see below) Bed Bath & Beyond store. I never know what town I am in when I am in that area, but according to the website, Pure Hockey is in Farmington, at 1603 Southeast Rd. The store sells – you guessed it – everything hockey-related.

    Pure Hockey is now open next to Bed Bath & Beyond on the West Hartford/Farmington line. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

  • I usually save the sad news for the end, but it’s part of the same shopping center so it makes more sense to include it here. Bed Bath & Beyond is closing four Connecticut stores, including the Farmington location. I of course had to pop in to do some shopping when I was taking a photo, and a store employee told me that the closing will not happen until January 2021, but once the news was announced a few days ago, people are shopping as if it’s happening immediately. As of now, the Bed Bath & Beyond stores in Wethersfield, Manchester, and Simsbury will be remaining open.

    Bed Bath & Beyond is closing four Connecticut stores, including the one in Farmington. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

  • One more piece of news from the West Hartford/Farmington (and New Britain/Newington) line area: Sally’s Beauty Supply is opening in October next to Aspen Dental, along the strip of stores that includes TJ Maxx and Burlington Coat Factory.

    Sally’s Beauty Supply is opening next to Aspen Dental in the shopping center where LA Fitness is located, just over the West Hartford line into Farmington. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

    Photo credit: Ronni Newton

  • September is Pulmonary Fibrosis Awareness Month and Diane Couture, owner of Yoga From the Heart, will lead the second annual “Yoga for Pulmonary Fibrosis” event on Sunday. Sept. 27, at 8:30 a.m. in Blue Back Square (see flier below) in honor of West Hartford resident Mal Doyle and all who suffer from the disease. “I have found that running a business during a pandemic, and a yoga business to boot, takes a willingness to be flexible and a dedication to what your mission really is. I found it very easy to get caught up with keeping the business afloat, until I stood back and asked myself why are you doing this?? When that mission, ‘to help others’ stays in my heart and comes to fruition, that’s really all that counts,” Couture said in an email. Blue Back Square lights, and the lights illuminating the fountain at the Delamar Hotel, have been blue throughout the month to raise awareness for pulmonary fibrosis.
  • Another option fo emissions testing is now available in West Hartford. Lyons Service, located at 1056 New Britain Ave.,  is now doing Connecticut Emission Testing. The testing is available Monday through Friday from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. and Saturday from 8 a.m.-1 p.m. Call 860-236-2593 with any questions.
  • Congrats to Anthony Vidal, owner of West Hartford’s Massage Envy, who has been named the company’s “National Franchisee of the Year.” In addition to the West Hartford location, Vidal is the owner and operator of the Farmington and South Windsor Massage Envy locations. Beth Stiller, CEO of Massage Envy said in a news release that this award is an opportunity to recognize an exemplary franchisee within the Massage Envy network. Stiller said Anthony and his team go beyond simply achieving operational excellence – this franchisee also leads the others on delivering on the company’s brand promise of helping people feel their best. For Vidal, helping people achieve personal wellness is his life’s mission.“This is a fiercely competitive industry – what sets you apart are your people. They are the experience. I have a team of 120 highly skilled therapists who have expertise in dozens of disciplines. They know that every customer is unique and they are able to deliver experiences that meet the specific needs of each and every client,” he said in a statement.

    Courtesy photo

  • Gilley Kitchen & Bath vacated their storefront at 16 LaSalle Rd., and while it appeared from the sign that Stone Howley Architects is moving into the space, they have actually been sharing the space with Gilley Kitchen & Bath and are now looking for other space in West Hartford, Linda Micale Howley said in an update Monday morning. For more information about the company and the services they offer, visit the Stone Howley website. [This item has been updated.]
  • I’ve been doing it since long before it became common practice, but West Hartford has been rated as the the best city for remote workers to call home in Connecticut by Zippier.com. “We set out to uncover the most affordable cities with speedy fast internet. West Hartford has everything remote workers need to thrive, Zippia.com said in a news release. The details can be found here
  • ICYMI, the former UConn West Hartford campus, now owned by Ideanomics/Fintech Village, is officially on the market, listed by Colliers International, while the town continues its due diligence process in consideration of purchasing the property. Click here for the complete story.

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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  • Ronni, sorry to hear about your Covid scare with your Dad, but happy to hear it was a false positive – My own 92 year old father passed in April of Covid in NYC – You are very fortunate not to have to go through this!

    In other news, I’m not sure if you have heard this, but my stylist told me that Salon Medusa in Bishop’s Corner is closing at the end of the month. Fortunately my stylist is moving to another location in Bishop’s corner.

    I am very sad about the Bed Bath and Beyond near the mall closing – It was always pretty busy so it doesn’t make sense to me that they’re closing that one but leaving some others open. That one had health and beauty aids in it from Harmon Discount – Now I will have to travel to the Wethersfield store to find them.

    • Thanks, Renee! I’ll follow up on Salon Medusa because I had not heard that. I’m very sad about Bed Bath & Beyond as well, and I have been a frequent customer at that store. The health and beauty section is great! They will be open through the end of the year, and I hope they keep it stocked through then.

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