Karen Lin, Photo Editor

On Monday morning, elected officials toured three New Haven small businesses in an effort to promote local shopping for the upcoming holiday season.

The event began with visits to the downtown business — More Amour Boutique, Grey Matter Books and Neville Wisdom’s Fashion Design Studio. In front of Neville Wisdom’s, Mayor Justin Elicker, Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz, Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) and the business owners offered remarks. Speakers highlighted how shopping locally supports the New Haven economy while also helping to build a stronger city community.

“The quality of the products, the diversity, the creativity is all here within our city,” DeLauro said. “This is about allowing our local economy to flourish.” 

Speakers touted small businesses’ positive impact on local employment. Bysiewicz cited that in 2020, small businesses in Connecticut employed 745,000 people, or over 48 percent of the state’s workforce. 

Bysiewicz added that for every dollar spent at a small business, 68 cents stay in the immediate community and that locally-owned businesses are more likely to give money to local schools and charities.

For example, Neville Wisdom, owner of Neville Wisdom’s, teaches children at numerous schools and classrooms, hosts on-site field trips and curates charity fashion shows. Sam Burton, owner of Grey Matter Books on York Street, jokingly vouched: “You can buy a book from me, and that money will be at a pool hall. It’s staying put.”

The shop owners added that their goods and services are not available at larger retailers. 

“We opened the store to sell different clothes that wouldn’t fly anywhere else,” said Gerald Poole, who works at More Amour Boutique. The racks of clothing hold unique pieces like army green suede sweatsuits, fur-lined denim jackets, and maroon puffer coats.

Similarly, Neville Wisdom’s strays from the norm, boasting hand-made apparel –– some of which Bysiewicz said contributed to her gubernatorial win in 2018. Wisdom, who began designing and creating clothing at 15 in his small rural town in Jamaica, said he combines necessity and originality in his pieces.

“All of our places have things that you aren’t going to find anywhere else,” Burton said. “If you are looking for something with character, and you want to fight against the homogenization of culture, come to our stores.” 

His own store, which teems with stacks of uneven, multicolored books, buys and sells new and used books. 

During the pandemic, the three businesses grew particularly vulnerable due to shut-downs and the absence of on-campus college students. 

“We were basically giving away books during the pandemic,” Burton said. “When we reopened after the pandemic, it was touch-and-go for a while. But the past nine months have been very strong.” 

With the upcoming holiday season, city officials added that shopping locally alleviates the stress of gift selection. 

“A lot of people are not like me,” Elicker said. “I hate shopping. When you walk down into this environment, it feels less stressful. You see welcoming new faces, you don’t wait for things. Come downtown, and it’s actually more fun than you might imagine!”

All three businesses are part of The Shops at Yale.

MICHAELA WANG