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Interim Library to Make Way for New Bookstore

Matthew Hersh

Hopes for a branch library remain tentative as plans for a new bookstore in the temporary library location at the Princeton Shopping Center have solidified.

Chestnut Tree Books, a 9,600 square-foot, two-floor, independently-owned book store finalized lease negotiations last week in preparation to occupy the space that will be vacated by the Princeton Public Library in March.

The new store space divides the current branch library location. Approximately 3,000-square feet remain to be leased said Dana Comfort, of George Comfort & Sons, Inc., the Manhattan-based real estate firm that manages Princeton Shopping Center's property. The bookstore, which will house approximately 200,000 volumes, will open in August 2004. "That space has been identified with books for so long," said Ira Kaye, who, along with his wife Pam, is the co-proprietor of the shop. "It's great to be able to have that continuity."

Mr. Kaye referred to the long-time tradition of keeping that shopping center space used for books. In addition to its current use as the temporary library location, it also served as a Titles Unlimited bookseller until 1989, and was then an Encore Books.

"It's a dream for my wife and me," Mr. Kaye said. The store will be named for a long-time family emblem, he added.

Recognizing Princeton's literate demographic and numerous choices for book shopping, Mr. Kaye anticipates making his enterprise an attractive destination to readers. All books will be "publisher's overruns," he said, which allows all books in stock to be sold at half the list price. "We will be more attractive than the less-personalized Barnes & Noble," he said.

However, Mr. Kaye said that while low prices are important, the ambiance of the shop is paramount.

Atmosphere Important

"It is very important for us to create an atmosphere that, in no way, reflects a 'bargain' environment," he said.

An ongoing debate in the Township is whether the library should maintain a branch location at the shopping center, and Mr. Kaye said that he "would definitely be supportive of [the] continuing services" that the library offers.

"If any organization came from the community and said 'can you make meeting space available at night?', we would try to make that possible," he said.

In addition to keeping an open forum on activities sponsored by the bookstore, the Kayes say that there will be an emphasis on children and reading for children. The Kayes have a daughter in Princeton's Lewis School. Their daughter, who is dyslexic, enjoys reading, but also learns through several other media."

"We want to promote non-linear learning, as well," Mr. Kaye said.

He added that the children's section will include a 120-gallon fish tank, and an electric fireplace that will "allow people to sit around, read, and have the opportunity to drink a good cup of coffee or tea."

Another goal is to involve area schools in decorating the bookstore. The Kayes would like groups of students to create murals for the children's section that would remain on display for a month at a time.

"We want to encourage relationships with schools in that way," he said.

While he does not want to compete with the new public library, Mr. Kaye said that a place to study and relax away from downtown might be an attractive alternative for many.

"There will be much less anxiety," he said in describing the relatively convenient layout at the shopping center.

Chestnut Tree Books will be open seven days a week, from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.

The Princeton Public Library have said that there are plans to keep a drop box at the shopping center once the temporary facility closes, representatives said.

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