High prices alienate Yalies

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Photo by Alexandra Schmeling .

As rumors swirl around which store will set up shop at 1 Broadway Avenue, students are hoping that the new business will not mirror the high price points of many of the other stores near campus along Chapel Street and in the Broadway Shopping District.

Following the real estate crisis of the late 1980s, the University bought storefronts along Chapel Street and Broadway — two of the highest traffic streets in New Haven. When Richard Levin became President of the University in 1993, the administration made a decision to revamp the retail district in downtown New Haven near Yale’s campus, while extending the length of the business day by requiring many stores in these areas to stay open until 9 p.m. The University did this in an effort to rid the streets around campus of what they considered “bottom end establishments,” said Douglas Rae, a School of Management professor, who added that 25 years ago 1 Broadway was a “horrendous bar with people being thrown through windows every once in a while.”

The University has been successful in changing the culture of the stores around campus, gaining nearly complete control of the real estate along Chapel and Broadway by the mid-1990s. However, students interviewed contended that these key shopping areas provide little variety and too many overly expensive options. Of the 32 University Properties owned shops, five are upscale men’s clothing stores, 10 are boutiques geared to women’s clothing and accessories, five of which classify themselves specifically as jewelry stores. Some of the remaining properties include pricy options like American Apparel and Urban Outfitters, while two focus on beauty products — L’Occitane en Provence and Origins.

Most students interviewed agreed that they rarely, if ever, frequent the stores along Chapel Street and in the Broadway Shopping District. Of 40 interviewed, only 18 had ever shopped at one of the University-owned properties in these areas.

James Lee ’16 and Mieke Scherpbier ’16 both said that they have only have gone to the retail stores, including Origins and J. Press, to purchase gifts for their relatives. Natalina Lopez ’16, who worked at American Apparel last year, said she doesn’t often shop at these stores, also citing the high price points.

“I wish that we had an H&M or a Forever 21 in New Haven, because I think college students need affordable clothing,” Lopez said. “There are other shops out there that have trendy clothing at affordable prices.”

Thomas Aviles ’16 noted the disappointing lack of a pharmacy or general store in either of these shopping districts, adding that he hopes the University will consider putting this type of store at the vacant 1 Broadway location.

Though students interviewed expressed a lack of interest in some of the stores on Chapel and Broadway, those that remember what the streets used to look like said the area is much safer than it used to be.

“One effect is that Yale students and staff feel safe and comfortable walking in those areas in a way that they didn’t 25 years ago,” Rae said. “They have sought to make the area something of a destination shopping area for people who don’t live right on the perimeter of campus.”

University Properties Assistant Director for New Haven and State Affairs Lauren Zucker said in an email that before leasing a property to a particular business, those at University Properties look to have a “merchandising mix that appeals to students and the entire community.”

“With students gone for five months of the year, our tenants need to appeal to a broader audience in order for their business to thrive,” Zucker said.

Ten managers or owners of stores owned by University Properties said most of their customer base was not Yale students or faculty.

Origins store manager Mindy Matteo, who has worked as manager of Origins for five years, said the store typically only attracts Yalies for certain events, like college nights or store promotions.

“Personally, I think it’s an age thing,” Matteo said. “Students just don’t see the necessity for our beauty products, like an anti-aging product.”

Most of the stores in the area said the retail in the area is not geared to students. GANT’s Campus store manager Patrick Harris said the store’s clientele is predominantly young professionals who work in the area, adding that the store’s high price point tends to attract people who are more well-off. GANT has been at its current location at the corner of Elm and York for three and a half years.

“I hear students walking by, giving tours, and saying ‘that’s the store that is so expensive,’” Harris said. “But the people that do come in realize that’s not necessarily the case. What still attracts students to the store is the quality and the style — a simple blue or white shirt is going to last someone for their entire stay at Yale.”

Raggs owner Tom Maloney, who has operated the establishment on Chapel Street for 30 years, said that students also typically come to buy suits, shirts, or shoes in anticipation of interviews or social events. He added that when students do come, the store is usually their second or third choice if they do not find what they are looking for at J. Press or J. Crew.

Some stores, however, said that they do rely on student business.

At Jack Wills, a shop targeted at university outfitters, store manager Caitlin Boyles said that she sees a good number of Yalies shop in the store, adding that four students were on staff in the fall.

Idiom owner Kimberly Pedrick believes that roughly 15 percent of her total revenue comes from students, but admits that the material is geared toward a 30 years or older clientele.

“We do have targeted items that appeal to students, including designers like Michael Stars and Herve Chapelier,” Pedrick said. “We are trying to get the message out that we have a broader selection and more specialty items than what’s over on Broadway.”

Noah Siegel ’15 said he shops at J. Crew sometimes to buy new clothes, but does not often frequent the other stores in the Broadway district or along Chapel. Nevertheless, he said it is reassuring to know that those types of stores exist.

“These stores are all very convenient just in case you do need anything,” Siegel said. “Let’s say that I need something for an interview or I need to get a suit tailored, then I would go to a place like J. Press.”

University Properties has over 85 property tenants and has not yet announced a tenant for 1 Broadway.

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