Nestled on Audubon Street in the heart of New Haven’s Art District is an intimate bicycle shop that many a Yalie has walked past on the way to Yale Undergraduate Career Services. But soon, Devil’s Gear II will be closed for good.
“They’re in a convenient location with great prices and great service,” longtime customer Azalea Mitch said. “It’s a shame to see them go.”
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DG II is a satellite branch of Devil’s Gear, a cycling shop on the corner of Chapel and Hamilton streets. Owner Matthew Feiner said he decided to open a second store closer to campus to make it more convenient for his regular patrons, including Associate Dean of Yale College William Segraves and members of the cycling team.
“It’s such a bummer because Matt contributes so much to Yale with the cycling team and just New Haven in general,” cycling team member A.J. Riggs ’11 said. “It’s really sad to see him close it down.”
Barely nine months after its March opening, the store is shutting its doors due to a failing economy that has simply devastated Feiner’s bike sales and repairs.
“The difference was night and day,” Feiner said. “Business just stopped and I actually paid employees out of my own pocket for a while before I realized that it was just not sustainable.”
Compounding the problem of falling revenue, Feiner said, is the high rents Yale charges on the prime real estate around the Art District. Feiner repeatedly asserted that Yale has been very helpful and supportive of his situation, but reluctantly admitted that high rents factored into the closing.
“I pay a lot more for the on-campus location than my Chapel Street location, which has a space that’s three times bigger,” Feiner said. “If the rent were lower, I’d definitely stay and keep the store open.”
DG II’s closing is one in a long line of various locales around Yale closing due to economic woes and high rents — the Yankee Doodle was forced to close down last year and even business at Mory’s, a private dining club on Yale campus, is slowing. But according to customers, DG II’s closing is not solely about the loss of a particular bike shop and its disgruntled patrons. It has to do with Devil’s Gear’s integral role in New Haven’s bike culture, they said.
Since Feiner opened the first Devil’s Gear eight years ago, he has been heavily involved in the New Haven community with LEAP, a peer education program, Elm City Cycling, and Best Buddies, and he has even mentored Special Olympics athletes.
Another issue regarding tenant fees for Yale to consider, Feiner said, is the loss of an overall campus identity. According to Feiner, the Audubon District is currently regarded as out of the way for the general campus population, but Yale is still charging high rents. He points to the way he was told Harvard takes care of tenants at Harvard Square, which included adjusting rent rates, as something that Yale can mirror to create a commercial center on campus besides Broadway.
“The Audubon area is a beautiful district with nice coffee shops and little community stores,” he said. “Many Yale students simply don’t see that side of New Haven, and if Yale were to lower rents and allow more of a community presence, students would flock out here in droves and create a new campus identity.”
For now, the shop remains closed while Feiner attempts new ways to survive the winter, including a bike pickup service and winter storage. All this, he said, is to make it more convenient for his fellow bike enthusiasts.
“I’m not a businessman and I don’t really understand triple rents and all that stuff,” Feiner said. “I’m just a bike rider that owns a business.”