Something New Popping Up On Hartford's Pratt Street
By KENNETH R. GOSSELIN
October 24, 2012
Shoppers have gotten pretty used to the pop-up store, especially around the Fourth of July and Halloween.
But the pop-up that will open in two weeks in downtown Hartford won't offer fireworks or scary costumes, just deals on merchandise from downtown's oldest clothing store.
Stackpole Moore Tryon Tuesday's, a downtown fixture for a century, plans to open the pop-up on the other end of Pratt Street from its flagship store at the corner of Pratt and Trumbull streets.
The pop-up will be open Nov. 1 through Jan. 31 and will offer sale merchandise — both men's and women's — and fashion samples from New York's garment district.
Stackpole co-owner Jody Morneault said she hopes the store will draw more foot traffic to businesses on a street that sorely needs it — and, perhaps, spark new ideas for the street. She also wants shoppers to learn that a cross-section of merchandise at Stackpole's is affordable, despite the clothier's decidedly upscale image.
"If anyone thinks Stackpole Moore Tryon is too expensive and is too intimidating to walk in the door, they will be surprised when they walk in and see the prices," Morneault said.
Stackpole's pop-up is thought to be the first by an established retailer to open in downtown Hartford. The space that Stackpole will occupy — next to The Society Room — has been used recently for a Hartford souvenir store and for Connecticut Whale merchandise. It has been empty since February.
"If the community likes it, the concept, I'll keep it open longer," Morneault said.
Pop-up stores have grown in popularity in recent years, and not just for Halloween or for hawking fireworks around the Fourth of July. Some cities and towns are offering merchants temporary space at little or no rent to show them the potential of shopping areas they want to revitalize. In downtown New Haven, there is an organized effort to bring in specialty stores and shops in hopes of their locating downtown permanently.
Hartford's Pratt Street has been a retail corridor since the late 1800s when it first began the transition from a residential street to a commercial street. In recent decades, however, success on the street has been mixed, complicated by economic downturns, particularly the recent recession.
Today, Pratt Street has 26 storefronts, about a quarter of them without leases, according to the Hartford Business Improvement District.
'People Want Variety'
Jonathan Cohen, whose family owns three buildings on the street, has two of the empty storefronts, one of them recently vacated by the House of Essence, a high-end fragrance boutique.
Cohen said he believes retail on Pratt Street and elsewhere in the central business district will follow an increase in the number of people living downtown, especially as more apartment projects are completed.
"We're very optimistic about where we are headed," Cohen said. "We have to reinvent ourselves. I really feel that it is going to define itself. Right now, my phone is ringing a lot for restaurants, cafes."
In one of his family's buildings, at 65 Pratt, Sunberry's Cafe will open in the next couple of months, Cohen said.
Before the advent of the shopping mall, downtown Hartford had a long, proud history of retailing, with a mix of independent shops, including jewelers such as Lux, Bond and Green, and big-name department stores such as G.Fox & Co. and Sage-Allen.
But Mike Zaleski, executive director of the business improvement district, is reluctant to list off what kinds of retailers belong on Pratt Street and elsewhere downtown these days.
Instead, the improvement district is now applying for grants that would help them hire consultants to develop a comprehensive plan to figure out what the right mix of retail would work in the city, something that has not been done previously. One thing Zaleski would like to see is an online database for businesses looking for space in the city.
The effort is likely to stretch out over the next couple of years, Zaleski said.
"What people want is variety," Zaleski said. "We've been successful to date with restaurants, bars and nightclubs. We need to encourage a new mix of shopping. We want to bring people into downtown and be acquainted with downtown."
This fall, the Hartford HodgePodge program, held on Pratt Street, is promoting downtown retail establishments Sundays through Nov. 18, from noon to 6 p.m. The events feature food, music, entertainment and shopping. The program is produced by the business improvement district and Civic Mind Studios and supported by local organizations, businesses and the city.
Jody Morneault and her husband, Ron, have watched the downtown retail scene for 30 years, including as owners of the clothing shop Tuesday's on Asylum Street. In 2007, they bought Stackpole and merged it with Tuesday's.
"We hope to create a unique experience," Jody Morneault said, of the pop-up store. "It just might give someone a thought that they might want to do something."
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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