Gina was born and raised in East Hartford Connecticut. Now, she’s shaking up the state’s restaurant scene, one brunch at a time. After getting her business degree and serving as Executive Director of the Rocky Hill Chamber of Commerce, Gina created a millennial-friendly, Insta-worthy spot in downtown Hartford called The Place 2 Be.
When I was growing up my parents owned Town Line Diner in Rocky Hill, so I’ve always been in the Connecticut restaurant industry. After college, I became the Executive Director of the Rocky Hill Chamber of Commerce and the experience made me really think about how I’d do business if I had my own. At the time, I was living in downtown Hartford, where so many people live, and there were no great breakfast options. I found a space I wanted to lease, sought it out, and created my restaurant, The Place 2 Be.
I wanted to build a place where millennials wanted to go. It’s frustrating to me when people assume the only cool places are in New York City — Connecticut’s cool too. We have tons of young talent, really awesome spaces, and I absolutely love downtown Hartford. I want to highlight the city’s potential for young people.
All the spaces have tons of greenery and Instagrammable elements, and each location is different. The South End has a more relaxed space with a casual brunch vibe, the downtown location is more upscale, and the West Hartford location is in a nice walkable area with outdoor seating. You walk in and see swing chairs, neon “Thirst Trap” signs, moss walls, bathtubs — it’s all about the experience. People connect with us because we engage with them and create spaces that feel authentic.
With 2 Hartford locations established and a West Hartford spot opening soon in Blue Back Square, next, we’re going to be opening in New Haven on Elm Street, across from the Apple Store. There are so many people coming from the 203 area, so we want to expand to that customer base.
People just don’t get how great it is. Connecticut is beautiful. The shore feels like the Hamptons and then you come into New Haven which feels like the city, and then you have rural areas that feel like Vermont — and it’s all in one state. Stamford has their foodie scene; West Hartford is great; there’s so much to do and see.
Even at The Place 2 Be, people never know what to do while they wait for their table. So, we actually started giving out these little cards with nearby suggestions like the River Walk, Hartford Prints, the Science Museum, and Constitution Plaza. We want people to see all there is to do downtown; it’s not just us and see why there are plenty of reasons to come back.
There’s so much to do here; there’s new places at every turn. Connecticut has such a vibrant and talented pool of young people and we’re the ones who are crazy enough to take the risks and just go for our goals. And the more people who come in and do it, the more vibrant the state is going to be.
See the action behind the passion here.
On social @place2bect