The supermarket retailer turned up his nose at New Haven’s Ninth Square-created balsamic red onion sandwich spread. “Not Brooklyn enough,” the buyer sniffed.
That hurt. But buyers may not be sniffing for long: People will soon be seeing “Made in New Haven” far and wide.
Michael Sincavage is a a member of the New Haven family that runs Skappo restaurant and store at Crown and Orange streets in the Ninth Square.
He was also one of the first to sign his family’s Skappo All Natural Preserves & Spreads business up for a new “Made in New Haven” branding campaign.
A crowd gathered Wednesday at the Corsair apartments in Goatville to celebrate the first 40 local businesses, including Skappo, licensed to use the label.
“We’re third-generation [New Haveners]. I’m made in New Haven. My kids are made in New Haven,” Sincavage said at the event. So he’s proud of the new logo on his products.
The aim of the campaign: To promote their products and, finding strength in numbers, to help promote the idea of New Haven as a city where once again people are making new things, from innovative substitutes for boring old ketchup, like Sincavage’s spreads, to the latest apps and digital gizmos.
The 40 companies to date have signed up since the campaign was launched in May, said Elinor Slomba, the manager of the campaign for the city’s Department of Economic Development.
Licensees range from Sincavage to modest soap and furniture makers, from Chris Randall, who will be placing the logo on his award-winning calendars and photography, to longtime New Haven businesses like Chabaso Bakery (which provided the breads for the Skappo spreads), Palmieri Foods, and Lamberti Sausage. EcoWorks is on the list, along with Devil’s Gear bike shop, Make Haven and Hugo & Hoby furniture makers, to name a few.
The sausage folks recently placed the “Made in New Haven” logo on a billboard visible from Interstate 95.
Slomba said three types of businesses can apply to participate in the campaign: manufacturers that make products in or in honor of New Haven, retail companies that sell these products, and web-based businesses that promote the city.
The 60 or so folks at Wednesday’s gathering skewed toward young creative entrepreneurs and artisans, just starting out and beginning on a small scale. This included operators web-based businesses like Leah Russell and William Minter of Wheel To Sea Production company, a video production and post production company.
Wheel to Sea Productions promotes New Haven as a place cool, savvy, creative, and caring, and which happens, proudly, not to be Brooklyn.
The company has made short, YouTube-style promotional videos for groups like Music Haven, IRIS, and the city’s health initiatives.
Leah Russell said she intends to put the"Made in New Haven” logo on her website and also to have it appear in the credits on all the company’s video and graphic productions.
“We’ve been here [in the area] five years, and it’s amazing how many groups I’m just learning about now,” she said. “We want to make it easier for groups to learn what’s going on and to increase a sense of belonging to a community” with the logo.
Somba said the next steps for the campaign include continuing to enroll more businesses and launching an online directory by November so locals can interact and outsiders looking to be in touch with local small businesses can do so expeditiously.
“Made in New Haven” emerged out of Project Storefronts — and also because Mayor Toni Harp said more than once that she did not have any made-in-New Haven presents to offer as gifts on her travels.
Creating new businesses can also be about creating new friendships in a town small enough for people to interact frequently. “The combination of manufacturers, artisans, and makers are not only making contributions [economically], but you are curious about each other and to be part of one ecosystem,” Slomba said.
Not just anybody can be licensed, however. “We don’t want people arbitrarily to use the logo, ” said Virginia Kozlowski, who runs the quasi-public Economic Development Corporation.
Licensing guidelines include providing Slomba with three images of the logo in use during every six-month period; following a branding guide with tips, which the campaign gives to each new licensee; and using specific colors — with different relationships between the grey and gold hues in the logo.
If a business agrees to the guidelines, the license is free of charge.
“The license agreement is our protection from people misusing the logo,” Slomba said.
The group recently applied to trademark the logo with the U.S. Trademark Office. Having the licensing agreement enhanced the application, Slomba said. She expects to hear within a month if “Made in New Haven” will soon, in its next graphic development, have a little circled “R” attached to it for added protection.
It turns out that, while the supermarket buyer dissed Sincavage’s non-Brooklyn cred, he did end up buying the product.
Sincavage said his product placements have grown from 25 to 178 stores in the last year, including Big Y and other chains. He called the new logo “fantastic.”
That love derives from his family history, and pride in a city on the move. He recalled once telling a roommate at college in Boston that he was from New Haven. “When I’m in New Haven, I just roll the window and drive right by,” the roommate replied.
The campaign aims to dispel that image.
“Everyone has an image of Brooklyn as a ‘fountain of hipsterism,’” Sincavage concluded, with a touch of gentle irony. “It’s used as a marketing idea. The label says New Haven has its own history, culture, vibe. We don’t need to ride Brooklyn’s coattail.”
More details about the campaign and the full list of participants and guide to sign up are located here.