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(Photo courtesy of Alan Goodheart)

HINKSON'S ON THE MOVE: Hinkson's, a 42-year in-town office supply store, will make a move to a 1,000 square-foot space at the Spring Street Municipal Garage, pending approval from Borough Council.

Hinkson's, Once Rumored to Leave, Will Stay in Town, Parking and All

Matthew Hersh

It looks as though Hinkson's, the long-time stationery mainstay at 82 Nassau Street, will be moving not out of downtown, but over to the Spring Street garage – in search of parking it seems along with the rest of Princeton.

Pending approval from Borough Council, which looks to be merely a formality, Hinkson's will move to a 1,000-square-foot commercial space to the left of the main entrance of the garage.

"We want to keep Hinkson's downtown," said Borough Mayor Joe O'Neill, who added that stores like it were being "pressed by the Office Maxes and Staples of the world."

The move has been a long time in coming, owners said, and a deal with the new landlord, Princeton Borough, was just what the stationery store, which has, in recent years relied less on walk-in business than bulk orders, was looking for.

The move promises not only parking, however; but potentially more walk-in business as well. "What I think the Borough understands is that if you're going to have those apartments by the library and people who do 'city living,' you have to have a few of the convenience stores," said John Roberto, who, along with Andrew Mangone, operates the stationery store.

Mr. Roberto, his mother Rosemary, and brother Scott, run Town Management, the managing firm that owns the building in which Hinkson's is currently located. Other tenants include Zorba's Brother and Knight Dreams, a comic book store.

"People who rent apartments in town don't want to drive places, they want to be able to go out and get what they need," Mr. Roberto said.

As the store long ago slowly switched away from walk-in business to about 70 percent bulk shipping and delivery business, rising demand for parking and waning demand for its prominent location on Nassau Street caused the business to eye relocation.

The owners had set their sights on the Princeton Shopping Center as a potential new home. It was replete with loading zones and surface parking and good for customers picking up large quantities of bulk items. But when a shopping center tenant objected to Hinkson's presence, citing a threat to business, the shopping center balked, and Hinkson's searched elsewhere, according to Mr. Roberto.

"I don't fault the shopping center," he said. "And I'll be honest with you: we're getting a better deal from the Borough than we would have gotten with the shopping center.

He added that the future tenant of the current Hinkson's space, Qdoba, a Tex-Mex restaurant, will better suit the needs of that location, being closer to Princeton University and in-town offices. The mix of commercial businesses in town is market driven, he said. Once Hinkson's leaves and Qdoba moves in, the first level of 82 Nassau will be entirely restaurants.

This is a departure for the building, which has traditionally been a mix of small business and food service. While the former Burger King site has historically been food service: first the Baltimore Dairy Lunch, then Buxton's, Burger King, and soon Saladworks, the current Zorbas Brother location was for many years a pharmacy.

"You go somewhere and it's tough. It's a sad thing to see, but we have to move with the times and we have to adjust," Mr. Mangone said.

"But I can't emphasize enough how the Borough worked with us. They can fill that spot with anybody, but if we're going to serve people and make it convenient to live downtown, where you can go to a food store and pick up thing for your home office, it makes it a better place to live, and I think they know that," he said.

Lou Peredes, Hinkson's assistant manager since 1992, agreed: "I think we'll be here for a long time: we're like family and we always work things out."

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