HARTFORD, Conn. — Friday afternoon, Hartford city leaders and community members gathered for the grand opening of Bloom Bake Shop.
“I already came for their soft opening to get some scones and I’m back for the grand opening today to get more scones,” said Hartford resident Lauren Escott.
Friday’s grand opening wasn’t just about baked goods, coffee or flowers.
“We want to activate every vacant retail space that we can, but there’s enormous power in a concentrated effort,” said Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin.
That concentrated effort is an initiative called the HartLift program, administered by the city and chamber of commerce to bring new small businesses into spaces previously dormant due to the pandemic.
“It just was really a situation of perfect timing for us,” Bloom’s co-owner Alex Pilon said.
Sisters Alex and Monica started their bakery two years ago, relying on a grant from the HartLift program to help them open their brick-and-mortar store.
“It's always hard to open a small business,” Bronin said. “It’s always an act of courage, an act of faith and it's putting your money on the line.”
Bronin said Bloom is the perfect example of this public-private partnership and their grand opening marks the first time in a few decades that every storefront on Pratt Street is either under contract or in negotiations.
He said in the next six months to a year, almost all of the new businesses will be filled.
“This is a community of small businesses and creators that is getting stronger by the day,” Bronin continued.
The HartLift program is funded by federal money from the American Rescue Plan Act.
Bronin said right now the city’s committed about $4.7 million.
When asked if the city plans to continue this program with other funds once the ARPA money runs out, Bronin said they’ll have to wait and see.
For community members watching downtown Hartford come back to life, they hope the city keeps investing in local businesses.
“Getting to support those very people that make our community feel so homey is so rewarding,” said Elaina Giordano, event and social media coordinator for Pratt Street.
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