First Thursdays lack weekend punch

The Chapel Street Historic District’s First Thursdays, a monthly event designed to draw students and community members to the downtown shopping district of New Haven, may be failing to do just that.

Today, and for the first Thursday of every month, New Haven retailers and restaurants open their doors and extend their hours to allow city residents to explore their local business scene. Many participating businesses — which span Chapel, College, York and High streets — offer special discounts and in-store events on these days. But even though the program has been going on for a year, many students — and business owners themselves — said the deals have not been enough to draw crowds.

November’s First Thursday event will feature a trio of centerpiece events: live jazz at Scoozzi Trattoria and Wine Bar, a reading and book signing with Linda Thompson, an author of inspirational books, at Seychelles and the unveiling of local jeweler Diane Saslow’s new line at idiom. The Book Trader Café will also be handing out one free children’s book to every child, and the Yale University Art Gallery and the Yale Center for British Art will remain open three extra hours, until 8 p.m.

The monthly events are organized by the Chapel Merchants Association, and all member businesses of the group are invited to participate. Lori O’Connell, manager of real estate for University Properties, which owns the property that houses many of the businesses, said she hopes the promotion will draw residents into stores they had previously overlooked.

“The objective,” she said, “is to have one special day a month to showcase the wonderful, one-of-a-kind stores in the Chapel District.”

Although O’Connell said the events are advertised via print media, radio and posters, these promotions do not seem to be reaching the Yale student body, as many students interviewed said they were unaware of the freebies and discounts.

Still, several students said they might explore the event once they were told about it by the News.

“I’ve never even heard of this before,” Zara Kessler ’12 said of First Thursdays. “It sounds fun, but they don’t advertise it enough. If people knew about it, then I think students would definitely show up more.”

On the business owners’ end, the manager of Claire’s Corner Copia, which has participated in First Thursdays since last year, said the store has not experienced a significant boost in business from the monthly event.

“We haven’t really seen much,” said Erin Guild, manager of Claire’s, referring to First Thursdays’ aim to increase sales.

However, the small eatery is considering adding more special events to attract customers.

“We’re thinking about bringing in performers, maybe some classical or jazz music, like we have in the past, but right now there hasn’t really been a noticeable increase in business,” Guild said.

Today, both Istanbul Café and Bangkok Gardens will offer a 10 percent discount to Yale students with a valid student ID.

Comments