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What Were West Hartford’s Top Stories of 2022 …

West Hartford sign. Photo credit: Ronni Newton (we-ha.com file photo)

As 2022 comes to an end, We-Ha.com looks back at West Hartford’s most read stories of the year.

By Ronni Newton

Happy New Year, and a hearty welcome to 2023!

As we bid an end to the past few years, I said how glad I was to put those years (both 2020 and 2021) in the rearview mirror. The past year has certainly had its ups and downs, and while there were several tragic events in late December, I’m happy to see that most of our top stories from the past year are about positive topics. (Readers can make their own judgement about the nature of the bear stories!)

As usual there were quite a few restaurant items topping the list of West Hartford stories and issues that attracted the most interest and attention, as well as a few Hollywood-related stories as well.

A few pieces of good news about our business this year: We-Ha.com was officially launched in September 2014, and now in our eighth full year of operation we’ve continued to see incredible growth in readership.

Last year at this time I noted that we had reached 2.9 million page views, and I said I was hopeful that we would top 3 million in 2022. I’m excited to report that as of Dec. 28, we achieved that goal with 3,070,719 page views from roughly 1.3 million unique visitors.

We have 13,429 Facebook followers, 4,346 Twitter followers, and despite my not doing a very good job updating it we have 3,284 followers of our Instagram account (@westhartfordite). Subscriptions to our free Monday/Wednesday/Friday email newsletter continue to grow as well.

We’ve had thousands of viewers on the Facebook Live roundtables that John Lyons and I have hosted, and we hope to have more regular shows and/or podcasts in 2023.

There are many more features we would love to be able to add to We-Ha.com, and we would also like to hire more freelance writers to provide additional perspective and cover more things happening in the community.

We-Ha.com is a small, locally-owned business. The site is primarily advertiser supported and we remain committed to providing our content without a paywall. And while I try to personally stay away from that side of the business, I firmly believe that an ad on We-Ha.com is one of the best ways to get exposure in the local market (there are a lot of eyeballs on the site, and the ads appear on all pages).

We are actively looking for a sponsor for our sports coverage to allow us to cover more teams and additional events, and we also plan to launch a sports-only newsletter in 2023. If you’re interested in the details of sponsorship, contact [email protected] or [email protected] for more information.

Because it’s tough to survive on the advertiser-supported model, last year we added a way for readers to provide direct support for our mission, and we thank those who have already contributed through PressPatron.com. At the bottom of this article, and at the bottom of every article (or in the top righthand corner of the home page), there is a “Become a Supporter” button. If you are able, we welcome your support.

Also, please don’t ever hesitate to email your suggestions or comments to me at [email protected].

Here are our Top 10 of 2022:

Fernando Ferro and Jane Owen in the kitchen of their West Hartford home. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

  1. Hollywood took top billing in 2022, but this story isn’t about a movie. ‘We Just Love It So Much’: West Hartford Chosen as New Hometown for Hollywood Couple, a feature story written in January about why public relations firm owner Jane Owen and her husband, film producer Fernando Ferro, decided to move with their young daughter from West Hollywood to West Hartford received more than 50,000 page views! As the family considered a place to raise their daughter, an important consideration and difference-maker was those accolades that West Hartford continues to receive, the write-ups as the “best place” to raise a family, the coolest suburb, the top-rated public schools, and the other “best” and “top” lists the town has been named to over the years. Both have been making their mark known in the Hartford area and supporting local nonprofits as well. Owen has been involving in organizing and promoting several fundraisers, and Ferro was recently named to the board of Theaterworks.
  2. This story was intended to be just a short and informative update, but Westfarms Signs New-to-Market Retailers and Announces the Return of a Longtime Favorite Brand, published in May and which summarized new and returning brands, must have somehow pleased the SEO algorithms because more than 31,000 people read it! All of the new brands mentioned have already opened their spaces, with the exception of Arhaus which is a much more extensive project but is now underway. I was excited to also break the news, more recently, that Jordan’s Furniture is planning to open a new store and experience in the former Lord & Taylor space at Westfarms and that construction work is already in progress.
  3. Animal stories are always popular with readers, and the shocking discovery by a West Hartford resident of a bear in his kitchen eating marshmallows, and the ensuing action captured on video, received more than 20,000 page views. The incident, Bear Discovered Inside West Hartford Home a Few Days After Raiding Garage Refrigerator, prompted the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection to set a trap for the bear, which had been a regular visitor to that particular home. DEEP’s efforts, however were unsuccessful. Just missing this year’s Top 10 list was another bear story – Bear Crashes 2-Year-Old’s Birthday Party in West Hartford – which had close to 10,000 page views when it was published in September.
  4. The opening of a new restaurant, the The Russell Brings Jamaican Flavors to West Hartford Center, is the No. 1 restaurant story of the year, received more than 1,700 Facebook Likes, and is in fourth place overall among top-read stories. Hugh Russell’s newest restaurant continues to be a crowd favorite, and writing this is a good reminder to me that I need to return very soon.
  5. On a very cold and March day, when the ground was appropriately covered with fresh snow, I braved the elements to check out the filming of a movie on Foxcroft Road. West Hartford Is the Scene for Hallmark Christmas Movie included photos of the set of “The Ghost of Christmas Always.” The Hallmark movie premiered right around Thanksgiving, and while movies in that genre are not my first choice, it was fun to see familiar scenes from West Hartford, as well as the Bushnell Park Carousel and other landmarks, in the film. I still haven’t had a chance to see “Call Jane,” which was filmed in West Hartford in 2021 (that story was on our Top 10 list last year) and premiered this fall, but it is definitely on my to-do list.
  6. The written word often has impact long beyond the original publication date of those words, and a blog post written by Adria Giordano as her daughter was first embarking on her college journey in the fall of 2021 comes in at No. 6 on our list of top-read stories in 2022 with nearly 13,000 page views this year alone! One Mom’s View … A Letter to My Daughter as She Leaves for College is heartfelt, touching, and includes timeless advice.
  7. I had a “wow, that’s cool” moment when the Metropolitan District Commission forwarded a video of its tunnel-boring machine emerging in West Hartford back in January. While I got some ribbing about the machine being much actually more interesting than my headline indicated, more than 12,000 read the story and watched the video in MDC Boring Machine Emerges from Tunnel in West Hartford.
  8. Business Buzz as a whole is the most well-read feature on We-Ha.com, but on its own the March 7, 2022 column, which featured the news that Sally’s Apizza and CAVA were planning to open in what was at the time the former Jared Jewelers space in Corbin’s Corner, on its own was No. 8 in our list of top stories of 2022. Those plans were changed when Jared, which still held the lease, decided over the summer to reopen in the space and indeed did open late this fall. The August 22, 2022 Business Buzz column, which featured the change in ownership at Harry’s Bishops Corner, was also among the top-read items of 2022. Both of those columns, as well as several others, had more than 10,000 page views.
  9. After a lengthy wait for the opening, our readers were excited to hear and read the long-awaited news that Sparrow Has Landed in West Hartford when the restaurant opened in early September. I’ve already visited multiple times, and look forward to many more meals to come!
  10. Rounding out our top-10 is another restaurant story, El Santo Sets New Scene for Mexican Dining in West Hartford Center. The restaurant opened on Cinco de Mayo, and the menu is the inspiration of accomplished chef Xiomara Zamudio, who is co-owner along with her husband, Daniel Chavez, as well as Luis Araujo, Yessenia Masias, Lilian Salinas, and Alejandro Polanco.

Hugh Russell, owner of The Russell, stands in front of a Bob Marley mural in the new West Hartford restaurant, located at 39 South Main St. The story about the opening was No. 4 on the list of top stories of the year. Photo credit: Ronni Newton (we-ha.com file photo)

A few other notable stories include restaurant news like West Hartford Restaurant and Chef Named James Beard Semifinalists (Cora Cora, and its chef, Macarena Ludena, were named semifinalists for prestigious James Beard Award in February) and West Hartford Ready to Celebrate Again – deters about the return of the full celebration of West Hartford’s signature festival after two years of pandemic-related modifications – were also among the most popular stories of the year. I’m glad that tragedies were not included among the top-10 this year, although the story of the Christmas morning crash that led to the death of Raheim Dantae Barry Nelson, 17, and his mother, Faye Dawson-Judkins, 52, as well as 55-year-old Novelette Bailey, was close.

I know there will be plenty of news to share in 2023, with a number of development projects on the horizon that I know about, plus other unanticipated happenings. We continue to try to find as many as possible positive “silver lining” stories to share along with the difficult news and I’m sure there will be plenty of great stories to tell in 2023.

I look forward to another year of bringing hyperlocal news to West Hartford!

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We-Ha.com is the place to go for the latest information about West Hartford – a town that "has it all"! We-Ha.com is part of and proud of our community, and we bring a hyperlocal focus to news and features about the people, schools, businesses, real estate, sports, restaurants, charitable events, arts, and more. Contact us at: [email protected] or [email protected].

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