A round-up of openings, closings, and other news about West Hartford businesses.
By Ronni Newton
On Tuesday, Dec. 21, at 10:59 a.m., winter officially will begin.
A guy named Curtis that I used to work with many (like more than 20) years ago used to announce on the summer solstice that things would “all go downhill from here” because the days started getting shorter, and on the winter solstice I would tell him that things would start improving. He’s long since retired and he and his wife raise chickens on a farm in central Virginia, but I still think of him on every solstice. We got a taste of winter with some chilly weather over the weekend (I’ve managed not to break into my hand warmer supply yet), and while I’m sure there will be many mornings over the next few months when I will start my day with coffee in my “Bah Humbug” mug, the promise of longer days is something to look forward to.
Now if we could only feel confident that the pandemic is going to end at some point …
Housekeeping note: We will have just two newsletters this week as well as next week. We will not have newsletters on either Christmas Eve or New Year’s Eve. There may not be much news to fill this column the next two Mondays either – but I’ll do my best to highlight whatever I can find!
Last week was jam-packed with press conferences (four of them!) and other events, including Sunday’s “Happy 100th Birthday” car parade to honor WWII veteran Ben Cooper, but other than the Board of Education meeting on Tuesday night, the next two weeks look to be a bit quieter in the news department.
Ted and I enjoyed a fantastic dinner at Frida on Saturday night, although sadly it was bookended by disappointing UConn basketball and Patriots games. As I wrote this paragraph on Sunday evening, with the UConn women’s basketball game on in the background, that one didn’t end well either.
Repeating my own goal again as a reminder (and I will admit that I have been doing a terrible job at following my own advice): I hope to take some deep breaths, and enjoy the sights, sounds, tastes, smells, lights, and spirit of the holiday season. And whatever holidays you celebrate, I hope you can do that, too.
Please continue to support our local businesses, wear your masks indoors if you are not vaccinated – 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:
- I mentioned a few weeks ago that Rasham Marketplace had partially opened for business in the former Cosmos International space at 770 Farmington Ave., and now they are fully open with not only a selection of fresh produce, Halal meat, spices, sweets, and specialty grocery items, but also a variety of to-go prepared foods. Talet Peracha (the family also owns Rasham Restaurant in South Windsor and his son, Talal, manages the marketplace) gave me a tour of the store on Sunday. Samosas and soups are prepared on premises, he said, and for now the other prepared foods are brought in from the South Windsor restaurant twice a day. There is fresh Halal beef, chicken, lamb, and goat, fresh produce, and a variety of frozen fish including shrimp and kingfish. Dairy items include a unique selection of yogurts and cheeses, as well as breads that you won’t find in a regular grocery store, Peracha said. The focus is on Pakistani and Indian foods, he said, as well as Middle Eastern, Persian, and some European grocery items. Some of the top sellers include lentils of all colors as well as a variety of teas, Peracha said. Fresh, warm samosas were featured near the register – which served as the perfect snack on a cold afternoon! “So far so good,” Peracha said about the reception Rasham Marketplace has received since opening last month. They are open daily from 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Many more photos can be found at the end of the column.
- EbLens had its grand opening at Westfarms last week – in time to take advantage of last minute holiday shopping. The store, which specializes in streetwear and sneakers, is located in the former Disney Store space on the upper level. More details can be found on their website. “I think it will complement our existing merchandise mix at Westfarms,” Amanda Sirica, a spokesperson for Westfarms, said previously.
- Dallas Dodge was reappointed last Tuesday night as Corporation Counsel at the Town Council meeting by a vote of 7-1, with Republican Mark Zydanowicz voting against the appointment. Zydanowicz said his vote was due to his opposition to increasing the salary associated with the position from $58,000 to $90,000 per year. Mayor Shari Cantor noted that the model for corporation counsel has been in place for many years, but the demands of the position have changed dramatically. “Almost everything touches corporation counsel’s office,” she said, and being able to have Dodge’s expertise saves seeking outside counsel, which is pricier. She said Dodge has spent many hours responding to pandemic-related needs including interpreting executive orders from the governor, and also played a key role in negotiating plans for One Park and the town’s Pension Obligation Bonds. “Going forward we already have a full docket of economic development,” Cantor said.
- HartfordBakingCompany, which has its roots in West Hartford, has now opened a Farmington location at 767 Farmington Ave. in the historic Farmington Village, in the space formerly occupied by Truffles Bakery. “We are thrilled to be open in time for the holiday season,” HBC President Scott Kluger said. “There’s something so special about this time of year, and December is the perfect season to enjoy a cozy latte and a freshly baked cookie. We look forward to offering the same high quality, low fuss, artisan baked goods and sandwiches to the Farmington community that we have established in our West Hartford and Glastonbury stores.” The family-owned and operated business, founded by Scott Kluger in 2010 using recipes his mother had tested and developed to sell at Billings Forge Farmers Market, has a West Hartford location at 965 Farmington Ave. in the Center, and scratch bakes its artisan bread and other goods nightly in their bakery location in Bloomfield. In addition to locally brewed coffee, breakfast sandwiches, lunch items, artisan bread but the loaf, and pastry such as scones and muffins, catering will also be offered at the Farmington location, as well as delivery within a select radius. For more information on the company, visit their website.
- Best Cleaners, a family-owned business which recently opened its West Hartford location (the company’s 14th store) at 17 Sedgwick Rd., wrapped up its 13th annual Coats for Connecticut campaign in December, having collected, cleaned and delivered over 8,000 donated coats to The Salvation Army and other local area shelters. The family-owned dry cleaning and tailoring business kicked off the community effort a week earlier than previous years and with an increased focus on getting as many donated coats as possible out to struggling families before the first freeze. The general public was urged to gather up coats that were in good condition but no longer worn and drop them off at any one of Best’s 14 locations from Nov. 4-12. All donated coats were cleaned for free by Best and delivered to centralized Salvation Army drop sites where volunteers sorted the coats for distribution directly to those in need throughout the state. The total value of this year’s coat donations and cleaning services is estimated to be more than $345,000, the company said in a news release. “This year, given that we are all still feeling the impact of the pandemic, we are truly, truly grateful for all those who stepped up and donated coats, for our campaign partners’ ongoing support, and for our extraordinary staff that put in the extra effort to get all those coats cleaned and delivered during one of our busiest times of year,” Best President Shawn McCann said.
- The patio renovation at Fleming’s appears to be complete, and look for the greenhouses to be ready for dining soon. An expanded patio was also created in front of the vacant restaurant space next door (former Balos), but as of yet there is no lease for that space.
- West Hartford residents, Dennis and Mary Keenan, and Ann E. Thomas and Michael B. Bonzagni, received 2021 Hands & Hearts Appreciation Awards from Wheeler for their outstanding support of the organization’s mission. The honors were presented at Wheeler’s 11th Annual Hands & Hearts event, held virtually, on Dec. 8, the organization announced in a news release. The Hands & Hearts Appreciation Award tradition honors individuals and families, corporations, and foundations for helping Wheeler to provide equitable access to innovative care that improves health, recovery, and growth at all stages of life. Wheeler has recognized more than 70 philanthropists since the inception of this event. “These very special individuals have a long history with Wheeler and helped shape the early direction of our organization and guided us through significant periods of change,” said Sabrina Trocchi, PhD, MPA, president and chief executive officer, Wheeler. “Their contributions remain very much in tact today, most notably, the idea of integrating care and services to treat needs of the whole person,” she added. “This past year, especially, as individuals and families experienced unprecedented hardship, these recipients stepped up and made significant investments in our Basic Needs Fund,” said Trocchi. “We are tremendously grateful for their generosity, vision, and continued commitment to Wheeler.” A former executive director of Wheeler for two decades, Dennis Keenan led the organization through significant growth, with a $1.7 million budget in 1978, to $12.5 million at the time of his retirement in 1998. Dennis started his career at Wheeler as head of Northwest Village School in 1974. He and his wife, Mary, are generous investors in Wheeler’s work, supporting the Basic Needs Fund, Northwest Village School, and providing a vision for innovative ways to grow, through their own gifts and through the Main Street Community Foundation. An independent non-profit consultant and former Wheeler board chair from 2007 to 2009, Ann Thomas oversaw the leadership transition between the late David Berkowitz and Wheeler’s past President and Chief Executive Officer, Susan Walkama, LCSW. This past year, she and Michael Bonzagni made a significant investment in Wheeler’s Basic Needs Fund, further enhancing the organization’s ability to meet the basic needs of underserved individuals and families.
- On Dec. 20, 2021, Trinh Law (located in Blue Back square), Common Good Real Estate (a West Hartford-owned real estate investment company), and Kraftsmen Roofing (Windsor based roofing company) will be sponsoring a holiday “BikeBuild” at New Park Brewery (485 New Park Ave.) for a local Hartford elementary school. Sixty-five bikes will be built by local volunteers and the bikes will be donated to the entire first grade class at the school. The build will take place from 5-7 pm. The bikes will be donated on Dec. 21, so they can be holiday gifts. This event is being held in partnership with Cand’Aid, “a nationally recognized nonprofit that rallies volunteers from all walks of life to build thriving communities” and we, as local business owners, have partnered with them for the good of our local community. To participate in the bike build, click here to register.
- West Hartford-based ProCourier, Inc. has acquired Hartford Courier Services LLC effective Dec. 1. Hartford CourierPresident Sean Murphy will stay on during the transition, the company said in a news release. “Hartford Courier’s strong downtown base of customers meshes perfectly with ProCourier’s capabilities,” said Michael Gualtieri, ProCourier’s founder and president. “Our strength is in providing same-day courier services, next flight out services, and expedited trucking service throughout the Northeast. ProCourier has doubled sales volume since 2019. Adding a company with a concentrated focus on Hartford strengthens our local delivery capabilities and provides current Hartford Courier customers with expanded, customized services.”
- Congratulations to West Hartford resident Melissa Weinstock, owner of grace+GRIT, on the fifth anniversary of starting her business. She reached the milestone last week, noting how grateful she is to the supportive community. Grace+GRIT, which offers yoga attire and athleisure clothing and accessories, is located inside The Yoga Shop West Hartford, 345 North Main Street in Bishops Corner. They are open during studio hours, by appointment, and Tuesdays from 3-6 p.m. and Thursdays from 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Hours have also been expanded through Christmas.
- Freshii has closed its location on LaSalle Road for good. I don’t have any details, but there was a sign on the door thanking customers for their patronage over the past two years. They previously had a Hartford location as well, but according the Freshii website that location doesn’t appear to be open anymore either.
- ICYMI, the Town Council has appropriated more than $6 million of American Rescue Plan Act funds. Click here to see how those funds will be spent.
- There are a few more days to drop unwrapped toys off at Stop & Shop as part of the CT Lottery‘s “Give a Child a Toy, Not a Ticket” toy drive to benefit Connecticut Children’s Medical Center. More than 6,000 toys were dropped off at Connecticut Children’s West Hartford warehouse last week. Details here.
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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