Whalley Avenue is in for a makeover.
Since it moved from its original location on Edgewood Avenue about 20 years ago, Edge of the Woods Market has been offering the New Haven community natural and organic groceries from its 379 Whalley Ave. location. But owner and founder Peter Dodge has undertaken a new mission to make his store and plaza more beautiful and more welcoming to customers.
“It seems like it’s the right thing to do,” Dodge said. “It represents who we are and what we do. I’ve got my wife and two kids, and we’re all in this together. At this point it’s a nicer space to come into.”
Dodge’s project includes adding more than 40 planters along Whalley Avenue, in addition to a new facade, new windows and new roofing for stores in the plaza.
He also recently purchased the old pillow factory behind the grocery store and is in the midst of renovating it into a warehouse for products and an office space for employees of Edge of the Woods. He already converted the second floor of the building into apartments with green, energy efficient appliances.
Matthew Nemerson, economic development administrator for the city of New Haven, said he is pleased with Dodge’s efforts to redevelop Whalley Avenue, which align with Mayor Toni Harp’s goals of revitalizing local businesses.
“I think it’s great when any retailer is investing in their facade,” Nemerson said. “There has definitely been a lack of investment over the past few years. We are delighted to see people putting money into their storefronts and blocks, and we are definitely looking at ways to make sure that Whalley Avenue is an attractive area for the entire region.”
Dodge bought the shopping plaza adjacent to Edge of the Woods about a year and a half ago, after the former owner put if up for sale. Since he has taken ownership, he has made an effort to better the appearance of the plaza.
The city has matched Dodge’s investment in improving the facade of Edge of the Woods, and Dodge said he hopes for additional city assistance to fix the sidewalks and parkways surrounding his business. Dodge said he had the opportunity to show Harp his progress with the changes to the plaza when she stopped by Edge of the Woods two weeks ago as part of her “shop local” initiative.
Some of Harp’s most important goals for her administration include revitalizing local businesses and increasing retail investment, according to Nemerson.
For members of the New Haven community, these changes have been a positive addition to the plaza and street.
“It’s a really good thing,” said Cory Lombard, a New Haven resident. “Most people driving down streets like [Whalley Avenue] think ‘I’m never going down that road again.’ There are just certain roads you avoid. Beautification would really help a lot.”
Other local residents, including Nathan Dowlin ’11, believed that the project was a good idea, nothing that the plaza is in a “really rough area.”
It is precisely that concern that may be keeping Yale students away from the market.
While students recognized the benefits of further development to the plaza, many also said they were still uneasy about the safety of the area.
“I heard that the area is really sketchy,” Jihye Jo GRD ’19 said. “I want to go [to stores] after class, but now it’s so dark. Maybe if there was more light or security [it would interest me].”
Other students, including Maia Eliscovich Sigal ’16, said they were simply unaware of the stores that are more than a few blocks off campus, noting that most necessities are available in Yale’s vicinity.
Elizabeth Spenst ’18 said she does not ever walk down Whalley because she has no reason to. However, she added that she would not be averse to exploring the area in order to look for cheaper alternatives to the produce at Elm Street Market.
While Dodge has no definite plans for more renovations, he will continue his landscaping project and is open to more changes in the future.