City | 11:39 am | July 7, 2012 | By Nick Defiesta

Gant CEO jokes at New Haven’s expense

The CEO of clothing store Gant drew fire after an interview in which he ridiculed New Haven, the store's hometown.
The CEO of clothing store Gant drew fire after an interview in which he ridiculed New Haven, the store's hometown. Photo by Nick Defiesta.

The CEO of Gant drew the ire of New Haveners after cracking a joke at the city’s expense.

Dirk-Jan Stoppelenburg made fun of the clothing store’s hometown in a June 27 interview with the India Times, joking that just “two good things ever came out of New Haven — Yale University and Gant.” The comment outraged both local residents and Yale students who said Stoppelenburg was wrong to laugh at the city, the New Haven Independent reported.

Gant, which began in New Haven in the 1940s but left the city in 1979, opened a store on Broadway in 2010.

“The first people who wore Gant shirts ever were Yale students,” Stoppelenburg told the India Times. “We went back to Yale, and they gave us a beautiful location on campus where we were allowed to have a store.”

Democratic Town Committee Chair and Alderwoman Jackie James called for a boycott of the New Haven store, and State Rep. Pat Dillon asked if “insulting people” were a part of Gant’s marketing strategy, according to the Independent.

Following the Independent’s coverage of the joke, Stoppelenburg issued an apology for his “unthinking” comment.

“New Haven is a great city with a rich and longstanding history that extends far beyond Yale and our company heritage,” he said in the statement. “I am deeply sorry that my recent comment to the India Times suggested otherwise.”

This spring, Gant began a campaign emphasizing its historic ties to Yale.

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