Shop may replace theater

The space formerly occupied by York Square Cinema, a central location in the Broadway retail district, may soon be taken over by a Hamden-based chain specializing in campus paraphernalia.

Pending approval from the city, Campus Customs, which already operates one location on Broadway, will both sell and manufacture college-themed merchandise on site. The independently owned York Square Cinema closed in spring 2005 because of financial problems. Although some students said Yalies may benefit from Campus Customs’ expanded operations, many said they were indifferent or disappointed that the space would not be better utilized.

Campus Customs, a campus gear store, may soon go up in the space formerly occupied by York Square Cinema, which closed in 2005.
Matt Lucas
Campus Customs, a campus gear store, may soon go up in the space formerly occupied by York Square Cinema, which closed in 2005.

According to a proposal recently submitted to the city, the new Campus Customs store will devote 75 percent of its space to manufacturing merchandise, including operating silk screening and embroidery machines in the back of the store. The centralization of Campus Customs’ operations will allow customization to be done on-site and reduce turnaround time, Campus Customs Vice President Joel Cobdin said. Cobdin said his company has not yet decided whether the existing location on Broadway will remain open.

The space has been vacant since summer 2005, when York Square Cinema closed because of low profits. In winter 2005, former Ward 1 Alderman Rebecca Livengood ’07 spearheaded a campaign to convert the theater into a student-run co-op showing student films, old classics and new releases. But the project failed after the landlord announced plans to renovate the space for a commercial use that would be more economically viable.

Livengood said the new store “is a good alternative to nothing.”

Current Ward 1 Alderman Nick Shalek ’05 said although he thinks Campus Customs will be a good tenant for the District, it is not the best option for the space.

“That space could’ve been used to bring in a tenant that would’ve provided another valuable retail or signing option for Yale students, but that’s the prerogative of the private owners who control the space,” he said.

Director of University Properties David Newton said the UP has no objection to Campus Customs occupying the space as he said the use is not detrimental to the Broadway District.

University Properties is the landlord for the majority of Broadway District businesses but does not own the property that Campus Customs will occupy.

Students were largely indifferent to news of Campus Customs’ new location, although some said it will be more convenient to place orders for silk-screened apparel, such as club or team regalia.

Katie Allen ’07 said currently many students seek vendors outside New Haven for customized merchandise because they often offer cheaper rates. But Campus Customs’ expanded operations may give students more incentive to stick closer to home, she said.

“There are certainly advantages to doing it in New Haven,” Allen said. “Especially if it’s right there, I’m sure it will increase marketability to students.”

Hamden-based Campus Customs has been in business for over 35 years, acting as printer for over 350 colleges.

As the proposal will require a zoning variance, the city will need to review the plans before construction begins. A public hearing will be held on Feb. 13 to allow local residents and business owners to comment on the proposal. Cobdin said the retail store is expected to open in three to six months and that the production facility will be functional by 2008.

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