Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXIV, No. 22
 
Wednesday, June 2, 2010
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Merrick’s Looking for New Princeton Home, Sees Chance for “Reinvention” in Closing

Dilshanie Perera

Despite the heartbreak involved with closing their much-beloved clothing store Merrick’s at 6 Moore Street, mother and daughter Barbara Racich and Anne Merrick Mavis are determined to persevere, calling the circumstances an opportunity to move on and engage in reinvention.

They are on the lookout for alternate sites in Princeton where they can establish the permanent home of Merrick’s, and in the meantime are planning to host a number of “pop-up” stores in various locations around town.

“We’ve met with real estate agents and property managers, and people with other businesses have offered us their space to use while we’re looking for the right location,” Ms. Racich acknowledged.

Trunk shows have already been set for the end of September and early October, with designers apprised of the move.

Loyal customers, and friends both new and old have been stopping by the store to express their support, Ms. Racich said. “The outpouring has been mindblowing.”

Disagreements with their landlord, Mahmoud Houshiarnejad, as well as the need for building renovations were cited as primary motivations for moving. “We’ve been here for 25 years and our landlord has been our landlord for 15 years. We’ve had a very good relationship with him over the years,” Ms. Racich said.

“The past two years business has been tough,” she pointed out, “and in November we went to talk to him about business being down, and we wanted to renegotiate the lease.” Ms. Racich said that initially Mr. Houshiarnejad agreed to a rent reduction but later changed his mind.

Ms. Racich and Ms. Mavis were also disappointed when Mr. Houshiarnejad rented the storefront at the adjacent building, 210 Nassau Street, which he also owns, to the bridal shop Thurin Atelier. They saw the choice as a violation of their agreement that he would not rent to merchants who sold similar clothing.

“But the real reason is that this building needs a huge amount of work to be sustained,” Ms. Racich said. “We asked to be treated as a new tenant,” so that reduced rent could be a trade off to Merrick’s doing work on the building, but no agreement was achieved.

“In good conscience, we decided we could not go forward without repairs to the building being done, so we started looking for a new space,” Ms. Racich said, noting that her husband John Racich has been working with a property manager since January.

“Mahmoud did want me to move up into that front space [on Nassau Street] for years, but I like this space. Big is not necessarily better. This space is very dear to me. We have tried to buy this from him many times. I don’t want a square box space. This is my heart,” Ms. Racich said, growing misty-eyed.

Grateful for her loyal customer base, as well as her “most incredible employees,” Ms. Racich noted that two employees had been working at Merricks for over 20 years, and two seamstresses were described as “true craftsmen.”

Ms. Mavis observed that “what we’ve created is a family. This is an extension of our house.” Ms. Racich agreed, saying that over the years they have accumulated many stories, finding out when customers have children, and when those children go off to college. “The thing I’ll miss about this location is that kind of flow, that flow of relationships,” she said.

“I opened this store 25 years ago with my mother. She was a true lady. We opened it as a dress store and people still come in on a daily basis and talk about my mother,” Ms. Racich smiled, adding, “This business was her baby and her life. It’s weird because it’s almost like it has a soul of its own. It runs with or without me, and it runs with or without her, because of the customer base we’ve built.”

On June 17 Merrick’s will be having an outdoor celebration and sale to commemorate their 25th anniversary. Questions can be directed to the store at (609) 921-0338.

As for the Merrick’s Treehouse, titled because of the mural that graces the outside facade, Ms. Racich said, “I love how its taken care of us, I love what it’s given us, and I love the joy it has brought me.”

“I’m going with the tide; we’ll see how it turns out,” she said.

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