When New Haven’s Gap opened on Dec. 2, 1992, 1,000 shoppers came on the first day to see the new store.
“It’s about time,” Jim Chang ’95 told the Yale Daily News at the time. “Every other campus in America has three or four around them.”
Soon, the number of Gap stores in New Haven will return to zero.
The Gap store located at 994 Chapel Street will close Jan. 31, 2004, a manager for the owner of the building said Thursday.
The reasons for the store’s closing were unclear.
Lisa Drazen, Taft Realty Associates’ regional manager in charge of property management, said she could not discuss the reason the store will shut its doors next year. The store’s manager, Kristen Dusenbury, confirmed that the store is closing in January but said she could not comment further.
Repeated messages left at the retail chain’s media hotline were not answered Thursday.
Scott Healy ’96, the executive director of the Town Green Special Services District, said the closure is in line with Gap Inc.’s national strategy, which emphasizes mall and standalone locations to stores on downtown streets. Gap Inc., which also operates the Banana Republic and Old Navy clothing lines, has faced difficult national sales over the past five years, Healy said.
“From everything that we’ve been able to gather, this is a decision that came from the corporate level of the Gap,” he said.
He said the chain has had difficulty defining itself over the past few years, but that sales at the New Haven store were “extremely brisk.”
Healy said he did not think the relatively similar stores that have moved into the area in recent years, such as J.Crew, have adversely affected the Gap’s sales. Instead of causing harm, Healy said, moving similar stores into the same area can help create a “critical mass” that draws in more shoppers.
The New Haven Register had reported that the store would close in October, but Drazen said the chain exercised an option to extend its use of the space through the holiday season into next year.
The store is part of a larger building owned by Taft that also includes the Taft Apartments, Richter’s pub, Karma, Archetype and Hot Tomato’s restaurant.
Drazen said there was “tremendous, serious interest in the space” from several parties but said she could not discuss potential tenants in any more detail.
Healy said he thought the soon-to-be empty store would be filled with a retailer with “a little more of a New Haven flavor than the Gap ever had.”
“It’s a place with a lot of character,” Healy said. “It’s really a corner that in many ways sells itself.”
Tony Bialecki, the deputy director of the city’s office of economic development, agreed with Healy that Taft should not have much difficulty filling the space, though he said he was sorry to see the Gap go because it is seen as “a name retailer.”
But Healy said he did not think the store’s closure would have much of an effect on the stores on the surrounding block since anchor stores like the Gap are not always as effective at drawing in shoppers as people hope they will be.
“I don’t think many people are losing sleep over it,” Healy said.