Business improves over weekend, over year

Crowds at Blue State, long lines at Urban Outfitters , and a half-hour wait for pizza at Yorkside — all telltale signs of Yale’s Family Weekend, which spurred business around New Haven and added to already increasing revenue for local shops and restaurants this year.

The influx of thousands of Yale families for the weekend — creating a spike in sales for businesses in the area – comes on the heels of data released Wednesday by BizBuySell.com, the web’s largest marketplace for businesses and franchises, that suggested New Haven businesses continued to grow into the third-quarter of 2010.

Of seven downtown businesses interviewed over the weekend, five agreed with the findings that business was improving, though two had mixed feelings about the extent of the recovery.

Sampling 172 local businesses, BizBuySell.com found median annual revenue of businesses in the area had risen almost 14 percent this past year to $376,603. The current median asking price of businesses for sale in greater New Haven was also up more than 25 percent over the year, to $199,000.

Director of University Properties Abigail Rider said a thriving retail scene makes the city prosper, and that the two big employers in the area — Yale and the Yale-New Haven Hospital — would contribute to recovery.

“These employees are shopping here, the students are shopping here; it’s kind of a self-propelling engine,” Rider said.

Barry Cobden, the owner of Yale merchandise retailer Campus Customs, said his business has had to work harder to attract customers in recent times, but he added that he had noticed growth in tandem with the recovering economy.

“Family Weekend is an event that certainly swells the amount of activity because of the number of people and what they’re here for,” he said. “Families are back, in some cases, for their first Family Weekend, and in other cases, for their last of four years.”

The other seller of Yale merchandise, the Yale Bookstore, plans ahead for high-traffic times like Family Weekend by ensuring all staff are on hand, according to General Manager Joseph King.

“Everyone seems to enjoy the weekend,” he said. King added that there had definitely been a sense of recovery this past year as sales increased.

General manager of Atticus Bookstore/Café Ben Gaffney said the weekend would be good for business. He said Saturday he had already seen sales and traffic double at Atticus over the weekend.

When asked about growth this past year, Gaffney attributed it to greater Yale affiliated traffic. “We had a slow summer but business has really picked up a lot since term started,” he explained.

Likewise, co-owner of Blue State Coffee Drew Ruben ’11, said that his stores were definitely busy over Family Weekend, but they had made preparations for a high-traffic weekend. “Sales have been growing since we opened our first New Haven store in Jan. 2009,” he added.

Even stores that have only recently opened have felt an uptick in business.

“We’ve been pretty busy everyday since opening on Aug. 5,” said co-owner of Froyo World Dennis Bok. Though the frozen yogurt store does not have data from past years, Bok said he felt the revitalization of the nearby area had contributed to the successful opening.

“We expect to see an increase in business over Family Weekend,” he added.

But in spite of the boost Family Weekend provides, not all businesses have seen a noticeable increase in demand this past year.

Curtis Stanford, associate manager of Au Bon Pain, said that while he could not reveal exact figures, it did not seem like profits at the bakery and café were as high as those of past years.

“When there are events on we seem to be up from past years, but overall, in general, we are still down,” Stanford said.

Co-owner of Yorkside Pizza & Restaurant George Koutroumanis said that his business was operating at the status quo.

“We have not really increased or decreased business overall”, he said. “A little fluctuation is dependent on what events are on, whether it’s move-in, family weekend, or a football game.”

The next scheduled event that brings crowds of families and friends to New Haven is the University Commencement, taking place May 23, 2011.

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