A Restored Pratt Street
Through improved and restored retail storefronts, renovated residential spaces, and curated programming, Pratt St is being rediscovered.
There was a line at the door when the Rundown sneaker shop opened on Pratt Street in downtown Hartford for the first time on Saturday.
On Sunday, Bloom Bake Shop announced it had leased one of the shops on the historic brick-lined Pratt Street.
The short and historic commercial street is a particular focus for revitalization by officials trying to regain retail momentum stolen by the COVID-19 pandemic.
That effort received an enormous boost from the “Hart Lift” program. Announced in December, the program uses city COVID-19 relief funds to provide grants of up to $150,000 each for landlords outfitting space for new and expanding stores.
Bloom Bake Shop is participating in the grant through its landlord, Northland Investment Corp. The Rundown is also leasing from Northland, which has applied for a grant at that location as well.
Christian Scott, the 27-year-old owner of Rundown, said he was four months into a five-month, $180,000 rehab of a long-empty storefront when he heard about Hart Lift.
Scott opened his first boutique sneaker and fashion shop in Bridgeport in September 2020. It is doing so well and so many people were traveling from the Hartford area that he decided to open a second location.
The store features high-end new and used sneakers that are no longer available through mainstream stores. Prices run from $3,500 for a pair of white, red and green Louis Vuitton trainers to $150 for a pair of classic white Nike Air Force 1 sneakers.
One customer walked out with $6,000 in gear Sunday, Scott said. It is a regular occurrence, he said.
“Everyone’s really into sneakers and clothing,” Scott said. “Especially now, fashion is a booming industry, and everybody wants to be part of it. Everybody wants a label.”
Scott said he enjoys the clean and inviting aesthetic on Pratt Street. He enjoyed a warm welcome from the Chamber of Commerce and neighboring shops.
“It’s like a family,” Scott said. “I am welcomed with open arms by the surrounding retailers.”
MetroHartford Alliance President and CEO David Griggs said these two unique and promising shops are among the vanguard of a resurgence of downtown activity.
There have been 60 applications to Hart Lift so far, with about half downtown and the rest spread throughout the city, Griggs said.
This will help transform downtown from a place one goes to visit specific shops to an experience and destination in its own right, he said.
“It will take a little while to get that critical mass, but with 60 applications, that critical mass is in there,” Griggs said.
Many of the applications are targeted at the area of and around Pratt Street, Griggs said.
“Pratt Street will be so much more vibrant by the end of summer than it has been in years,” Griggs said.
Sisters Monica Beaudoin and Alex Pilon are moving from online orders, pop-up sales and catering out of a roughly 500-square-foot incubator space to a 2,100-square-foot storefront at 80 Pratt St.
The spot’s last occupant, the Tanuki restaurant, has been gone for more than a decade.
Working with their landlord, Beaudoin and Pilon will transform the spot with new kitchen equipment, flooring, furnishing, fresh paint and removal of a couple walls. They anticipate opening around early June.
They plan a bright, floral-accented sit-down eatery featuring coffee, baked goods and sandwiches, along with sales of flowers, candles and jewelry made by artisan friends.
“We have heard unofficially about new businesses coming in or in negotiation,” Beaudoin said. “So, we will have some great neighbors.”
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