A round-up of openings, closings, and other news about West Hartford businesses.
By Ronni Newton
I hope everyone enjoyed the beautiful weekend! Saturday and Sunday mornings definitely had a fall feel.
It cleared up Friday afternoon just in time for the Conard vs. Farmington boys soccer game, where I went to take photos and even wrote a brief story. (Click here to read it.) My son had been asked to be the announcer for the game – his first time ever doing something like that – and I also couldn’t resist observing his debut, which was great!
Ted and I had an experience Friday night we hadn’t had in more than 18 months – live theater, indoors! To be admitted we presented our vaccine cards and ID, and we wore masks at all times, and it was wonderful to be back at Playhouse on Park. We throughly enjoyed the timely comedy, “Two Jews Walk into a War.”
We went to the UConn football game on Saturday, and it was definitely the most exciting game they’ve played in a few years. While the Huskies weren’t able to pull out the win in the end, they were in it until there were 4 seconds left on the clock. I now have hope that they will win a few games this season, and no matter what also think it’s important to support the team for their hard work.
This Saturday night’s dining adventure was a trip to GastroPark, and it was fun to be able to have Millie (who had been home alone all day) accompany us. I love the new swing seat, and the inside bar looks great, too.
When Millie gave me that look, I couldn’t resist sharing a bit of my Craftbird chicken with her.
I had a number of meals outside of the house last week (one of which was at Fuego Picante, see bullet point below), including meeting a friend for breakfast at DORO Marketplace. It’s a good thing my foot seems healed and I am back to running, which only partially makes up for what I have been eating lately!
Please note asterisks are below between the intro and the bullet points in an attempt to provide more visual separation. From time-to-time I hear from readers that they really have no interest whatsoever in my life and that I shouldn’t bother writing this introduction, or I should put it at the end. (Others tell me they really enjoy reading it and that they enjoy the personal touch. Businesses also appreciate it, and I should add that Ted and I purchase our season subscription to Playhouse on Park with no discount, and we pay for all of the meals that get featured in this space.) If a majority want me to nix the introduction I’m fine with doing that, and please let me know.
I’m hoping that a clearer separation, however, will make it easier for those who just want to read the items included under the bullet points.
To all readers, please note that this is a column, and the writing style is intentionally more casual than it would be in an article. Much of it is also written in first-person – not just the intro, but also the information provided in the bullet points. The material contained in this column is gathered from a wide variety of sources, and clearly referenced (with a link if possible) if it’s based on a report from other media. I am fully aware that this column also often serves as an easy supply of story ideas for other media outlets (that very occasionally credit we-ha.com), and it’s also often is used to create leads for companies that are looking to provide services for new businesses. Sometimes I hesitate to put news in this column if it’s not yet a fully-developed story, but rarely do I actually hold things back (unless asked to by a business owner) because readers have come to count on learning something interesting from this column.
Please continue to support our local businesses, wear your masks indoors (regardless of vaccination status) – and stay safe and healthy.
If you have information to share about local businesses, please provide details in the comments or email Ronni Newton at [email protected].
Here’s this week’s Buzz:
- The beer is brewing and the coffee is roasting, and very soon the community will be able to sit down and enjoy either – or both – when WeHa Brewing & Roasting Co. opens its doors at 141 Shield St. in the Elmwood section of West Hartford. Cody McCormack (the man behind the coffee roasting, at left in the feature photo at the very top) said he’s expecting town inspections this week and if all goes well the official opening won’t be long after that. I’ve been in touch with McCormack since just after he wrote his business plan nearly three years ago, and have also shared in this column that after plenty of experimenting, followed by attendance at a training program in Minneapolis, he had launched the WeHa Roasting Company part of the business. Through a cottage food license, he has been roasting and selling Blue Back Blend and The Center Blend, as well as single-origin coffees since “before COVID.” The brewing (beer brewing, that is) side of the business is the domain of his business partner and head brewer Will Gorry, most recently of Cold Creek Brewery in Ellington. He’s ably assisted by assistant brewer Taite Puhala. (As an aside, it was fun to learn that Gorry met Puhala when he worked at a bar in Springfield that she visited with her father, Jim Puhala, who has worked with my husband at MassMutual for years.) Also assisting at WeHa Brewing & Roasting are Gorry’s husky, Mosaic (who agreed to pose for a photo), and McCormack’s terrier, Logan (who true to his breed did not want to sit still) – the namesakes of “Mo and Lo,” one of two IPAs that will be on tap when the bar opens. The other – Shield Street IPA – is in honor of their location. A sour, kolsch, and wheat beer, all made by WeHa Brewing & Roasting, will be on the initial menu, as will a local cider made by New England Cider of Wallingford. Wine will be served as well, and eventually all 16 taps will be in use, some with beers blended with coffee that are in development. Across the room is a coffee bar, with a full menu of drip coffees, Spanish latte, regular latte, cappuccino, cold brew, and nitro cold brew. Seating in the main area (which accommodates 75) is at beer hall tables and some smaller tables, as well as at the coffee and beer bar, and at the window with a view of the roasting area. There is also overflow space for another 25-30, which can be rented for private events. A patio is part of the future plans. McCormack said a full kitchen, to be operated by chef Andrew Brow (of HighBrow Wood Fired Kitchen and Bar in Northampton, MA), is about a month off, but in the meantime patrons can order delivery from local restaurants (menus will be provided) and he plans to have food trucks on site. A local bakery will provide breakfast fare to complement the coffee. The brewery operation is a seven-barrel system, and there are five 15-barrel fermentation vessels, allowing for 15 barrels of beer to be brewed at a time, McCormack said. The beer is already available for sale in 1/6 and 1/2 barrels. (Contact them through the website if interested.) It’s been a long haul – McCormack has been searching for a location since the spring of 2019 – but he is so thankful for the town’s assistance, and for their investment in improving the Elmwood neighborhood. He’s very excited to be part of the area’s renewal efforts. A few more photos are directly below, and even more are at the end of the column. I’ll be back with a feature story once everything is up and running, and you can also follow @wehabrewingco and @weharoastingco on Facebook and Instagram for continued updates.
- I learned over the weekend that Toro Mexican Street Food has just opened very softly and quietly at 22 Raymond Road, and today is their official opening! I stopped by Sunday afternoon to see the inside and grab a menu – which features a variety of tacos and other small bites (with family meal options available), burritos, bowls, burgers, and salads. Like all of the restaurants owned by Tony Camilleri and his partners, the menu is 100% gluten free (the burgers are served on rolls, but they are gluten free potato rolls). They don’t have a liquor license yet, but Mexican cold brew is on tap (booze is coming soon the menu states), and they also have agua fresca and Mexican sodas. You can view the menu on Toasttab.com and order either pick-up or delivery online, or call 860-773-4004 to order, and follow Toro Mexican Street Food on Facebook and Instagram (@toro_mexcian_street_food) for updates. I’ll be stopping by very soon to sample the food and do a full feature story!
- I mentioned last week that it appeared Aroma Body & Foot Massage was getting ready to open, and then a few days later a “grand opening” sign appeared in the storefront in the Central Building at 970 Farmington Ave. in West Hartford Center. Owners Sharon and Vinny, who also own a location in Watertown, previously told me that the West Hartford spa will provide the same services, specializing in aromatherapy and reflexology. According to their website, “Aromatherapy massage is massage therapy with essential oils added to the massage oil or lotion. Some of the health benefits of aromatherapy include its ability to reduce anxiety, ease depression, boost energy levels, speed up the healing process, eliminate headaches, boost cognitive performance, induce sleep, strengthen the immune system, reduce pain, improve digestion and increase circulation.” Reflexology involved applying pressure to the reflexes on the feet, with the goal of promoting overall good health, improving circulation and reducing swelling, improving mood, and according to the website, “if done carefully, it treats pains and aches such as headaches, migraines, neck pain, lower and upper backaches.” For more information about the West Hartford location, call 860-906-1525.
- Something that I think is going to be very fun is coming to the Delamar Hotel this winter. An agenda item indicates that the town planner is going to approve an administrative amendment to the Delamar Hotel’s Special Development District (which is permitted based on the nature of the request, and the Town Council just needs to be advised) – and this update is for a skating rink and winter holiday market on the property. According to the request made to the town by Greenwich Hospitality Group, owner of the Delamar Hotel: “Igloos will be located in the restaurant garden area, to allow for outdoor dining. An ice-skating rink will be located in the center of the lawn. A series of concession stands will be placed around the rink, featuring local merchandise, food and beverages, and games for children. The exact mix will depend on the success rate and interest from various vendors once the program is marketed through various local and regional PR platforms. Additional lighting will be provided to enhance the current lighting sources, as well as speakers to allow for thematic ambiance respecting local noise ordinances. The intended start date for the program Monday of Thanksgiving week, ending March 1 of the following year. Based on the success of the program, we would like the option to extend the operations through the end of March, to be assessed on a year-by-year basis. The intended hours of operations are 3pm to 9pm weekdays, and 12pm to 10pm on weekends.” The rink will be placed on the lawn, adjacent to where the outdoor fireplace is now.
- The sign is up, and an employee of Best Cleaners I spoke to when I stopped by to take a photo said the business hopes to open by Oct. 18, pending arrival of some machinery (they do some of the pressing on site) that is on back order. Best Cleaners will be located in the storefront at 17 Sedgwick Rd., which was occupied by Sedgwick Cleaners for many years, and then briefly (for less than a year) by Victoria Cleaners in 2017. Best Cleaners is owned by Shawn McCann, and has been a family-owned and Connecticut-based business for more than 65 years. According to their website they have 12 other locations, offer delivery, same-day service, and utilize the “environmentally-friendly GreenEarth cleaning method.”
- As first reported in the Hartford Business Journal last week, LaSalle Road Partners LLC has put its remaining West Hartford Center properties up for sale. The properties for sale, purchased from Sinatro Brothers in 2015, include 52 LaSalle Road (where Cookshop Plus is located) as well as 76-78 LaSalle, the strip to the south that ends with Restaurant Bricco, and 977 Farmington Ave. (where Westfield Bank at the soon-to-open Sparrow are located). LaSalle Road Partners purchased all of the former Sinatro buildings for $17.6 million, and previously sold 991 Farmington Ave. for $6.7 million in February 2020. I spoke with Dan Joseph, one of the principals with Corridor Ventures (which partnered with Rockport Investments and Tecca Ventures to form LaSalle Road Partners LLC), and he confirmed that the properties are on the market, but there is no sale price. “It’s so preliminary. We’re just trying to understand what our options are,” Joseph said. “We’re proud of what we have accomplished, our tenanting,” he said, adding that they will be happy either way. And even if they sell, Corridor Ventures will still have a major investment in West Hartford. They are 50/50 partners with Lex-Laz LLC for the One Park Road apartment development project now underway at the corner of Park Road and Prospect Avenue. “We’re fully committed to the success of that project. It’s a great location. … We’re very excited about what the future holds there,” Joseph said, noting that the project is “really transformative.”
- Oktoberfest season is here, and local events include continuing celebration at Parkville Market (just over the line in Hartford) through Sunday, Oct. 3. “Much like the traditional festival in Germany, Parkville Market’s Oktoberfest will be market-wide and will feature two weeks of festivities, including some family-friendly events,” a news release states. Weekday events include daily beer specials and entertainment, and on Friday there will be a Biergarten with four local breweries pouring on site and live music. On Saturday a “OK-To-Beer-Fest” (tickets required) will include additional festivities. Tickets and more information can be found here. On Sunday there are outdoor pop-up shops and family entertainment. Oktoberfest will also be celebrated with beer and brats at Wurst Haus (37 LaSalle Rd.) outside on Oct. 15-16. Click here for more details.
- ICYMI, there were a number of important business stories published last week, including details about Wednesday’s free community resource and job fair hosted by the Town of West Hartford and West Hartford Chamber of Commerce. Click here for all of the information.
- Fuego Picante has expanded from their food truck operation to also open a brick and mortar restaurant at 280 Park Road. Read about it here.
Remember, if you have any business news to share, add it in the comments section below or email Ronni Newton at [email protected].
Like what you see here? Click here to subscribe to We-Ha’s newsletter so you’ll always be in the know about what’s happening in West Hartford! Click the blue button below to become a supporter of We-Ha.com and our efforts to continue producing quality journalism.