Hartford Chamber of Commerce

Chamber of Commerce

Promoting, supporting and assisting the business and civic communities in Connecticut’s Capital City that create the true Hartford experience for residents and visitors alike 

Thank you for your interest in The Hartford Chamber of Commerce. As we continue to build content for this page, please visit the Chamber on Facebook at @HartfordChamberCT and on Instagram at hartfordchamberofcommerce. 

Julio_Concepcion Headshot_2019 cropped 539KWe welcome you to contact Julio A. Concepción, Executive Director of the Hartford Chamber of Commerce.

Julio A. Concepción
860.728.2282
jconcepcion@metrohartford.com







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Part IV

Literacy Volunteers of Greater Hartford

The Hartford Chamber of Commerce recently spoke with Carol “CJ” DeVido Hauss, Executive Director of Literacy Volunteers of Greater Hartford (LVGH), to learn more about the organization’s contribution to the Hartford-area community.

Literacy Volunteers of Greater Hartford started over 40 years ago—how has the organization evolved?

CJ: LVGH opened 47 years ago as a small, grassroots volunteer tutoring service, providing one-on-one tutoring to less than 100 adults in Basic Literacy, reading, and writing for native English speakers. Students and tutors met in libraries, community centers, coffee shops, and church basements.

Today, LVGH teaches more than 900 adults each year in our Hartford and East Hartford Literacy Centers, and trains and supports 225 volunteer tutors annually. Nationally recognized by the Library of Congress with a Best Practices Literacy Award, we continue to provide small group instruction in Basic Literacy, along with English for Speakers of Other Languages, Digital Literacy, Math, U.S. Citizenship, and high school completion preparation.

Launched in 2015, our Career Pathways program addresses the issues of unemployment and under-employment among low-literate, Hartford-area adults by providing literacy instruction, career counseling, job training and placement.

LVGH also provides our employer partners with the ongoing support to help ensure our graduates are successful, productive employees.

Tell us about the impact Literacy Volunteers of Greater Hartford has on our region?

CJ: A volunteer-based program committed to best practices in both adult education and volunteerism, LVGH provides quality, cost-effective adult literacy services. At the same time, LVGH provides community members with enriching and engaging opportunities for volunteerism.

Our work also brings together segments of the community that may not otherwise engage with each other, nurturing connections between residents of Hartford and its suburbs that lead to a better understanding on both sides.

Why Greater Hartford? How did you decide on the location for your business?

CJ: Our Hartford Center is located at 30 Arbor Street in Parkville, a diverse neighborhood in Hartford—and arguably its most creative. We’ve been here since the 1990s. We needed a place that was accessible to students and volunteers. Our Center is available via two city bus lines, CT FasTrak, and a bike route and has lots of free parking. Many students live within walking distance.

In East Hartford, we are located off Burnside Avenue at 16 Church Street, in the educational wing of New Covenant United Methodist Church. We’re on a bus line with plenty of free parking, in a neighborhood where many students live within walking distance. In addition to ESOL classes, the practical component of our food services job-training program is located here, with trainees gaining experience preparing and serving free community dinners twice a week, under the direction of a chef who works for our employer partner, Sodexo.

What is the best thing about Hartford?

CJ: The best thing about Hartford is its diversity. I love being in a community where so many languages are spoken and so many countries and cultures are represented. This is what makes the city interesting and engaging, a place to learn and stretch outside one’s comfort zone.

Where do you see Hartford in the three to five years?

CJ: Hartford is emerging. It’s a very different place than it was when I moved here 37 years ago. My hope is that its transformation won’t be a solitary one, and that surrounding communities will transform along with it.



Part III

Piggy’s Cafe

PiggysCafeThe Hartford Chamber of Commerce recently spoke with the Malick family, owners of Piggy’s Café, to find out how they revitalized a 40-year-old Hartford mainstay.

Give us a little background.

JOSEPH MALIK: I’d worked at a bar prior and I knew I wanted to own my own business. I grew up on Albany Avenue in Hartford and I lived in Hartford at the time. I remember driving by and I really liked this bar.

The building was a supermarket in 1910. A Hartford cop bought it in the 1920s and made it into a restaurant. When it came up for sale, I had two business partners. We offered an additional $10,000 for the property so the owners wouldn’t accept offers from any other buyers.

When she first walked in, my wife Carol cried. The place was a dump! But we turned it around. We opened in October 1979. I remember it was a Friday night and it was packed.

JOELA MALIK: He always had a good crowd until he got ALS. He put the bar up for sale in March 2018 and it closed in April. We had some discussions and, in June, I decided to take over management and try and revitalize Piggy’s. I have sales experience and have worked in restaurants—but I had never worked for my dad.

Tell us a little about that transformation.

JOELA: Dad always had pub-style bar food. I updated the food and bar menu and we changed the interior, too. Since we reopened in November, I’ve been learning how to manage the business—what works and what doesn’t work.

Piggy’s used to have pool tables and stay open until 1:00 or 2:00 in the morning. Now we have set hours and we host different events like open mic night to bring more in people in. We have musicians play here too, and they bring a following. We also have happy hour every day.

How else are you building a customer base and marketing?

JOELA: It’s great having Aetna close by. And having CVS pledge to keep them in Hartford for the next 10 years, is definitely going to help. Already Aetna teams have some meetings here and they’ll bring an entire department.

The Hartford Public School systems having meetings here too, as do some law firms on Farmington Avenue. And we’ve also had students from Trinity College rent our space to host events.

With marketing, it’s been word-of-mouth. Piggy’s also has a website now and I’ve been doing social media.

Have you been collaborating with any local businesses?

JOELA: The owners at Hartford Flavor Company are great. They did a taste test at Piggy’s and they donated a package for the ALS benefit we did in March. We’re trying to figure out a way to get our food over to Hartford Flavor. There are some details to work out, but that may happen in the future.

Where do you see the evolution of Hartford?

JOELA: It’s improving and there have been a lot of changes. There’s new development coming. I like the idea of the Parkville Market. I can’t wait for that open.

The city of Hartford did a fantastic job updating the light posts and sidewalks on our street. I think more people are taking pride in their property around here.

Part II

Thomas W. Raftery, Inc.

The Hartford Chamber of Commerce recently spoke with Rob O’Connor, President of Thomas W. Raftery, Inc., to learn more about the local business community in the City of Hartford. Find out what we learned...

When and why did you start your business?

ROB O’CONNOR: Our business was started in 1963 by Thomas W. Raftery. While selling fabric in New England, he came upon the opportunity to supply draperies and seized upon it. Over the years, the business has concentrated on manufacturing a good product and supplying commercial contract industries including the U.S. military, colleges, schools, hospitals, and corporations.

How did you get the background and skills necessary to run this type of business?

ROB: Our business is all about the people who work here. Our employees bring different skills and backgrounds to work here—from working with fabrics and sewing to sales, marketing, and customer relations.

Why Hartford?

ROB: Our business was founded selling to Hartford companies like Travelers Insurance, manufacturing window treatments for large office buildings, schools, and hospitals. We have occupied a few locations, all in Hartford.

We’ve been in our historic Frog Hollow building since the late 1970s. There are many advantages to the neighborhood including logistics, proximity to the highways, employees living nearby, and even potential customers.

What is the best thing about having a business in Hartford?

ROB: I’m not sure there is one best thing about working in Hartford. I like to think that, unlike the old New England saying, “you can’t get there from here,” in Hartford, you can get there from here. A business has challenges here but can flourish with hard work. Hartford has great cultural resources and a lot of history.

How are you marketing and building a successful customer base?

ROB: We supply our products all over the world, to many different commercial customers. We are a GSA Contract holder, supplying all the branches of the U.S. Military, Coast Guard, and Veteran’s Affairs Hospitals. We also sell to colleges and hospitals, as well as commercial facilities like corporate office buildings.

We’re hoping to impress upon the large corporations in Hartford that there is a local manufacturer that can supply shades, draperies, blinds, etc. right in their backyard.

What key elements are necessary to start and run a successful business in Hartford?

ROB: I think you have to believe in your products and services to start and run a successful business. Take challenges and turn setbacks into lesson to do better. You must be determined to succeed, and you have to make personal connections.

Where do you see Hartford in the three to five years?

ROB: I’m hoping in three to five years Hartford continues to get more and more people to come live in the city. That means better walking and cycling opportunities and a more livable city, amongst other things.

I think Harford needs to take a look at cities our size and adopt some of their successful ideas, without taking years to implement. Hopefully, Hartford will be closer to better financial health and with a lower tax burden for small businesses.

And where do you see your role in the city’s progress?

ROB: Our business sees a role in doing this, making our neighborhood better by employing people, and contributing to the community by providing free space for the Police Activities League’s boxing program, for example. We’re also active in Frog Hollow SAFE (Safety Alliance For Everyone), which is developing a safety plan for Frog Hollow and it’s residents and businesses.

Part I

The Hartford Chamber of Commerce recently spoke with Yvon Alexandre, President of Vbiz Uptown, to learn more about the local business community in the City of Hartford. This is what we learned...

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When and why did you start your business?

YVON ALEXANDRE: ACA/Uptown Foods was started 1991 and has been in Hartford since March 1992. The business was started to support and service the growing Caribbean population in the Greater Hartford area.

Vibz Uptown started in December 1999 and has always been in Hartford. We started the business to provide a much-needed banquet/rental and entertainment/space in the community.

How did you get the background and skills necessary to run this type of business?

YVON: My education and previous business experience provided me with the background and skills necessary to run my businesses. I have a Bachelor of Science in Business from the University of Connecticut and a Master of Business Administration in International Business from the University of New Haven. I also had 15 years working experience in corporate.

Have you been involved with any business resources in the Hartford-area?

YVON: Yes. I am a member of the MetroHartford Alliance. I was involved with the Hartford Chamber of Commerce Board for more than 12 years and served as the Vice Chair and Chairman for four years. 

How did you decide on Hartford as the location for your business?

YVON: I decided to locate my business in Hartford because of its dynamic core and its diversity. Hartford provided the opportunity for growth and a growing customer base.

What is the best thing about living/working in Hartford?

YVON: Working and running a business in Hartford has been rewarding in many ways. I’ve been able to be part of a neighborhood and caring community. Although there are many challenges, there are also opportunities. The diversity in Hartford’s people is profound and unique.

How are you marking and building a successful customer base?

YVON: I find customers will be loyal if they know you care about their needs. Being involved in the community where you serve is key to keeping your customers.

What key elements are necessary to start and run a successful business in Hartford?

YVON: To run a successful business you must first identify a need for your product line or services. A thorough and well-defined business plan is crucial in developing a successful business.

Where do you see Hartford in the three to five years? And where do you see your role in the city’s progress?

YVON: There is opportunity for major investment in Hartford, but fiscal responsibility is paramount.

MARCH MADNESS INFORMATION

March Madness is coming to Hartford! Eight teams will extend their season into March and visit Hartford and the XL Center March 21 and 23 for the 2019 NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Championship First and Second Rounds.

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Learn more about Hartford's neighborhoods: 
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Learn more about the Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives:
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