Hartford Prints! has been somewhat of an institution on Pratt Street in Hartford since it opened in 2013. The family-run retail store specializes in locally made goods and all things Hartford.
The Hartford Chamber of Commerce checked in with Co-Owner Rory Gale to find out how Hartford Prints! got its start and what the small business most enjoys about being in Hartford.
Why did you join the Hartford Chamber of Commerce?
RORY GALE: Having a business in downtown Hartford, we’ve found the community in Hartford is always so supportive. We wanted to be more connected to other businesses and have those resources and tools—but also be able to help new businesses with the experience we’ve had being in business in Hartford.
Tell us a little about your business evolution.
RORY: Our store is going to be seven, which is really exciting. We were opened through the iConnect pilot program through the City of Hartford. They put out the call to enable small businesses to open storefronts in Hartford with subsidized rent for a set period of time. We wouldn’t have opened the storefront as quickly as we did, but because the program was announced and we wanted to be part of that energy, we jumped on the opportunity. We didn’t think of it as a pop-up. We really came into the project thinking it was going to be our home for a long time.
It’s amazing that through that program, Naturally Dogs & Cats opened as well. We were two brand-new retail stores that have stayed in existence since 2013. I would love to see more of that. That program worked and we’re still here. In downtown, we don’t see the retail end of our storefronts. We have lots of restaurants and amazing arts and entertainment. The missing component is that shopability.
Why Hartford? How and why did you choose your location?
RORY: The business started with me and my two sisters. Addy and Callie. We’re third-generation, born and raised in Hartford. I have a deep love for the city. As kids, we would come shopping downtown to the Civic Center and G. Fox & Co. It was so magical. We wanted to bring retail back to downtown Hartford.
Growing up here and then moving to different states for college and spending some time away from Hartford in our 20s, we realized that what Hartford and Connecticut are missing is this sense of pride. In other places, like Philadelphia and New York City, everyone has a T-shirt representing where they’re from. We didn’t have that in Connecticut. You could wear UConn gear or Hartford Whalers stuff, but there wasn’t really a uniting identity for the state.
That’s the messaging and the reason for founding Hartford Prints!: A positive way to talk about Hartford and a way to connect Hartford and the entire state with a sense of pride. So, when envisioning a physical storefront, it was a no brainer that we wanted to be smack dab in downtown Hartford, right in the middle of everything.
What’s so unique about your location?
RORY: For those who don’t know Pratt Street, it’s the most charming street in Hartford. It’s a brick-lined historic district with all these cute little storefronts. So, in envisioning a storefront, it was the perfect place for Hartford Prints! I remember walking by the vacant storefront several times knowing that was going to be our future home, even before iConnect.
There’s so much potential for Pratt Street because of the size. It’s one block. We can do something in one block that shows everyone in Hartford and the surrounding Hartford County that there is this vibrant downtown that’s a mix of the bars, restaurants, shopping—and all that in one block. That could continue throughout the rest of downtown.
What’s the best thing about working and living and being in Hartford?
RORY: It’s the community. It’s the support of our patrons and the people who live in and around Hartford who come out, whether it’s to shop or when we have an event. They’re always super-supportive and want to make sure Hartford Prints! is here to stay. We couldn’t do that without the community here in Hartford.