As Francis Cedaho snipped through the red ribbon stretching across the doorway to her newly opened beauty salon on Dixwell Avenue, the distinguished crowd behind her broke into applause. Afterward, the audience went a few stores down to celebrate at a newly opened pizzeria.
Approximately 15 New Haven business leaders and community officials, including New Haven Mayor John DeStefano Jr., gathered with the owners of Downtown Pizza and Francis Beauty Salon to mark their grand openings in Dixwell Plaza yesterday afternoon. The two stores are a significant addition to the ongoing revitalization effort of the Dixwell Plaza shopping area, DeStefano said.
DeStefano, who spoke at the event, said it was inspiring to see thriving businesses emerge on Dixwell Avenue, an area that has suffered from economic inactivity in the past.
“This neighborhood has changed so much in the last 20 years,” he said.
DeStefano said the economic outlook of the area will continue to improve as local citizens strive to invest in their community and it was gratifying to see two families willing to do that.
Derek Slap, director of public information for the city of New Haven, said the two new businesses are an uplifting sign for the neighborhood. He said the revitalization effort at Dixwell Plaza is important because empty storefronts are discouraging for residents.
As of now, 10 of the center’s 11 vacancies are occupied and open for business, Slap said.
“This is the most successful the shopping center has been in a long time,” he said.
Cornell Scott, the president of the Dixwell Plaza Merchants Association, welcomed the audience to the openings. Scott recognized Alderman Drew King in particular for his efforts in the revitalization of Dixwell.
“The plaza has been working hard to convince new tenants to locate here,” Scott said.
The owners of Francis Beauty Salon and Downtown Pizza said they were excited about operating in the Dixwell community. Still wearing his apron from a day at work behind the counter, Downtown Pizza owner Ridnan Citlak thanked the community for its help.
“We respect them; they respect us,” he said of his customers in the Dixwell neighborhood.
A spokesperson from Francis Beauty Salon also expressed appreciation for the neighborhood’s support.
“We’re here for all types of people. We’re here in the community to accommodate everyone,” she said.
After the ceremony, DeStefano and King visited the kitchen of Downtown Pizza and greeted the cooks as the crowd gathered for the reception. Karim Sidi, the property manager for the beauty salon, said his close partnership with salon owner Cedaho would be beneficial for Dixwell Plaza.
Sidi said he hoped to serve as a partner to future small businesses in the area and said he encourages potential entrepreneurs to talk to him if they are interested in starting a business in the neighborhood.
“We bought here with plans to revitalize the neighborhood,” he said. “We hope to have more opportunities with this neighborhood.”