NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) — From Hartford to New Haven, new businesses continue to pop up across Connecticut. Municipal officials and business leaders hope this is a sign the economy is going in the right direction since the pandemic. 

In New Haven, a ribbon-cutting ceremony was held Thursday to officially open a new restaurant on Orange Street called It’s Thai Time.

It’s Thai Time owner, Brenda Jain, said it was a moment over a decade in the making. After watching so many eateries struggle to survive during the COVID-19 pandemic, she was waiting for the right time to bring her dream to fruition. 

“In the restaurant business, we all think about that because it was COVID-19 at one point. Something else could happen down the road, but I think everyone still needs to eat.”

The Thai joint is the fourth restaurant to open along Orange Street in a year, snatching the last vacant space on the busy corridor. 

“We are seeing businesses pop up everywhere in this city. It’s a very vibrant place right now, really the epicenter of growth in Connecticut,” said Gary Ciarleglio with the New Haven Chamber of Commerce. 

New Haven Mayor Justin Elicker said since 2020, 165 new businesses have emerged, and 60 of them opened last year alone. He spoke to News 8 at the opening for It’s Thai Time. 

“You see the number of people employed by this restaurant alone, and you multiply that by the number of new places that have opened, and it has a huge economic impact,” he said. 

It’s not just Orange Street, where business spaces are now fully leased – up in Hartford, it’s a similar story for the historic Pratt Street. The area is closed to vehicles and is lined with shops and restaurants.  

A few spaces on the street are still under construction but will open soon. Business owner Melissa Melonson is launching a sweets shop nearby.  

“Just watching people walk down the street every day and look inside and ask, ‘What’s going in here? Oh, this is so exciting.’ People are definitely curious,” she said. 

The MetroHartford Alliance said 60 new restaurants and retail stores will be coming to Hartford, 70% of which will be minority- and women-owned. 

“Not only are they minority or women-owned businesses, they are young people that are opening the businesses. These are people that believe their future is right here in Hartford,” MetroHartford Alliance President David Griggs said. 

Griggs said brand new stores and restaurants have been emerging, as well as businesses that were forced to close during the pandemic and can now reopen.