City business booms

Shack Shack was one of a number of businesses brought to New Haven by University Prop- erties, the Yale-run company that manages much of the real estate near campus.
Shack Shack was one of a number of businesses brought to New Haven by University Prop- erties, the Yale-run company that manages much of the real estate near campus. Photo by Anna-Sophie Harling.

New Haven residents can now step out of the city’s ninth square and into what is billed as a “little French Quarter bistro” in the form of Yolande’s Bistro and Creperie.

The new eatery is one of about 53 businesses that opened in the city in 2012, according to a working draft prepared by the Office of Economic Development and presented to the Development Commission on Jan. 8. Officials with the city and University Properties, the Yale-run company that owns and manages much of the real estate near campus, said they find the number of new businesses — a jump from 2011’s 38 new businesses — -encouraging and a testament to their work.

“We are seeing a positive trend here in the city due to the continuing growth and competitive strengths in our core economic base of health care, life science, education and advanced manufacturing companies,” City Hall Deputy Economic Development Administrator Michael Piscitelli said.

University Properties, which seeks to mix local tenants with national companies in its properties, brought in many of the new businesses that opened in the past year, including Tomatillo, Shake Shack and Alex and Ani. Since students are only on campus for about eight months, the Shops at Yale also rely on national chains that can draw nonstudent business to New Haven.

“From University Properties’ point of view, the more savvy small retailers that spring up and prosper in New Haven, the better — they give New Haven its unique flavor,” said UP Director Abigail Rider. “We are especially pleased when we can recruit national tenants like Urban Outfitters, Gant and Jack Wills who tend to avoid malls, making us that much more unique and thus more attractive to shoppers in the 40-mile circle around New Haven who support the businesses when school is not in session.”

In addition to drawing retailers to nearby properties, Yale also plays a prominent role in drawing business to New Haven beyond the boundaries of University-owned property. Piscitelli cited pharmaceutical company Alexion’s decision to return to New Haven in 2015 as evidence of Yale’s ability to attract technology-based businesses to the city.

Chairigami founder and CEO Zachary Rotholz ’11 said New Haven is an ideal location for a business, due to the sophisticated, intellectual audience and numerous travelers that the city and University draw each year.

The city’s image has an “association with Yale,” which Rotholz said was “huge” for a retail store and has helped him develop a national and international consumer base. The new businesses opening in New Haven have helped Chairigami win business furnishing in their offices.

The growth of the economic base has helped to foster strength in the residential market and a vibrant downtown, according to Piscitelli. Yolande Lacan, who owns Yolande’s Bistro and Creperie, said much of her business is due to that base.

“I’m just getting known out there. I’ve started to do cater-out business with some of the Yale medical offices, [a] couple of holiday events, [and I’m] starting to see some of the professors,” Lacan said.

Both Lacan and Rotholz credited numerous organizations dedicated to supporting new business owners, both Yale- and city-based, with helping them and other new entrepreneurs succeed. The Yale Entrepreneurial Initiative, the Yale Office of New Haven and State Affairs and the New Haven Economic Development Commission were all instrumental in Rotholz’s success, he said.

Lacan said her principal support came from the Grove, a nonprofit social enterprise that helps people, organizations and businesses identify and reach their goals. She said that her neighboring business owners have also been helpful, championing the success of businesses around them in addition to that of their own business.

“I’m enjoying having that community looking to move forward and be successful,” she said. “We all help each other out, there’s plenty of business out there for all of us.”

Twenty-nine of the 53 businesses that were reported as opening in the Office of Economic Development’s working draft were located downtown.

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