Sneak Peek! Haven Collective To Open In East Rock

Lucy Gellman PhotoOn Friday evening, Melissa Gonzales is planning to throw open her door, stand at the front of a pristine, clean-smelling storefront, and greet New Haveners from East Rock and beyond as she looks out from her news digs on State Street.

That’s because she, known to many as the face of Vintanthromodern Vintage & The Vintanthromobile, has teamed up with Project Storefronts and New Haven property owners Bob and Susan Frew to open the Haven Collective at 938 State St., just past the intersection of Bishop and State.

The shop-meets-studio will open to the public Friday, hosting a free crafting party from 6-10pm. 

Gonzales conceived of the Haven Collective almost a year ago, with friend and 23rd/1st shop owner Meg Kazukynas. In the course of planning several Haven Events gatherings at her shop in Trolley Square, she saw that there was a demand for events that brought small business owners and vendors together in an accessible location.

In looking for a property, they needed a substantial source of funding to get off the ground. Enter the Frews, who own 938 State St. and offered to pay the first month’s rent so Gonzales could hit the ground worrying about other things, like where to place polka-dot clad mannequins and when to hold crafting classes. Project Storefronts offered to cover half of the rent during the second and third month, allowing her time for a 90-day test-run to see how profitable and popular the enterprise might be.

”We’re excited about being a community center for people who like to craft and support small businesses. When this property became available, it seemed like the perfect location. Here there are people walking by constantly, and ... that’s pretty exciting,” she said during a press preview on Wednesday afternoon.

“It’s definitely their birthing [of a concept] ... and it’s frickin’ amazing,” added Sarah Bratchell, co-founder of Haven Events and an art teacher in Hamden.

The space, a large, clean first floor with lots of light and big front windows, will serve three purposes as what Gonzales calls “a space for makers” and what Project Storefronts describes as an “incubator for small creative entrepreneurs and artisans.” The first is a rotating pop-up shop at the front of the Collective, showcasing products by Connecticut artists and small business owners like Kate Stephen, who makes sculptural jewelry..

The second is a pedestrian-friendly extension of the Vintanthromobile and 23rd/1st, for which Gonzales yearned in her Trolley Square location ...

... and the third, conjuring Haven Collective’s name, is a collaborative studio space for “modern social events” and crafting, where New Haveners can take classes on what Gonzales calls “practical” crafts; things they might “Pin” on sites like Pinterest but not yet have the skills to create.

“No glitter and no cotton balls here,” Gonzales joked Wednesday, motioning to the gold-dipped bottles, wooden containers and hand-potted terrariums under consideration for her first crafting class.

What she has yet to see, Gonzales said, is how successfully the space will function as a haven for makers and viable attraction for community members. After a year of dreaming the store up, she doesn’t have long to wait: Friday will set into motion three months of testing and tinkering in the hopes of staying open. She’s off to a good start: the paper has been torn away from the windows, and passing New Haveners, a mixture of East Rock residents “who we hope to attract” and people who work in the area, have already been knocking on her door.

Everything, she’s been telling them, is almost ready. They just need to wait one more day.

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