Neville Wisdom pictured outside of his soon-to-be new digs at 1090 Chapel Street. “I want to test the waters of foot traffic," he said in an interview earlier this week. Lucy Gellman Photo.
Neville Wisdom is opening a second store downtown—again. This time, he’s expecting half a mile of distance to make the difference between turning a profit, and shutting his doors.
That wasn't the case at 63 Orange St., which Wisdom closed last year. Now, he's moving into a shop at 1090 Chapel St., an 1100 square foot space nestled under the Yale Center for British Art and formerly occupied by Hello Boutique. He expects to open in the coming month.
After Hello Boutique relocated to Hamden earlier this year, Wisdom spotted a for rent sign on the front door. When he called the number listed last month—the building is owned by Yale University Properties—"things started moving very fast.”
“I want to test the waters of foot traffic here,” he said, standing outside of the space on a recent sun-soaked morning. “We don’t see a lot of that in Westville. We didn’t have a lot of that on Orange Street. I’m right across from an amazing museum, and I’m also in one. This seems like a perfect place to expose the community of Yale to my work.”
He added that he sees the new location, housed in one Louis Kahn building and across from another, as potential inspiration for new designs influenced by Kahn’s architecture and the works of art the buildings now hold.
Now, the store is set to open in the coming two months, after painting and slight renovation are complete. On the first floor, Wisdom will have a small workspace and design studio where he can scheme up new dresses, skirts and blazers. On a second floor, he’ll have a showroom and changing rooms for customers. He said he is already in discussions with Yale University Properties about closing nearby High Street for his annual fall fashion show, which has traditionally been held on Orange Street .
“We are delighted to welcome Neville Wisdom to the Chapel Street Historic District at the Shops at Yale,” wrote Lauren Zucker, associate vice president for New Haven affairs and University Properties, in an email Wednesday afternoon. “Yale University is committed to working with the local community by sustaining a vital downtown and promoting New Haven’s economic development through its community investment program.”
Not quite a year after leaving his Ninth Square location on Orange Street, Wisdom said he’s not concerned about the added responsibility or overhead of running two shops again. While the designer has only three employees (including himself), he said that “there’s so much efficiency it feels like we’re six.” While he declined to comment on the price of rent each month, he said it’s “reasonable for where it is,” and estimated that the location would cover its own expenses.
That’s based on recent experience he’s had in Westville. Earlier this year, he experienced his most lucrative first quarter in the history of his business, working on his “100 Day Challenge” while taking custom appointments at his Whalley Ave. store. In a location with more foot traffic, he said he’s expecting the store to cover its own expenses. Besides, he added—he started getting bored with just one shop to look after.
“I get very antsy when things are too calm,” he said. “I’ve been extremely creative and now we have some wiggle room to move into a different area.”
A mischievous grin spread across his face. “Hopefully, I can bring a vibe to the street without causing any ruckus,” he said.