Unique (and Safety-Friendly) Businesses Launched During the Pandemic Last Updated 3/21

It’s no secret that the pandemic has turned our lives upside down, including the way we dine, play, and travel – but that hasn’t stopped these businesses from opening new ventures during these difficult times.  We’ve rounded up a few of the new experiences that have popped-up in the last year, all of which have been designed with safety in mind. From new Covid-safe dining models to unique ways to relieve stress, check out these new options invented with a little help from Mother Necessity.

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Essex Public Market and Food Hall, Essex

In response to the pandemic and the shift away from full-service dining, Essex Public Market & Food Hall was born. This spot houses a variety of over-the-counter eateries all under one roof to give the community options, affordability, safety, takeout and delivery all in one location – not to mention its opening aimed to create jobs for those who had lost theirs due to COVID-19. From Mexican fare and pizza to a noodle bar and gelato, there’s a whole lot to love.

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Smash Avenue, West Hartford

Did 2020 make you so stressed you just wanted to smash something? Now you can – in a fun, safe, judgement-free environment. Smash Avenue in West Hartford opened in November 2020 and creates a place to release any pinned-up frustration, anger, and anxiety caused by life’s challenges (and probably the challenges of the pandemic). You’ll gear up in protective coveralls, hard hats with face shields, gloves, and chest protectors, choose a smashing tool, and destroy breakable objects. Smash Avenue is taking COVID-19 safety precautions by disinfecting all equipment between uses, so you can focus on letting the emotions out – in a unique and fun way.

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Parkville Market, Hartford

Parkville Market in Hartford is more than just a trendy new eatery – it’s the ideal spot for those who aren’t comfortable with indoor dining during the pandemic. This food hall allows for easy grab ‘n go, spacious outdoor seating, and has order windows, which enhance both safety and convenience. Best of all? Many restaurants within the food hall offer small plates, so you can sample a little bit of everything from Tex-Mex, to seafood, to Indian and Nepalese.

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Paw Haven, New Haven

Sometimes your pet needs a vacation too! Paw Haven, a new pet boarding and day care center opened in August of 2020 and is quite the lovely stay for your pup. With many healthcare workers in the city, Paw Haven is the perfect way to accommodate extended COVID-19 shifts for owners who don’t want to leave their dogs for lengthy periods. Not to mention the daycare is a spectacularly designed space with open-air luxury suites with memory foam beds, an air purification system, four large play yards, a safe and easy pickup and drop off system and more. Fido can make friends in the play yard, bathe in the bone bath water pool, and even enjoy soothing music and pet-specific phermones. And if you're the feline kind, there's even a special Cat Condo with 23 spacious cat suites. You and your pet are sure to be pleased!

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NewSylum Brewing Company, Newtown

This new brewery opened in June 2020 and is set in a former psychiatric facility, making for a unique interior. NewSylum Brewing Company in Newtown quickly shifted to COVID-19 procedures in order to successfully open last year; they began canning their beers, creating takeout options, setting up their outdoor space, and offering pre-packaged charcuterie boxes with local ingredients. They even named their New England-style IPA “Counting the Days” to playfully reference the duration of the pandemic.

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The Vault Virtual Reality, Seymour

One thing we can all agree on? A little escapism is much needed. Take a break from reality at The Vault Virtual Reality in Seymour, which opened in July 2020. Enjoy single and multiplayer experiences for family fun – shoot zombies, travel the world, golf, box, play silly games or enjoy an escape room. Or if you’re looking for something more relaxing, try VR wellness for relaxation, meditation, and mindfulness. The Vault is committed to a variety of safety precautions including masks, hand sanitizer, and equipment sanitizing – best of all, VR is an ideal activity for social distance-friendly fun.

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The Lloyd Hotel, Stamford

The Lloyd Hotel is a sleek and stylish addition to Stamford. The former Zero Degrees Hotel has been revamped with a chic new design, West Elm furniture, a café, a fitness center and more. As many people grow a pent-up desire to travel, this new accommodation’s boutique design offers more local guests the feeling of getting away without going far – an important precaution during the pandemic. The Lloyd’s Covid-era opening means the hotel intrinsically operates with safety precautions. Guests will find automatic opening doors, touchless hand sanitizer at elevators, touchless temperature checks, mask requirements, regular sanitization protocols and more – in addition to a lovely stay!

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Reef Shack, Fairfield

This husband and wife-owned marketplace is set in a former 7 Eleven – and is designed to prioritize COVID-19 safety.  With a takeout window, high-circulation HVAC system, touch-less payment options and more, customers can feel safe as they pick up local products like milk and other necessities, as well as a unique menu of Italian ices, sandwiches (including their signature Philly-style cheesesteak) and tasty grab ‘n go meals.

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Mix Rooftop & Bar, Mystic

Popular Mystic Bakery Sift Bake Shop recently opened a rooftop bar offering handcrafted cocktails, a garden atmosphere, and spectacular views of the Mystic River. Ideal for the pandemic, this business addition is outdoors, allowing for fantastic ventilation. During earlier hours, the space also provides extra outdoor seating for picking up treats from Sift Bake Shop. And the same owners even opened a new donut shop, Young Buns, in 2020 as well. Mix Rooftop & Bar is a seasonal business and not open during the winter; lookout for its reopening this spring.

Photo credit: Winter Caplanson of Connecticut Food & Farm

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Six Summit Gallery’s Grand Art Salon, Westbrook

In June of 2020, Six Summit Art Gallery opened a new 3,500 square foot gallery space in Westbrook called the Grand Art Salon, which features works from a variety of creators. Its first exhibit, “Resurgence” showcases surrealism and figurative abstract expressionism. The theme of “Resurgence” represents the ongoing struggles of the pandemic and the ways in which we are slowly and safely reemerging. Grand Art Salon opened with Covid-safety in place such as mask requirements for gallery-goers, so all may focus on the beauty of art.

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El Segundo, New Haven

New Haven’s newest hub for diverse street food opened in August of 2020 and greatly utilized outdoor dining for their grand opening. When they open their garage-style doors, they can safely sit nearly 100 people in their trendy outdoor space. During the colder months, El Segundo is offering limited capacity indoor seating and takeout which includes family packs with themes like Cinco de Mayo and Across the Pond. From mouthwatering Mexican cuisine to Greek food and everything in between, this spot offers safety, convenience and bold flavor.

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Curry & Hurry, Greenwich

Curry & Hurry is adding spice to Greenwich with authentic Indian cuisine – and a Covid-safe dining model. This spot opened in August 2020 and takes the “hurry” in its name seriously. Diners will enjoy speedy takeout, curbside pickup and delivery for both convenience and safety – not to mention delicious dishes including ginger chicken wings, lamb curry, shrimp coconut curry, and dozens of flavorful vegetarian options.

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Aquila's Nest Vineyards, Newtown

Aquila's Nest Vineyards is an innovative, family-owned winery with a tasting room and event venue. Located on 41 acres and perched on a hilltop, this new spot has been ideal for the era of Covid as it offers ample opportunity for outdoor recreation, it even has a tasting room that opens to an outdoor terrace overlooking the vineyards. During the colder months, guests can reserve a spot indoors or pick up wine and paired snack boxes to enjoy at home. During the winter months, you can reserve a spot at the outdoor firepits.

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Howling Hot Chicken, Bridgeport

In the days of the pandemic, it doesn’t hurt to add a little spice to our lives — or our taste buds. From the creators of Milkcraft ice cream comes Howling Hot Chicken, a chicken joint specializing in tenders and sliders at heat levels from “no spice,” to “very hot,”  to “reaper.” Chicken and waffles is even coming soon on a secret menu! Since the restaurant opened during the pandemic, it offers safety options by design such as contactless ordering and hand sanitizer available on site.

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Cake, Batter & Roll, Middletown

Ever order a personalized cookie? At Middletown’s newest spot, Cake Batter & Roll, you can choose from ingredients like M&Ms, marshmallows , chocolate chips and more — and have your personalized cookie baked right on the spot! This bakery not only offers a unique experience, it has cakes, cupcakes, vegan options, and even dog treats. And it’s safe to say we could all use a little treat during difficult times. 

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The Devil’s Diet Dessert Bar, New Haven

A dessert bar? Sounds like a good spot to treat yourself. The Devil’s Diet Dessert Bar in New Haven is a newly opened restaurant serving everything from French pastries to Spanish tapas and drinks. Whether you’re looking for breakfast, lunch, dinner, brunch or even afternoon tea time (complete with French macarons) you’ll find local menus served in an environment dedicated to eco-friendly practices.

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Marygold's, Newtown

In the renovated former Newtown Inn and above the quirky Good Old Days Pizza, an upscale restaurant, Marygold’s has recently launched. Guests will discover exquisite dishes from surf to turf and even vegan options. Be sure to try the brunch menu too and leave room for desserts such as sticky buns and sourdough French toast.