Community Calendar of Events
Thursday
Sep202018

The Hive Offers “Experience the New” Clothing

By  at June 28, 2018

If you are looking for clothes featuring the City, you need to make a stop at The Hive at 42 West Main St.

Steven Ayala and Damon King opened the new retail business in the last year and held a ribbon cutting on June 7.

The new store features New Britain-branded clothing, two independent clothing lines, along with electronics, jewelry, footwear, sunglasses, and other accessories. The shop also does custom air brushing and screen printing and will be selling New Britain “Experience the New” t-shirts.

“Since I was a young kid I used to go to Canal Street (in New York City) and would come to Connecticut and sell things people couldn’t get their hands on,” said Ayala. “I sold Puerto Rican flags and merchandise as a side hustle for me.”

Ayala said he decided to open a store in New Britain because he sees it on a rise at a rapid speed.

“I like this City. I have been living here for quite some time,” he said. “I want people to wear New Britain gear.”

Born in Brooklyn, Ayala said his nickname is “Brooklyn”, but now he is all about New Britain.

“I came here to get out of trouble. I used to work out of the same spot I own with a friend doing airbrushing,” Ayala said. “I just combined my hustle, art and put everything together to put together The Hive.”

He said the name is based off the City logo of a beehive.

“My main thing is New Britain apparel. I also have jewelry, watches, stainless steel and there will be new trending items,” said Ayala. “I make my own embroidery machines for the New Britain apparel.”

He said New Britain is a whole different world from New York and he likes it here.

“I’ve always been connected in business and the streets,” he said. “I’m New Britain stamped.”

He said his business is going to last forever. He has a 10-year lease.

“The City is growing. This is going to be the new Blue Back Square,” he quipped. “I believe in New Britain. The Hive is for the City and the kids. People need to shop local.”

“Steven has a genuine enthusiasm for the City of New Britain and we are fortunate to have him as part of our growing business community,” said Mayor Stewart. “We wish The Hive much success!”

Ayala said so far business has been great. He has run out of New Britain hats in maroon with the City’s logo as well as red and white ones. New ones will be in any day.

In the future, Ayala is hoping to partner with local organizations to sell their New Britain-branded products as well.

The Hive is open 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday.

Wednesday
Jan172018

New Britain's New Smoothie Shop A Fresh Start For Falsely Convicted Man

Don Stacom - Hartford Courant

Mark Schand’s Sweetwater Juice and Deli in downtown New Britain is far more than another new business. It’s part of his return from a wrongful murder conviction that kept him imprisoned for 27 years.

“This is part of the dream. Mark is an entrepreneur, he wanted to have a business, and he talked about that in prison all those years,” Schand’s wife, Mia, said Tuesday.

Dozens of relatives, friends, downtown workers and city politicians jammed into his tiny new shop on West Main Street for the grand opening ceremony Tuesday afternoon. It was a festive day for a family that endured decades of hard times.

“When I went to prison I had two little sons and one unborn child — by the time I came out, they were 28, 29 and 30. I lost that time of being a father,” Mark Schand said. “Nothing can pay me back for that.”

On Tuesday, his sons were helping make smoothies and wraps at Sweetwater, while other relatives took orders and ran the cash register.

“To see this happening today is amazing,” said Chan Williams-Bey, Schand’s nephew. “He has a strong, strong family. The whole family knew he was innocent, and everyone believed that one day something good could happen.”

In 1986, Schand was 21, living in Hartford and hoping to open a clothing store. Everything changed that year when he was charged with murder after a young woman was shot dead outside a Springfield bar. Mia Schand and others told investigators that he was in Hartford at the time, but he was jailed until his trial in 1987, when he was convicted and sentenced to life in prison.

Mia drove to visit him nearly every week, even when he was transferred to a prison in Walpole, Mass., nearly two hours from where she lived in Windsor.

“Mark and I were meant to be together. I knew he was innocent from Day One,” she said. “We told the boys ‘your father is here for something he didn’t do.’ ”

Schand said he worked out in prison, sought out healthy foods and maintained a garden that grew as other prisoners lost interest and turned over their small plots of ground to him.

“I tried not to become an inmate. I kept the focus on life on the other side of the fence — I didn’t want to be a tougher, bitter inmate because if I did, I’d probably still be there,” he said Tuesday.

Defense attorneys John and Linda Thompson worked for years to get Schand freed, and investigators from the New Jersey-based Centurion Ministries, an organization roughly similar to the Innocence Project, began finding discrepancies in the prosecution’s evidence in 2010. A judge ordered a new trial in 2013, and prosecutors dismissed the murder charge.

Last fall, Schand got a $450,000 compensation payout from the state of Massachusetts, and is using some of the money to launch Sweetwater. He said he was visiting his dying father in New Britain when he noticed a vacant storefront downtown and the absence of healthier food shops.

“There’s fast food everywhere, but we can give people a healthier choice. This is the food I eat,” said Schand, whose wife confirmed that he begins every day with a smoothie.

The menu at Sweetwater is heavy on fruits and vegetables, with ingredients such as blueberries, pineapple juice, kale, avocado, kiwi, beets, coconut water and almond milk showing up in several offerings. Among his specialty smoothies are the Centurion Freedom and the John & Linda Thompson.

Mayor Erin Stewart, who applauded Schand’s new venture and led the ribbon-cutting ceremony, also has two smoothies named after her — the Mayor Erin II that’s heavy on fruit, and the Mayor Erin I that’s described as peanut, banana and almond milk.

“That’s the one: The peanut and banana make it,” she said.

Thursday
Oct122017

Physical location has DribbleBabies growing

Published: Tuesday, 22 August 2017 21:42

 

Charles Paullin | Staff Davina Ismail, owner of DribbleBabies, shows off  some girls outfits at her store, at 53 Columbus Blvd.
Charles Paullin | Staff Davina Ismail, owner of DribbleBabies, shows off some girls outfits at her store, at 53 Columbus Blvd.

 

Staff Writer

 NEW BRITAIN - Only a few months since opening its storefront, DribbleBabies’ business is growing.

 DribbleBabbies, at 53 Columbus Blvd. - and online at dribblebabies.com for the past four years - is looking to hire another seamstress to help with the demand for its products.

“What we’ve found is that, when people meet us, see the clothing and touch the fabric that we choose, it’s all really nice and the pricing is good for handmade things,’ said Davina Ismail, of the store that sells cute and unique outfits. She started the business at her family’s home in New Britain, then moved it to an office space in Meriden and is now back in the Hardware City.

 With a son who had acid reflux and kept throwing up onto his clothes, Ismail decided to start the veteran-, family- and locally owned business that sells handmade children’s clothing and other quality products.

That includes accessories such bibs, hats, mittens, baby boots and socks, but primarily the outfits, which consist of two-piece jogger suits - a shirt and pants - dresses, jackets a new-style hooded jacket that will be on sale in the coming months.

“Pretty much anything that you can buy anywhere else, but all of our items have a twist to them,” said Ismail. Those twists being a dress that is longer in the back, so that when a child gets taller, it can be converted to a shirt, or pajamas that close with magnets instead of hard button snaps.

 While being practical, the clothes, which can be seen online and modeled by her three children, always feature the latest and greatest styles.

 “We try to use different prints that someone might not necessarily use for a baby but we do that to make the kids stand out and give them a different look, and the parents seem to enjoy the type of kind of funky prints we pick out,” said Ismail.

 And with the early business success, Ismail isn’t resting on her laurels as she and her husband Gulaid will constantly check out social media and the market for new product ideas, such as a belt that was featured on “SharkTank.”

“It’s exciting when we can carry new things,” Ismail said.

 Ismail said she tries to connect with local residents by attending the City Park Farmers Market and local fairs and hosting paint nights for kids.

 “We really enjoy New Britain,” said Ismail, adding that the store offers a 10 percent discount to city residents and free shipping everywhere. More information can be found at dribblebabies.com.

 

Thursday
Oct122017

City to residents: 'Bee' a sponsor

Published: Wednesday, 6 September 2017 19:02

Photo by David Huck From left, Stephen Hard, Executive Director of the Greater New Britain Arts Alliance and Chairman of the New Britain Arts Commission; Mayor Erin Stewart; Artist Craig Frederick. Photo taken by David Huck / City of New Britain.
Photo by David Huck From left, Stephen Hard, Executive Director of the Greater New Britain Arts Alliance and Chairman of the New Britain Arts Commission; Mayor Erin Stewart; Artist Craig Frederick. Photo taken by David Huck / City of New Britain.

Staff Writer

NEW BRITAIN-Donors, businesses and local organizations are being sought to sponsor a 6-foot bee sculpture for an upcoming city-wide art project.

The City of New Britain and the Greater New Britain Arts Alliance are working together to bring a new public art project to the community called “Bees Across New Britain.”

A model of the bee was developed by renowned sculptor Craig Frederick of New Britain based off design sketches made by Mayor Erin Stewart.

The models will be sent to a fabricator, who will transform the model into 6-foot tall fiberglass bees in the months to come and then will be later painted by artists.

“Bees Across New Britain is a playful nod to the many worker bees who have played a role in the development of our city over many generations,” said Mayor Stewart. “This projects expands upon our vibrant arts scene, pays homage to our City’s rich industrial past and invites residents and visitors to come ‘Experience the New’ in our community.”

Private donations and sponsorships are funding the project.

For $2,500, a sponsor will work with an artist to design a bee, which the sponsor will get to keep at the end of the project.

At a $2,000 sponsorship level, the bee will be auctioned off at the end of the project and will be placed at the location of the purchaser’s choosing.

Proceeds from the project will benefit the Greater New Britain Arts Alliance, a nonprofit organization.

“One of the things I am most happy about is our idea, apparently novel, to split the auction proceeds with the artists. This makes it possible for more artists to consider our project. We want everyone: artists, sponsors, and the public to be absolutely thrilled with what they see,” Executive Director of the GNBAA Stephen Hard said.

Installations of the bees are scheduled for late spring of 2018. As part of “Bees Across New Britain,” a series of community events will take place around the project, including the development of a map featuring all the locations of the bees, and more.

To learn more about sponsoring a bee, visit happeninghere.org and click on the bee icon.

Angie DeRosa can be reached at 860-801-5063 or aderosa@centralctcommunications.com

 

Thursday
Oct122017

Renovated New Britain building features posh apartments

Published on Friday, 1 September 2017 22:05
Written by Angie DeRosa

Staff Writer

NEW BRITAIN-A ribbon-cutting ceremony marked the official opening of the Raphael Building Apartments Thursday on West Main Street.

“It’s a momentous day for all of us,” said President of Jasko Development Avner Krohn.

Sixteen “above-market” apartments will be available at 99 W. Main St. One lease has already been signed.

The apartments will be a mix of one- and two-bedroom units with rent prices ranging from $1,075 to $1,500 a month.

All units come with stainless steel appliances and granite countertops in the kitchen, heating and central air conditioning and tiled baths featuring jetted tubs.

“It’s all high end finishing, everything down to the door hardware,” Krohn said.

The building – built in 1925 by New Britain businessman Louis R. Raphael – has an interior with a modern flair and a touch of historical elements, part of the original building’s façade.

The project was privately funded with 25 percent coming in the form of state historic tax credits, said Krohn.

In 2015, New Britain received a grant from the Connecticut Main Street Center Program to determine the project’s feasibility to turn the underutilized downtown building into residential housing above commercial space.

The Connecticut Main Street Center Program is an economic initiative that aims to bring the state’s commercial districts back to life socially and economically.

The project was selected for the grant because of its easy access to the CTfastrack bus station – just five minutes away by foot – and because of the Bike Connectivity Plan at the time, a city initiative to make its streets more bicycle-friendly.

“(This project) is a lesson for urban cities in the United States with a manageable downtown to make the investment to create urban housing and mix-use housing will change downtowns,” Krohn said.

Coincidently, the ribbon-cutting was scheduled the same day that founding President and CEO of Connecticut Main Street Center, John Simone, served his last day in the role prior to retirement.

“I can’t think of a better way to spend my last day,” said Simone.

He said these type of smaller, mix-use projects are the hardest to do, but Krohn is “unique” and always does a “beautiful job and keeps the cost low.”

Jasko Development has completed similar mixed-used projects with the refurbishing of the nearby Andrews Building and Rao Building on Main Street. The firm has projects on two East Main Street sites and one on South Main Street.

“If (Krohn) was not part of downtown, where would we be?” asked Business and Economic Development Director Bill Carroll.

Apartment showings can be scheduled by emailing Kevin@jaskogroup.com.

Angie DeRosa can be reached at 860-801-5063 or aderosa@centralctcommunicatons.com

Thursday
Oct122017

Plan envisions New Britain area as hub of innovation, entrepreneurship

Published on Monday, 15 May 2017 22:36
Written by Skyler Frazer

Staff Writer

NEW BRITAIN - Members of the CTNext Board of Directors, educators and private-sector leaders were given a look Monday morning at a plan to turn Central Connecticut into a place of innovation and entrepreneurship.

“The city is making some major investments in itself to really position us in a very unique way to be able to take the plan for Innovation Places and really move that forward and partner it very nicely with a lot of the work we already have going on,” Mayor Erin Stewart told those gathered at Central Connecticut State University’s Institute for Technology and Business Development.

The Central Connecticut Innovation Places Consortium -consisting of New Britain, Berlin and Farmington - is one of 12 such communities in Connecticut awarded CTNext planning grants in October for the organization’s Innovation Places program.

According to the CTNext website, Innovation Places is a program that aims to enable communities across the state to become top-tier destinations and magnets for talent and high-growth companies. The program’s goal is to create a concentration of entrepreneurs, innovators, tech talent, support organizations and research institutions coming together in transit-connected communities.

Nara Mijid of the Connecticut Center for Innovative Entrepreneurs said the CCIPC took feedback from 12 focus groups to establish five projects that will impact its three communities.

The first project would establish a core technology and incubation center in the former Stanley Black & Decker factory in New Britain.

The second would develop an Innovation Places zoning designation for areas in the three municipalities. These zones will expand tax credits that specifically support innovation.

The third would create a Housing Pilot Program for the target impact area. This would establish a loan forgiveness program for students in the area who are committed in working in an innovation zone.

The fourth would expand transportation between communities, potentially extending CTfastrak bus service to Berlin.

The final project would create a “cradle-to-career pipeline” in area schools, helping schools develop specific career paths for students while they’re still in school and deliver skilled talent to enter a changing workforce.

“It’s through serving the young people that we advance tomorrow,” said Rick Mullins, director of the ITBD at CCSU.

After the discussion, attendees and the CTNext Board of Directors took a tour of the city and saw areas of New Britain experiencing growth and development.

One was the site of the old police station, which will soon be transformed into Columbus Commons, a commercial and housing complex.

The group also visited the CTfastrak hub station on Main Street to talk about economic development in that area.

Skyler Frazer can be reached at 860-801-5087 or by email at sfrazer@centalctcommunications.com.


Saturday
Jul112015

Sunday Conversation: Avner Krohn of Jasko Development

NEW BRITAIN — While many young boys enjoyed playing sports, Avner Krohn loved going to see construction sites with his family.

“I always enjoyed the construction field. As a child, my mom took me to construction sites in New York. I just liked watching them and the creativity behind it and that they were building something,” the 33-year-old Lawrence, Long Island resident said in a recent interview.

Krohn, whose business Jasko Development, LLC is based on West Main Street, has been a developer for 12 years including nine in New Britain. While Krohn has multiple properties throughout Connecticut and New Jersey, his four prominent properties in the city cover more than 100,000-square-feet. Krohn said he has an emotional attachment to the city, which he visits often.

“Initially, my coming here was based on an economic decision,” Krohn said. “However, I began to feel embraced by the warm and vibrant community. I have worked to make the downtown more vibrant. The city is very pro-development. All three mayors I have worked with have been that way.”

Krohn said “New Britain has a tremendous amount of historic architecture, a vibrant arts community and highway accessibility. Those are the bones for successful economic development, not to mention CTFastrak.”

Krohn’s business owns 450 South Main St., also known as Jasko Shopping Plaza and anchored by Columbia Dental; 136 Main St., which is the Andrews Building and is predominantly used by attorneys and has a vacant restaurant attached; 160 Main St., which is mostly multi-family high-end residential; and 99 West Main St., where the lower floor is occupied retail and the upper floors will be converted in 2016 to residential.

While developers come and go, Krohn — who is one of five full-time Jasko employees — said to be successful you need the “ability to be agile, have a great talented staff and work hard. I put in a lot of long hours and manage many facets of the business from acquisition to construction, finance and occupancy.”

Many people might not know that Krohn loves music. He has played drums since he was nine years old.

“We still do weddings, concerts and parties,” he said. “We do about four a month. We have a full orchestra, with anywhere from 5 to 15 members including my two brothers.”

Krohn recently sat down to discuss the status of bringing anther restaurant to the Andrews Building, among other topics.

Robert Storace: Why should developers and investors feel comfortable about purchasing land and property in New Britain?

Avner Krohn: There is great value. There is a very large amount of dollars being spent on infrastructure here. Developers always want to invest in the city that is investing within itself.

Storace: The Andrews building on Main Street was the home in recent years to four restaurants. Why has that prime location seen such a high turnover and are they any plans to have another restaurant at the location?

Krohn: We’ve had major development changes within downtown since I purchased the building nine years ago. In regards to successes and failures, there were numerous reasons and none of which had to do with New Britain. It was either personal issues or lack of experience. We are diligently working with a number of individuals and hope to see a qualified restaurateur come to fruition in 2016.

Storace: What’s the most satisfying part of the job?

Krohn: It’s driving by a building that was derelict prior to our development and seeing people live and work in a beautifully restored location.

Storace: Where do you see development in New Britain 10 years down the road?

Krohn: I see a combination of restoration and ground up development, specific to the multi-family sector and student housing. There are many properties currently under-utilized. I believe, over a period of time, they will get re-purposed for the highest and best use.

Storace: What property that you own in central Connecticut are you most proud of and why?

Krohn: The property on 99 West Main St. When that project is done, we will have an award-winning mixed-used property that can act as a model throughout the state.

Storace: What’s the biggest impediment to business growth in the state today?

Krohn: Taxes, taxes and more taxes. Where there are high taxes, businesses flee the state which leads to families leaving the state. From a development standpoint, a declining population is rarely a good thing.

Wednesday
Jan282015

Can a Beehive-Inspired Overpass Unite a City?

New Britain, Connecticut, seems like an idyllic place. Tucked away in the southernmost part of the Hartford-Springfield corridor, the city is a hardware manufacturing center with a large Polish population and a small, beloved American art museum.

New Britain takes a lot of pride in its favorite son, Elihu Burritt. A metalworker who advocated for peace, abolition, and temperance as a diplomat for President Abraham Lincoln's administration, the "Learned Blacksmith" coined the Latin phrase that serves as the town slogan: Industria implet alveare et mele fruitur ("Industry fills the hive and enjoys the honey").

Burritt is even responsible for the city's official emblem, the beehive, which appears on everything from stadiums to the city seal. Now, city leaders hope to apply some New Britain honeycomb to a highway overpass—one that's been a problem for the city for almost 40 years.

That highway is Route 72, which was steered right through New Britain back in the 1970s. The overpass itself is the city's Main Street. According to Mark Moriarty, director of public works for New Britain, the aim of the new overpass is to stitch back together two severed parts of downtown.

"For quite a long stretch, it’s unfriendly," Moriarty says. "One side of Main Street is flourishing more than the other."

The "Beehive" overpass—the work of civil-engineering firm Fuss & O'Neill, designers Pirie Associates, and architecture firm Svigals + Partners—will be the centerpiece of a new plan to create a more walkable downtown. The project aims to relink New Britain's downtown with its Little Poland neighborhood by building a standardized, pedestrian streetscape across what is now a fairly desolate overpass between the two.

It's a bridge with a Burritt flourish. Architect Chris Bockstael says that the central sculptural element in the design—the "skep," configured in the shape of the traditional basket used to house beehives—will serve as an interactive component for pedestrians. The skep dome is where the "macro scale" (highway-facing) overpass meets the "human scale" (Main Street) bridge, Bockstael says.

Just adjacent to the overpass is the gateway station for CTfastrak, the new bus-rapid transit system scheduled to open in March 2015. While the Beehive isn't technically a fancy BRT stop, it is something of a BRT signpost. The project has received funding from the FTA's Bus and Bus Facilities Livability Initiative. (The overpass is not yet fully funded.)

The overpass project is just a small part of New Britain's Complete Streets master-plan effort to make a more walkable city. At least one planner thinks that it will play a large role in making BRT work for the city. And in New Britain, better transit means more honey in the hive.

"The gateway station is right next to this overpass," Moriarty says. "It adds something of interest, it's extremely noticeable. This is definitely a landmark that supports ridership."

Wednesday
Oct152014

New Britain named one of the top places to retire

NEW BRITAIN — Hard-Hittin’ New Britain may become “Soft-Sittin’” New Britain to seniors searching for a retirement community.

That’s the opinion of the magazine, “Where to Retire,” which named the former Hardware City one of eight “Towns of Tradition” for retirees. The feature appears in the November/December issue on newsstands today. New Britain found itself ranked along with Sunbelt cities Tarpons Springs, Fla., and Lafayette, La.

“We focused on eight cities that have a strong culture from overseas in their midst,” said Where to Retire Editor Annette Fuller. “But, the city also had to be a winner in terms of beauty and livability.

Although everyone thinks of the Northeast as quite expensive, the median home price we found in New Britain — $123,000 — was quite affordable. We also tried to choose cities that represent a geographic mix around the country.”

Not surprisingly, Little Poland was New Britain’s strong suit with Polonia Business Association President Adrian Baron its articulate spokesman. The magazine featured Broad Street, with its homemade kielbasa, also the dancing, music and crafts during the Little Poland Festival in April.

“When you’re on the street, it’s almost like you’re visiting a European city,” Baron told Fuller.

If you thought certain city stalwarts would be surprised at this unexpected honor, think again.

Parks and Recreation Commissioner Bill DeMaio told the Herald “New Britain deserves recognition. For seniors, the services are unbelievable. We have one of the best park systems in New England, including three stadiums at Willowbrook Park. We have a fabulous senior citizen center with all kinds of transportation and programs available to retirees.” But the piece de resistance could be Stanley Municipal Golf Course with its 27 championship holes and heated driving range.

In other words, the benefits are endless.

Broker/Realtor Nina Jankowski of The Real Estate Exchange seconds DeMaio.

“If you want a break from the Florida heat, we have plenty of affordable ranch homes near great parks and golf, shopping and superior healthcare facilities,” Jankowski says. “New Britain has a soul like no other place; [ours is] a richly layered community.” Gerry Amodio, downtown district executive director, points out that New Britain offers large city attractions within a small town atmosphere. “From a world class museum, to theater, sporting events, higher education and top- shelf medical care, New Britain lets people ‘come back home’ for an easy retirement life.” Amodio says New Britain is less expensive than the surrounding towns, while offering “a brand new mass transit. Retirees can be in Hartford, New Haven, Boston or New York for short day trips, or weekends.”

But why be in Hartford?

“The city’s commitment to improve is one of the reasons we moved our law office here from Hartford,” says Baron. “For retirees, Little Poland is ideal. Within the span of a few blocks you can stroll to grocery stores, bakeries, hair salons, banks, law firms, a church, a pharmacy and even a post office. It’s Main Street USA with a little Polish flare.” Baron was not alone in his praise of the city.

“New Britain has easy access to medical care as well as a very strong ethnic population where people can be welcomed and feel like they are part of the community,” said Tim Stewart, president of the Greater New Britain-Berlin Chamber of Commerce. “The cost of housing is relatively inexpensive compared to other communities, all reasons that make New Britain a desirable place to retire.” “New Britain is a great place to retire,” state Sen. Terry Gerratana said. “We‘re a close community of diverse neighborhoods. New Britain is centrally located; major highways are completely accessible and we are finally establishing a public transportation system that links us to other transportation hubs.”

Scott Whipple can be reached at (860) 225-4601, ext. 319 or swhipple@centralctcommunications.com.

Tuesday
Jul162013

New Britain Industrial Museum A Blast From Past

visitors will be charmed by the array of well-preserved artifacts from New Britain's industrial past. The exhibit space is dedicated to the historical importance of the major manufacturing firms in the city, including North & Judd; Stanley; Fafnir Bearing; Landers, Frary & Clark; American Hardware Corp.; Russell & Irwin; Corbin; Raymond Engineering; Traut & Hine; Dyson, New Britain Machine; and Cremo Brewery.

Click to read more ...