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Gant CEO: New Haven’s A Joke

by Paul Bass | Jul 6, 2012 10:37 am

(17) Comments | Commenting has been closed | E-mail the Author

Posted to: Business/ Economic Development

(Updated with apology) Dirk-Jan Stoppelenburg delivered what he considered a hilarious punch line: New Haven.

Stoppelenburg told the joke, and cracked himself up, while speaking recently to the India Times newspaper in Delhi.

He was talking about the city that gave his company its start, little old New Haven, Connecticut. The city that had 500 workers making shirts here before Gant moved the jobs overseas in 1979. The city in which Gant plopped a downtown storefront in late 2010 in a quest to pick up some extra retail sales by cashing in on its long-gone local history.

LinkedIn Photo Here’s what the 44-year-old “Dutchman king of casual cool” (pictured) told the India Times in this June 27 article, which reported that he “lords” over 600 stores like New Haven’s worldwide:

“In the 1940s, when GANT started, the Ivy League colleges on the East Coast is where this look started and GANT was a shirt-maker established in New Haven.

“Only two things ever came out of New Haven—Yale University and GANT, in that order (laughs). So the first people who wore GANT shirts ever were Yale students. It’s nice to tell this story to the world. We went back to Yale (in November 2011) [sic], and they gave us a beautiful location on campus where we were allowed to have a store.”

The joke may have amused Stoppelenburg. It didn’t amuse Hill Alderwoman and Democratic Town Chairwoman Jackie James.

“Oh my god. That is absolutely horrible,” James said upon hearing of Stoppelenburg’s remark. “I don’t think anybody should buy any clothing from Gant. If that’s how he feels about our city and the great people of this great city, then we should not spend a dime—not a student, not a resident—spend another dime in that store. I’m personally asking him to leave.

“And I actually like his clothes. [But] he doesn’t have to worry about me buying a gift out of there for anyone.”

Friday afternoon, after this story originally appeared, Stoppelenburg issued an apology via the Independent. It begins:

“New Haven is a great city with a rich and longstanding history that extends far beyond Yale and our company heritage. I am deeply sorry that my recent comment to the India Times suggested otherwise. It was an unthinking comment, said in good humor, which in hindsight disparaged the people of New Haven and the local legacy that we hold dear. I am deeply sorry.”

The letter states that “the GANT brand is what it is today because of the people that have worked for our company throughout the years.” It closes with this request: “Please accept my sincerest apology.” Click here to read the full statement.

The CEO’s humor fell flat among New Haveners interviewed Thursday while walking by his store at the corner of York Street and Broadway.

Some had never noticed the store before despite having walked by it countless times. None had ever ventured inside, let alone bought anything.

They all said the CEO doesn’t know what he’s talking about when it comes to the Elm City.

Click on the play arrow at the top of the story to watch some of their reactions.

“He’s from Europe so he doesn’t know. He’s uninformed,” said one woman waiting for the bus a few feet away from the store. “He needs to be educated.”

Paul Bass Photo “Obviously that means that he knows nothing about what’s going on here,” said Yale dining hall worker Theo (“Like the Huxtables”) Coleman (pictured) said. “Tell him he should come down and walk around. And see what else is going on.” Coleman rattled off some of his favorite New Haven shopping stops such as Gourmet Heaven, Urban Outfitters, and most of all Jimmy’s Urban Clothing & Footwear on Whalley Avenue.

Jimmy’s is also a favorite of Town Fair Tire “lumper” William Gallishaw, who said New Haven can also boast of great pizza from spots like Yorkside, Alpha Delta and Modern. “By him making a comment like that,” Gallishaw said, “that’s not fair.” He thought he might have stopped in Gant’s once a long time ago. But that was when a shoe store lived there.

“No, he’s not right. But it’s also not a surprise to me that people who run that kind of store would be that kind of peremptory egotist ...” remarked Yale rising junior Mike Rose, a fan of New Haven’s theaters, parks, and neighborhoods like Wooster Square.

When he heard about the remark, Downtown Alderman Doug Hausladen began reeling off products have come from New Haven: the grandfather clock, the hamburger, the bicycle, erector sets… He moved to modern-era new-media trailblazers like SeeClickFix and HigherOne. Then Hausladen diplomatically added: ” “I’m glad that Gant came back [to New Haven]. I’m glad they’re shopping their Yale Co-op line around the world.”

“Odd!” remarked New Haven state Rep. Pat Dillon. “Is insulting people part of their marketing strategy?”

As crowds passed the Gant store Thursday, only two people were found inside: two employees.

Tables of “Gant /New Haven” label merchandise awaited customers. One had shorts that normally sell for $138; they were on sale at 50 percent off. Another table had bathing trunks selling for $125; they were not on sale. Both items were manufactured in China.

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posted by: Stylo on July 6, 2012  11:04am

I was actually considering taking advantage of that 50% off sale before I read this.

posted by: ElizabethBenton on July 6, 2012  11:12am

Let’s show this CEO just how wrong he is about New Haven!

Some other great New Haven exports:

The matchstick (first invented in New Haven in 1935); the hamburger (first served at Louis’ Lunch in 1900); the lollipop (first served at the Bradley Smith Candy Company of New Haven in 1892): the frisbee (first tossed across the New Haven Green in 1920), the pizza (first served at Pepe’s in 1900), the telephone book (first published by the New Haven District Telephone Company in 1878); the corkscrew (patented by New Havener Philios Blake in 1860)...not to mention the first manufacturing assembly line developed by Eli Whitney in 1799, likely the model for Gant shirt factories today…

Also, let’s not forget the first identification card issued by a municipality to residents regardless of immigration status, now modeled by cities nationwide. We’re nearing the fifth anniversary of the first cards issued here!

Let’s invite Stoppelenburg to New Haven! Who wants to be a tour guide?

posted by: DingDong on July 6, 2012  11:26am

Oh geez.  Who cares?  You guys have pretty thin skin if you think this is news-worthy.

posted by: Dre on July 6, 2012  12:47pm

I think he has way too many stores to care about what we do in New Haven. But I still didn’t like the comment.

posted by: The3rdHorseman on July 6, 2012  12:58pm

Does anybody remember a little company from New Haven called Winchester Repeating Arms?

posted by: anonymous on July 6, 2012  1:05pm

I agree with DingDong.  Who cares what people say about New Haven? They are often wrong.

posted by: Threefifths on July 6, 2012  1:44pm

I agree with Him.In fact Look at New haven.Now you have to pay to park till 9:00 P.M.The people still keep puting the mayor in office.Read this this.

20 Cities You Don’t Want to Live In.

http://www.cnbc.com/id/42135402/20_Cities_You_Don_t_Want_to_Live_In_Yet?slide=12

When he heard about the remark, Downtown Alderman Doug Hausladen began reeling off products have come from New Haven: the grandfather clock, the hamburger, the bicycle, erector sets

Your claim that the Hambuger came from New Have is subject to dispute.Some say it came from this man. Charlie Nagreen of Seymour, Wisconsin sold the first documented flattened meat patty sandwich at the first Seymour Fair in 1885, and later at the Brown and Outagamie county fairs; Also show me the year that grandfather clock, the bicycle, erector sets came from new haven.

posted by: Rosas on July 6, 2012  1:57pm

Elizabeth, please don’t waste city resources “educating” this fellow. Who cares what a manufacturer of over-priced preppy togs says about anything?

posted by: Doctor Who on July 6, 2012  6:52pm

The whole story is a little bizarre.

I bought some stuff on heavy discount in that store about 6 months ago and got to talking with sales staff about the company history.  I was curious, because the clothing is very expensive, and I have dim memories of the late 80s or early 90s remembering Gant being lumped into those lower end outlet clothing stores with Van Heusen/Izod and I seem to remember being able to find Gant in those stores.

Apparently the story is that this is a Euro owned reboot of an American style clothing company, designed to compete with Hilfiger and Ralph Lauren.  Supposedly, it had been active in Europe and was just recently trying to be reintroduced to the USA. 

I found the story interesting, but it still doesn’t explain why the CEO would slag off a place that he’s marketing to the rest of the world as the origin of his clothing.

posted by: Sammy on July 6, 2012  10:55pm

For a paper that spends so much ink hating on suburban towns, do you really get to play the fake victim outrage card?

This is like a Fox story. Slow news day?

posted by: nahavener on July 7, 2012  9:59am

typical comment by a yale merchant saying outloud what many yalies really think about us townies and our rich in history city.myself and nobody i know would go into that store and purchase a pair of shorts made by Chinese child slaves for 125 RIDICULIOUS.THIS IS A CALL TO ALL TOWNIES FOR AN ALL OUT BOYCOTT OF THE GANT STORE AND ALL GANT PRODUCTS.THE ORIGINAL proprietor of that store PAUL PRESS sold great products and was a genuine GENTLEMAN,NOT LIKE THIS GUY.TOWNIE 4 LIFE

posted by: Threefifths on July 7, 2012  5:41pm

It is very funny we call for a boycott of GANT.How come we don’t call for a boycott of Apple.Look at what they do.

In China, Human Costs Are Built Into an iPad

By CHARLES DUHIGG and DAVID BARBOZA

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/26/business/ieconomy-apples-ipad-and-the-human-costs-for-workers-in-china.html?_r=1&pagewanted=all


Apple Corporation Uses Slave Labor to Build iPhones

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4fLM0zvu-LA&feature=related

posted by: is this newsworthy? on July 7, 2012  9:58pm

This is silly.  Silly news is not real news.  - Publishing this adds nothing to our community, nor will it change how this CEO feels.

posted by: TeacherA on July 9, 2012  3:07pm

Who out there still believes that corporate magnates love and care for the little people who slave for them and buy their goods?  Come on, grow up.  Americans wanted small local businesses driven out so we could get lots of cheap stuff.  Well, now we have it. That’s why I always say—be careful what you wish for!!

posted by: AndyH on July 9, 2012  4:25pm

I’ll say amen to Elizabeth’s litany of New Haven firsts, but, um, Louis’ Lunch claims 1895, Pepe’s opened in 1925, and the sulphur match was a century earlier. When the facts are on our side, we might as well get them right.

posted by: Threefifths on July 9, 2012  6:52pm

What does The matchstick (first invented in New Haven in 1935); the hamburger (first served at Louis’ Lunch in 1900); the lollipop (first served at the Bradley Smith Candy Company of New Haven in 1892): the frisbee (first tossed across the New Haven Green in 1920), the pizza (first served at Pepe’s in 1900), the telephone book (first published by the New Haven District Telephone Company in 1878); the corkscrew (patented by New Havener Philios Blake in 1860)...not to mention the first manufacturing assembly line developed by Eli Whitney in 1799, likely the model for Gant shirt factories today…Have to do with living here today in New Haven In 2012.It is still one of the top 20 Cities You Don’t Want to Live In.

http://www.cnbc.com/id/42135402/20_Cities_You_Don_t_Want_to_Live_In_Yet?slide=12

posted by: HhE on July 11, 2012  2:21am

Threefifths, the answer to your first question is that for clothes for UMC WASPs and those members of the middle class who insist that they are UMC (and they will spend more on clothes than those who really are UMC), there are many choices besides Gant:  J Press, Orvis, LL Bean, Filson, and others.  While for smart phones, tablets, and computers, Apple may not be the only game in town, but they are the best.

As for your second question, it is not worth answering.  ElizabethBenton’s point is well taken and self explanatory.  The link you provide is based upon an arbitrary set of statistical parameters.  It also describes these cites as “cities you don’t want to live in yet.” 

Thank you Doctor Who for your post.  I am reminded of how when Black and Decker wanted to sell to people in the trades, and not just DIY homeowners, they bought De-Walt to have a brand with cred.

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