Inside Union Station, All Was Fair

Elinor Slomba PhotoMatthew Feiner brought his Brompton Bike to New Haven’s Union Station. It wasn’t to take the 5:02 train to Grand Central. Or the 5:10 to Old Saybrook. Or the even the 5:33 to Boston.

No. He had a fair to get to.

Elinor Slomba PhotoMore precisely, an indoor “street fair” held Friday and Saturday at the train station designed to promote local entrepreneurship, a cause that Feiner, owner of The Devil’s Gear bike shop, considers close to his heart.

Sponsored by Project Storefronts and Park New Haven, the fair brought a handful of small business owners and cultural representatives from around the greater New Haven area in touch with passengers at the station, which gets some of its busiest foot traffic at the beginning of the weekend. 

“This [the fair] is great,” said Feiner as he folded and unfolded a Brompton, “a folding bicycle that rides like a full-sized bike,” for curious onlookers.  His cadre of Bromptons has a New Haven angle of its own: The manufacturer turned his shop down because Feiner couldn’t promise a sale of 50 or more. Then New Havener Bruce Shapiro, who rides his Brompton to the station daily, folds it, and boards an Amtrak to New York, wrote the factory. Soon, Feiner was in Brompton business. 

Lucy Gellman PhotoIt wasn’t the only show of local collaboration. Also present were mom and daughter team Sandra and Allie Centorino (pictured) of Say it Forward + Co., a company that seeks to spread positivity face-to-face through their upbeat note cards, which they sell in packs, tins and jars for $4.97 to $29.97.

Sandra, who considers herself a CIE – Certified Inspirational Expert – handed out the cards to passengers walking to their trains, smiles spreading slowly across the station as people pushed forward to the split-flap display above the escalators. For the two, who are in the running for a $15,000 grant, the fair was a perfect opportunity to show New Haven what they were about.

Or Angelina and Hallanna Ludvig (pictured), another mother-daughter duo that is seeking to expand their organic soap making operation, currently a business run out of their kitchen, into something larger with the help of Project Storefronts. The pair started making organic soaps and scrubs – just a sampling of which includes lavender, chocolate peppermint, honey, and cinnamon – when Angelina’s granddaughter was born with an allergy to the chemicals in most bar soaps.

“It’s great, being able to get our soaps out there. You know, you have to feed your skin too. I’m so thankful they can include us,” said Hallanna.

In the next booth, Alysia Southern (pictured) of Barrage Designs sold upcycled vintage wares ranging from small wooden drawers to throw pillows. “It’s really a blessing. It’s amazing ... to reach everyone from little girls to 85 year olds with this passion. The more people who work together, the better off we are,” she said.

“I’m very impressed. The state was supportive, and everybody that we talked to was just wanting to see it happen. The train station employees were the first wave of folks to come and check us out, and they were pretty happy ... validating that this was a zone of the station that needed a little perk-up. Somebody asked us if we were going to do it every week ... the next one we were thinking about doing is October, but we don’t want to take anything longer than we have to. Anything worth repeating, we can pull off,” said Elinor Slomba, program manager for Project Storefronts and one of the masterminds behind the weekend’s fair.

“It’s [the fair] been great so far. We’re getting our story out there. If we continue this, it could be a place where people hang out,” added Vishal Patel, who is working with Project Storefronts to open a coffee shop and “happiness lab” in the fall for his “ A Happy Life” coffee brand. As he spoke, he gestured to customers looking through leather pieces of jewelry at V’s Accessories (“True girlfriends are like great pieces of jewelry – bright, beautiful, and always in style!”) and tinkering with bell-shaped dolls by local artist Rashmi.

Also present were local favorites like Global Local Gourmet, Urban SEED, The Greater New Haven Professional and Business Association, the New Haven Museum (“not the Peabody, not Yale,” the museum’s representative joked), and Melissa Gonzales with her Vintanthromodern Vintage, LLC & The Vintanthromobile. While legendary local pencil artist Krikko did not make an appearance, his work found its way back into the station. Here’s to hoping he will too by the next fair.

For more information on upcoming Project Storefronts’ events and initiatives, visit the Facebook page or follow the group on Twitter.

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posted by: deathandtaxes on July 21, 2014  12:22pm

Looks like tables were provided by the ultimate local New Haven entrepreneur, the czar of cardboard, Chairigami.

posted by: Nathan on July 21, 2014  12:37pm

This is a great idea, which mimics the use of Vanderbilt Hall in Grand Central Terminal.  There is an unused entire mezzanine level, which lacks only a better method of access to be used full-time for such ideas.  A set of staircases like in Grand Central would finally enable use of that space.