Tropical Smoothie Café has come a long way — from its humble beginning as a Florida beach stand to its present state as a nationwide chain restaurant. This week, it took that journey one step further, celebrating the grand opening of its New Haven location.
Mayor Toni Harp gathered with city and University officials in the cafe Tuesday morning to celebrate the store’s grand opening. The officials praised the new shop, located at 15 Dixwell Ave., for bringing booming business to the area connecting Broadway with the rest of Dixwell. Before Tropical Smoothie Café opened in mid-September, the space housed the defunct Broadway Liquor store.
“We are trying to extend the feeling you feel on Broadway, to have a sense of development and to be a part of the neighborhood,” Patrick O’Brien, University Properties marketing coordinator, said. “The goal is to have establishments like this cafe where everyone can mingle.”
The new opportunity to indulge in smoothies and light food at the cafe has increased foot traffic in the street behind Payne Whitney, Tropical Smoothie Café owner Zarko Stojanovski said. When Tropical Smoothie Café opened in September, Stojanovski said, foot traffic around the store was low, so few people entered. But with sales tripling in the first month, there is evidence that the number of visitors to the area has increased, Stojanovski said.
Stojanovski said his cafe has become a staple for sweet-toothed Yale students and community residents alike. Many customers are student-athletes, he said, adding that he has served players on the lacrosse, gymnastics and football teams. In total, around 60 percent of Tropical Smoothie Café’s customers are Yale students, Stojanovski said.
Additionally, the cafe also frequently serves public servants such as policemen, firemen and military personnel, all of whom enjoy a 50 percent discount, Stojanovski said. Even before the ribbon-cutting Tuesday morning, at least four city police officers were at the cafe sipping smoothies.
When UP courted landlords to fill the vacancy on Dixwell, Dixwell Alder Jeanette Morrison asked them to choose a store that sold goods that the majority of her constituents could afford. During the ribbon-cutting, Morrison said she was happy with UP’s choice. Though Tropical Smoothie Café is not the cheapest establishment, it is relatively affordable, she said.
“You cannot put a high-end place to eat,” Morrison said. “It is not just about Yale.”
Morrison added that the healthy offerings at the store make it an important contribution to the neighborhood. She said new developments in Dixwell should prioritize establishments people of all ages can enjoy, citing Tropical Smoothie Café and G Cafe Bakery as examples of this.
UP will soon add an eatery to 9 Dixwell Ave., the empty space next door to Tropical Smoothie Café. Morrison said she is extending the same request to UP.
UP has not yet found a tenant for this vacancy, O’Brien said.
Tropical Smoothie Café’s success is emblematic of Dixwell’s economic growth spurt, Morrison said. Dixwell’s housing market and commercial offerings have grown considerably over the past two decades, Morrison said, naming Science Park and the Winchester Lofts as examples. Dixwell Avenue has also been targeted by city and state officials for economic-growth funding.
Morrison added the surrounding community once saw themselves at odds with the University. But the introduction of new businesses has improved town-gown relations. Morrison said this comes largely due to the work of individuals in Yale’s Office of New Haven and State Affairs. She added that her ward — made up of an equal proportion of Yale students and permanent New Haven residents — has been the main area benefiting from these changes.
“This is a ward bridging the gap between Yale and New Haven,” Morrison said. “We will continue to intertwine as UP and I work together to bridge the gap.”
The UPS Store at 24 Dixwell Ave. is due to move across the street to 33 Dixwell Ave.