November 13, 2013

Princeton’s Oldest Family Run Businesses Team Up in Support of Historic Morven

Six of Princeton’s oldest, family-run businesses are joining together this holiday season to support Morven Museum & Garden.

When shoppers at Landau’s, Kopp’s Cycle Shop, Hulit’s Shoes, Princeton Army Navy, Hinkson’s, and Jay’s Cycles, show a special holiday card between November 15 and January 1, 2014, 20 percent of each purchase will be donated by these businesses to Morven Museum and Garden.

The idea is the brainchild of Robert Landau. “Robert came to us late last summer with the idea that the oldest and still family-run shops in downtown Princeton would support us by donating 20 percent of sales and we jumped at this generous offer,” said Barbara Webb, Morven’s director of development.

The program is a perfect pairing between the town and the historic house that once served as the home of the governors of New Jersey. A National History Landmark, the house was once the home of a signer of the Declaration of Independence and of five New Jersey governors. After the governor’s residence was relocated in 1982, Morven went through an extensive restoration. It re-opened as a museum and garden in 2004. Today its exhibitions, educational programs, and special events highlight New Jersey’s cultural heritage.

While none of the businesses participating in the holiday program dates to Morven’s founding in the 1750s, many of the current owners have stories to tell of residents like Albert Einstein who famously patronized Hulit’s Shoes at 142 Nassau Street and Kopps Cycle Shop, now at 38 Spring Street. In operation since 1929 when it was founded by the grandfather of the current owner Chuck Simone, Hulit’s Shoes has had its fair share of celebrity visitors over the years. Brooke Shields bought shoes there when she was a Princeton student. Last year, she stopped by during the University reunion to say “hello.” Other notables include Chevy Chase, Dr. Ruth, members of the band Fish, Margaret Hamilton (unforgettable as the Wicked Witch of the West in Wizard of Oz film), and Princess Grace and Prince Albert of Monaco.

The Landau family has owned and operated Landau’s since 1914 and it has been in Princeton since 1955. Robert Landau recalls working for his parents in the store as a teenager in the early 1960s and has numerous stories to tell, particularly of the time when an English shopper asked his father if he had “hold ups.” “After my father got over the shock of thinking he might be robbed, he found out that the woman was referring to stockings that held themselves up,” said Mr. Landau. “Landau’s became the first U.S. distributor of Pretty Polly Hold Ups from the U.K. and subsequently the first in Princeton to carry the new invention of pantyhose.” Mr. Landau recalls making deliveries to Morven in the days when Governor Richard J. Hughes lived there with his family. “Gov. Hughes had something like 6,000 daughters, or so it seemed from the number of pantyhose we regularly delivered there,” laughed Mr. Landau, a born storyteller. “There’s shop local, shop small, and shop family-run,” said Mr. Landau, referring to initiatives from merchants groups. “Here we have an effort that supports all three and connects some of Princeton’s oldest businesses that are part of the town’s history with Morven and its history. Everyone of the businesses jumped at the chance to be a part of it.”

Kopp’s Cycle at 38 Spring Street is the oldest of the six businesses participating in the program. Founded in 1891, it has had several different Princeton locations, moving from Nassau to Chambers to John Street and then to Witherspoon Street before settling into its current spot on Spring Street in 1989. The store was purchased by its current owner Charles Kuhn’s father Fred (Fritz) Kuhn in 1948. Fritz Kuhn was a cycling coach at the national and Olympic levels. The Kuhns kept the business name and it is the oldest bicycle shop in the country.

In 1900, Hinksons at 28 Spring Street, opened its doors. Princeton Army and Navy at 14½ Witherspoon Street was founded in 1948. And although Jay’s Cycles goes back to 1977 at its 249 Nassau Street location, storeowner Jay Mironov said that many residents still remember his father’s hardware store on Witherspoon Street, from which his bicycle store developed. “My father ran Tiger Auto Store back in 1948 and when I found out that we were selling a lot of bicycle parts that’s when I founded Jay’s Cycles.”

Cousins John Roberto and Andrew Mangone have been in charge at Hinkson’s, officially since 2005 when the stationery store moved from Nassau to Spring Street, but their association goes back way beyond that date. Mr. Mangone’s uncle (and Mr. Roberto’s father) bought the store from Harold M. Hinkson in 1960. The business started out as Rowlans Stationary at the turn of the 20th century and before it became Hinkson’s it was named for owner Bill Sinclair who had been a clerk with Mr. Rowlans.

“We get a lot of support from the community and we’ve found our niche with a lot of items you won’t find in any big box store plus quality of service,” said Mr. Mangone.

The Army and Navy store at 14½ Witherspoon Street also prides itself on personal service. The store, now owned by Michael Bonin, was founded in 1948 by Mr. Bonin’s grandfather Joe Caplan who bought the former Hook and Ladder building on Witherspoon Street and ran the business until his son Alvin Bonin, the current owner’s father took it. Mr. Bonin was born and raised in Princeton and hopes that the store will survive into a fourth generation of the family.

All purchasers need to do is present one of the postcards that Morven is sending out in the mail to some 3,500 Princeton addresses. The card can be used many times over. Hulit’s Shoes has already served its first customer in the program, even though it doesn’t officially start until Friday, November 15.

“Morven is very grateful to Robert Landau for coming up with this innovative way to encourage folks to shop at these still family-run, local shops and support the museum at the same time. It’s a win-win for us all,” said Ms. Webb.

If you don’t receive a card in the mail, you can pick one up a the museum shop or download the necessary page: Cards will also be available in the participating shops. For more information, call (609) 924-8144 or visit: