A round-up of openings, closings, and other news about West Hartford businesses.
By Ronni Newton
We’re in the middle of summer. This is the time of year when I really want to slow down time, so I can appreciate the nice weather, the opportunity to eat virtually every meal outside, the slower pace.
For a few hours on Saturday, rather than enjoying the outdoors (it wasn’t all that nice outside), Ted and I cleaned out a section of our basement – a necessary task due to the forthcoming furnace replacement which will be preceded by asbestos abatement.
We uncovered some long-buried treasures (the Army trunk that had belonged to Ted’s grandfather which had been stored in a corner since Katie used it for a middle school project c. 2006), pint-sized ski equipment and a pair of boys hockey skates that had escaped donation years ago, some gently-loved toys, and a vast array of items still in really good shape that both kids had used in their college dorm rooms and apartments. They had their chances to keep whatever they wanted, and while we did hang on to some kitchen items, most everything else has now left the premises.
I hate holding tag sales (strong term, but I’ve had a bunch of them and don’t really want to do it again), and was really just looking to re-home what we no longer need. I was absolutely thrilled with the response to our “curb alert” on one of the Buy Nothing sites and Facebook Marketplace. We gave away some really good stuff that I know we could have sold (including an electric keyboard that my dad used to play, a vintage Atari game, a TV/DVD player that we used in our old mini van), but I was so happy to just have everything out of the house and in the hands of people who want and need them. A woman returning to teaching next fall messaged me about some items that had already been taken, but I was happy to check for and find something else we weren’t using that she picked up for her new classroom. Definitely a win-win.
I’m going to write this here, and down below, and continue to email all who try to post comments to stories with their first name only (or some made-up moniker): I will not publish your comment until you provide your full name! Once a commenter gets through the approval queue the first time, future comments are posted automatically, and there are some commenters who are grandfathered because this requirement is only a year or two old. I have emailed all who have tried to comment without complete names, and in every case they haven’t bothered to respond or provide their names. If there’s silence for a week, I delete the request. Just wanted readers to know.
After our basement cleaning project was complete, Ted and I enjoyed some beers and dinner at GastroPark. The Pad Thai and Drunken Noodles from East-West Grill’s food truck were a perfect ending to the day, and I was glad to snag a limited edition can of Hopcelot – which I like as much as Sip of Sunshine!
The state changed its COVID reporting a few weeks ago and while detailed reports aren’t issued daily the number of positive tests over the past week for each town is updated each day. The most recent report indicates 63 positive tests in West Hartford over the previous seven days – and that number, along with the positivity rate, has been slowly increasing, although case counts remain much lower than they had been earlier in the year. One day I hope to be able to delete this paragraph completely, but in the meantime, please continue to have patience since not everyone has the same level of comfort, continue to look out for each other, support our local businesses – 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].
Connecticut Physical Therapy Specialists is the sponsor of this week’s Business Buzz!
Here’s this week’s Buzz:
- The saga of the building in Corbin’s Corner that was built for and occupied by Jared the Galleria of Jewelry from 2014 through 2019 has taken another turn. Just a few weeks before the pandemic began (in February 2020), the Town Council had approved an amendment to the Special Development District for the property to allow the building to be demolished and a new structure built for BJ’s Restaurant and Brewhouse. That deal fell apart due to the pandemic. Then, in March 2022, a new plan was approved by the Council – minor changes to the existing structure but splitting it into two separate businesses, which were to have been occupied by New Haven-based Sally’s Apizza and Mediterranean fast casual restaurant CAVA. But in a unique turn of events, which I first heard about from a reader and verified with the property owner, Jared will actually be re-occupying the building. “I can confirm that Jared’s has notified Regency that they intend to reopen the store at Corbin’s Corner as early as this fall,” said Rebecca Wing, Vice President of investments for Regency Centers, the owner of the Corbin’s Corner Shopping Center, told me in an email. “We had begun planning to welcome Cava and Sally’s to the center after Jared’s had been closed for some time, and we expected it to remain so. At that time we pursued the building alterations we presented to the Town Council. The leases with Sally’s and Cava were contingent upon an election by Jared’s to return their space to us, which they have now chosen not to do,” Wing said. “Regency’s top priorities include maintaining a vibrant shopping center and supporting all of our retail partners, so we are pleased that Jared’s will be operating again soon. The downside is that we do not currently have any other space suitable for Cava’s or Sally’s. We will continue to look for opportunities in the future. The full façade and sidewalk renovation currently underway has generated increased interest in our center, so while space for new tenants remains tight, with only one space currently available, we are excited for what the future holds at the updated Corbin’s Corner.” That one available space is not able to be occupied by a restaurant, she said.
- Zach Shuman, managing partner of Union Kitchen, will be departing for warmer climes this August. Not that it’s not warm in West Hartford in the summer, but Shuman told me, “I’ve had enough of the winters. I’m done.” He’s a West Hartford native and Hall High School graduate, who has also lived in Boston and New York, but Shuman said the plans have been in the works for a while to move closer to family and close friends. They chose Tampa – where they have good friends, his wife, Julie, has cousins, and there is a major airport where flights to see other family members are no more than 3 hours in duration. Their other choices (where they also have family) were San Diego and New Orleans. “I wanted more opportunity. I’m only 36 and it’s time to jump on it,” Shuman said. Julie Shuman, an actuary, will be able to work remotely at her existing job, and their son, Blake is still in Pre-K so the timing is right for many reasons. As for Union Kitchen, Shuman will remain a partner and the day-to-day chef duties will be assumed by Tim East, who has worked with Shuman in the past and many may know from his Besito days. “He’ll keep the classics, but make it even better,” Shuman said, adding that East knows the Chicken Bolognese and half chicken are among the menu favorites and he’s not planning to make any bold changes. “We’re excited,” Shuman said. His house is under contract, and he’ll be leaving in mid-August, but will still be at Union Kitchen through Aug. 6. East begins at Union Kitchen today.
- Welcome to Glossed Salon, which held a grand opening – complete with champagne, gift bags, raffles, and sweet treats – Saturday night at their elegant space 970 Farmington Avenue (Central Building). For more information, visit their website.
- A sign on the window of Choice Pet in Corbin’s Corner indicates that they will be open daily (Monday through Saturday, 8 a.m.-9 p.m. and Sundays from 9 a.m.-7 p.m.) beginning today! The store is next to Bonchon (which is next to Trader Joe’s) and right in the middle of the area which is currently undergoing façade updates, but it is very much still accessible. It wasn’t open when I stopped by on Saturday, but I’ll be checking it out this week. Pets are welcome to visit and “shop” as well!
- Just past the Farmington Avenue reservoir and over the line into Farmington, Good Morning Bagels is now open! I noticed the sign on the new plaza that’s right near Central Wheel, and learned from social media that they were about to open. I saw the open sign last week on the way back from the dentist. Novocaine and eating bagels are not a good combo but I couldn’t resist stopping even though I had to wait an hour or two to actually sample what were delicious New York style bagels – crusty on the outside and soft on the inside. Good Morning Bagels is not a chain, but rather the new business owned by Ki Kim, the former owner of Pick & Mix in West Hartford. In addition to bagels – which are stamped with their sunshine logo (there’s even a rainbow bagel) – Good Morning Bagels has breakfast sandwiches, grilled cheese, cheesesteaks, snacks, and high-quality house-blend coffee. They’re still in soft opening phase so the full menu may not yet be available, Kim said, but the grand opening will be in a few weeks. Hours are Monday through Friday from 5:30 a.m. until 3 p.m., and weekends from 6:30 a.m. until 3 p.m. The address is 58 Farmington Ave., Farmington – and the entrance is actually around the back of the building. See the end of the column for more photos.
- Murals, murals everywhere! A new mural, painted by the extraordinarily talented Ben Keller, was commissioned for a portion of the Mane Loft building at 977R Farmington Ave. (the freestanding building in the parking lot), and it’s a beautiful addition to the space.
- Ben Keller is also the artist behind the mural on the front of the Juniper Homecare building at 1100 New Britain Avenue in Elmwood (as well as murals at Toro Mexican Street Food and the building next door on Raymond Road, some of the MLK29 murals, and many more) and he’s in the process of completing another mural on the side of the Juniper Homecare building. I ran into him Sunday afternoon when I stopped by to take a photo, and he said this project was all done with spray paint, and he’s been working on it for two weeks with hopes of finishing this week. Every time I see him work I am more and more amazed!
- I’ve gotten several questions from readers about the brick and mortar location of Fuego Picante (280 Park Road) and learned that it has been closed for roughly two months due to the inability to find proper staffing for both the restaurant and the food truck, owner Omar Bello told me. The food truck has been booked for events throughout July and early August, and Bello said he hopes to reopen the restaurant by the third week of August. Follow the Fuego Picante food truck’s Facebook page for the schedule of the truck’s location.
- Another local restaurant that is closed temporarily is Sunrise Country Kitchen (526 New Park Ave.) Owner Bob Dignoti posted the following on the restaurant’s Facebook page on July 4: “Hi All, I would like to give you all a heads up that sunrise country kitchen will be closing for the month of July and August and reopening the week of September 6th.We will be opening with a new and exciting menu along with our beer and wine license and also opening for dinner Wednesday through Saturday evenings. We appreciate all your support and look forward to seeing everybody in September. Please enjoy your summer and be safe.”
- Big Brother (adult mentor) Joe DuLutrie recently surprised his very happy Little Brother (mentee) Ocean, pictured below, with a free BMX bike. Joe, who lives in West Hartford, and 9-year-old Ocean, from New Britain, have been matched in the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Connecticut youth mentoring program since February of 2022. Joe is a project manager for The Hartford and Ocean, a student at the Environmental Sciences Magnet School in Hartford, is looking forward to entering the fifth grade in September. Joe reported that Ocean “loved” getting the bike. Every June for the past seven years, Realized Solutions Inc. of Southington has been donating bikes to kids enrolled in the programs of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Connecticut. In addition to receiving a free bike, the kids each receive a safety helmet to go along with the bikes. Prior to COVID-19, the bikes were assembled as a team-building project by Realized Solutions staff members at the company’s Southington office. Now, with so many people working remotely, the bikes are purchased and assembled at Biker’s Edge in Bristol. Over the years – thanks to the generosity of Realized Solutions – more than 70 Little Brothers and Little Sisters (mentees) enrolled with Big Brothers Big Sisters have experienced the thrill of pedaling around their neighborhoods on some very stylish rides.
- Congratulations to West Hartford resident Kadzo Kangwana on the publishing of her new book. “Noble Soul: A Guide to Spiritual Growth for Women,” is now available for purchase on Amazon, she said in a post on her Facebook page. “I am deeply humbled by the response it has received so far. Please share with every woman you care about, so we can expand the conversation about the links between our spirituality and our mental health, and we can ALL claim our birthright as noble souls.” The description on Amazon reads: “In this groundbreaking guide to spiritual growth, Kadzo Kangwana walks you through scientific research on the connections between spirituality and mental health. Using client stories and her own recollections, she also illustrates how mental health issues often have underpinnings in spiritual questions. Speaking to the challenges and opportunities of navigating life as women, ‘Noble Soul’ offers you a practical path for spiritual growth. It will transform your understanding of who you are and support you to become the powerful spiritual being you are intended to be. If you have ever wondered about how to grow spiritually, this book is for you.”
- The American School for the Deaf (ASD) announced in a news release that Shana Gibbs has joined the school’s Executive Leadership Team as Director of Diversity and Special Programs, beginning July 1, 2022. “Gibbs will lead the development and implementation of proactive diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives in alignment with the school’s mission and strategic plan. In addition to leading ASD’s Diversity Task Force, Gibbs will also oversee the school’s Source Interpreting program while supporting the continual development of the ASL/English Bilingual approach in the classroom. Gibbs joins the American School for the Deaf with an extensive background moderating thoughtful discussions on topics related to diversity, equity and inclusion. Her prior experience as a university lecturer, combined with her dual master’s degrees in Deaf Education and Educational Leadership and Policy, have prepared her with the skills and knowledge to design, develop and implement initiatives to support a successful learning environment for students. ‘Working with the American School for the Deaf,’ Gibbs explains, “will be an invaluable opportunity for me as an aspiring Deaf leader of color to invest my knowledge, experience and skills across the board.’ In addition to her vast educational background, Gibbs’ previous experience as a Deaf Interpreter and Interpreter Educator also provides her with firsthand knowledge about effective communication strategies for the deaf and hard of hearing community.” ASD established an internal Diversity Task Force in 2020. “I am excited to welcome Shana to the ASD family as our new Director of Diversity and Special Programs,” stated ASD Executive Director, Jeffrey Bravin. “Shana brings a powerful perspective about the important DEI work that will continue to move our community forward.”
- I wrote this above and I’m including it here, and I will continue to email all who try to post comments to stories with their first name only (or some made-up moniker): I will not publish your comment until you provide your full name! Once a commenter gets through the approval queue the first time, future comments are posted automatically, and there are some commenters who are grandfathered because this requirement is only a year or two old. I have emailed all who have tried to comment without complete names, and in every case they haven’t bothered to respond or provide their names. If there’s silence for a week, I delete the request. Just wanted readers to know.
- ICYMI, Oath Pizza is now open in Blue Back Square! I’ve already sampled several types of pizza, and hope to have some more at the ribbon cutting with the Chamber of Commerce this Thursday. Click here for the full story.
- ICYMI, more art/mural news – an initiative to bring more art to Blue Back Square is now underway (read the story here) and the West Hartford Art League has just issued a call to artists to paint a large scale mural on the side of 977 Farmington Avenue (full story 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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