Vol. LXV, No. 13
Wednesday, March 30, 2011
TOURING TIME: I love doing the tours, and I love it when the people are really interested. My favorite tour is the one I have just learned about. Mimi Omiecinski, owner of Princeton Tour Company, is enthusiastic about the wide array of Princeton tours she has to offer.
Mimi Omiecinski is involved in a love affair. It happens to be with Princeton!
Happily married with a young son, she is enthralled with the town she now calls home.
I am strangely possessed by Princeton, she says, with a smile. I love everything about it, and I love continuing to learn all about it.
Originally from Nashville, Tenn., Ms. Omiecinski had worked as a health insurance marketing executive in Atlanta, and was responsible for regional and national marketing and sales teams for a number of insurance companies. When she arrived in Princeton in 2006, she wanted to learn all she could about it, and immediately investigated a variety of tours.
We loved Princeton right away, and I went on all the tours Orange Key at the University, Morven, Drumthwacket, the Battlefied, whatever was available. I also got a lot of information about Princeton and its famous inhabitants from talking to people merchants, residents, whoever was handy!
She decided she didnt need a car, and started biking. I noticed all the landmarks, the architecture, and the people on the sidewalks. When I saw Dr. John Nash walking in town one day, I mentioned my celebrity sighting to a merchant. He was quick to let me know that Princeton has more prize winners than any other two square miles on earth. I started googling Nobel Prize winners, Pulitzer Prize winners, National Medal Award recipients, etc. I began recognizing them in my grocery store, coffee house, and library!
In addition, she audited courses at the University, all the while beginning to see how the love of her new hometown could translate into a possible career.
My idea was that there is a lot here that could be commercially viable. I wanted to create a business that would honor all of Princeton her history, culture, residents, University, and merchants. So I knew a touring company made sense. How I think is that I came to Princeton as a tourist, and I know what interests people.
There were a few problems, however. I wasnt a historian, I didnt grow up in Princeton or go to Princeton University, and I had never led a tour group!
Undaunted, Ms. Omiecinski wasted no time, went right to work setting up a website, with an initial focus on biking tours throughout Princeton. I got 24 bikes 12 from Kopps and 12 from Jays, and we were set to go.
Her enthusiasm and energy, marketing and entrepreneurial skills were immediately put to the test. I was contacted by the Mars Candy Company for a corporate outing. They had 150 people they wanted to entertain for two hours, and were looking for a biking, walking, and canoe tour.
No stranger to hard work, Ms. Omiecinski figured everything out. I recruited my mom to lead the Einstein Walking tour, including both of his houses, his route to the Institute, and where he lectured, she explains.
She already had bikes, and then set about getting canoes from Princeton Canoe Rental. It was a successful first venture, and the company immediately booked four more tours.
Array of Tours
One tour led to another, and before she knew it, Ms. Omiecinski was lining up people for an array of tours walking, cycling, bus, even helicopter tours over Manhattan and Philadelphia!
Princeton Cemetery is a specialty. Others are Ghost tours, Presidents Row (including Grover Cleveland and Woodrow Wilson the latter both U.S. and Princeton University President); Literary, T.S. Eliot, F. Scott Fitzgerald, John O Hara, Toni Morrison, and more.
In the course of her research, which she loves, Ms. Omiecinski comes up with all kinds of information. Do you know the origin of the Princeton tiger mascot frolicking with the Univesity band at football games? How the famous Princeton black squirrels arrived here? That the Princeton University Chapels stained glass is the largest collection of its kind in North America? Ms. Omiecinski does, and is happy to share this information with her tour participants.
She is very careful that her facts are accurate. I collaborate with the Princeton Public Library and various historical groups to verify my content. I dont present anything as fact unless they tell me I can.
Students and Alumni
We cover everything, she adds. All the famous Princeton University students and alumni, such as James Madison, Jimmy Stewart, Brook Shields, Michelle Obama, Sonia Sotomayer, Bill Bradley, and so many more. Youll learn everything from information about our famous millionaires and billionaires to the terrific Princeton Art Museum with works by Degas, Monet, and Picasso, alongside the largest collection of Chinese artifacts.
The tour possibilities just go on and on: birthday tours for kids and adults, corporate team building and scavenger hunts, bride-to-be Princeton wedding tours, running tours for any athletic abililty, style, training regimen or specific interest; Princeton Summer Camp in association with Princeton Day School in which participants learn about Princeton serving as the U.S. capital, why Princeton was so heavily surveilled during World War II and so much more.
Also, the Stroll & Roll Bus tour, including the University campus and surrounding neighborhoods to see houses of famous folks, such as Grover Cleveland, Paul Robeson, Robert Wood Johnson, William Bristol, George Kennan, to mention just a sampling.
The Einstein tour continues to be especially popular, and this led to the establishment last year of Pi Day, the March 14 (3.14) birthday of Einstein. Last year, 1700 people came to Pi Day, and this year, we had a whole Geek Freak Weekend with lots of events and a celebration of math, science, and Albert Einstein.
Ms. Omiecinski leads many of the tours herself, and also has the help of Bill Stephenson, Warren Porter, and architectural tour guide, Carolyn Robertson. Tamera Matteo, former owner of Matteos home furnishings and gift store in Princeton, is now Princeton Tour Companys marketing specialist.
Customers include corporations, such as Johnson & Johnson, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Prudential, and Wegmans, among others, and the company consistently receives 5-Star ratings. In addition, individuals come from all over, including Princeton University students and their families, people from abroad, and Princeton residents.
The Princeton people are a responsible group, points out Ms. Omiecinski. They know the magnitude of their town. But what I like is when they have their Aunt Gladys from out-of-town take the tour, and she comes back and wows them at the dinner table with all the great things she learned. Then, they may decide to take the tour, too.
In addition to the Princeton Tour Companys very extensive website, Ms. Omiecinski has started a blog, Princeton Wannabe all about Princeton. I didnt grow up here or go to Princeton University, but I had the audacity to start a tour company about this special place, she explains. I just want to do my best to sustain Princetons gorgeous landscape, as well as her academic, economic, and cultural diversity.
This is my first time owning my own small business. I never realized this is what I was supposed to do or how successful it would become. I really just needed an outlet for my energy.
But now, what I see and love about this is that it is an incredible gold mine for tourism. And if it is done responsibly, it is an opportunity for economic growth. In England, Oxfords biggest revenue is tourism. What I hope is that Princeton becomes a world class destination place. It is built for it, and should take full advantage of it.
And because Ms. Omiecinski wants to give back to the community, a portion of tour sales are given to the Princeton Public Library.
For more information on tour availabilities, call (609) 902-3637. Website: princetontourcompany.com.
Town Topics® may be purchased on Wednesday mornings at the following locations: Princeton McCaffreys, Coxs, Kiosk (Palmer Square), Krauszers (State Road), Olives, Speedy Mart (State Road), Wawa (University Place); Hopewell Village Express; Rocky Hill Wawa (Route 518); Pennington Pennington Market.
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