We’ve always felt that Hartford is home to the bold, creative and ambitious; that it takes a certain someone to come in and make this city their own. After hearing the incredible stories from some of the city’s most interesting influencers, we feel that this belief holds especially true. From entrepreneurs, activists, artists and those in between, there are amazing individuals in Hartford who want to see this city shine and flourish to its true potential.
Our ‘Make Hartford Yours’ series shares with you stories of hope, hard work, and determination; stories of individuals who are born and raised in Hartford, and also those who have ventured to Hartford from other countries.
Yet, despite the differences in these individual’s background stories, they all possess one common goal: to create a Hartford that they can call home, and to not only make Hartford their own but encourage others to do so as well.
This summer we took a ride with Tang Sauce through the city’s neighborhoods and watched as he uncovered the stories that make up our ‘Make Hartford Yours’ series. Watch each of the episodes below, and make sure to continue to share with us your personal story on how you #MakeHartfordYours through social media.
In Episode 1, Tang Sauce rides through the streets of downtown and meets up with Hugh Russell from The Russell on Pratt Street and discusses with us his secrets to a growing business in Hartford. “Believe in the city, believe in the people. … I embrace the city, and I welcome everyone to make Hartford theirs,” says Hugh Russell.
In Episode 2 we explore the Arbor Arts Center and discuss what it’s like being an artist, activist, and entrepreneur in Hartford, with Tainted Inc. owner, Andrea Cortez. “The thing that is so beautiful about Hartford is that it’s really this underdog city. It’s also this almost secret world that most people don’t know about. For me, it’s the people that make it so magical…. And I say it all the time, the city of Hartford is just small enough and just big enough where you can really see the impact of your efforts,” says Andrea.
Episode 3 we explore Hartford’s largest parkland, Keney Park, and meet Herb Virgo, the man behind the park’s sustainability project and efforts. Herb provides people the opportunity to learn about and grow their own food. “That empowerment to be able to grow your own food has definitely been something that we have witnessed and been amazed at. A lot of people that are doing things out there that they shouldn’t be are trying to feed themselves and feed their families. So if you give them the power to feed themselves, you change their lives… you change everything. And that’s what we’re trying to do,” says Herb.
In Episode 4, Tang Sauce explores the Downtown Hartford restaurant scene and discusses with Bear’s BBQ owner, Jamie McDonald, about his newest venture, Chango Rosa. “It just goes to show you that you can start with a 6 foot long counter and 3 employees [and grow to] to 6 locations, 350 employees and selling 1.1 million pounds of BBQ in a year… all because of Hartford. So it’s possible, it just takes hard work,” says Jamie.
We meet up with Onyeka Obiocha, from Breakfast Lunch & Dinner, in Episode 5 and hear about how he and his team are bringing a vibrancy and inclusivity to Hartford that continues to impact the community in unique ways. Among many, one notable project you may know about (and have hopefully attended!) is KNOW GOOD Market – an open-air food market which started just three years ago.
In Episode 6, Tang Sauce finds his way over to Upward Hartford to meet up with Shana Schlossberg, founder of the innovation hub in Downtown to hear how she is growing Hartford to become an amazing startup city and ecosystem. “We said ‘this is your new home, we have space… let’s work together.’ We want to be that physical space where everyone can gather, and we want to be enablers and facilitators to that,” says Shana.
In Episode 7 we hear how Leticia Blanco, co-owner of Hartford Boxing Center, is giving individuals in the community a “fighting chance” for a better future through exercise, perseverance and self-discipline. The boxing community is filled with dedicated, strong-minded individuals who have big, big hearts. “You have to have one to take a punch and to give one; they have this eagerness to show off their skill, and it’s something to be respected, they work so hard,” says Leticia.
In Episode 8, Tang Sauce stops by Story and Soil and finds out how this coffee shop has become an iconic stop in Hartford while also inspiring new businesses and people to venture into the Frog Hollow neighborhood. “Really, we fell in love with this spot because we see it as a continuation of what’s being done in the neighborhood,” says Sarah McCoy, co-owner.
Episode 9 we meet the man showcased throughout the Make Hartford Yours series, Tang Sauce. Hartford artist and rapper, and full of life, Tang is passionate about the community and the people in it. “Of course with any city or any situation there’s pros and cons, positives and negatives, but in Hartford you learn to take that and make something productive out of it, to do something positive. So where there’s a challenge, there’s also an opportunity to grow and to create something that benefits both you and the community. So I’ve taken that upon myself to build for the community,” says Tang.