Trailblazer to move near the Green

Outdoor retailer Trailblazer will relocate from its current location at 296 Elm St. to the site previously occupied by the Gap on the corner of College and Chapel streets, Trailblazer storebuyer Chris Howe announced Thursday.

Howe said he will likely close the current Trailblazer store within a month after the new location opens its doors in June. He said he has been thinking about moving Trailblazer, which is currently a tenant of University Properties, to a more spacious location for several years. Trailblazer has been in negotiations for the space at 994 Chapel St. with the building’s owner, Taft Realty Associates, since July 2003, before the Gap announced its decision to leave.

Howe said he is excited about moving to the landmark two-story property, which is located in a busy area across from the New Haven Green and surrounded by several restaurants, clubs and Yale dorms.

“It’s a perfect location that we’ve always kind of dreamed about, and it’s really quite amazing to us that it’s all worked out,” he said. “Everything about it is awesome.”

In addition to its prime location, Howe said the property’s larger space will allow Trailblazer to properly display and segment its outdoor products, including a separate space for women’s gear on the second floor. The relocated Trailblazer will offer all the same products sold at its current location, but will also offer snowboards, and eventually kayaks and canoes.

Howe said the extra space will also allow customers to sufficiently test equipment before making a purchase. The new location will feature a water filter testing station, a hiking boot test ramp, a treadmill, and plenty of space to climb into tents.

Howe said there were few stores in the area that offered outdoor apparel and products before Trailblazer opened its first New Haven location in 1994, but that there was a “tremendous amount of opportunity” for outdoor retail to move into the city.

“I think we properly represent the outdoor market, and I think with the location we have the opportunity to cover that market even better,” he said.

Scott Healy ’96, executive director of the Town Green Special Services District, said Trailblazer will appeal to New Haven’s steadily growing younger population. He said while New Haven does not have an adventurous, outdoors-oriented reputation by any means, success at Trailblazer’s three other Connecticut locations — including one at the Mohegan Sun Casino — may prove otherwise.

“It’s a good symbol of where New Haven is going, or at least where downtown New Haven is going,” he said.

Healy said although Trailblazer is not a national retail chain like the Gap, it can still act as a major anchor in the Chapel retail area because it is a “destination” retailer with a loyal customer base. He said nearby retailers have been positive about Trailblazer’s move to the former Gap location.

Trailblazer’s move may also attract other retailers to the downtown area, particularly to the properties in the newly renovated Chapel Square Mall, Healy said.

“With the Coldstone Creamery and Ann Taylor Loft, to have the Gap space now filled as well only makes it easier to market other vacant space in the area,” Healy said.

Troy Resch, University Properties associate director, said Trailblazer’s plan to relocate to a larger location has been anticipated for a while. He said University Properties originally showed the owners of Trailblazer spaces that they owned, but were supportive of the retailer’s decision to move to the former Gap site.

“We’re thrilled that they’re staying in downtown New Haven and I think it’s going to be a great location for them,” Resch said.

University Properties Retail Analyst Meg Reuland ’03 said the soon-to-be empty space on Elm Street will probably be filled with either a fashion or home furnishing store.

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Will Sullivan
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