J. Press, a high-end clothing store that has been around Yale’s campus for years, has moved once again, as the scheduled demolition and renovation of its original building on York Street continues to stall.
Since February, J. Press has temporarily operated out of the storefront at 976 Chapel St., located next to Shake Shack and across from the New Haven Green. On Wednesday, the store relocated to 260 College St., on the same block that houses the Shubert Theater and Claire’s Corner Copia. Although J. Press was slated to stay in the Chapel Street location for a few more months, Yale asked that it move to make way for a new store tenant that has yet to be determined, according to J. Press salesman Mike Sabino.
“They knew that we were going to be temporary given our construction,” Sabino said. “And they got a more permanent offer with a bigger space.”
Sabino added that recent restaurant additions, such as Shake Shack and Chipotle, have attracted great buzz to the Chapel Street area. He speculated that the space’s prime location attracted another business.
Since 1902, J. Press has operated out of the three-story building at 262 York St. next to Davenport College. After a heavy snowstorm last February caused structural damage to the building, city officials declared the building unsafe, forcing the clothing store to move to the first temporary location on Chapel Street. In the months leading up to the snowstorm, the space was already beginning to deteriorate, with portions of the building and floors sagging, according to building official Andy Rizzo. University Properties assisted J. Press in relocating to the site on Chapel Street, which previously housed Chairigami and has previously housed University event materials. After a new, more permanent tenant expressed interest in the property on Chapel, the University helped J. Press relocate to one of its other properties located next to Briq on College Street — another University-owned storefront that has been unoccupied since the Irish-themed gift store Celtica closed down last February.
University Properties was happy to help J. Press relocate after the building was damaged, Director of Retail Leasing and Marketing for University Properties Carin Keane said in a Tuesday email to the News.
Sabino said that the newest move will be beneficial to the company, as the location more closely resembles the York Street location — a quality he said would particularly appeal to alums.
“We’re very excited about the new space,” Sabino said. “It has much more of a J. Press look and feel to it, especially with the wood shelving and cherry-finished molding. This is very much more our style, and, even though it’s a little bit smaller, we’re going to work with it.”
The construction company has scheduled the demolition of the York Street building for January, after the winter holidays. The delay stemmed from an unwillingness to disrupt the Broadway shopping district during the holiday season, Sabino said. He added there are “a lot of people involved” in the demolition process to ensure a safe and effective procedure.
Sabino and Store Manager Jim Fitzgerald both underscored that J. Press hoped to renovate the building and prevent the demolition of the site — a building many local residents characterize as historic, according to Fitzgerald. However, three different structural engineers all agreedthat the building needed to be knocked down, and J. Press was left with no other choice.
J. Press plans to construct a building similar to the old one and is excited about the potential for a new building, Sabino said. Fitzgerald added that he believes it will be a “much more efficient building.” Yale students expressed indifference to the relocation, and the majority of students interviewed said that the store is too expensive for the typical students’ modest budget. Of 18 male students interviewed, only three said that they had ever shopped at J. Press, and five said they had never heard of the store before.
Fitzgerald said that the clothing store predominantly caters to businesspeople, and that college students only occasionally shop there. While Sabino also said the business caters primarily to young professionals, J. Press has launched a new line of clothing to appeal to college students. The new clothing line is called the York Street line and features more casual attire, such as sweaters.
He said that J. Press differentiates itself from other clothing stores in the area, because it does not “bend with the current trend” and tends to stay classic.
He also mentioned that J.Press receives a substantial amount of business during big events when alumni return to campus, like the upcoming Harvard-Yale weekend, or whenever major conferences take place in the Elm City.
“We’re hustling and trying to get this [move-in] done before the big game this weekend,” Sabino said.
J. Press expects to move back to its original location in one-and-a-half to two years.