Photos By Tony Bacewicz / Atlantic Vision Media
Meg Kazukynas and Melissa Gonzales were all smiles as shoppers and well wishers poured in to The Haven Collective during the grand opening Friday night. With help from New Haven’s Project Storefronts they transformed the formerly vacant storefront at 938 State Street in the East Rock neighborhood into an eclectic retail space featuring a wide array of vintage clothing and accessories, hand made one-of-a-kind gifts, paper goods and jewelry.
Meg says that their investment included “Lots of elbow grease and hard work.” that they both put in to clean up and paint on nights that sometimes stretched out to 3 AM. Storefront signage was being applied to the windows even as guests were arriving on opening night.
New Haven Project Storefronts coordinator Julius Stone was on hand to greet those attending and was proud to proclaim the launch of The Haven Collective as a significant milestone for the project. “This is the first iteration of Project Storefronts that has actually stepped out of downtown New Haven.” Stone says that since 2010 Project Storefronts has facilitated transforming more than 20 vacant storefronts into spaces for creative and social entrepreneurs creating new destinations for residents and out of town visitors. “We try to take entrepreneurs and what they’re doing and match it with the neighborhoods that make sense,” said Stone.
Dresses, jackets, sweaters, shoes and accessories lined the walls of the main retail space. One-of-a-kind jewelry by Kate Stephen fashioned from copper, brass, natural stone and vintage beads was displayed prominently in the entrance foyer. Just inside the front door Sarah Bratchell was creating a necklace for her friend Rebecca who was also the first paying customer with her purchase of a red leather belt. Kate Stephen and Sarah Bratchell are founding members of Haven Events.
The concept for The Haven Collective started many months ago when Meg and Melissa partnered together to host one-time events in an old factory building. According to Melissa, “We’d get a bunch of vendors together that made really cool things. We did four of them and each one got more and more popular.” The growing customer base multiplied through word of mouth and social media, validating their concept, explained Melissa “If people were coming to an old smelly factory to hang out and shop then there must be a demand for the kind of experience we were creating. That gave us the inspiration to do it in a more focused way and when this space became available, it all fell in to place.”
“Our core value is sustainability and being ecologically aware. We believe it’s better to go to a local small business to shop than to drive your car to the mall.” says Meg.
For more information on New Haven’s Project Storefronts you can visit their Facebook page.