With the beginning of every school year comes a new batch of wide-eyed and eager faces. However, veteran Yalies are not just checking out the “fresh meat;” this year, they return to find fresh faces on Elm City storefronts as well. New Haven has seen the addition of several businesses as part of its move towards economic revitalization, expanding the available shopping beyond the main commercial area along Broadway.
Much to the delight of Yalie sweet-tooths, New Haven’s ice cream offerings have increased considerably over the summer, with the establishment of Tasti D-Lite and Cold Stone Creamery in May. While both sell frozen desserts, the two are polar opposites, emphasizing different styles.
New Haven’s Tasti D-Lite is the first Connecticut branch of a New York-based franchise that specializes in frozen desserts that contain only ten calories per ounce. The sparse, almost sterile High Street location mostly houses empty floor space, save for a counter in the back of the room, where chocolates, gelato, and its signature frozen dessert are sold. The low calorie sweet is advertised prominently both on the outside and the inside of the store.
“Once people know about the product, they come everyday,” Tasti D-Lite part owner Rick Rosato said. “A small vanilla or chocolate is about the same amount of calories as a single slice of Wonder bread. A lot of people substitute it for part of their lunch and eat it even during the winter time.”
On the other hand, Cold Stone Creamery, located in the once dilapidated Chapel Street Mall on Temple Street, is richly decorated and populated by tables. Its clerks scramble busily behind the counter, combining mix-ins like crushed Butterfinger and peanuts with ice cream, and occasionally break into song and dance when a customer drops money into their tip can.
“Our ice cream is very rich and high in calories, but we feel it’s very good, if not the best,” Paul Zembower, general manager of New Haven’s Cold Stone Creamery, said. “We don’t just want to be your average ice cream shop on the corner. My only goal is to bring a new flavor with a very fun atmosphere.”
Yalies have received both ice cream shops with enthusiasm: New Yorkers are glad to see Tasti D-Lite expand in the Tri-State Area, while those from the West have welcomed Cold Stone as a little bit of home.
“When I first came to Yale, I thought Ashley’s was pretty comparable to Cold Stone in taste and style,” Colorado native Kean Hsu ’06 said. “But when they opened Cold Stone in New Haven, that was pretty quality.”
Besides completely brand-new, this summer also saw a familiar store with a new face: Trailblazer, the outdoor gear specialist originally located on Elm Street, relocated to the corner of Chapel and College Streets, where the Elm City’s Gap stood until its closing in February of this year.
“We liked our location a lot on Elm Street, but we were growing out of it,” Craig Aaker, manager of Trailblazer, said. “What’s nice about this location is that it is higher profile than the old spot. It’s in a location that’s a little more central — right on the Green … The Green is a really good place for recreation, and people come and kick the ball around and we are right here — where you can get a Frisbee or whatever else you need.”
But figuratively and literally, the biggest addition to New Haven is the Swedish furniture retailer IKEA, which opened July 28 on Sargent Drive, near the interchange of Interstates 91 and 95. According to an IKEA press release, the New Haven branch spans 306,000 square feet over 20 acres and employs over 400 staff members. Megan Day, Community Relations Director IKEA New Haven, explained that over the past month the store — the first and last store that will be opened in Connecticut — has received a diverse customer base, drawn from all parts of New England and within the New Haven community, including a fair share of students from the University.
Although IKEA’s location is not the most convenient when coming from Central Campus, the company has taken efforts to make itself seem just a bit closer to the Yale community through a number of promotions. Day said that it contributed giveaways for the welcome packages that were distributed to the incoming freshmen, provided a shuttle service to graduate students on Aug. 29, and plans to extend a similar service to undergraduates in future years. Though IKEA New Haven has only had its doors open for but a month, many agree that IKEA’s influence has already become prominent in the way Yalies decorate — for better or for worse.
“It’s reasonably priced furniture and accessories have made living at Yale — more specifically, my closet — much more organized,” David Tian ’07 said.
“Everyone’s rooms are going to look the same this year,” Gil Addo ’07 said, citing an inexpensive IKEA torch lamp that has become virtually ubiquitous in Yale dorms.
These openings and relocations are all part of a larger trend: New Haven has also seen the spring opening of the running gear store Sound Runner and most recently, the replacement of the Holiday Inn by the Marriott Courtyard.
“When my brother was here seven years ago, there weren’t any stores — no Gap, no J. Crew, no stores on Broadway,” Shani Harmon ’06 said. “I think it’s just the past two years that New Haven has changed — Whitney Avenue has opened up, too. It was just kind of dangerous and remote, and now there’s Elm City Java, the organic coffee shop, Sandra’s, and Gourmet Heaven II, and it’s okay to go there late at night.
However, some including Harmon do not agree that these changes are without their faults.
“I feel like [life in New Haven] has become more convenient, but I don’t want my life to be easier if it’s at the expense of New Haven residents,” Harmon said. The cost of housing is rising — the cost of everything is rising, and your typical New Haven resident doesn’t fit into the Yale yuppie culture.”
Others feel that the recent additions and changes to New Haven are simply insufficient.
“Part of me wishes that the new stores on Broadway would address some of the bigger needs of the students in New Haven, like a closer grocery store or a more central drug store or at least more mid-level dining,” R. David Edelman ’07 said. “I would love to see more big chain stores like that in New Haven, but I’d be even happier if they were accessible to those of us without cars.”
But Zembower says that Cold Stone’s employees are all from New Haven and neighboring Hamden. Similarly, Day said IKEA plans to cooperate with Yale and the larger New Haven community to address common concerns, specifically those dealing with local children and the environment.
Regardless of the political backdrop behind these new openings, the consensus is clear: these new businesses will find a means to integrate into Yalie life one way or another.
“You almost take for granted the stuff that comes out,” Hsu said. “It just becomes so engrained in your life you don’t even really notice. Like Ivy Noodle has [since it opened], these places almost become new Yale traditions.”