A round-up of openings, closings, and other news about West Hartford businesses.
By Ronni Newton
I’ve been enjoying a great vacation, and until Saturday had spent at least a few hours every day on the beach and am about to start my third book. It’s been hot by Nantucket standards (low 80s) and while it’s also been extremely humid, I know it’s nothing like the seemingly-endless heatwave back in West Hartford.
My sister arrived for a visit on Friday – when she luckily got some beach time – but Saturday was mostly cloudy, misty, and the winds were steady at above 20mph all day with the temperature barely at 70 degrees! After the recent weather we’ve been used to this summer, we were quite chilly!
Saturday was, however, a great day for checking out the new walking path to Altar Rock (the highest point on the island) and taking Millie out for lunch at her namesake restaurant in Madaket! And after a windswept beach walk, we had a very tired dog – which is a very good thing.
When we arrived here just over a week ago there were eight people and two dogs in the house, but after my sister left mid-day Sunday, and took Sam with her, it’s now just me, Ted, and Millie for a few days until we return to West Hartford.
My summers have followed the same pattern for many years, with a return from Nantucket meaning an immediate pivot into back-to-school mode. Since 2009, when Katie was starting high school and had Conard soccer tryouts, through Sam’s Conard soccer tryouts, to the start of college for both kids, there was a distinct leap from vacation into the end of summer. And in addition to getting my kids set for school, I would generally have a scheduled in-person meeting with Superintendent Tom Moore to talk about the new academic year, followed by attending convocation and a first day of school flagpole ceremony.
Now both of my kids are out of college, and while Sam is about to begin UConn’s Master’s in Public Policy program at the end of August, back-to-school is very different this year for us, and for pretty much everyone else.
Many college students are returning to campuses already – even though many will be attending their classes remotely – and while things will be different, I hope they are able to have fulfilling experiences. A major thank you – and best of luck – to this summer’s wonderful We-Ha.com interns, Dexter McCann (University of Wisconsin) and Melanie Grados (UMASS Amherst), who will be returning to college later this week.
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:
- I always want to feature good news in this column, and am glad to have some to report this week! I saw some posts from F45 Training on social media, and reached out to resident Lauren Lansing, who along with her husband, Bob, purchased the franchise for West Hartford and has been working since the winter to get the 33 Crossroads Plaza, Bishops Corner (former Judaica Store and a long vacant tobacco shop space) ready to open. “We should be done with buildout for WeHa in nine weeks and then we have some protocol with the team and F45 before we can open, so we feel pretty confident this fall,” Lansing said in a message. Her other exciting news is that she is already starting build-out for a location at 260 West Main St. in Avon (see photo of that location along with some other photos introducing the team below), which is an expansive 4,500 square feet (intentionally large to allow for plenty of physical distancing) and may even end up opening before the West Hartford facility. “We are so thrilled to have gotten the opportunity to expand! COVID-19 really set us back, but also gave us an incredible opportunity to buy additional franchises,” Lansing said. She said they have signed on to open two more territories in the next few years as well. The Avon location is right across from Walmart, Big Y, Russel Speeders car wash, and Fresh Market, and also near Imagine Float. “We picked this space during the pandemic, keeping in mind COVID-19 and wanting to provide the largest, safest workout space for our members! While the floors space in WeHa is equally large, the West Hartford and Avon members will have access to both studios to ensure there is plenty of space and you won’t be on a 2-week wait list!” Lansing said. For those not familiar with F45, it’s a high-intensity (HIIT) workout that includes circuit training, and is a great workout for people who are balancing fitness routines with a busy work and family life, said Lansing, who has two young children. The workouts, which according to the F45 website can burn up to 750 calories, build strength and endurance, and can be modified for participants of all fitness levels – from beginners to serious athletes. “We are for everyone – beginners, body builders, cross trainers, runners, people who get bored easily, those who need motivation, and those who want a personal training experience but can’t afford it,” Lansing said previously. The technology is one thing that makes F45 different from other programs, with eight monitors displaying the workouts at each station, leaving the coaches available to help participants concentrate on their form. Each class has two coaches, which allows for a “personal training experience in a group coaching class,” and it’s fun, really fast, and effective. In addition, the “team training” aspect of F45 encourages community. There are no mirrors, and there is no “ego attitude,” she said. For a free trial, click here. You can also stay updated via Instagram (@F45_training_WestHartford) or Facebook, or email Lansing at [email protected]. Founders’ rates should be available in early September, Lansing said.
- The JP Morgan Chase Bank branch is now open at 960 Farmington Ave. in West Hartford Center, in the space formerly occupied by Farmington Bank until it merged with People’s United. Chase Bank began an expansion into the Hartford area last year. The bus shelter right in front of the new Chase Bank branch is also getting a facelift, and is part of a West Hartford Art League public art project. New Haven-based artist Anna Loewenthal will be working on the shelter through the middle of September.
- In other banking news related to West Hartford Center, Westfield Bank, which has also recently opened a location in the Center (977 Farmington Ave.) announced in a news release that they are pleased to welcome Patrice S. Taffe as assistant branch manager and business specialist. “In her new role, Taffe is primarily responsible for small business development, including driving business deposit and loan growth, and assisting small business and commercial customers with deposit, credit, and electronic banking products. As part of a larger Financial Services Center, she is supported by bankers across all areas of the Bank including Business & Government Deposit Services, Commercial Lending, and Residential & Consumer Lending,” the release states. “Taffe has 18 years of experience in financial services. She began her banking career at First Niagara Bank as a Personal Financial Assistant and most recently was Assistant Branch Manager at American Eagle Financial Credit Union. She holds a bachelor’s degree from Central Connecticut State University. She is actively involved as a volunteer with the West Hartford Hunger Action Team and the Faith Tabernacle of Manchester. She currently resides in Windsor.”
- It’s tax-free week! Connecticut’s annual tax-free week began Sunday and runs through Saturday, Aug. 22, 2020. During the week, retail purchases of most clothing and footwear items priced under $100 are exempt from Connecticut sales and use tax, with the exemption applying to each item, not the total bill. “Having this tax–free holiday helps working families stretch their dollar a little bit more during the busy back-to-school season while giving businesses an extra boost to their bottom line,” Gov. Ned Lamont said in a news release announcing this year’s tax holiday. “This year, it will hopefully also help support some of our local businesses that continue to recover following the global health pandemic. I encourage everyone to support Connecticut’s locally-owned retailers and small business community – and do so safely by wearing face coverings and social distancing so we can continue doing our best to protect public health.” Lamont stressed that while shopping, the safety of retail employees and customers must remain a top priority. Adherence to the state’s reopening rules for retail establishments – which includes the wearing of face coverings, configuring of indoor spaces to maintain social distancing, and frequent hand washing and sanitizing of surfaces, among other best practices – will continue to help limit the potential spread of COVID-19.
- From Code Ninjas (176 Newington Rd. in Elmwood): While going back to school may be a totally new experience this Fall, at Code Ninjas West Hartford we know one thing that won’t change – the power of coding. Our local coding center is helping parents this back to school season by offering a new hybrid learning e-assistance program called POWER-UP. Designed for busy families, this program offers parents freedom to focus on the workday along with peace of mind knowing that their children are safe during the school day. “With your child’s health being our top priority, our center adheres to strict standards of safety and cleanliness, with proper hygiene and social distancing measures enforced by all staff throughout the facilities. This is especially important during this critical time,” said Tim Canlas, owner of Code Ninjas West Hartford. “We hope to be a solution for parents who are looking for a place for their children to attend a school-like structure during the day. Our Senseis will ensure your students are on task because we provide all the tools your child needs to be successful, including individual laptops for each child, state-of-the-art technology, reliable high speed internet, WI-FI, tablets, printer and more.” Code Ninjas also has a program called POWER-UP, focused on STEM skills utilizing robotics, VR, 3D Modeling, and more, with the intention of providing fun and inspiration as kids prepare for the start of the. new school year. The POWER-UP Program starts on Sept. 8, and here for the schedule. Families can sign up their kids to attend by visiting codeninjas.com/ct-west-hartford, or e-mailing [email protected].
- Thanks to West Hartford-based blumshapiro, for their recent donation of $8,000 to Foodshare, part of a total donation of $24,000 the firm made to nonprofit organizations in Connecticut, Rhode Island (the Rhode Island Community Food Bank), and Massachusetts (Greater Boston Food Bank). “Especially in uncertain times like these, we believe we have a responsibility to assist our communities. We are proud to support these three organizations, and we applaud their collective efforts day in and day out to make a real difference in the lives of our friends and neighbors,” said Joseph A. Kask, Chief Executive Officer of blumshapiro.
- This week’s sad news is the closing of Connecticut Organic Pasta (1142 New Britain Ave. in Elmwood). I was not able to speak directly to owner Don Pinger (I did reach out a few times), but after first announcing plans to temporarily close for a vacation right after the power outage, he posted the following message on Facebook:“After much consideration and soul searching, we have decided to close our doors for good.
“As a new venture with only a little over a year under our belt, the Covid pandemic has proven to be more than our fledging take-out market and café business could compete with. And this last power outage disaster (thanks once again Eversource, you’re welcome for the rate increase!) became the death kneel for us.
“This pandemic has impacted the entire world and it doesn’t seem like it’s letting up any time soon. I’m not insane enough to romanticize about being the last man standing. When I see so many businesses, just in our community, that are closing, I realize, even sticking it out for the last 6 months may have been a fool’s errand. Since this pandemic started, we have done nothing but lose money. Unfortunately, there’s no more money left to lose.
“Not only did business drop off by more than 50% right at the lock down, we unexpectedly gained more competition. West Hartford has been, for many years, a kind of culinary mecca. So many great restaurants! And now that so many great restaurants are offering take-out, we have literally ten times the competition we had before. These places are not doing this to be greedy, they are doing it out of necessity. Without incorporating take-out into their business model, they will not survive. (So, please support them) Most people don’t understand food service establishments operate with very slim profit margins. Sometimes only 5-10%, and that’s established, successful places! To lose 50% of your business is all it takes to bury you.
“There are certainly other reasons that factored into us closing. But I feel it’s best not to discuss them, for both legal and ethical reasons. Nor do I want to sling mud at specific people. (actually, I really do, but I won’t)
“Not our customers though….
“I know this is going to sound cliché but believe me, it’s straight from the heart. Since opening we have been so blessed with some of the greatest, most appreciative customers. People that really enjoyed our food and atmosphere and not just because we were convenient. We are so thankful for your support and friendship this past year and a half and we will miss you immensely. We hope you all stay safe and healthy.
“Lastly, I would like to acknowledge two groups that have always been there for us:
“First is the West Hartford police department. On numerous occasions for us, they have been everything one could ask for in a PD. Just a great bunch of people. There is a lot of negativity in the country right now towards people with a badge. Please don’t unfairly paint them with such a broad brush. They are a big part of what makes this town so great and safe. Please support them any way you can, even if it’s just a smile!
“And of course, the Chamber of Commerce. Since day one they have always been committed to supporting us in every way possible. Great establishment that every chamber should fashion themselves after.
“I wish you all the best.
- And to end on a positive note, ICYMI, read Ted Glanzer’s feature on Ryan Matthews, a West Hartford resident who is in the business of giving back, and has a major role in the success of two local nonprofits.
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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