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West Hartford Business Buzz: September 9, 2019

Freshii opens Monday at 54 LaSalle Rd. in West Hartford Center. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

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

By Ronni Newton

We-Ha.com is now 5 years old!

After a “soft-opening” period during the summer of 2014, where I was writing stories and populating the website and social media accounts with content, we officially launched We-Ha.com the day after Labor Day in 2014.

Since then, the site has been visited nearly 2 million times, and we have had about 8.9 million page views!

Thank you to all of our readers and supporters who appreciate the coverage of the community – business, police, community events and meetings, town government, schools, real estate, local sports, and more – that We-Ha.com has been providing and will continue to provide in the future.

The weather was beautiful this past weekend, and Saturday in particular was a whirlwind of events to cover that included a political tennis match, the Noah Webster House Real Ale Harvest Fest (story to come), and the 20th Annual Mayor’s Charity Ball.

Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Thankfully we had a relaxing day on Sunday, and took Millie for her first real hike – a short walk on the Metacomet Trail toward Rattlesnake Mountain. Even though she’s extraordinarily energetic, she’s still not even 4 months old and can’t walk too far, but we are hoping that she will enjoy hiking as much as we do!

Ted went to the grocery store on Sunday afternoon, and he came home with mums. He’s trying to convince me to embrace fall. The mums are pretty, but I’m not sure I am there yet.

Business news didn’t really slow down much this summer, but now that it’s September, things are picking up even more. Look for plenty of exciting news to come.

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:

Freshii opens Monday at 54 LaSalle Rd. in West Hartford Center. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

  • Freshii – a fast and fresh, mostly take-out food operation – opens Monday at 11 a.m. at 54 LaSalle Rd., in the former Engel & Voelkers real estate office. I stopped by to take a photo late Friday, and had the chance to meet owner/manager Frank Williams who along with his wife, Sue, purchased the franchise for West Hartford. I also got to taste a few of the dishes that they were making as samples for staff training! The Khao San burrito with steak (included brown ride, spinach, almonds, edamame, mushrooms, carrots, cabbage, and a spicy peanut and lemongrass sauce) was full of flavor, and very filling. The Smokehouse burrito (brown ride, aged cheddar, black beans, red onions  tomatoes, corn, and a spicy yogurt sauce) was also delicious. Freshii, which launched in 2005 now has more than 300 locations in 20 countries. Williams said he’s very excited to be part of the West Hartford Center community. “West Hartford is lacking in quick, healthy food options,” he said, and Freshii will fill that niche with affordable, to-go food. According to Freshii’s website, the menu is “constantly evolving. In fact, every 90 days we roll out a new item that incorporates the latest health and food trends. Our Lead Nutritionist is forever testing and tasting ways to make these trends as nutrient-dense, accessible and crave-worthy as possible.” According to the website, there are seven different menu categories: “bowls, burritos, salads, wraps, soups, smoothies & juices – and each one is full of innovation. We don’t say Eat. Energize for nothing.”

    Example of Mosaic Sun products. Courtesy of Nancy Samuels-Cowan

  • There’s some more exciting retail news for the Center! I was contacted by West Hartford resident and jewelry designer Nancy Samuels-Cowan last week, and she told me that she plans to open Mosaic Sun, a unique jewelry store that will offer handmade jewelry as well as small gifts and Judaica, in the former Beadoir/Toy Dog Gifts location at 968R Farmington Ave. (in the courtyard in the Brace Road parking lot across from Barb’s Pizza). Samuels-Cowan plans to open in mid-October, ad she said the store will be an improved and expanded version of Negev Sun, a business she began 14 years ago that features jewelry from Israel as well as her own designs. “More than 30 of Negev Sun’s designs have been featured in Robert Redford’s Sundance Catalog and more recently in Soft Surroundings stores across the nation,” Samuels-Cowan said. The curated jewelry selection will include “artisan, mixed metals, chunky, and minimal styles” from materials that include sterling silver, brass, gold-filled, bronze, vermeil, pewter, and more. There will also be a “design your own jewelry” section for customers to create their own unique necklaces, earrings, bracelets, key rings, etc. from a stock of pendants, charms, chains, etc. “I feel like there are limited creative outlets for adults and I am very excited to offer this feature which will allow my customers the opportunity to be part of the design process,” Samuels-Cowan said. Exact hours have not been set, but Samuels-Cowan said she plans to have the store open Tuesday through Sunday with extended hours until 9 p.m. on Thursday nights. See more photos of her designs, and a photo of Samuels-Cowan below.

    A sign is up for India Grill at the former East-West Grill on New Park Avenue. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

  • There’s a sign – actually a few signs – on the former East-West Grille building at 526 New Park Ave. indicating that India Grill is “coming soon.” It appears that there will be a patio for outdoor dining, but from what I could see when I peeked in the window, otherwise it doesn’t look like there have been any changes to the interior of the iconic building that was constructed in 1940 and in the past housed the Yankee Flyer Diner and Webster’s Barbecue Cafe. I have not been able to get in touch with the owner of India Grill to find out more details, but have been told that he is formerly an owner of Taste of India on South Main Street near the intersection with Sedgwick and Park roads. East-West Grille, which served Laotian/Thai food, closed at the end of 2018, but owner Manola Sidara’s food truck is still in existence.

    BK&CO Shoe Salon. Courtesy photo

  • BK&CO (983 Farmington Ave.) has expanded their “Shoe Salon,” just in time for fall, the owners said, to be sure that their clients are not only well-dressed but also well-heeled. “It’s a beautiful new space that showcases our expanded line of footwear and gives our clients the opportunity to finish their look with the perfect shoe or boot,” said co-owner Karen Herbert. The footwear business has been successful, and Herbert and co-owner Barbara Karsky have responded to the demand by devoting more square footage and expanding their brands to include Eileen Fisher, L’Artiste, Lines of Denmark, Reiker, Sofft, Børn and Naot, with styles that include animal print and floral booties, plaid tie-ups, bright and chunky sneakers, as well as embroidered and bejeweled styles . “We have grown that segment of our business steadily over the past 3 years since moving to Farmington Avenue, with sales increasing 53 percent this year,” said Karsky. Herbert attributes their success to combing the market for footwear that’s both on-trend and well-made, with special attention given to comfort. “We try on every shoe we consider before placing an order because we believe our clients appreciates a fabulous shoe or boot that’s also comfortable.” BK&CO will host a “try-on” event from Wednesday, Sept. 11 through Sunday, Sept. 15, with a chance to win a $150 gift certificate for those who try on any shoe or boot. Check the BK&CO website for upcoming trunk shoes and special events, or call 860-232-6225.

    The building where V-Mart intended to open has been sold, and some of the equipment is being auctioned. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

  • We first reported on the plans for V-Mart to open an Asian grocery store at 567-571 New Park Ave. several years ago, and work was moving forward but then stalled completely last year. I recently learned, through publishing the real estate sales, that the building has been sold, and reached out to Economic Development Specialist Kristen Gorski who confirmed that V-Mart will not actually be opening in the space. One of the business owners recently passed away, and they plan to just maintain the locations that are already open in Rhode Island. More to come about the new owner’s plans, but in the meantime there is going to be an auction of some of the fixtures and other property, including refrigeration. Check out GAbid.com or call 800-328-5920 for more details.
  • The Gastro Park project continues to move forward. The Town Plan and Zoning Commission has approved the site plan, but still pending is approval of a sewer easement. Updates to come!

    Heather Atkins. COUrtesy photo

  • Congratulations to West Hartford resident Heather Atkins, who has been hired as a financial advisor at Johnson Brunetti Retirement & Investment Specialists. “Heather is a valuable addition to our team of financial advisors by bringing a strong track record of strategic counseling, outstanding customer service and community engagement,” said Johnson Brunetti Managing Partner Joel Johnson, CFP. A graduate of Ohio State University, Atkins previously worked as a financial advisor for Libertas Wealth Management Group in Upper Arlington, OH, for five years.

    From left: Richard Robison, Eliot Gersten, Alan Parker. Courtesy photos

  • Congratulations to three West Hartford residents who are members of the law firm Pullman & Comley and have been included in the 2020 Edition of “The Best Lawyers in America” list: Eliot B. Gersten (Commercial Litigation), Alan S. Parker (Trusts and Estates), and Richard C. Robinson (Litigation-Construction). According to a news release, “Lawyers on The Best Lawyers in America list are divided by geographic region and practice areas. They are reviewed by their peers on the basis of professional expertise, and undergo an authentication process to make sure they are in current practice and in good standing. For the 2020 Edition of The Best Lawyers in America, 8.3 million votes were analyzed, which resulted in recognition of approximately 5% of lawyers in private practice in the United States.”
  • According to information received from a reader, Mike, longtime barber at Degra’s on Park Road, will be opening his own barbershop, Mike’s Barber Shop, at 12 North Main St. as of the beginning of October. More information to come!
  • Congrats to the Seniors Job Bank on its 40th anniversary! (My mother-in-law was actually its first executive director when the organization was founded.) Click here for more information about an upcoming celebration/fundraiser.
  • Best of West Hartford voting is live! Click here to vote for your favorite business in a variety of categories!
  • ICYMI, Pokéworks is now open in The Corbin Collection. Click here for the complete story.
  • The most recent Experience We-Ha podcasts focus on the real estate market in West Hartford and changes at Luna Pizza.

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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Example of Mosaic Sun products. Courtesy of Nancy Samuels-Cowan

Nancy Samuels-Cowan. Courtesy photo

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