May 15, 2018

Trailblazer store closing in downtown New Haven

Photo | Contributed
Photo | Contributed
The Trailblazer store at 296 Elm Street is closing May 28.

Outdoor retailer Trailblazer, a fixture in the Elm City's Broadway shopping district for more than two decades, is closing its doors at the end of this month.

Owners Chris Howe, Todd Raskin and Chris Mejias told customers in an email Monday the store's last day would be May 28, saying they made the "very difficult decision" not to renew their lease with Yale's University Properties.

Located at 296 Elm Street and part of the Shops at Yale, Trailblazer opened 23 years ago and was known for hosting outdoor activities and family events in the New Haven community.

"This decision was not made lightly and is in no way a reflection of your consistent loyalty and support," the email said.

Reached for comment Tuesday morning, Howe stressed he was not shuttering the store "due to any lack of traffic, profitability or the 'death of brick and mortar' doom and gloom."

"Last year was our best year ever, and we are slated to open a new location in Providence in August and expand our location at Mohegan Sun in November," Howe said. "Unfortunately, we were unable to discern a responsible path forward to renew the New Haven Trailblazer lease."

Asked if the planned opening of a two-story LL Bean next door to Trailblazer played a part in the decision, Howe said: "Yes, of course," but declined to elaborate. The iconic Maine catalog retailer is expected to take up 9,000 square feet in Yale's new graduate student apartment building on Elm Street this summer.

Officials with University Properties did not immediately respond to a request for comment. According to the Trailblazer email, the office was "vocal in their desire for Trailblazer to remain in its current location."

Howe and his partners own several outdoor retail stores in Connecticut and Rhode Island, including New Haven's Patagonia store, which opened last summer at the corner of York and Broadway, and Denali stores in Branford, Old Saybrook and Trumbull. They also owned a Denali in New Haven, but combined it with Trailblazer last year.

Despite Trailblazer's demise, the company said it remains committed to the Elm City.

"(We) will continue to support local nonprofits, host the Banff Mountain Film Festival at the Shubert and Run the Gauntlet at East Rock Park," the email said. "New Haven is our birthplace and we will remain faithful to you and our community."

Natalie Missakian can be reached at news@newhavenbiz.com

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