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West Hartford Business Buzz: September 7, 2020

Toro Loco Casita will be opening at a long-vacant space at 22 Raymond Rd. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

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

By Ronni Newton

“Nobody on the road. Nobody on the beach. I feel it in the air. The summer’s out of reach. Empty lake, empty streets. The sun goes down alone …” (Don Henley’s “The Boys of Summer”)

I can’t start a Labor Day Business Buzz column without that song, which I always start humming to myself around this time of year, and it always makes me sad.

While Labor Day is also the unofficial end of summer, as usual I will hold onto summer until the autumnal equinox, which this year is 9:30 a.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 22. Until then I will keep wearing my white pants (I may just wear them well into fall), and ignore anything pumpkin spice. I’ll probably lose the battle with my husband regarding purchasing mums (we have some empty planters that really need flowers), but maybe we can stick to yellow, which is still a summery color.

Interior of Parkville Market. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

This was a great weather weekend, and we spent as much time as possible outside. We ate pretty much every meal on our patio, with the exception of attending a small family barbecue on Sunday and Saturday night when Ted and I made our first visit to Parkville Market.

Yes, we left West Hartford (by maybe a mile), and we will definitely be going back there again. It was so hard to choose what to eat, but we started speaking with Michelle Maturo (formerly of Harry’s Pizza), who owns the The Twisted Italian Cafe booth along with her husband, Mark, and Ted sampled their meatball grinder, which was delicious! Sampled is probably the wrong word, because it was so big that I could have made four meals of it. (Ted turned it into two.)

Meatball grinder from The Twisted Italian. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

I decided to go in a totally different direction and got the jerk chicken from Jerk Shack – and that was great, too.

There was plenty of seating inside (very well spaced and when we were there late Saturday there were empty tables) as well as lots of tables set up in the parking lot, where they had live music, too.

Don’t forget that trash and recycling pick-up is delayed this week. Details can be found here.

Despite this being a holiday weekend, this is a jam-packed Business Buzz column today with lots of good news, but a few pieces of sad news as well.

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 Spanish/Mexican restaurant Toro Loco took over the old Wood ‘N Tap space on Route 4 in Farmington last year, and is preparing to expand to West Hartford in a very big way! I was so excited to hear the news from owner Tony Camilleri that he – and partners Stretch Altenhein (owner of Nautilus Tattoo) and James LaFond (Owner of Grey Matter IT) – will be opening not one but TWO West Hartford locations! The former Petals and Paws space next to Whole Foods at 22 Raymond Rd., which has long been vacant and overgrown, will be the site of Toro Loco Casita, Camilleri said. The space is small, with seating (non-COVID) for about 20 inside, and he said the restaurant will “be a place where you can stop in for a quick bite,” and will also be geared toward to-go, delivery, and pick-up. Permit applications are in progress, and he’s hoping for a November opening, and next year will also have outdoor seating for 20-30. Toro Loco in Farmington is about 65% Mexican food and 35% Spanish food, but Toro Loco Casita will be more Mexican-oriented, and will be completely gluten free, which Camilleri said is a feature he plans to keep for all of the restaurants. “Everything we make is based on organic, non-GMO corn we get from Mexico,” Camilleri said, and they make their own corn masa dough, which is a “labor of love.” He said when he started developing the menu for Toro Loco, he got about halfway through and everything was gluten free, “I decided to stick with it,” he said.

    The former Park & Oak space will eventually become Toro Tavernia, but in the short term will provide takeout and delivery of Toro Loco Urban Street Food. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

  • The second new Toro Loco in West Hartford will be … in the former Park & Oak space at 14-16 Oakwood Ave. Building owner Gary Dinowitz said he was thrilled to have a lease signed the well-respected restaurant shortly after the property was vacated. Renovations to the dining room will be planned, including a mural by partner Stretch Altenhein,  but space will be used nearly right away, Camilleri said, with a to-go/delivery/pick-up menu of Toro Loco Urban Street Food as soon as Oct. 1. “All really good, hand-held sorts of things,” Camilleri said of the menu. “It will include a “really cool and fun spin on everything we do. We don’t serve burritos in our other restaurant, but we will there,” he said, but will include other cultural influences. “The ultimate fusion,” Camilleri said. The street food concept will continue in the Oakwood Avenue kitchen once the renovations are done and the official restaurant – Toro Tavernia – opens. That menu will be a mix of Spanish and Mexican cuisines, Camilleri, who was the executive chef at Barcelona for more than three years, said. “We really want to make it that cool neighborhood space,” he said of the Tavernia, a unpretentious space where you can grab a quick bite and beer while watching football, but also come for a great meal and a nice date night. Like Toro Loco Casita and the urban street food menu, Toro Tavernia’s menu will be completely gluten free

    Prima Facie Medspa is opening at 1000 Farmington Ave. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

  • The former b.kind space at 1000 Farmington Ave. was not vacant for long, and has already been transformed into Prima Facie Medspa, which will be officially opening in the next week or so. Dr. Cristina Martinez, a West Hartford resident and the medical director, said she is looking forward to providing personalized aesthetic services in a comfortable environment. “Our main goal is for people to feel like they are coming to see me in their home,” she said. Services, which are listed on the website, include PDO threads, injectables, PRP (plasma rich platelet therapy), and other skincare services. She said the target age for clients in mid-30s through 60s, but many in their mid-20s are now getting lip-fillers. Martinez, who is a nurse practitioner and said she has a doctorate from Quinnipiac and is board-certified in internal medicine, will be personally providing all of the injections. Martinez’s husband is an attorney in West Hartford and she said they selected the location in part because “I live in West Hartford and we love West Hartford.” Martinez also said she plans to launch a program to donate 5% of profits to a community charitable organization. People who are “taking care of their beauty needs have the ability to take care of themselves, and will also help others.” For more information, including booking an appointment, visit the website. See additional photos below.

    Panache has moved to 270 Park Rd. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

  • The upscale consignment store Panache has moved from 485 New Park Ave. to 270 Park Rd., the former location of the UConn Thrift Store, which closed in the spring due to the COVID-19 pandemic and never reopened. “Park Road has so much to offer. Coffee shop, retail shops, numerous restaurants. It is delightfully ethnic and interesting. We are thrilled with our new location,” Panache owner Marguerite Rose said. This coming week will be used for setting up the merchandise in the new shop, Rose said, and the official opening will be Sept. 15. Fall and winter consignments of high-end merchandise will also be accepted beginning Sept. 15, and anyone with questions can call or text  860-233-8103.

    DORO Marketplace opens Sept. 9. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

  • This is the week that DORO Marketplace will be opening at 1253 New Britain Ave. (the corner of New Britain Avenue and South Main Street). I got a sneak peek late last week but work was still being completed inside and there wasn’t any food ready to photograph. The details are being saved for a feature story to coincide with the opening on Sept. 9. Hours will be 6 a.m.-9 p.m., seven days a week, with breakfast, lunch, and dinner items available for take-out and dine-in, and patio seating is also available. Look for the complete story and photos this week.
  • West Hartford Lock has moved from Prospect Avenue (where they were actually in Hartford) to a much larger space, with much more available parking, at 11 Sherman St. in the Elmwood section of West Hartford. A ribbon cutting will be planned as soon as conditions permit. For more information, visit the website.
  • Managing partner Steve Abrams (who lives in West Hartford) will be back at the helm of Max Restaurant Group’s flagship restaurant, Max Downtown, which reopens for lunch and dinner on Wednesday, Sept. 9. There is now free parking provided in the adjacent City Place garage – meaning no need to go outside to reach the 185 Asylum St. restaurant. Visit the website for more details.
  • I want to give a special shout-out to my friend Dennis House, who parted ways with WFSB on Tuesday, the day after his 28th anniversary at the station. Dennis and his wife, Kara Sundlun, are very much a part of the West Hartford community, where, among other activities, Dennis has been a longtime coach of West Hartford Youth Football. I wish Dennis the best of luck in the next step in his career. Read more about his departure on The Laurel.

    Prospect Cafe has closed. Photo courtesy of Gary Dinowitz

  • I was so sad to read this message: “Sorry to report that the Prospect Café West Hartford has had to close effective immediately due to health and family reasons. The business is now for sale,” posted by building owner Gary Dinowitz on Facebook on Saturday. I remember how much excitement there was when I announced the reopening of the iconic 50-year-old neighborhood restaurant in 2015, after it had been closed for two years, but they have struggled to reopen since COVID-19, remaining closed for months and then only offering take-out, and only for pizza rather than the full menu. Dinowitz expressed optimism about the space at 345 Prospect Ave., however, which is located right across the street from what will be the new One Park Road apartment development (ground breaking should be in the next few weeks!). He said he has a few parties very interested in the now-former Prospect Café space, and hopes to have a deal as soon as the end of next week. Anyone else who is interested in the business can still contact Dinowitz at 860-306-6338. Update: On Wednesday, Sept. 9, Prospect Cafe posted the following on its Facebook page: “After much consideration we have decided to permanently close Prospect Cafe. We had hoped to weather the Covid storm but it has been relentless and uncertain. We wish to thank our wonderful friends, loyal customers and outstanding staff for your support over the past several years. Serving you has been a real pleasure. We wish you all the best, stay safe.”

    Poke-Man is now closed in Blue Back Square. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

  • Another recent closure is Poké-Man at 67 Memorial Rd. in Blue Back Square. I don’t have any details, other than that it’s closed and the phone just beeps when you try the number.
  • ICYMI, here’s the full story about Drink Mechanics, which offers delivery of craft cocktails and cookies in West Hartford and throughout the Greater Hartford area, in a truck that resembles the adult version of the ice cream truck.

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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Jerk Chicken from Jerk Shack at Parkville Market. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Interior of Prima Facie Medspa, 1000 Farmington Ave. Courtesy of Dr. Cristina Martinez

Interior of Prima Facie Medspa, 1000 Farmington Ave. Courtesy of Dr. Cristina Martinez

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