Shopping Center Bookstore Opens, Filling a Township Literary Vacancy
On a weekend during which people were preoccupied with fireworks, barbecues, family, Wimbledon, the Subway Series, or whatever July 4th event was planned, the opening of Chestnut Tree Books at the Princeton Shopping Center may have slipped under the radar screen for many residents. But, in opening, the bookstore fills a vacancy that has traditionally been a location of literary interest in the town.
The Shopping Center space previously served as home to Titles, Unlimited and Encore Books booksellers, and seemed to be indelibly stamped with a reputation for books when the Princeton Public Library took up temporary residence there in December 2002.
In April, when the library moved into its new home on Witherspoon Street, many Shopping Center patrons grumbled, saying the library should remain at the satellite location in some capacity. Proponents of this idea, several of whom created an ad hoc committee to keep the library at the Shopping Center, maintained that a literary "hang out" away from town made it easier to access amenities that would otherwise be found only downtown.
"I always enjoyed going into the library to browse," Toni Damiano said while flipping through the store's compact disc shelves. She said when the library vacated the spot and the Café closed for renovations, many customers who had used the two spaces were caught off-guard.
"I didn't come [to the shopping center] for a long time, because [the library] was my one focal point here," she said. She said the bookstore opening will again motivate her to walk around and use the other stores at the Shopping Center.
When told that the Café would open again in a few weeks, Ms. Damiano reacted like many customers did that day.
"Oh, they're going to open it again?" she said hopefully. "Wonderful."
The Café, which has undergone extensive repair and renovation since closing in April is planning its grand re-opening in two to three weeks, according to proprietor Jon Cross.
Set to serve more as a fully-functioning restaurant, Mr. Cross said the Café will work "hand-in-hand" with Chestnut Tree Books, adding that he wants to see customers retain the books/cafe relationship they had when the library was there. Additionally, more hot food items will be sold all day, seven days a week.
Chestnut Tree Books owner Ira Kaye said he, too, is looking forward to the entire space being complete. Princeton Video will soon leave its current location next to New York Sports Club to fill the open unit next to the Café. That move will allow New York Sports Club to expand into the current video store site. Finally, Mr. Kaye expects the postal unit that will be located in the downstairs section of his store to open within six weeks, or "with a little luck," four weeks.
"We've moved past the negotiation stage and into the implementation stage," he said, indicating the process has moved along quickly since the bookstore opened.
The bookstore has had a gradual opening, first setting up a stand two weeks ago to sell some choice new releases, and then opening to the public last Thursday, but the shelves still appear bare, despite the thousands of volumes already in stock. Mr. Kaye said about 10,000 more books will arrive this week. That will bring the store to about two-thirds capacity, he said.
Mr. Kaye said his store is already a good fit in the Shopping Center. In a matter of days, he said he has already found customers sleeping soundly downstairs on the couches amid the pages of a good read.
"We are officially initiated,"