After exams and commencement, many Yalies return home or travel to far-flung corners of the world, leaving New Haven behind until the fall. In their time away this summer, the retail and dining scene in the Elm City has undergone notable changes, with both the shuttering of well-known establishments and the arrival of new offerings that expand the breadth of choices available to students and residents.
In May, before the August opening of a two-story L.L. Bean outpost at the Shops at Yale on Broadway, longtime outdoor sporting shop Trailblazer announced that it would not renew its own Broadway lease at the end of May. Beyond the shift in outdoor-goods providers, shoppers on Broadway gained another clothing option with the June arrival of FatFace, a London-based clothing retailer.
The Elm City’s restaurant scene similarly lost a long-standing institution — Whitney Avenue’s Caseus Fromagerie and Bistro — after the owner announced its closure in July, following 10 years in business. On the heels of Caseus’ closing, accessible fast-food options joined the city’s offerings, piquing student interest, most notably with a Taco Bell Cantina on Chapel Street.
Trailblazer, after 23 years in the Elm City, emailed customers in May to inform them that the New Haven outpost would close May 28. The owners, who also operate Broadway’s Patagonia storefront, cited a number of reasons for the closure — one of which was the impending arrival of L.L. Bean.
“The University realistically believed that having three stores — Patagonia, Trailblazer and L.L. Bean — in similar locations on Broadway would be best for all three, but that was a risk we just couldn’t take,” said Chris Howe, one of Trailblazer’s three owners.
Trailblazer will continue to operate its franchises elsewhere and Howe and his partners promised a sustained commitment to New Haven.
Between the Trailblazer’s closing and L.L. Bean’s Aug. 3 opening, FatFace opened its ninth U.S. location, between J. Crew and Origins on Broadway. The brand originated when its founders began selling T-shirts and sweatshirts out of their trunk at a popular ski resort in France and now has more than 225 locations worldwide.
Among New Haven’s restaurant offerings, the most conspicuous loss was Caseus Fromagerie and Bistro, at the corner of Whitney Avenue and Trumbull Street. Jason Sobocinski, Caseus’ owner, announced its closure through a Facebook post nine days before its final service on July 12. Sobocinski’s outlined his desire to spend more time with his family and on other projects, which include Ordinary, a cocktail bar on Chapel Street. In the same post, Sobocinski also unveiled a new project to take Caseus’ place — a joint venture between him and two of Caseus’ chefs. Although details have not yet been released, the new project is expected to debut in September.
All of Caseus employees are set to stay on and Sobocinski wrote that the new eatery “will maintain those same foundations with a commitment to be the best possible business for our exceptional city.”
“Our dedication to philanthropy, sustainability, and food made with love will continue to be our core values,” he wrote.
But a low-cost and accessible downtown dining option drew excitement among Yale-related groups on social media over the summer and partially served as an antidote to the closing of Caseus. Taco Bell Cantina, which will be adjacent to the New Haven Green, is slated to open its doors in time for the new semester. It will serve the Tex-Mex chain’s traditional menu items, as well as some alcoholic beverages, in a sit-down setting. The downtown outpost will be New England’s first Cantina, a metropolitan-focused concept first introduced by Taco Bell in 2015.
Neche Veyssal ’20 shared the Hartford Business Journal’s story about the planned Cantina to a popular Yale Facebook group. She told the News she was excited about not having to “rent a Zipcar to get Taco Bell.”
The Shops at Yale, which is managed by Yale University Properties, spans the Broadway district and part of Chapel Street.
Angela Xiao | firstname.lastname@example.org