January 10, 2018

Lisa Jones Shop Is Latest to Announce It Is Leaving Town

By Anne Levin

After 13 years on Witherspoon Street, the Lisa Jones shop is closing. The clothing and home store will shut its doors in mid-February, it was revealed Monday, making it the latest in a line of small businesses to recently announce their departure from Princeton.

Lisa Jones follows Hulit’s Shoes and Savory Spice Shop in its exit from the downtown. The Peacock Inn on Bayard Lane closed its restaurant January 1, but remains a hotel. CoolVines, a neighbor of Savory Spice Shop on Spring Street, has announced it will close early this year, but is opening new stores in Jersey City and Newark. CoolVines already has one store in Jersey City.

In a press release, Lisa Jones said she is launching an interior design consulting business. She has not ruled out the possibility of returning to town in a pop-up shop during the holiday season. The pop-up idea is appealing “because I wouldn’t have to carry a long-term overhead and I could still serve my loyal customer base,” she said.

Keeping the store open would have meant a 33 percent jump in rent. “I was not willing to sign up for a multi-year lease that included an enormous rent hike while continually trying to compete with the escalating world of online shopping,” Jones said. “The brick and mortar retail climate has drastically changed and, as a result, so has the retail scene in downtown Princeton. It’s an unfortunate reality, especially for small business owners.”

CoolVines founder and president Mark Censits said in an email to customers last month that he is sorry to leave Princeton after nearly a decade, but his existing store in Jersey City has out-performed the Spring Street shop three to one. “We will be part of a project involving Whole Foods, Marcus Samuelsson (of Red Rooster, Chopped, Iron Chef fame), and other strong names in retailing and restaurants,” Censits said. “So I will be focusing my energies up north — and hoping that my fellow marchands de vin find sustainable success with the addition of my beloved customers whom I’m reluctantly leaving behind. CoolVines gave me and my family an identity and a connection to Princeton that I sought when I started the business and for that I will always be grateful. Thank you Princeton for 10 years of amazing support!”

Mayor Liz Lempert said Monday that the closing of Lisa Jones and other small businesses in town is concerning, yet part of a national trend. “The challenge is for retailers to find a formula that works in the national economy,” she said, adding that the municipality has formed an economic development committee to address such issues. While what building owners charge is out of the town’s control, making parking more accessible can help, she added, referring to the town’s ongoing parking study, to be reported by consultants at the January 22 meeting of Princeton Council.

“I don’t understand how they are charging 33 percent higher rent when there are so many empty storefronts in town,” Council President Jenny Crumiller commented Monday. “It doesn’t make sense.”

Jones is encouraging customers with outstanding gift certificates and store credits to use them soon. A storewide sale on all home and fashion accessories, clothing, and small furnishings will begin soon.

“The decision to close up shop was not an easy one as we have many, many wonderful customers who have been very loyal and appreciative of all that we represent,” she said. “I was a pioneer in this town providing beautiful style at affordable prices. I am very proud of what we accomplished here.”