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Downtown Grocery Store Gathering Becomes A Block Party

Kenneth R. Gosselin

March 03, 2011

Could Tuesday night have been the birth of a neighborhood in downtown Hartford?

An estimated 200 downtown residents packed Zula Restaurant and Bar to hear from the owners of the new downtown grocery store that's expected to open on Asylum Street in two weeks.

But what started out as a meeting to hear from Ryan and Kelleanne Jones, the owners of The Market at Hartford 21, turned into the equivalent of a block party the first of its kind for residents of downtown apartments and condos.

Downtown residents have gathered for parties for years, said Suzanne Hopgood, who has lived downtown since the mid-1980s, but mostly within their respective buildings or complexes. The Linden, for instance, has long had Christmas parties for its residents.

"This is the first time everyone has come together," Hopgood said.

Gregg Gorneault, the event's organizer, said the turnout far surpassed his expectations.

"There is no limit to what we can accomplish in Hartford with so many motivated, passionate, and just AWESOME people like yourselves," Gorneault said in a post on Facebook. "Kudos to everyone!"

Zula manager Albana Bakrina said the newly opened restaurant on the corner of Main and Pratt streets expected 30 to 50 people.

David B. Panagore, the city's chief operating officer and a downtown resident, added, in another Facebook post: "This is what we, us, together, can achieve just through something as simple as Facebook; bringing together our common interest and positive energy."

Panagore is promoting neighborhood unity through Facebook in an effort to have residents share ideas and plan events. "I don't want to rest until every person who lives, breathes or promotes the downtown is with us and engaged," he said in a post.

Gorneault, in a later post, said the event was not the start of a neighborhood, because that's already been in place. "It was the birth of a voice. A voice for downtown residents to be heard. The birth of a new image for downtown. An opportunity to showcase our neighborhood."

It's an in-person community, but the virtual world was an icebreaker when they got together at Zula's.

"I had people say, 'You must be Suzanne,'" Hopgood said. "We recognized each other from our pictures on Facebook."

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
| Last update: September 25, 2012 |
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