Hartford entrepreneur Jerry Fornarelli owns The Tavern Downtown, The Russian Lady, and Rocking Horse Saloon. MetroHartford Alliance Content Manager Nan Price spoke with Jerry about his experience growing his businesses in Hartford and how he’s handled the COVID-19 pandemic.
NAN PRICE: During the pandemic, have you been forming collaborations within the city to help small business remain intact?
JERRY FORNARELLI: I think the pandemic is going to bring people closer together and also focus on helping small businesses grow instead of going away.
The City of Hartford has been great during COVID-19 about letting local restaurants open to the street outside. I had been working with the MetroHartford Alliance and especially the Hartford Chamber of Commerce before, so our relationship is getting stronger. They’ve been actively reaching out asking: What can we do to help you?
I’m looking at the area as a whole, not just focused on my own restaurants. We want Hartford to be a destination where everyone knows they can get pizza, ice cream, and gastro pub food—and get Mexican from Agave or go to Fornarelli’s downtown, which is an Italian restaurant my brother operates.
With other businesses, we’re talking about how we can all work together and create a place for people to come downtown and feel comfortable, where it’s not overcrowded. We’re also working keeping our distancing and following all the guidelines, so when people do come, they have great things to say about Hartford.
NAN: What great things do you have to say about Hartford? What do you most enjoy about the city?
JERRY: I’ve spent about 30 years of my life working in downtown Hartford. I started as a bartender and began opening places in 2003. I like Hartford because it’s a quaint little city that’s really starting to grow. We need to continue building things downtown that are going to bring people to the city.
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Rocking Horse Saloon