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Rethinking the gateway to Broadway

The salad-and-sandwich chain Au Bon Pain occupied the rounded art-deco corner of York Street and Broadway for 19 years—nearly as long as the presidency of Richard Levin ’74PhD. But Levin—who as president oversaw a transformation of the Broadway retail area that Au Bon Pain helped anchor—outlasted the eatery by a month: Au Bon Pain closed on Memorial Day weekend (giving its employees just four days' notice) after Yale declined to renew their lease.

With Au Bon Pain gone, the university will renovate the building and give it a new, taller, more imposing façade, explains Yale vice president Bruce Alexander ’65. Alexander says that Yale is looking for a retail business for the site—"not food," he says—to contribute to a "critical mass of tenants to attract not only members of our community but shoppers from around the region." The university, which owns most of the retail buildings in the Broadway area, has over the last 20 years changed Broadway from a collection of small local eateries and service businesses into an upscale retail area with the likes of the Apple Store, J. Crew, and Urban Outfitters. Alexander says it's working: "sales are going up each year."

Meanwhile, down the street, Yale will add a new glass entrance pavilion to the west end of the Yale Bookstore (née Yale Co-op) to "create more of a retail presence at that end of of Broadway."

No word yet on what will replace Au Bon Pain in the renovated space, but fans of Francophone fast food will be glad to know that Maison Mathis, a "unique concept that pays tribute to the rich heritage of the Belgian food culture," will soon be opening nearby. They'll occupy a long-vacant storefront on Elm Street built into Arnold Hall, a new dormitory appended to Davenport College in 2005. Maison Mathis is also a chain, although the only location yet in operation is in the Atlanta airport. (Another is under way in Dubai.) The company's website includes a menu of soups, salads, sandwiches, quiches, pastries, and, of course, Belgian waffles. The owners of the storied New Haven bar Rudy's are the local Maison Mathis franchisees.

But I can't end a Friday afternoon, reunion-weekend blog post without a little bit of "When I was at Yale." The corner that Au Bon Pain anchored for so long after my time was home to at least three different watering holes in the mid-1980s: The Brewery, One Broadway, and Demery's. Older alums may remember a drugstore in that spot. What was there in your time?


Filed under Au Bon Pain, Broadway, Maison Mathis, Yale Bookstore
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