Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXV, No. 7
Wednesday, February 16, 2011
Coldwell Banker Princeton Office

Prudential Fox and Roach, Realtors

Gloria Nilson GMAC Real Estate

Henderson Sotheby's International Realty

N.T. Callaway Princeton Office

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Weichert, Realtors

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Iris Interiors

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Weather Forecast

Three New Businesses Scheduled To Open Soon on Palmer Square

Dilshanie Perera

Clothing and artisanal cheeses are coming to Palmer Square in the next six weeks.

The three new stores will take up residence on the west side of the square, with Palm Place being the first to open this Friday, February 18. The establishment is an offshoot of one by the same name in Manasquan, and is a Lilly Pulitzer signature store, carrying clothing primarily by the designer.

Rita Conallen, who is the founder and operator of the independently run women’s clothing and accessories store Urban Grace, said she is working to open her business by mid-March, and the gourmet store Olsson’s Fine Foods is moving from the Trenton Farmer’s Market to Palmer Square and is expected to open by April 1.

Vice President of Palmer Square Management David Newton said that choosing the aforementioned lineup of retailers from the others that approached the management company necessitated some “tough choices” and that he is “tremendously looking forward to” the new stores.

Palm Place was the first to approach the management company, “right at the outset of the recession,” noted Mr. Newton. But the proper location didn’t open up until 73 Palmer Square West became vacant after the departure of Coach.

Mr. Newton described Ted Smith, the owner of Palm Place, as a “very experienced retailer,” with the store offering women’s, men’s, and children’s clothing collections, as well as gifts and accessories. Its launch this Friday will include in-store activities, gifts with purchases, and an opportunity to meet the president of Lilly Pulitzer from noon to 2 p.m. at the store.

Urban Grace was inspired by Ms. Conallen’s sister-in-law’s women’s boutique in Bryn Mawr, a 10-year-old operation in which “I’ve watched her grow very respected in the industry,” she added.

Two years ago, Ms. Conallen began musing about joining the world of retail herself, initially considering working for her sister-in-law before becoming intrigued by the prospect of owning her own store.

Describing “having such a great mentor and sounding board” as invaluable, Ms. Conallen admitted, “I feel like a five-minute phone call saves me from disaster.” She seeks to “replicate what Maureen [her sister-in-law] does … in terms of formula, style, and business knowledge. I don’t need to reinvent the wheel.”

The best location for the store, and one that mirrors the conditions of her sister-in-law’s business, is Princeton, according to Ms. Conallen, who pointed out the similar median incomes, populations, and proximity to major cities.

A graduate of Villa Victoria Academy in Trenton, Ms. Conallen currently lives in Bucks County.

Urban Grace will be located at the site of the former Nine West store, and will feature women’s clothing and accessories from brands like Milly, Nanette Lepore, Tracy Reese, and AG Jeans.

Regarding Olsson’s, Mr. Newton remarked that Palmer Square Management had been seeking a cheese store, which could be a complement to the other food and wine purveyors in the downtown. “In my case, it was love at first sight.”

Jennifer Smit explained that moving from the farmer’s market in Trenton to Palmer Square is “really the next chapter” in the store’s evolution. She and her husband Rudy purchased the business four years ago, and noted that Princeton’s downtown is the “environment we believe the store should be in.”

Over 200 cheeses are available at Olsson’s, and Ms. Smit said that they are looking to expand their collection in their new location. Olives, local meats, coffee, teas, desserts, and imported food items will also be available.

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