Armed with a pair of oversized gold scissors, Bilal Jaber cut a long blue ribbon on Monday, commemorating the grand opening of his store, Sneaker Junkies, located on Chapel Street.
Yale’s Office of New Haven and State Affairs and its University Properties division hosted the ribbon-cutting ceremony to introduce the new store — a sneaker store with two other New England locations founded in Providence, Rhode Island — to the downtown New Haven retail scene. The event, complete with balloons and a speaking podium, was an opportunity for Yale and city officials to welcome Jaber, his fellow owner Maher Najjar and the rest of their staff to their new location at 976 Chapel St.
“We are delighted that [Sneaker Junkies] have chosen The Shops at Yale for their third store location,” said Lauren Zucker, associate vice president for New Haven Affairs and University Properties, in her opening remarks. “As they noted when they came to tour New Haven, downtown New Haven was void of a great sneaker shop.”
Mayor Toni Harp joined Zucker in giving remarks on the store and how it will contribute to the Elm City’s status as a shopping and recreation destination. After their remarks, Zucker and Harp presented Jaber with a commemorative plaque to mark the grand opening. Also in attendance were Win Davis of the Town Green District and Garrett Sheehan of the Greater New Haven Chamber of Commerce, as well as a handful of other city and university officials.
The last shop to fill the space at 976 Chapel, adjacent to the Shake Shack storefront, was the Connecticut Running Company. The space has remained empty since that store closed. An interested tenant signed a lease but then never opened a shop, Zucker said. While she was unable to provide exact dates to the News concerning the timeline of tenancy, she confirmed that the Sneaker Junkies team had been looking to expand to New Haven for some time.
While Monday afternoon’s ceremony officially opened the store close to 1:30 p.m., Sneaker Junkies started welcoming shoppers into its Green-side location on Sept. 1. The New Haven location is the chain’s third storefront, which opened its first shop in Providence in 2007 and has since expanded to Boston, according to a press release from ONHSA.
The space itself is characterized by its bright white decor and chandeliers. Toward the back of the store is a blue throne situated in front of cream wallpaper printed with vignettes of sneakers and a Sneaker Junkies logo. The walls are stacked with sneakers of all colors and varieties, including hot-ticket kicks such as Adidas’ Yeezy line and Nike’s Air Force 1 collection.
The store’s opening brings two full-time and three part-time jobs to downtown New Haven.
“I never thought [Sneaker Junkies] would expand to my hometown,” said Jeff Manley, one of Sneaker Junkies’ new employees and a New Haven native. “I thought they would have gone to New York.”
All parties involved emphasized that the new Sneaker Junkies outpost adds an entirely new dynamic to the Elm City’s retail roster. Harp, in particular, noted that New Haven was the “next logical step” for the brand’s expansion and that it is “adding to what already is a vibrant, exciting and expanding local economy.” The celebration drew to a close when an employee invited the crowd gathered outside on the sidewalk to “come in and spend some money.”
The Shops at Yale consist of the Chapel Street Historic and Broadway Districts.
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