Just two days after opening its doors in East Rock, the Haven Collective has already had to extend its closing hours to accommodate the influx of customers curious to learn more about the store’s “shop / gather / create” motto.
Co-owned by Melissa Gonzales and Meg Kazukynas, the Haven Collective at 938 State St. functions not only as a retail space for vintage and handmade goods, but also as a space to feature local artists and designers, according to Gonzales. She said the shop will also host craft classes and other social events.
“We really try to diversify the use of the space,” said Gonzales, who runs another store called Vintanthromodern Vintage in Trolley Square. “We’re trying to cover all our bases and make it a place that almost anyone who walks into will find some sort of value in.”
The owners of the property offered to waive the first month of rent for Gonzales and Kazukynas, while Project Storefronts — a New Haven program that supports artists, designers and small business owners — and the Haven Collective co-owners will split the remaining two months of what Kazukynas calls “a three-month trial.” Kazukynas, who also owns the New Haven handmade clothing store, said that, after these first three months, she and Gonzales will reevaluate the business’s financial standing and determine whether or not they need further assistance from Project Storefronts.
Property owner Susan Frew said she had turned down previous offers on the property from prospective businesses because she was looking for a store that would “blend in and speak to the community.” Gonzales and Kazukynas said their idea for the store developed out of Haven Events, the pop-up parties that they hosted with two other local artists.
Kazukynas noted that the Haven Collective stocks items from both of the owners’ other stores, but also provides a separate area within the store for a pop-up — a rotating collection of items from different local artists and designers. Jewelry designer Kate Stephen, whose pieces are currently featured in the Haven Collective pop-up, said the space allows her to network with other local artists and share her designs with a different community.
“What’s cool about the Haven Collective is it’s a great place for artists to come together and get inspired, to support one another and just incubate ideas,” Stephen said.
Both owners also stressed the communal aspect of the Haven Collective. Kazukynas said the space is meant to draw artists, small businesses and the community at large together.
The two co-owners spent only two weeks preparing the property for the grand opening last Friday, according to Gonzales.
“People were walking by every day, asking, ‘When are you guys going to be open?’” Kazukynas said.
Gonzales first sought out the space at 938 State St. after realizing that her store’s location in Trolley Square lacked foot traffic. Part of the space’s appeal, according to Kazukynas, is its location in a part of East Rock that has diverse restaurant offerings but few shopping options or craft studios.
After finding the space on Craigslist, Gonzales said she reached out to both the property owners and Project Storefronts to help negotiate the terms of the lease. Gonzales added that Project Storefronts has also helped the Haven Collective by providing marketing services. Both Gonzales and Kazukynas noted that they also had followings from their previous endeavors as small business owners with strong social media presences, which has helped bolster their customer base.
Kazukynas, who said that both she and Gonzales have full-time jobs, underscored that gauging the success of the Haven Collective is focused less on financial considerations and more on connecting the community.
Gonzales said she has been moving incrementally in her business decisions towards her ultimate goal of this “creative/maker/retail” space, and that all that is now required is a community response.
The Haven Collective is open Tuesdays through Fridays.