Mayor Toni Harp ARC ’78 shopped alongside New Haven residents at Broadway retailers last night to launch her new campaign to promote local businesses.
Harp’s trip to the Broadway Shopping District kicked off a series of biweekly visits to retailers in several neighborhoods around the Elm City, including Ninth Square, Chapel Street and Whalley Avenue. City Hall partnered with a number of economic development and retail organizations, including New Haven’s Economic Development Corporation and the New Haven Chamber of Commerce, as part of a larger effort to attract attention to local businesses. Harp’s campaign will stretch into early December.
“A lot of people think that, if they want to go shopping in New Haven, they have to go to the mall,” said Harp. “This is a part of marketing New Haven.”
Harp said that her campaign not only aims to advertise the city to visitors, but also encourages New Haven residents to shop locally.
Support for local businesses was a part of Harp’s mayoral campaign platform last year, according to Laurence Grotheer, director of Communications for Harp’s office. As the city seeks to attract large businesses for multimillion-dollar projects, including the Coliseum Redevelopment Project, Harp’s visits over the next few months hope to keep the public spotlight on locally owned shops.
City Hall is conducting the campaign in conjunction with other efforts to promote business, such as Restaurant Week, Harp said. Preparation is also already underway for promotional events to turn attention to New Haven retailers during the holiday season, she said.
CEO of New Haven’s Economic Development Corporation Ginny Kozlowski stressed that keeping shoppers in locally owned stores is critical for keeping money in the Elm City.
“By shopping in local businesses, we keep people employed, and we keep businesses vibrant,” said Kozlowski.
Although business owners on Broadway were largely unaware of Harp’s most recent campaign, many interviewed expressed positive feelings toward the initiative.
“For people who don’t like to go out into New Haven, this promotes a feeling of safety,” said Shelley Stevens, manager of Trailblazer.
Stevens added that although publicity for the Broadway Shopping District usually draws in a few new customers, business was not expected to dramatically increase as a direct result of Harp’s campaign.
City Hall partnered with Yale University Properties and seven other organizations to debut promotions. Patrick O’Brien, marketing coordinator for Yale University Properties, said he believes the campaign is a crucial, tangible sign for shoppers that City Hall is supporting local businesses.
“I think her attendance helps relay the idea that Broadway is part of the community,” O’Brien said. “It creates an umbrella over all of these neighborhoods to support local business.”
Harp also hired the Connecticut Main Street consulting firm in March to look into expanding businesses on Dixwell, Congress, Grand and Whalley avenues. While the consulting firm was not related to Harp’s campaign, consultants say that building relationships with local retailers is important, said John Simone, President and CEO of Connecticut Main Street.
Harp won New Haven’s mayoral election last November in a race against Independent candidate Justin Elicker FES ’10 SOM ’10.