In case you haven’t noticed, New Haven has some retail space for lease. (Side note: Looks like Red Tomato isn’t long for this world, which is 0% surprising.)

In fact, you can’t throw a rock without hitting an empty restaurant/bar spot downtown. While some, like the ol’ Kelly’s/Black Bear/Tavern NH Black Hole, seem to have been quickly gobbled up by the proven (Brother Jimmy’s) and semi-proven (owners of Elm City Social), others remain vacant.

Brother Jimmy's BBQ ribs
I suspect they’re going to do alright downtown.

Especially the new apartment buildings, like College and Crown and Novella, have new retail spaces that are currently sitting vacant.

Novella’s current retail situation.

Listen, I know the city wants another bougie cafe. You know, cause thirty coffee shops isn’t enough for a city of 130,000. But for some reason, nobody seems to want to open one. Maybe it’s time to think about some other options.

Luckily, that’s where I come in. With ideas from my brain.

Electronics/Video Game Retailer

Do you know how big the video game industry is in the United States?

It did about $23.5 billion in revenue last year.

Gamestop in NYC
Sorry, future girlfriends, video games aren’t going anywhere.

And do you know how many video game/software/electronics retailers there are in New Haven?

Zip. Zero. Zilch.

If I want to buy a new video game (and I do), I have to get in my car and drive to North Haven or Orange like some kind of idiot. Or I have to download it and hope my PS4 has enough space and who knows when Comcast will think a data cap is a brilliant idea.

Comcast Eye of Sauron
The Eye of Comcast sees all.

But no, why get a Best Buy or Gamestop in here when you can open up another European boutique makeup store nobody can afford to shop at.

Pop-Up Performance Space

While New Haven has done some interesting things with pop-up retail spaces on Church St and elsewhere, why not turn one of these spaces into a temporary, city-run pop-up performance space?

Pop Up Performance Space
No idea what’s going on here.

For instance, I do a bit of comedy here and there, as do some of my more clever friends, and it’s always tricky to find somewhere to put on a show, cause while bars will do it, they generally prefer cover bands playing Lit’s “My Own Worst Enemy” for the millionth time, pushing you to the brink of suicide and…

Lead singer of Lit
Goddamn his face is so punchable.

… well I digress.

But why not temporarily fill these spaces with some sort of art or performance space? I’m sure there are qualified folks in New Haven. We have a ton of brilliant artists and performers.

Hardware Store

Another point of convenience. When I need hardware, I can go to… uhhhh… er… well, see.

I guess you can go to Rite Aid and hope. But your hope will soon be demolished by the reality that they simply don’t carry much anything past sticky hooks.

Granted, hardware stores tend to cater to the suburbs and New Haven is a bit more city-like, but nonetheless, you’d think something like a Home & Garden shop could work. A lot of people work in the city and they can run errands at lunch.

Home Depot
Is this the new Russian Lady?!


Now obviously you can’t reasonably fit a Home Depot anywhere (well maybe at the Russian Lady/Playwright, wouldn’t that be fun?), but something smaller like a TrueValue or something certainly seems possible.

Or maybe I just don’t want to have to drive to North Haven to buy one single M5 0.8mm bolt.

(That might be it.)

Another Pizza Place

Just kidding. Please stop.

Crying Pizza
I don’t know why this picture exists but it’s so awesome that it does.

Permanent Public Market

Think Faneuil Hall Marketplace in Boston or Pike Place Market in Seattle.

These are permanent markets in locations where various vendors and restaurants can sell their food in a single, desirable location. There are probably a ton of smaller businesses in the Greater New Haven area which can’t afford downtown rents, but would love to get a chance to reach the downtown market.

They give off an urban vibe but also cater to small businesses and are often vibrant downtown locations which imbue those areas with personality.

Quincy Market

I mean, I don’t want to tell the city that nobody is ever going to run a successful bar where Russian Lady was.. .but… if you come to that conclusion independently, it’s okay.

24-Hour Diner

I know, I know. It’s not realistic.

You’d probably need to station an entire squad of police here. And I don’t even want to know what kind of madness would go down here.

But you know what? New York is a pretty crazy city, too, and they manage to pull off having diners. So it’s theoretically possible.

Brooklyn DIner
Where all your aspirations for Friday night turn into sandwiches.

I don’t want to take anything away from Cody’s Diner, but the fact that I can’t get a grilled cheese at am is a damn shame.

New Haven already has limited late-night options, so I think a diner COULD work. But obviously… it would require an immense amount of supervision.

And probably a bouncer. Or four.


  1. Yes, anything with the least bit of actual fricking use would be awesome in this town! How about one of those mini-Target stores? Combines most of the above (apart from the grilled cheese).

  2. Great ideas. I’m sure Emperor Emerson is paying close attention, that is, whenever he removes his head from Yale’s rectum to catch up on news, blogs, food, etc.

  3. Interesting/fun article. A couple of observations.

    Several people, including Matt Nemerson (the city’s economic development director) have argued for a hardware store downtown. Until a few years ago, there was a hardware store on Orange, just outside of downtown and on Whalley. Nationwide, the rise of Home Depot and Loews has had a lot to do with the decline of smaller hardware stores.

    Musical Intervention, recently opened on College Street, is not a pop-up. But it is an inexpensive performance venue.

    The Wooster Square farmers’ market operates year-round. For people who prefer not to shop in the snow, there is also a market in the Metropolitan Business School on Water Street.

    There are several diners in town, e.g. Cody’s on Water Street. I don’t know that any of them are open 24 hours.

  4. I said years ago that New Haven was barking up the wrong tree with all these “upscale” boutiques. They should have been working on bringing in more stuff you use every day. Upscale anything does not revitalize a city. Stuff you use EVERY DAY does. Delis, coffee shops, bookstores, and yes some electronics stores. And then bring in some unique and off beat stuff, and you’d build something unique like Uptown in Minneapolis or St. Mark’s (what it USED to be) that would bring in people all over, because you could get stuff that you couldn’t find anywhere, and there was the other stuff you needed every day to keep you coming back. But there was and still is, this thinking that a place run by someone under 30 would scare off white people with their visa gold cards. I told someone from the DeStefano regime “not only didn’t you listen to any of my ideas, you weren’t even smart enough to STEAL them”.

  5. I loooove the public market idea. And the hardware one. Now to make it happen…

    Also, as a non-driving New Haven resident, I would love a pet store. Maybe not one with puppy sales (though I would love nothing more than to spend time with some puppies), but I’d at least be able to get a beta fish finally.

  6. This is more than three years late, but the link to this column was on the page with the current one, so … As far as hardware stores go, PLEASE go to Goody’s in East Haven! They are knowledgeable, friendly, have most everything you need (including a selection of barbecue grills) and are locally owned, competing for the last bunch of years with Home Depot across I-95. And they are not that far away.

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