Yale University Properties is replacing one specialty retail store on Chapel Street with another, swapping olive oil and pasta sauce for ice cream and cheese.
Extra Virgin Oil, a high-end store for Italian goods, put its 1020 Chapel St. location back on the market in August after just one year of doing business in the Elm City. Within weeks, University Properties found a new tenant for the building -— Arethusa Farm and Dairy, which will open a store by the end of this year.
Arethusa founder and owner Tony Yurgatis expects his new shop to thrive. New Haven Economic Development Administrator Matthew Nemerson SOM ’81 said New Haven is a city with a demographic that attracts experimental retail.
“For people who want success, or have a concept and want to test it, I think New Haven makes a lot of sense,” Nemerson said.
Like Arethusa Farm and Dairy, Extra Virgin Oil was also a small business opening its second location when it came to New Haven in 2014. At the store’s first location in Mystic, Connecticut, employees prepare pasta on-site for customers, in addition to selling olive oil and sauces. Nemerson said Extra Virgin Oil’s failure in New Haven was partially due to its lack of a kitchen, adding that in order for a specialty store like Extra Virgin Oil to succeed in a retail market dominated by online shopping, it must create an immersive shopping experience — one in which customers feel like they “are entering another world.”
Extra Virgin Oil lacked the tools they needed to become an immersive experience, Nemerson said. Establishments like The Green Teahouse on the same block do a better job of engaging customers by preparing their product in the store and giving advice on food preparation, Nemerson said. He noted that he still has not cooked the $20 bag of pasta he bought from Extra Virgin Oil because he has not found an occasion worthy of cooking it, adding that he thought the store should have provided advice regarding how to prepare the luxury noodles.
Despite some specialty stores’ struggles to stay afloat, University Properties will continue to bring small, local businesses to the area. Around 65 percent of University Properties’ tenants are regional or local owners. Deputy University Press Secretary Karen Peart said these kinds of stores create a unique retail environment.
As more stores open downtown, Nemerson said the city’s retail layout may return to its size and scope of the 1950s. In the past, stores founded in New Haven have grown into successful franchises — among them Anne Taylor and JPress. But Nemerson said that given the city’s competitive retail market, he expects some of the more experimental stores to fail.
Despite the instability, Arethusa hopes to be more immersive than its oil-vending predecessor, Yurgaitis said, adding that he hopes serving ice cream in the store will engage customers. The dairy will also sell cheese made with milk from cows on Arethusa’s 300-acre farm in Bantham, Connecticut. The move to New Haven is a natural step in the growth of the business, Yurgaitis said.
Yurgaitis said he hopes the Yale community will boost business throughout the year. He recently submitted the construction plans to New Haven’s Board of Zoning Appeals, which has yet to approve them.
“What’s happened with Yale seems to be the next step in our process of growth,” said Yurgaitis. “Were hoping all this [business] will support the farm, and retail is the best way to go.”
But Yale students questioned whether the city needs a new ice cream store. Evan Fojtik MUS ’17 said that if Arethusa’s ice cream is better than dining hall ice cream, he will be more likely to shop there. Rebecca Wolenski ’16 said that walking distance is a bigger concern, noting that Chapel Street is out of the way for many students on campus. Other students said Arethusa’s prices will prove important for its success.
“If it’s cheaper than Ashley’s, then I’ll go there,” said Jessie Benedict ’16.
A small ice cream at Arethusa costs $3.50, and a large costs $5.
Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Matthew Nemerson had not cooked the $20 pasta he bought at Extra Virgin Oil because the store had not instructed him how to do so. In fact, Nemerson has not cooked the pasta because he had not found an occasion worthy of doing so.
Clarification: In the story “New Dairy Faces Uphill Battle,” New Haven Economic Development Administrator Matthew Nemerson was misquoted as saying that experimental businesses in New Haven have a reputation for not lasting long. In fact, Nemerson believes New Haven’s demographics attract many experimental businesses to the city.