Another “First Friday,” and the clocks were striking five across the city.
“First Friday” has a special significance in the Ninth Square neighborhood downtown, where crowds fill closed-off streets for an evening of special “on9” events once that hour arrives. This past Friday was no different.
At the newly opened Artist & Craftsman Supply on Chapel, Mayor Toni Harp was getting an earful on the store’s crafty socks from Town Green Special Services District Executive Director and Amateur Footwrap Enthusiast Win Davis. Her eyes fell on a pair of scissors that store co-manager Leila Crockett held gingerly a few feet away. Big, turquoise-handled ones that looked like they could get the job done.
At around 5:10, she joined Davis, Town Green District Director of Retail Sq. Ft. and Economic Prosperity Chris Ortwein, and store co-managers Barbara Hawes and Crockett, in an official ribbon-cutting ceremony for the arts and crafts store on lower Chapel Street, which has been open for about two weeks.
“I just wanted to say welcome to New Haven and to our business community. We’re really looking forward to your success. I know that so many of our artists ... will be there. New Haven’s full of people like me, who just like to dibble and dabble, and it’s a wonderful resource. Congratulations and thank you for coming to our city,” Harp said before placing her hands atop the scissors to cut the thick blue ribbon.
“It was a long summer, and a long buildup. We are so thrilled to be here. We just know that it’s going to bless the whole neighborhood,” added Hawes, who later called the store “a miracle” while meeting new customers.
Back inside, signs of prosperity abounded. Regional Manager Cassie Brehmer and Crockett (both pictured) made the rounds on the freshly painted floors, checking to see that customers were able to find everything from fine-tipped paint brushes to thousand-piece puzzles. Friends stopped by to offer their congratulations. A few popped bite-sized mocha cupcakes into their mouths while others, inspired, tried their best to channel artists from Leonardo ...
.... to the Guerrilla Girls.
The newly opened store wasn’t the only place to have something sweet to celebrate Friday evening. Boasting a six-stop, six-flavor cupcake crawl, October’s festive On9 also feted five Ninth Square businesses celebrating first and second anniversaries in the neighborhood, and paid tasty tribute to On9’s win of a national Pinnacle Award, distributed by the International Downtown Association for community events.
”We were recognized by a panel of our peers who run downtowns from all over the world as this being a transformative community event. We are celebrating that ... we’ve all come together in the Ninth Square, and have brought our community a lot of recognition and a lot of foot traffic that would otherwise not have been here,” said Davis.
... and Cedarhurst Cafe, where co-owners Tom Panzella and Teri Bernet (pictured) celebrated a very promising first year – Bernet attributes their success to the addition of a homey tuna melt to the menu – by doling out samples of their blueberry muffin and honey vanilla ice cream to sugar-crazed patrons.
Or Capture Salon, celebrating a constant upswing in business as the business turns 2 this year. “Even this summer ... we were fine,” said their Receptionist/Coordinator Jessica Wright (pictured), explaining that the June-August months can be the death knell for businesses in a college town.
Their resident dog Eliot, who gets exactly one cup of coffee a day, may also have something to do with it.
Also abuzz into the evening were Inspired Turkey and Meat & Co., each celebrating one year in business. At Inspired Turkey, known for its fried fowl but becoming a recognized venue for events like improv comedy and spoken word, chef and co-owner Ide Ehigiato explained that “we are branching out ... doing new things.”
Meanwhile, two staff members took taste to task at Meat & Co., joking with customers as they loaded favorites like the Haute Tuna Melt, Garden Rustler and The Revenge of Mr. Jeremy Fisher onto smoking sandwich presses, a cluster of sandwich aficionados staving their hunger off with more fresh cupcakes.
At the corner of Orange and Crown streets, Artspace staff and board members had one more reason to celebrate: the official beginning of City Wide Open Studios (CWOS) next Friday at the Goffe Street Armory, where Curator Tom Eccles’ keynote will kick off three weekends connecting New Haven artists with the community. At Friday night’s opening party, viewers were able to preview one work by each artist featured at CWOS. (Get a full schedule of events here.)
Outside, a DJ switched beats from jazz to hip-hop. A chill blew through the air, not quite enough to deter diners who had chosen to eat outside, now delighting at the bright and moving displays from L.A.M.P. (Light Artists Making Places). From the exterior, Artspace appeared to glow slightly brighter, warding off any unwanted cold.
A New Haven fall was coming on strong. And it was going to be fabulous.