Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXIII, No. 38
 
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
Coldwell Banker Princeton Office

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Hometown Princeton Kicks Off Campaign

Dilshanie Perera

The nonprofit organization Hometown Princeton launched its autumn advertising campaign last week, urging residents to shop at locally-owned, independent businesses.

When a small group of merchants led by retailer Nick Hilton began brainstorming ideas in June, they envisioned about 30 businesses joining their movement.

Now, with 45 charter members on board, Hometown Princeton seeks to educate the public about the benefits of supporting independent local business, to reach out and partner with new segments of the community, and to contribute to local civic and charitable organizations.

The organization’s mission involves sustainability in economic, environmental, and social iterations, with its website — www.hometownprinceton.com — declaring that “independent specialty stores preserve and enhance the unique nature of our town in ways that national chains cannot.”

“There are a lot of ways to see the benefits of Hometown Princeton,” Mr. Hilton acknowledged, noting that buying things in town requires less energy consumption than driving out to Route 1.

Keeping money local is another benefit, according to the website, which suggests that “45 cents of every dollar spent in local businesses stays in the community, where it is used to hire local people, utilize local services, make purchases from other locally-owned businesses, and support local organizations.”

Being a privately-owned business located in Princeton Borough or Township, with at least half of the ownership held by someone living within a 50-mile radius of Princeton, is a prerequisite for becoming a member of the organization.

Hometown Princeton’s fall campaign involves advertising in local publications, launching the website, posting information in stores, and handing out cards and decals. The advertising is supported by a $500 membership donation from the charter members, as well as underwriting grants from Church and Dwight, the Princeton Merchants Association, and the Princeton Shopping Center.

Steering Committee Member Mark Bovenizer of Community Liquors admitted that the weakened economy had made those championing Hometown Princeton’s cause nervous because by mid-August, only 16 merchants had signed up.

Three weeks later, they had surpassed their target number of business owners by 15, had other local organizations underwriting their campaign, and have funds to keep them going well into next year, according to Mr. Bovenizer.

“What completes the circle for us is supporting local charities,” Mr. Hilton added. Hometown Princeton members recently decided through a vote that the Arts Council and Crisis Ministry would be the organizations receiving donations this fall.

Mr. Hilton reported that the plan is to have merchants give a portion of their sales to the Arts Council during the last week in October, and to do likewise in November for the Crisis Ministry.

Hometown Princeton’s next steps involve reaching out to the Latino community with Spanish-language materials while bringing the message to University students and staff as well.

“Our main mission here is to build community,” Mr. Hilton said.

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