Local Businesses Get Chunk Of Holiday Gift-Buying

DAVID SEPULVEDA PHOTOSandwiched between the kickoff of the national holiday gift-buying frenzy that has come to be known as Black Friday (the Friday after Thanksgiving) and the following Monday, called Cyber Monday (online shopping), was Small Business Saturday — when an effort to support and boost small businesses in New Haven was in full swing.

One part of New Haven’s Small Business Saturday, coordinated by business owners and local economic development organizations, was a daylong, special holiday market held at Fletcher Cameron Kitchens, a.k.a. Fletcher Cameron Design, a full service custom kitchen company in business since 1989, now located at 91 Orange St. in the Ninth Square.

Christine Ingraham, who is president and co-owner of Fletcher Cameron Kitchens (FC) with husband Gregory C. Spiggle, said she wanted to provide a “pop-up” opportunity for six New Haven-based businesses that don’t otherwise have places to showcase their products. Those businesses included Tuckerman & Co., Hugo & Hoby, Vespoli USA, Walden Hill, Ripe Craft Juices, and artist Jane Miller — diverse businesses that rely primarily on online marketing.

Not all of the businesses involved in the holiday market were start-ups. The Vespoli company, makers of high-performance boat racing shells “proudly built in New Haven” for 30 years, was represented with a sleek, 27-foot racing scull floating high above the modern kitchen counters in the FC showroom (top photo, upper right). CEO and owner Mike Vespoli said all his products carry the “Made in New Haven” logo for the City of New Haven’s marketing campaign to promote locally made products. He did not expect to sell any boats through the Small Business Saturday display, but he did want to build awareness of what New Haven can do and is doing.

“There are great craftsmen here and their work should be known,” Vespoli said.

Ben Young of Hugo and Hoby displayed some of the handcrafted, sustainably sourced furnishings and accessories his online company offers after partnering with designers and craftspeople from around the country and in New Haven.  According to Young, items in the company collection are “inspired by, sourced from, or directly made in New Haven.” Young said the online company got its start through the Yale School of Management (YSOM). He and his partner won seed monies for their start-up after they went through a 10-week accelerated program at the Yale Entrepreneurial Institute.

Augmenting the party nibbles offered by hosts at Fletcher Cameron, were tasty pork salami and sausage food samples by the New England-based company Walden Hill. The long list of company products offered are created with a ”centuries-old European tradition” that uses acorn feed for pigs — an abundant natural resource providing a nutrient-rich diet “prioritizing animal and environmental welfare.” According to Walden Hill’s founder and CEO, Jennifer Milikowsky, a New Haven native who started the company as a graduate student while at the Yale School of Forestry and YSOM, “Heritage Berkshire hogs are thoughtfully raised with animal welfare, environmental impact, and premium flavors as highest priorities.” Milikowsky said she still collects many of the acorns she uses for feed, in New Haven each fall season.

RIPE Craft Juices — made by New Haven-based company FreshBev Craft Juicery at 26 Kendall St. — served chilled samples of their traceable ingredients (“we’re proud to know all our farmers”), daily cold-pressed fruit juices that also included a high-end cocktail mixer line. Their bloody Mary cocktail mixer had just the right amount of heat, satisfying even without the vodka. The product line is carried by Whole Foods and other specialty food stores throughout Connecticut.

A rack of patterned spread collar and Oxford-style shirts were shown by Jonas Clark and Amanda Rinderle of Tuckerman & Company, an environmentally conscious business that uses organic cotton in its shirt production, as opposed to many cotton products in the marketplace laden with pesticides. Partnering with a historic New England shirt factory with a 70-year tradition of craftsmanship, Clark noted that “good fabric never goes out of style.” The company also embraces fair labor practices and standards of social and environmental accountability.

Being housed in a former art gallery, and located on a street boasting Reynolds Fine Art and Artspace, it made perfect sense for a fine artist to have been represented at the Fletcher Cameron Kitchen holiday market. New Haven artist Jane Miller, currently represented by Fred Giampietro Gallery in New Haven, showed a series of her textile sculptures — some with clearly biomorphic leanings, rich in texture and soft form, but also readable as purely expressive abstract forms.

With free metered parking and merchant promotions during the short run of Small Business Saturday in New Haven, there were additional reasons to patronize the businesses. According to the “Your Business” program featured on MSNBC, shopping at small business retailers yields a strong economic return of three times more money for the local community compared to shopping at big box retailers, and 50 times more than shopping with online giants. 

Shopping locally, the program noted, creates a multiplier effect that allows local businesses to hire more people with more discretionary spending, the effect rippling out to other growing support businesses while creating less stress on infrastructure and environment.

According to “Your Business” host JJ Ramberg, “when it comes to community building, small businesses do a lot to create events and are around to support local causes and teams” — a notion also expressed by Made in New Haven campaign manager Elinor Slomba.

“Fletcher Cameron Design is taking the spirit of what we are trying to do and running far with it,” Slomba said. “We love to see spaces across the city filled with local products in a collaborative and fun atmosphere.”

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