March 4, 2015
YOGA FOR YOU: “Yoga helps in so many ways. It gives you an inner sanctuary where you can separate yourself from the outside world. Yoga teaches us to face and be able to accept the stresses of life. With yoga, you are being grounded and centered.” Annie Isaacson, a certified yoga instructor and owner of Rise Power Yoga, is shown demonstrating the “Compass” pose.

YOGA FOR YOU: “Yoga helps in so many ways. It gives you an inner sanctuary where you can separate yourself from the outside world. Yoga teaches us to face and be able to accept the stresses of life. With yoga, you are being grounded and centered.” Annie Isaacson, a certified yoga instructor and owner of Rise Power Yoga, is shown demonstrating the “Compass” pose.

It has become a $10 billion industry today. It is a worldwide phenomenon, with adherents practicing it at all levels of experience and for many reasons. Among them are exercise, meditation, relaxation, stress release, to mention just a few.

Indeed, those who study and practice yoga are all ages, from all backgrounds, professions, and mind-sets.

“My clients range in age from high school students to people in their seventies,” says Annie Isaacson, certified yoga instructor and owner of Rise Power Yoga. “They include men and women, Princeton University students, professors, a surgeon from Robert Wood Johnson Hospital, as well as people currently unemployed. They represent all levels of society, and everyone is the same here.

“We have clients from all over the world. Princeton is such an international community. The most amazing thing is that despite coming from different places, countries, and backgrounds, everyone is searching for something that is very similar.”

“Magic Window”

Located at 80 Nassau Street, Suite 2D on the second floor, Rise Power Yoga opened last August. It is situated in a studio formerly occupied by Yoga Above, where Ms. Issacson had been an instructor.

“From the first moment I was in this location, it was a transformation, an ‘aha’ moment,” she explains. “I was at the window, which looks out on Nassau Street and across to the Princeton University campus and Nassau Hall, and I felt this connection. I called it my ‘Magic Window’. Connection is very important, and it is an important part of yoga.”

Ms. Issacson began practicing yoga 10 years ago, and then studied with Baron Baptiste, founder of the Baptiste Yoga Institute.

“He is an internationally-renowned yoga teacher, and Baptiste Power Yoga emphasizes Vinyasa yoga and Yin yoga. I was trained in New York City and Montclair, N.J., and I have more than 400 hours of training. Vinyasa is more athletic; yin is a more relaxed form of yoga, with deep stretching. We also have classes in hot yoga and power yoga, which are more vigorous, strenuous, and challenging.

“The Baptiste Yoga practice is designed to empower you with the focus, training, and insight you need to achieve consistent results in the most important areas of your life. A potent physical yoga practice, meditation practice, and active self-inquiry are used as tools of transformation, encouraging participants to reclaim their full potential, discover creativity, awaken passion, and create authenticity, confidence, and new possibilities.”

Whatever the style of yoga, mindfulness of one’s breathing is always stressed, she adds. “With yoga, you become an observer of your breathing. Yoga brings mind and body together through the breath. There are mental and physical benefits. Yoga means ‘yoke’ in sanskrit, to come together.”

Lightness and Vibrancy

“A number one benefit of yoga is promoting healthy circulation and getting the body back into proper alignment,” continues Ms. Isaacson. “This helps to give mental focus, awareness, and well-being. Integrating is also one of the most important elements in the practice of yoga. You need to understand the internal and connect with who you really are. All the poses in yoga are designed to integrate you from the inside out, and the poses require you to concentrate.

“Also, with the practice of yoga we learn to be in the present moment, and then those who practice it will be able to be at their best to face the challenges in the outside world. At the end of a class, they achieve a sense of lightness and vibrancy.”

The studio, which is distingquished by its infra-red heating (from ceiling panels), has room for 30 individuals, with a typical class involving 15 to 20 participants. Most come twice a week, although attending three weekly sessions offers the most benefit, points out Ms. Isaacson. Even coming once a week, however, is helpful.

The classes, which are one hour and 15 minutes, are for those of all levels of experience, and also for people with a variety of health conditions. “Classes can be modified to accommodate those who have been injured, have arthritis, or other issues,” explains Ms. Isaacson. “I am also looking forward to sharing yoga with people with special needs and challenges, and encouraging them to practice yoga. I want it to be accessible to everyone.”

A variety of payment arrangements are available, she adds. An introductory special for new students is $40 for 30 days unlimited access. Others include $50 for five classes, and $90 for 10. A membership is $108 a month for unlimited classes.

Ms. Isaacson is very enthusiastic about the benefits yoga offers to everyone, and she is proud of her instructors. “We are set apart by the experience and level of training our instructors have. Their minimum numbers of hours of training are 200 and three have 500 hours. I continue to take classes myself four times a week. To be the best instructor you can, it is very important that you be consistent with your own practice.”

Shining Light

“In addition, our instructors stay current in their teaching and personal practice by continuous education and training at advanced teacher workshops. It is our goal for our instructors to be a shining light for each student.

Ms. Isaacson looks forward to continuing to share the benefits of yoga with more and more practitioners, and she sees many possibilities ahead. “The most surprising thing was that while it was a dream for me to open this studio, I found that once you achieve your dream, you see that the journey continues. This is just the beginning. There is so much more that you can achieve. You feel so limitless.

“Yoga, for me, is community service. It’s about giving back. I am so excited to see how much more the clients can understand and learn about yoga. There is birth and death, and in between, there is the unknown. Yoga gives us an opportunity to create with the universe. We believe that connection is the key to progression, knowledge is confidence, and confidence is power.”

Rise Power Yoga offers classes seven days a week, starting at 5:45 a.m. and continuing throughout the day. The last class is held at 7:30 p.m. Call or consult the website for hours of specific classes. (908) 752-8769.

MATH MAGIC: “Math is very functional. It underlies so much of what we do in ordinary life. With our Mathnasium method, a thorough understanding of math and development of number sense is the goal.” Jennifer Zhang (left), director of Mathnasium of Princeton, The Math Learning Center, is shown with Alice Barfield, director of programs for the Princeton Regional Chamber of Commerce and Princeton Mayor Liz Lempert, at the center’s grand opening.

MATH MAGIC: “Math is very functional. It underlies so much of what we do in ordinary life. With our Mathnasium method, a thorough understanding of math and development of number sense is the goal.” Jennifer Zhang (left), director of Mathnasium of Princeton, The Math Learning Center, is shown with Alice Barfield, director of programs for the Princeton Regional Chamber of Commerce and Princeton Mayor Liz Lempert, at the center’s grand opening.

“Do not worry about your difficulties in mathematics. I can assure you mine are still greater.”

This comment by Albert Einstein is displayed on the wall of the new location of Mathnasium of Princeton, The Math Learning Center.

It is included with the sentiments of other great thinkers, as well as with the original remarks of some of Mathnasium’s students. These comments are consistent with the center’s approach to make math both accessible and enjoyable.

Mathnasium, located in the Princeton Shopping Center, opened in December, and is dedicated to helping students in kindergarten through 12th grade understand the underlying concepts of mathematics and improve their overall mathematical ability. The tutors and teachers use the Mathnasium Method designed and developed by founder and chief instruction officer Larry Martinek.

Headquartered in Los Angeles, Mathnasium has gained wide recognition, and now has more than 500 independently-owned franchises in the U.S. and Canada.

Success in Math

Whether the goal is to “catch up, keep up, or get ahead”, Mathnasium can provide the means for success in math.

Director of Mathnasium of Princeton Jennifer Zhang is enthusiastic about the center’s mission both to help students who have trouble in math class as well as to challenge those who exhibit strong mathematical ability.

“Parents will notice if their child is not doing well in math, even struggling, and they can come to us for help,” says Ms. Zhang. “In other cases, a child may be doing very well, and their parents want them to have additional challenges.

“Sometimes, even the very good students can have some gaps in their knowledge of math, however, and our job is to find and fill the gaps.”

Ms. Zhang explains that students are given an initial test to assess their level. “The instructors use our unique assessment process to determine exactly what each child knows and what they need to learn. Then we design a customized learning plan for teaching the concepts the student needs to master and offer personalized instruction.”

She adds that the instructors continually check the students’ progress to make sure they truly understand and retain the concepts. She also emphasizes that a friendly and comfortable learning environment is established in which students are encouraged to ask questions. “We provide a wonderful learning experience and environment. We want our students to be engaged and feel free to ask questions.”

Excellent Opportunity

A native of China, Ms. Zhang came to the U.S. to attend the Stevens Institute of Technology, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in computer engineering and a master’s in computer science. In addition, she obtained an MBA at New York University.

Her career path led her to banking and finance in New York City, and after 20 years in those fields, she wanted to change direction. The chance to open the Mathnasium franchise in Princeton was an excellent opportunity.

“Princeton is a perfect fit for Mathnasium, and the shopping center is a great location. I really wanted to help students do well in math and come to enjoy it. I started by helping my own daughters, and I found I wanted to help others too. One of the main reasons students struggle in math class is because they lack the prerequisite knowledge for advanced classes. This can be due to a variety of reasons, including changing schools, missing classes because of illness, etc. If these gaps are not filled, it will just become worse.”

On the other hand, she points out, “The more you do math, the better at it you become, and you are prepared to meet its challenges.”

Sessions at Mathnasium are one hour, and students usually attend two to three times a week. Typically, there are two to four students working with one instructor. The students sit at a long table, and work with pencil and paper, as well as with “manipulatives” (props) which provide hands-on understanding of mathematics concepts, notes Ms. Zhang.

Each student works with the materials in his or her binder, she adds. “The binder has materials that specifically address the student’s individual gaps and what they need to learn to build a strong math foundation.”

Learning Center

Their work is very individualized according to their needs and learning goals, but students of similar ages can work together. Also, homework help can be provided.

Ms. Zhang looks forward to Mathnasium of Princeton becoming a sought-after learning center to help students appreciate and value mathematics and build their math skills while having fun.

“We are set apart because we are very specialized and focus only on math. It allows us to be more effective. We are teaching for understanding. That is the underlying method of our curriculum and the way we teach.

“I look forward to having more students and helping them understand math and do well in school. I really enjoy seeing the kids ‘get’ it, and working with them is so much fun.”

Six month membership programs are available at the center, with classes Monday through Friday, 3 p.m. to 8 p.m. (609) 256-6284. Website:

January 28, 2015
LIFE-LONG LEARNING: “Our students with dyslexia or ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) often experience language-based learning differences. We offer a multi-sensory, hands-on learning experience, a traditional and enriched curriculum. Learning can be approached in different ways.” The administrative team at Cambridge School in Pennington includes, from left: co-founder Jim Peters, co-founder, head of school and executive director Deborah C. Peters, assistant head of school and educational administrator James Maher, and assistant head of school and director of admissions Melody Maskell.

LIFE-LONG LEARNING: “Our students with dyslexia or ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) often experience language-based learning differences. We offer a multi-sensory, hands-on learning experience, a traditional and enriched curriculum. Learning can be approached in different ways.” The administrative team at Cambridge School in Pennington includes, from left: co-founder Jim Peters, co-founder, head of school and executive director Deborah C. Peters, assistant head of school and educational administrator James Maher, and assistant head of school and director of admissions Melody Maskell.

“Tell me and I’ll forget; show me and I’ll remember; involve me and I’ll understand.”

This sentiment, thought to have originated with a Chinese philosopher circa 200-300 B.C., underlies the educational philosophy of Cambridge School in Pennington.

Established in 2001 by Jim and Deborah C. Peters, the day school focuses on educating students with dyslexia, ADHD (attention deficit disorder), and others who struggle with language-based learning differences.

“Cambridge School was founded on the belief that every child deserves the opportunity for an excellent education,” reports the school’s mission statement. “We are committed to providing that education in a warm, nurturing, and individualized learning environment for children who learn differently.

“We provide a multi-sensory, whole-child approach to education in a non-clinical, nurturing traditional school environment. We promise our students opportunities to investigate their interests, acquire confidence in their abilities, believe in their own intrinsic worth, and develop the skills necessary to achieve success.”

Extensive Training

Located at 100 Straube Center Boulevard, the school currently offers enrollment for kindergarten through 9th grade. In September of 2015, it will expand the Upper School to include 10th grade, and by 2017, the school plans to offer a fully operational Upper School with the inclusion of 11th and 12th grade.

Head of School Deborah C. Peters, a nationally-certified counselor and licensed family therapist, has extensive training in special education and multi-sensory education. A former instructor at the college level, Ms. Peters also served as counselor to junior and senior students.

“I saw that many of the students were struggling with their college work, and it was manifested in anxiety and worry about their classes,” she recalls.

In some cases, she believed that they were evidencing language-based learning differences, and Ms. Peters began to think about starting her own school, one where early intervention would be emphasized.

“I want people to know that dyslexia has nothing to do with intelligence. It affects children and adults, and is a neurological condition. Research shows the earlier dyslexia is diagnosed, the better. Early intervention is important.

“I wanted to have a school that began with kindergarten, and I also wanted the school to be accredited by a third party for quality assurance. We are accredited by the Middle States Association Commission on Elementary and Secondary Schools.”

Brain Conference

Having such accreditation enables the school to explore, investigate, and execute a variety of educational methods, adds James Maher, assistant head of school and educational administrator. “With this accreditation and the autonomy of working in a private school environment, we can be on the cutting edge of research. For example, we go to the Brain Conference, held twice a year, at which neuroscientists and clinicians take part. We are learning so much more about dyslexia, including identifying it and ways to address it.”

As the research advances and more data become available, new opportunities emerge both for teachers and students to find the best educational possibilities.

“Even as recently as a year ago, dyslexia was not recognized by schools as a learning disability,” points out Ms. Peters. “Our teachers have always had specialized training, including our own Cambridge School training, and we also emphasize continuing education. The level of training our teachers have is outstanding. Our faculty is so collaborative, enthusiastic, and well-trained.”

In addition, a professional staff includes four speech/language pathologists and an occupational therapist.

Individualized instruction is an important priority at the school. The average student-teacher ratio is 4 to one, adds Melody Maskell, assistant head of school and director of admissions. “All our students are individuals and learn in different ways. We have a very nurturing learning environment, and self-advocacy is encouraged. We want kids to ask questions and be comfortable in the class.

“And the secret to our success is consistency, cutting edge technology, scientific research, and our social cognitive strategies.”


The majority of students at Cambridge School are dyslexic, while others face the challenges of ADHD or a combination of both of those conditions.

“ADHD kids can have trouble with executive function, planning and organizing, and following through,” notes Ms. Peters. “We have introduced a mindfulness program, targeting attention and ability to focus, and the kids are calmer and more relaxed afterward. We see that some of our kids are out-of-the-box thinkers, critical thinkers. And many are creative and artistic. We offer both fine arts and performing arts classes for all our students.”

The Arts Center is a vital part of the school’s focus. Performing arts, visual arts, music (including a bell choir) are all emphasized. Integration of many of the disciplines is included to offer students a well-rounded program. Physical education, Taekwondo, computer literacy, architecture, graphic design, and social skills are integral parts of the Cambridge plan.

“The kids are often right-brained and artistically-focused,” observes Mr. Maher. “We have courses in architecture and engineering for the Lower School, and graphic design in the Upper School. It’s a focus on further strengthening their visual/spatial skills.”

For children who learn differently, there is often a discrepancy between ability and performance, point out the experts at Cambridge School. They may have an uneven learning profile, and typically, cycles of failure and frustration are established.

“Breaking through those cycles is the most important goal,” explains Ms. Peters. “To accomplish this, we believe in enhancing self-esteem by focusing on positive outcomes and meaningful successes.”

Leading Methods

Students at Cambridge are of average to superior intelligence, she adds, and they face a range of difficulties, including reading, writing, spelling, and/or math. Their struggles can also include memory problems, expressive and receptive language difficulties, poor concentration, direction, and lack of organizational skills.

The Cambridge curriculum employs the Wilson Reading System, Orton-Gillingham, Lindamood-Bell Learning Processes, Making Math Real™, and other multi-sensory modalities, which are widely recognized as the leading methods for teaching children with language-based learning differences.

“Our program is also designed to capitalize on each child’s unique strengths, aptitudes, and interests, while remediating weaknesses,” says Ms. Peters.

Consistency is emphasized, she adds, and “on a daily basis, across the curriculum, students practice, utilize, and reinforce research-based learning tools to internalize these powerful strategies for life.”

Computer literacy is taught throughout the curriculum, using state-of-the-art technology, such as a SMART BOARD™ in every classroom and laptop computers for students at all levels.

“Also, iPad Technology is incorporated into our middle school curriculum to assist with organization and executive function skills,” notes Ms. Peters.

Full Complement

Because of the small class size, teachers are closely involved with each child’s progress, and interact with the students continually, focusing on each child’s strengths and learning needs.

In addition, a full complement of after-school activities features sports, such as soccer, cross-country and track, boys and girls basketball, and lacrosse, including athletic competition with other schools in the area.

Cambridge students are also involved in community service, including projects with the Mercer Street Friends Food Bank “Students Change Hunger” program, among others.

From the initial 10 students in 2001, Cambridge School now has an enrollment of 125, with students coming from the Princeton/Pennington area and well beyond, including northern New Jersey, the shore, and Pennsylvania.

An important focus of the school has been to prepare the students for academic success in other schools when they have graduated from Cambridge after eighth (now ninth grade). With the addition of 10th, 11th, and 12th grades, remaining at Cambridge will now be an option.

It is clearly a happy learning environment. The school itself is visually attractive, emphasizing light with lots of windows, featuring the high-ceilinged arts center, and a fully-operational gym.

Variety of Activities

On a recent afternoon, this visitor witnessed students at all levels engaged and interested in a variety of activities, from music sessions with faculty from the Conservatory at Westminster Choir College, to fifth graders working on a project in conjunction with Princeton University students, to eighth graders rehearsing scenes for a play.

“The students here are wonderful,” says Ms. Peters. “They want to learn, and we want to continue to help as many students as possible. I also feel tremendously blessed to have had James and Melody helping me from the beginning of the school.”

Cambridge School makes a difference in the lives of its students today and into the future. Graduates have gone on to successful academic careers in many other schools and colleges.

And the students are mindful of the school’s impact on their lives. Ms. Peters recently received a letter from a former student, currently a senior at The Pennington School, who has received early acceptance to Lafayette College. He expressed his gratitude for his educational experience at Cambridge.

Excerpts from the letter include: “No words can describe my gratitude for my having been able to attend Cambridge and for you to believe in me. You and Mr. Peters not only gave me a dynamic education, you gave me a future!

“If it was not for Cambridge, I might be doing exactly what my second grade teacher in public school told my mom: stocking shelves at the grocery store and dropping out of high school. But that is far from where I am going. Going from not being able to read coming into Cambridge to now being inducted into Pennington’s chapter of the Cum Laude Society is a stark difference.

“You have shown me that as long as I am willing to work hard, there is nothing I cannot do because I am dyslexic. You believed in me when everyone else did not.”

Indeed, as Ms. Maskell emphasizes, “At Cambridge, we change lives.”

The school will hold an open house on February 11. It will also offer opportunities in its four-week summer program this year to the general public.

For further information on admission and tuition, call (609) 730-9553 or consult the website:


January 21, 2015
NEW LOOK: “The advantage of the showroom is the opportunity to display everything so that people can see the items firsthand. Clients enjoy meeting me here now, and browsing through the collection.” Interior decorator Iris Houlihan, owner of Iris Interiors, the design firm, is shown by a selection of charming items in her new showroom.

NEW LOOK: “The advantage of the showroom is the opportunity to display everything so that people can see the items firsthand. Clients enjoy meeting me here now, and browsing through the collection.” Interior decorator Iris Houlihan, owner of Iris Interiors, the design firm, is shown by a selection of charming items in her new showroom.

“I love the unique items I find. It gives me such joy when I discover these things!”

Iris Houlihan, certified interior decorator and owner of of Iris Interiors LLC design firm, is delighted to have a new showroom to display her wonderfully eclectic selection of treasures.

Opened in October, and sharing space with Yellow Finch Antiques at 78 Main Street in Flemington, this is an additional location to her office in Hillsborough.

“This space became available, and I had always wanted to have a showroom so that clients could see what I have,” explains Ms. Houlihan. “I offer unique items that are not found in many stores. I find them all over the U.S., including New Jersey, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, and San Francisco. I go to the High Point furnishings trade show in North Carolina to see the latest trends, and I can offer a variety of unusual merchandise. I always look for something unique and high quality, reclaimed, and preferably, American-made.”

Eclectic Array

The new showroom offers an eclectic array of custom window treatments and pillows, upholstery, home decor items, furnishings, and appealing miscellany.

Its location on Flemington’s Main Street, which is historically significant (nearby is the court house where the Lindbergh trial was held) focuses nicely with Ms. Houlihan’s emphasis on vintage items.

“The historic location is the perfect fit because I’m sentimental at heart, and I mix past and present in my designs,” points out Ms. Houlihan. “I use clients’ old family treasures, existing pieces that evoke fond memories, or antiques and vintage items to create a unique space. The pieces in the showroom embody my approach, and each carries its own special story.”

Clients are discovering a variety of intriguing items, including a striking antique chandelier from Bordentown, which will certainly be the highlight of a design in a dining room or living room.

A painted sideboard, made of reclaimed wood, is extremely impressive, and illustrates Ms. Houlihan’s emphasis on using reclaimed items. “Reclaimed pieces are very important,” she points out. “For example, we have wonderful candle holders that have been repurposed from old solid wood columns. All of these pieces will be available when the opportunity presents itself for the right person. Some things definitely speak to one’s personality.

“Some reclaimed items have a very rustic look,” she continues.“I love animals, and with these rustic finishes, it doesn’t matter if the owner has pets, and if, for example, a cat jumps up on the piece or even scratches it. It can just give it more character!”

Industrial Look

A series of colorful bowls are made of coconut shells; and beautiful coasters, handmade by artisans in Peru, using vintage glass, feature reverse painting, with many lovely designs.

Smaller items, including an assortment of picture frames in many styles and sizes, have been very popular with customers. “The industrial look is also favored,” reports Ms. Houlihan. “For example, a small ‘cricket’ is made of reclaimed metal from a factory. It is charming, and can be nicely used as a place card holder.”

Lovely custom-made dried flower arrangements will add luster to holiday home decor, as will Ms. Houlihan’s collection of accent pillows in many designs and colors, including a number featuring an equestrian motif.

“Pillows can really change a room,” she points out. “There are two things you can do to change a room that give it the most impact. First, paintings and artwork, and second, pillows. Changing something in the room adds great interest. You can even change the pillows seasonally for a whole new look.”

The showroom’s selection of artwork features a group of very colorful collages of animals, including horses. In addition, an eye-catching collage “Rooftops” from Reykjavik, Iceland in fabulous colors will captivate many customers.

Window treatments are a specialty for Ms. Houlihan, and there is a display of high quality silk draperies, and gorgeous sheers from Italy. Honeycomb shades are also displayed and feature automatic control. A number of sample books are available for customers’ convenience.

Story and Space

Ms. Houlihan continues her active schedule of interior design, and now having the showroom enables her to show clients possibilities in one place.

“As a designer, I am very flexible,” she notes. “I don’t mind mixing low and high end. I am very, very in tune with my clients. I make the design according to their space and their story. And, I create stories for my clients through my interior designs. My approach is about listening to and giving clients what they want, and then, ultimately, giving them more than they want.

“From a design standpoint, I start with texture and architectural details — for example, moldings, windows, doors. Layering is what makes a room interesting, and color is one layer; architectural detail is another.”

Budget is a starting point, of course, and Ms. Houlihan notes that many clients choose to do a design over time, focusing on one room and then moving on to another later.

“I am there to be their advocate and partner,” she observes. “The client will say ‘I have X amount of money’, and I’ll say ‘you can do this, this, and this.’ I have wonderful clients, and I am very flexible for them. I always try to accommodate their appointment schedule.”

Her clients come from all over the Princeton area, as well as from Philadelphia and even farther away. Many are referred by current and former clients.

In addition to her regular design work, Ms. Houlihan takes on projects for the Make A Wish Foundation of New Jersey. She does room makeovers for children in the program.

Items in the Flemington showroom cover a very wide price range, from $10 up to $3,000, and everything in between. In addition, a number of items are on consignment.

Hours are Wednesday through Sunday 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., and by appointment. (908) 265-7688. Website:

January 7, 2015
HYATT HOSPITALITY: “Our main focus is bringing humanity back to hotel hospitality. We provide a warm and welcoming atmosphere. It’s all about how you make people feel.” Dianne Pepe, CHS, director of sales and marketing at the Hyatt Regency Princeton, is shown in the hotel’s reception area.

HYATT HOSPITALITY: “Our main focus is bringing humanity back to hotel hospitality. We provide a warm and welcoming atmosphere. It’s all about how you make people feel.” Dianne Pepe, CHS, director of sales and marketing at the Hyatt Regency Princeton, is shown in the hotel’s reception area.

Dianne Pepe, CHS, director of sales and marketing at the Hyatt Regency Princeton, is enthusiastic about the hotel’s new look and friendly hospitality.

“We completed a $20 million renovation last January, and my experience during the past year being part of restoring the hotel has been wonderful. It’s my passion because I wanted to be a part of restoring it to its proper status as the number one hotel in Princeton!

“We are the largest hotel in Princeton, and by virtue of the renovation, the newest,” continues Ms. Pepe. “We offer an eclectic mix of dedicated and flexible meeting space, and we have the largest guest rooms in the area. We also have the largest lounge and the fastest Wi-Fi on the market at 100 megabites in our meeting space.”

Ms. Pepe began her career at the Hyatt 20 years ago, then moved onto other hotels, as well as serving most recently as director of sales and marketing at the Milennium Broadway in New York City. “This was my first hotel,” she says, smiling, “and now it is wonderful to be back.”

Numerous Changes

During the renovation, numerous changes have been incorporated into the physical setting, and in particular, the meeting space has been significantly expanded. “We have added 11 new meeting rooms, all with natural light and 10-foot ceilings,” she reports. “Overall, there are 30 high tech meeting rooms with A/V and Wi-Fi, available for events. Corporate events can have as many as 350 people attending, with 75 to 125 a typical number.

“There are a lot of leadership training sessions during the corporate events, and we will provide catering. This can include continental breakfast, lunch in the banquet room, and late afternoon snack. Corporate guests are from all over the world, and often spend a few days with us.”

In addition to the business-focused meetings, other groups, including historical organizations, select the Hyatt as their hotel of choice while exploring areas in and  around Princeton.

“We recently had 1200 people with a travel company whose focus was history,” says Ms. Pepe. “Of course, Princeton is a terrific place for history — especially the American Revolution era. There is the Princeton Battlefield, George Washington’s headquarters in Rocky Hill, Washington’s Crossing, etc. This area is an important part of the history of the U.S., and one of my favorite things is to talk with guests about the history of Princeton.”

The Hyatt is also noted as a venue for weddings and galas, she adds. “Wedding receptions are a huge part of our business. We are a complete wedding venue, and typically, we have anywhere from 150 to 200 guests, with 400 to 600 at ethnic weddings. To plan a wedding with us, it’s best to book 12 to 18 months ahead.

“We are also the location for most of the galas and fund-raising events in the area, including the Eden Institute, Catholic Charities, and St. Francis Hospital. In addition, we are a big prom headquarters, hosting six to eight proms a year. Political functions are also often held here.”

Around the World

Ms. Pepe notes that the hotel is the choice of many guests who attend their Princeton University reunions, and it has a strong association with the Princeton University sports program.

Since it opened in 1983 at 102 Carnegie Center, the Hyatt Regency Princeton has welcomed guests from around the world. Its 330 guest rooms are spacious, with all the amenities, including TV, wireless internet access, shower/tub combinations, complimentary toiletries, hair dryers, complimentary newspapers, etc.

Other amenities include 24-hour front desk service, indoor heated swimming pool, business center, fitness center, two outdoor tennis courts, running and biking paths around the hotel, gift shop, and dry cleaning/laundry service. In addition, the hotel provides complimentary shuttle service into Princeton.

It has also instituted an optional ‘Green Plan”, notes Ms. Pepe. “If guests wish, they can re-use their towels and sheets and not have fresh ones every day. It helps to reduce over-use of detergents and waste of water. It is completely optional. There is a card in every bathroom that guests can use to indicate their preference. Many guests are now selecting the green program.”

The renovation included a new look to the hotel’s signature atrium lobby, with lounge, waterfalls, and pond (featuring 50 koi in strikingly beautiful colors). Guests can relax and gather here to sip a specialty cocktail during Happy Hour, which also includes appetizer specialties.

For serious dining, the hotel’s new dining room, the “Artisan Kitchen,” offers Mediterranean-influenced cuisine, described as “Food, Thoughtfully Sourced, Carefully Served.”

Food Options

“It’s farm-to-table,” explains Ms. Pepe. “Our menu features food from natural, local, and sustainable sources. We have food options that are good for guests, good for the community, and good for the planet. We also have a chef with a lot of new energy!”

Private dining rooms and room service are also available, and there is a “Bed & Breakfast” special available, as well.

The Hyatt Regency is also unique in the area in offering on-site entertainment, with its Catch A Rising Star Comedy Club.

Ms. Pepe is very proud of the hotel’s staff, many of whom have been employees since it opened. “At the end of the day, it’s the people who set you apart. The staff at the hotel is the best staff ever. They are genuinely caring people who welcome our guests. I can teach someone to work a computer system or how to check in guests, but you can’t teach someone to care. And all our staff truly cares about the guests.”

This emphasis on hospitality is very important at the hotel, she points out. “We are highly personalized hospitality professionals. It’s a more informal age today, but there is still an elegance to a hotel. From the time I was a little girl, I knew I wanted to work in the hotel business. I had had lunch in the Waldorf Astoria in New York with my aunt, and it was so special. I never forgot it. Now, in a graceless age, we are trying to provide our guests with an unforgettable experience.”

A lot of work, attention to detail, and constant focus are needed to make that happen, she adds. “The challenge is to exceed people’s expectations. Meeting them is not enough. We are always looking to go beyond and thinking ahead. You cannot sit back on your laurels. You must adapt to change, and we continually have to reinvent ourselves.”

Listening to guests’ comments is part of that, she notes. “We always pay attention to our customers’ suggestions. It might be something as simple as the inclusion of a sleeping mask in a room.”

The Hyatt is very competitively priced, she adds, and it also offers a variety of promotions and specials. “We offer discounts for business guests who stay two nights, and we recognize a company of the month and offer it discounted rates. We are focused on being responsible corporate citizens.

“We also advise guests about all the opportunities in Princeton. We are part of the cultural traditions and ambiance of the Princeton community, including supporting McCarter Theater. We participate in the events in town, and are involved in the Princeton and New Jersey Chambers of Commerce and other organizations.”

Ms. Pepe adds that she is proud to be part of the Hyatt Regency Princeton operation. “I love my job, and I love what I do. If you make your passion your vocation, you will never work a day in your life!”

Check in time at the hotel is 3 p.m., check out time is noon. (609) 987-1234. Website:

December 24, 2014
FRESH FLAVORS: “I bake to order in small batches and everything is as fresh as possible. Pies are my specialty, but I also bake a variety of other goodies.” Jan Carson, chef and owner of LilliPies, is shown with a box of 12 classic single serving pies.

FRESH FLAVORS: “I bake to order in small batches and everything is as fresh as possible. Pies are my specialty, but I also bake a variety of other goodies.” Jan Carson, chef and owner of LilliPies, is shown with a box of 12 classic single serving pies.

Everyone loves apple pie! And everyone is talking about LilliPies, the baked-to-order pastries that come in assorted flavors (apple and more!), sizes, and specialties.

Chef/owner Jen Carson operates LilliPies, formerly known as Jen’s Cakes & Pastries, at The Cucina, located in the rear of the Princeton North Shopping Center at 1225 State Road.

“The Cucina is a licensed shared commercial kitchen,” explains Ms. Carson. “Currently, there are five tenants representing five different companies, and each focuses on a different food product.”

Formerly an elementary school teacher, with a master’s degree in education, Ms. Carson grew up in northern New Jersey in a big family where cooking was a major event.


“I came from a big Italian family,” she reports. “My mother was a great cook, and she especially liked to bake pies — always from scratch. I learned most of what I know about baking from her.”

After she married and had her first child, Ms. Carson left teaching, and as she recalls, “My husband gave me a cake-decorating course, and I fell in love with pastries.”

In 2004, the Carsons moved to Princeton. “This was after the birth of our third child, and I had stopped teaching. I thought I needed to do something creative for myself.”

She enrolled at the French Culinary Institute in New York City, where she majored in international bread baking and restaurant management. After graduating, she began concentrating on baking pies and initially took them and other baked goods to farmers markets in the area, including Princeton, West Windsor, and Princeton Forrestal Village. Her products were also featured at Small World Coffee in Princeton. In addition, Ms. Carson worked as bakery manager for Brick Farm in Hopewell.

Her pastries were such a big success that she decided to expand the operation to include baked-to-order items for individuals, corporations, and organizations. She also began to feature wedding and birthday cakes. The customers appreciated the freshness and flavors of her products.

As one client notes, “Everything tastes just right. Sweet, but not too sweet, and the little pies are just the right size for an after dinner treat or with afternoon tea. And not only does everything taste good, all the pies and cakes are so appealing to the eye.”

Donut Day

The major focus is on pies, including full-size 9-inch classic, 4½ inch single serving, and mini 3½ inch versions.

“Pies are my specialty, but I also make cakes, cookies, muffins, and granola. In addition, I am a bread baker. Sometimes, there are surprises too. On National Donut Day, I used my extra cake batter to bake some donuts. They were all very popular, and people have continued to ask for them.”

Ms. Carson has many regular customers, including individuals, corporations, and organizations. She recently filled a corporate order for 60 classic pies, and she is especially busy during the holiday season. Weddings, birthday parties, anniversaries, graduations, and Valentine’s Day are other important events for her business.

Ms. Carson is now known for her wedding cakes of all kinds, and that is a growing part LilliPies’ operation.

Pies, however, remain the major focus, with apple and apple/blueberry the favorites, and also strawberry/rhubarb, and pear/almond. “I bake seasonally,” she reports. “I use apples in the fall, especially Stayman winesap from Terhune Orchards. Then, when it’s berry season, I’ll include all the berry pies. I emphasize healthy, fresh ingredients, all-butter crusts, and as many local organic ingredients as possible.

“The cookies include chocolate chip, oatmeal, and the popular Cowboy Cookies with everything in them, from oatmeal and coconut to chocolate chips and more.”

In addition to filling her regular orders, Ms. Carson will bring her products to the Princeton Winter Farmers Market once a month on Thursday in the Princeton Public Library.

She also teaches a course on baking at the Culinary School of Mercer County Community College and a class on healthy eating at the John Witherspoon Middle School.

Wonderful Aroma

Eventually, Ms. Carson hopes to open a retail operation, she adds. “I am so encouraged. I have so many repeat customers, and when I have a retail location, I hope to serve breakfast and lunch and to offer my own baked bread, along with the pastries. I plan to hold baking classes too.”

Ms. Carson enjoys providing LilliPies for her many customers despite the very early morning start to what can be a long day of baking in the Cucina. “When it’s a cold morning, I’ll turn on the oven, and there is a wonderful aroma. Then, I feel comfortable with the whole production.”

Princeton is the focal point of her business, she notes, and she has not only received support from her many customers but also from other chefs and businesses in town.

“I have really been surprised at how much support I’ve gotten from the community. Princeton is a special place. We’re right near the farm land, which surrounds us, and then there is education and art everywhere. You can meet the most interesting people you will ever know in your life at a dinner party here.”

Prices for the pies include $22 for a 9 inch pie; $27 for a dozen of the classic 4½ inch pies; $15 for a dozen of the mini pies; $10 for a bag of cranberry-almond granola; $2.50 for a granola bar; and $10 for a hot chocolate mix (bittersweet or white).

The pies and other baked goods are delivered free of charge in Princeton, or can be picked up at the Cucina location.

To place an order, call (609) 240-7738, or email Website:

FAMILY FOCUS: “Many bed and breakfasts in the area don’t have a lot of property. We have 21-plus acres of land, and people enjoy taking walks and exploring the beauty of the natural setting.” Tim Luccaro (left) is proud of Holly Hedge, his family’s bed and breakfast inn and event venue near New Hope, Pa. He is shown with his brother, Ben and mother and father, Amy and Joe.

FAMILY FOCUS: “Many bed and breakfasts in the area don’t have a lot of property. We have 21-plus acres of land, and people enjoy taking walks and exploring the beauty of the natural setting.” Tim Luccaro (left) is proud of Holly Hedge, his family’s bed and breakfast inn and event venue near New Hope, Pa. He is shown with his brother, Ben and mother and father, Amy and Joe.

History is in evidence at Holly Hedge, the bed and breakfast inn and event venue just outside of New Hope.

“The main building dates to the late 1700s, when it was a working farm,” explains Holly Hedge business manager Tim Luccaro. “This is one of the few original farmhouses in the area. We grow herbs, tomatoes, fruit (including lots of berries) on our property, and we include these in our breakfasts.”

Over the years the homestead experienced several transformations: farm, private residence, school for dyslexic students, summer camp for music and the arts, and bed and breakfast establishment.

Joe and Amy Luccaro purchased Holly Hedge in 1993, with plans to continue it as a bed and breakfast operation. They had first visited New Hope on their honeymoon in 1971, and a year later moved to Buck County.

Destination Place

“They knew from the moment they came that they wanted to spend the rest of their lives here,” says their son Tim Luccaro. “When they purchased Holly Hedge, initially the idea was to maintain it as a bed and breakfast, and then develop the catering business. Over the years, we have become a destination place for weddings, and this is now the major part of our business.”

The wedding season is March through November, he adds, and Holly Hedge is currently booked through 2015 for weekend weddings.

The schedule for midweek weddings is more flexible, and two to three months notice is recommended. Elopements are even more flexible, and Mr. Lucarro suggests one week’s notice, if possible. “We have had couples married here who have eloped, and we can accommodate anyone’s choice!”

And if the choice is full-scale and over the top, that is certainly no problem for Holly Hedge, which has a complete catering operation, including two full-time catering chefs, a wedding planner, and an event coordinator.

All sizes of weddings, from 30 guests to 200, take place at the estate, and whether the bride and groom opt for an outdoor cocktail party in the garden or a formal sit down dinner inside, the Holly Hedge setting will be memorable for the wedding party and guests. “We have people who got married here and come back for their anniversaries, and they bring their children back too,” reports Mr. Luccaro.

Anniversaries, holiday parties, and corporate events are also an important part of the business. “We have a lot of corporate events with companies from Princeton and northern New Jersey, including a lot of pharmaceutical companies. These events are held during the week, not on the weekend,” he points out.

Corporate Retreats

The Holly Hedge certified event planner will work with the company to customize strategic planning, team building, staff celebrations, or corporate retreats. In addition, the Holly Hedge staff will organize other activities in the area, such as spa treatments, hiking, kayaking, biking, historical society tours, wine tastings, etc.

The estate has on-site wi-fi throughout the property, private rooms, and multiple conference space options.

Holly Hedge is also very busy as a popular bed and breakfast in the area. It offers 15 guest rooms in three restored buildings. Both standard rooms and grand suites are available. The latter can accommodate up to six guests, and offers full en suite kitchen. All the rooms have private bathrooms, cable television, and complimentary wi-fi.

Holly Hedge provides a full service breakfast on weekends, and Continental breakfast during the week. The in-house bakery prepares many of the breads and confections that are available every morning, and guests enjoy the home-grown and homemade fruit preserves and syrup tapped from the estate’s own sugar maples.

“We include seasonal fruits grown on our property, and we also get local produce in the area, as much as possible,” explains Mr. Luccaro. “Our breakfast chef cooks weekend breakfasts to order, with eggs, pancakes, French toast, and other specialties included.”

Bed and breakfast guests arrive from overseas, all over the U.S., as well as Bucks County, he reports, and they include many repeats. “We have established a very good reputation. We have lots of word-of-mouth, and people also find us on our website.”

Tuning Out

Enjoying the natural beauty of the Holly Hedge estate is a pleasure for many of the guests, and many like to take walks on the property, adds Mr. Luccaro. “We are developing an arboretum, and a lot of guests enjoy turning off their electronic devices and just relaxing in the natural setting. On the other hand, if they want the phone on, we have wi-fi and all the technological necessities.”

An important part of the Holly Hedge focus is its increasing adoption of environmentally-friendly practices.

“We take our stewardship of the estate, its land, and its history seriously,” says Mr. Luccaro. “The maintenance and restoration of our historic stone buildings, walls, and barn, using traditional mason techniques, has helped us retain the rustic charm of the property. There has been a big change since my brother Ben has been involved. As property manager and being in charge of architectural restoration, he oversees this important work. He is a mason and does the stonework, which requires continual maintenance.”

“We are working on a number of ways to make the estate more environmentally friendly,” explains Ben Luccaro. “We have solar panels outside in the fields, and we are able to produce 20 percent of the electricity we use this way. We are also looking into thermal heating.

“Recycling is very important here,” he continues. “We recycle glass, plastic, and paper, and also cooking oil, which is then turned into bio-diesel fuel for cars. We also save a lot of food scraps for farmers to give to their pigs, and we do a lot of composting. In addition, we save water by collecting rain water in barrels. Then, we use that to water our vegetables.”

“We try to be as energy-efficient as we can,” adds Tim Luccaro. “We use energy-efficient appliances, and we repurpose old things on our property. For example, we lost a lot of trees during the storm Sandy, and we used the wood for arbors and railings.

Responsible Stewards

“We also try to educate our guests about our environmentally friendly practices. They become participants in our effort toward sustainability. We have between 10,000 and 20,000 guests each year. Sustainability isn’t a buzz word. It has always been a core principle of our business, and it helps us to ensure that we are living up to our obligations as responsible stewards of our beautiful estate.”

Mr. Luccaro, who recently returned from a three year stay in Afghanistan, working with the U.S. government’s Institute of Peace, especially enjoys being back at Holly Hedge. “Since I was away for a long time, now I enjoy spending time with my family and being in this unique part of the world, where we were fortunate to grow up.

“We look forward to continuing our family tradition, and we see this as a new chapter, as our parents move toward retirement. It is an opportunity for Ben and me to build on their legacy and stewardship and to create a new path for the next generation to enjoy. Our clientele is so open and receptive to our unique aesthetic and our environmental consciousness and awareness, to the historical nature of our property, and also to the artwork we offer from local sculptors and painters. We really try to celebrate the area, and we let guests know about all the opportunities and activities in New Hope and the area.”

Ben Luccaro is equally enthusiastic about Holly Hedge and the chance to be part of this special family business. “I love working with my family here, and also with the staff, which is really like family too. I feel I get a chance to contribute something important. We have to put on an event all the time and constantly maintain the property. There is tremendous attention to detail. And I look forward to continuing the environmental projects we are doing. I love this place!”

Holly Hedge can be reached at (215) 862-3136. Website:

December 17, 2014
EXPERTISE AND EXPERIENCE: “People have always loved jewelry. It always has a story and sentiment, and it can be passed down through the generations. It has memory.” MaryBeth Kroh, GG, ICGA (left) and Laura Fiabane, GG, AJA, RJ, owners of Fiabane & Kroh, enjoy educating clients about the quality and value of their jewelry.

EXPERTISE AND EXPERIENCE: “People have always loved jewelry. It always has a story and sentiment, and it can be passed down through the generations. It has memory.” MaryBeth Kroh, GG, ICGA (left) and Laura Fiabane, GG, AJA, RJ, owners of Fiabane & Kroh, enjoy educating clients about the quality and value of their jewelry.

It is very personal, and its value can be measured on many levels. Perhaps it is a treasured piece passed down from a great-grandmother, or a specially-designed engagement ring just presented to the bride-to-be, or a gorgeous strand of black South Sea pearls — unique and rare.

Whatever the piece, Fiabane & Kroh Fine Jewelry Appraisals and Consulting can help clients establish the market and insurance value.

In addition to appraisal, the firm offers new jewelry design and re-design of older and antique pieces. Further, it provides single and multi-day programs and training sessions for retailers and wholesalers.

Owners Laura Fiabane, GG, AJA, RJ and MaryBeth Kroh, GG, ICGA are experts in jewelry design and appraisal. Ms. Kroh has 35 years experience in the jewelry business. Originally from Kansas, she attended the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) in California. After receiving her Graduate Gemologist degree, she worked with J.E. Caldwell in Philadelphia, and then returned to California to serve at GIA as a resident diamond instructor.

“Rising Star”

Ms. Kroh later returned to the east coast, where she worked for 17 years at Hamilton Jewelers. Earning a degree as a CGA (Certified Gemologist Appraiser), she served as senior appraiser and director of training at Hamilton.

It was there that she met Lauren Fiabane. A Princeton native, Ms. Fiabane also worked at Hamilton Jewelers. She later moved to California to attend GIA, where she received her graduate gemologist and Applied Jewelry Artist diplomas. In 2009, she founded her own jewelry design business, and she was recognized by JCK (Jewelers Circular Keystone) as a “Rising Star,” an up and coming designer in 2010 and by the World Gold Council. The creation of Fiabane & Kroh, headquartered in Burlington, brought her back to the east coast in 2012.

Fiabane & Kroh can provide many services for clients, points out Ms. Kroh. “I have a specialty in antique and estate jewelry. People come to us if they want to have their jewelry insured, or they may wish to liquidate it, or they may just want to know its market value.”

Many factors are involved in determining the value of a piece of jewelry, she adds. “The quality, style, cut, color, weight, and current demand are all part of the evaluation. Every appraisal report is well-researched and documented, and conforms to the standards put forth by the American Society of Appraisers, the American Gemological Society as well as the Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice.

“I also broker the jewelry,” continues Ms. Kroh. “There is a network of the gemological community. We have clients all over the U.S., and I always keep an eye out for pieces that clients are looking for.”

Fiabane & Kroh offers a virtual vault on-line, which includes pictures and details of the pieces available for purchase.

Best Thing

Ms. Fiabane, who specializes in design, particularly enjoys the creativity involved in fashioning unique pieces for clients. “The best thing is when someone brings in an inherited piece that they have a sentimental attachment for, but they’d like it to have a new look. I can re-imagine it and transform it into something with even more sentiment.

“For example, when a client brings in a piece and says, ‘this was my grandmother’s’, I can re-design it, and not only does it give new life to the piece, but often new life to the relationship. I like to create things that are timeless, yet focus on the personality of the person and how that person is unique. I try to find out about the person’s life-style, their likes and tastes, etc. Then, I can create a custom design. That is a beautiful challenge.”

Diamonds are always in demand, adds Ms. Kroh, and pearls continue to be sought-after. “There are definitely pearl people. Pearls are timeless in their appeal.”

In addition, they offer a variety of new options, notes Ms. Fiabane. “The pearl market has shifted a bit. They can be edgier, more dramatic. For example, we have Tahitian pearls that are faceted, and they actually sparkle at night.

Big and Dramatic

“With jewelry in general, big dramatic pieces are popular, and important names, such as Tiffany and Cartier are always in demand.”

Both Ms. Fiabane and Ms. Kroh enjoy educating clients and helping them to
understand what is involved in creating beautiful jewelry. “You want to educate the clients and help them to understand the piece. We want to share our knowledge with them, and we can help clients in a number of ways. For example, sometimes people are liquidating their jewelry because they need the money. First, we define the value of each piece. Then, our goal is to offer our clients the best possible return.”

Ms. Fiabane is currently working toward her certificate as an independent certified gemological appraiser with the American Gem Society, and both she and Ms. Kroh often travel to gemological events and conferences, continuing to keep up-to-date with the latest information and advances. Ms. Kroh is frequently a speaker at such events.

They are very proud of having established Fiabane & Kroh as a respected ICGA (AGS) firm. “With our skill level, our gemological laboratory, and our business ability, we have achieved our goal. We believe that in order to appreciate, you must first understand. With a foundation built on time-honored jewelry practices and knowledge of current economic climates, we aim to inform and inspire with an innovative approach. And we are passionate about what we do!”

(609) 313-3289. Website:

December 10, 2014
FASHIONABLE FOOTWEAR: “We carry high-end lines for men and women. These are not found in department stores, and we will also special order for customers. They appreciate the lines we carry and the service we offer,” says Robert ­Sackowitz (left), partner and manager of The Shoe Buckle in Hightstown. He is shown with his father, who is owner of the store.

FASHIONABLE FOOTWEAR: “We carry high-end lines for men and women. These are not found in department stores, and we will also special order for customers. They appreciate the lines we carry and the service we offer,” says Robert ­Sackowitz (left), partner and manager of The Shoe Buckle in Hightstown. He is shown with his father, who is owner of the store.

Fine footwear for men and women, with a special focus on ladies shoes, is featured at The Shoe Buckle, located at 106 Mercer Street in Hightstown. This long-time popular store has a rich history, and is a unique family business.

It was opened in 1970 by Harry and Ruth Sackowitz, reports current partner and manager Robert Sackowitz.

“I’m the third generation in the family to be part of the store. My grandparents founded it, and my father Stuart is the owner now. My grandmother had a six and a half narrow shoe size, and it was very hard to fit. She wanted to open a shoe store, and my grandfather, who was a chicken farmer, agreed. She named the store The Shoe Buckle.

“Then, she had an opportunity to teach first grade, which she wanted to do, and so my grandfather gave up chicken farming, and ran the shoe store.”

High Quality

It started out as a full-service store with shoes for the entire family, and has been a popular Hightstown mainstay ever since. Today, the focus is on upscale, high quality men’s and women’s shoes, including lines from Mephisto, SAS (a comfort line made in the U.S.), New Balance (U.S.), and specifically for women, Arche, Pas de Rouge, Thierry Rabotin (all French companies), BeautiFeel from Israel, and Agua Italia from Italy

“These are high quality, stylish shoes that you won’t find everywhere,” explains Robert Sackowitz. “My customers will spend the money for something different — style, color, and comfort. They like it if it is different.

“Color is very big today,” he continues. “Reds, orange, blue, navy, as well as brown and black. We have special suedes that have been sprayed to be rain-resistant, and while comfort is very important today, it can’t just be ‘vanilla’ comfort. You have to have flair and style. Some panache!”

Customers like variety too, he adds. Women’s styles are no longer dictated. It’s very individual. “People like everything. All styles. Round toes, square, and pointed. It’s all out there. Flats are very popular today, and we have a great selection.”

Fashion Statement

Boots are a fashion statement these days, and are especially favored in fall and winter. The selection includes a big variety — from low ankle styles to very tall boots. Water-resistant, they vary from casual to dress.

Fit is crucial at The Shoe Buckle. Customers can count on getting a shoe that fits their foot, emphasizes Mr. Sackowitz. “We carry sizes five to 11 in medium, wide, and extra wide for women, and seven to 13 in medium, wide, and extra wide for men. We always measure a customer’s foot, and shoes can also be adjusted to fit. Podiatrists often refer people to us, and we have two certified pedorthists available. With 20,000 shoes in stock, we have something for everyone.”

Mr. Sackowitz has a distinct sense of pride in being part of this successful family business. “I have learned a lot from my father and grandfather,” he observes. “My father is very focused on the business side, and I learned that from him. I Iearned about customers from my grandfather: how to treat a customer, how to make someone a customer, and how to keep a customer.

“My grandfather was not just my grandfather; he was my best friend. Now that I have a new baby, a son — Chase Harry — I want to have that kind of relationship with him, and pass on what I have learned to my son.”

Special Relationships

The store offers an attractive display, as well as ample room to sit down, try on shoes, and walk around. Customers will also find a selection of socks, handbags, evening bags, and accessories, such as shoe polish.

“I love the interaction with the customers,” says Mr. Sackowitz. “They come from all over the area, including Princeton, and also from as far away as 30 miles. Many have come since the store began, and we have special relationships with them; there are different generations from the same family.

“They come for our high quality footwear, the lines we carry, and the service,” he continues. “Some even buy five or 10 pairs at a time! I continually go to all the shoe shows to be up-to-date, and I am very proud of what we do. We also have the greatest team, a really great staff, and we do whatever we can to satisfy our customers. In addition, we have special events and promotions, and twice-a-year sales, including ‘Buy one, get one’ (buy one pair, get one free).”

The Shoe Buckle is open Monday through Thursday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Friday, Saturday 10 to 8, Sunday noon to 5. (609) 448-7895.


FRESH FLAVORS: “Jammin’ Crêpes is a celebration of our local regional flavors wrapped in a crêpe with an ever-changing menu that highlights the very best local ingredients at their peak of freshness.” Owners (from left to right) Kim Rizk, Amin Rizk, and Kathy Klockenbrink, are enthusiastic about their new restaurant, specializing in homemade crêpes.

FRESH FLAVORS: “Jammin’ Crêpes is a celebration of our local regional flavors wrapped in a crêpe with an ever-changing menu that highlights the very best local ingredients at their peak of freshness.” Owners (from left to right) Kim Rizk, Amin Rizk, and Kathy Klockenbrink, are enthusiastic about their new restaurant, specializing in homemade crêpes.

Customers are singing the praises of Jammin’Crêpes, the new restaurant at 20 Chambers Street (entrance on Nassau Street).

Just opened in October, the restaurant/cafe is already attracting a loyal clientele. Hungry customers can’t wait for a tasty breakfast or lunch crêpe, followed by a late afternoon sweet crêpe, perhaps enhanced by one of the cafe’s special micro-batch seasonal jams.

“Our main focus is made to-order sweet and savory crêpes, filled with seasonal produce and ingredients from regional farms and food artisans, supplemented by Fair Trade and organic ingredients whenever possible.” note owners Kim and Amin Rizk and Kathy Klockenbrink.

The idea for the restaurant was prompted by their successful introduction of the crêpes to several farm markets in the area, including Princeton and West Windsor, over the past few years. “We emphasized good fresh food all made to order, as well as our homemade jams and pickles. The farm markets were a very good showcase for us,” says Kim Rizk.

Market Environment

Adds Amin Rizk, who handles the marketing and administrative end of the business, “The farmers market was a way to test our concept before bringing it to brick and mortar.”

And the crêpes became so popular that expanding into a space of their own was indeed the next logical step. “Also,” says Ms. Rizk, “We felt, as Princeton residents, we wanted to share our products here with the community. We feel this is like a cafe, and we also wanted to replicate a market environment. We thought this would be like real street food for people in a very informal and comfortable setting.”

In addition to crêpes, the restaurant will offer a daily selection of seasonal soups and salads, all freshly made, and a variety of home-baked goods. There is also an assortment of homemade jams, preserved by Ms. Rizk, and homemade pickles. Ms. Rizk is a master food preserver, having received her certificate through Cornell University Extension.

Casual eat-in and take-out choices are available for breakfast, lunch, and late afternoon. Communal seating is offered for 45 diners inside and 15 outside.

The down-to-earth interior — much like a farmhouse environment — is very appealing. In keeping with the owners’ focus on recycling and environmentally-friendly products, the tables are made of recycled New Jersey barn wood, and fun antique street signs, “Peach Street” and “Cherry Street,” are displayed. Another touch features lighting ensconced in clear Ball-type jars (those used for canning and preserving).

“We are working toward zero waste in the restaurant,” explains Ms. Rizk. “All of our take-out containers are fully compostable, and we also have a contract with Central Jersey Waste to pick up all of our food waste.”

Enthusiastic Response

The owners are delighted with the enthusiastic response of the customers, many of whom come at least once a week. “We have been so busy, more than we anticipated. We have been so well-received,” notes Kathy Klockenbrink, who co-authored a bi-lingual cookbook while living in Grenoble, France. She currently continues her profession as a speech therapist part-time in addition to keeping a full schedule at Jammin’ Crêpes.

“Crêpes are a global item. We have made thousands of crêpes, and all are made from scratch with our own recipes. I love to cook, and I like to have eating be a time to slow down.”

Patrons of Jammin’ Crêpes are doing just that! They enjoy coming in throughout the day, with many showing up for an early breakfast.

Some morning favorites include “Classic Bacon, Egg & Cheese,” with free-range egg, thick-cut smokehouse bacon, and a special blend of melted cheese; the “Cinnamon Breakfast Toasty” with browned butter, the signature cinnamon sugar, free range egg, and thick-cut smokehouse bacon with a drizzle of maple syrup. The “Skinny Pancake Special” includes spiced Jersey apples, creamy brie cheese, thick-cut smokehouse bacon, with a drizzle of maple syrup, and freshly ground black pepper.

Other breakfast specialties include “The Health Nut” featuring peanut butter with Fair Trade bananas, the signature house-baked granola and a drizzle of Jersey honey. The “Skinny Goat” includes free range egg whites and fresh goat cheese with a selection of seasonal roasted vegetables.

A very popular lunchtime favorite is “Everything’s Better With Bacon & Jam,” with thick-cut smokehouse bacon, special strawberry lavender jam, fresh baby arugula, and creamy brie. “This is a combination of sweet and savory, including our homemade jam,” report the owners.

Special Blend

“The Full Monty” offers oven-roasted turkey breast, black forest ham, free-range egg, with a special blend of melted cheese and choice of seasonal berry jams. The “Jammin’ Turkey Club,” with oven-roasted turkey breast, thick-cut smokehouse bacon, mozzarella, local greens, and a special sweet and spicy tomato jam is another favorite.

“Hammin’ Cheese Melty” offers black forest ham and Swiss cheese with honey spice pickles and mustard aioli. The “BLT Melty” features thick-cut smokehouse bacon, fresh seasonal greens, Jersey tomatoes, fresh mozzarella cheese and seasonal aioli. “Jammin’ Chai Brie” includes chai-spiced Jersey plum jam with roasted hazelnuts, baby arugula, and creamy brie. The “Crepacopia” offers the signature Jersey sweet potato hummus, fresh apples and spinach, with toasted sunflower seeds and a drizzle of pomegranate molasses.

Any of the crêpes, including the sweet crêpes, can be ordered at any time of day, point out the owners. A favorite sweet crêpe is “Orchard Lemon” with the restaurant’s own micro-batch of lemons and local orchard apples cooked into a sweet and tangy lemon curd, filling a crisp crêpe. “Lemon & Lavender” is a sweet and tart treat with a squeeze of fresh lemon and a shake of the cafe’s own local organic lavender-infused sugar.

The “Toasty Joe” features browned butter and the signature Turkish coffee-infused sugar in a warm sweet crêpe. “Jammin’ Good” is a signature sweet crêpe filled with micro-batch jams made from local fruits.

Chocolate lovers will not be disappointed! “Nut-Cho-Tella” is the restaurant’s own blend of freshly-roasted hazelnuts and almonds ground into a creamy chocolate spread. “We make our own nutella,” points out Ms. Rizk. “We roast our own almonds and hazelnuts with healthy oils. This is very popular.”

“The Classic Toasty Cinnamon” crêpe features browned butter and the cafe’s signature cinnamon sugar. It can also be made with dark chocolate or local orchard spiced apples.

Freshly Baked

Kids’ choices are also available, including “Grilled Cheese Melty,” “Pizza Melty,” and the always popular “PB&J.”

All crêpes are made fresh to order, and the batters are created in-house from scratch every day.

In addition to crêpes, the cafe offers homemade soups, salads, and freshly baked cookies, pastries, and granola. “We always have a homemade seasonal soup, a house salad with organic greens and grains, and a berry vinaigrette,” says Ms. Rizk.

Beverages include Small World coffee, low-sugar Boylan sodas from New Jersey, the Princeton-based bai special drinks, and Steaz teas from Doylestown, Pa.

“95 percent of our ingredients are sourced locally,” reports Ms. Klockenbrink. The restaurant offers products from Cherry Grove Farm, Terhune Orchard, Griggstown Farm, and Sansone’s Farm Market, among other area establishments. Gluten-free batter is also available on request.

Ms. Rizk’s homemade jams and pickles are also available for sale, as is her book, Hay Day Country Market Cookbook. Ms. Rizk is also a contributing food writer for New Jersey Countryside, and she recently co-authored a new publication Farm Markets of Central New Jersey.

The owners are pleased to have this new focus for their products, notes Ms. Rizk, and they still continue to bring their crêpes to the Princeton and West Windsor farm markets.

“After three years of serving our sweet and savory crêpes at local farm markets, we are thrilled finally to have a home base to be able to share our farm fresh flavors with everyone year-round. We really wanted to be in Princeton, and we feel we are filling a need.”

They also add they are having fun. “There is so much energy here,” says Ms. Klockenbrink. “And there are fun things. For example, we use playing cards to call out the customers’ numbers when they wait for their food. Jack of Diamonds, Queen of Hearts, etc. It’s a fun degree of levity. It’s great to have a small business in town, and we are glad to be here.”

Adds Ms. Rizk: “I hope we will be a welcome part of the community for a long time to come. We’re here to make it work!”

Jammin’ Crêpes offers a price range from $4.50 to $8.95, and it is open Tuesday through Sunday from   8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Hours will be expanded in the future. (609) 203-4807. Website:


Something new has arrived at the Chelsea Crimpers Salon at 44 Spring street, and customers are loving it! An adorable children’s boutique fits snugly in a special section of the popular salon.

Just opened in October, this charming addition is already attracting customers, who are delighted to find an appealing selection of clothes and gifts for newborns and children up to six years old.

“We have unique baby clothes, special occasion items, and gifts that you don’t see everywhere, and this was an opportunity to present the boutique in Princeton,” says owner Emily Pawlikowski, whose father, Bob Luovolo, is the proprietor of Chelsea Crimpers. “Being in the salon makes it a family operation, and the customers are enjoying that too.”

Ms. Pawlikowski is experienced in children’s retail, having worked in the field for the past eight years, including at Janie and Jack’s children store in Princeton MarketFair. She also had her own business in the area.

Popular Lines

“I’ve tried to offer a very diversified selection,” she explains, and indeed, customers will find everything from layettes and baby blankets to sweaters and dresses for little girls, outfits for boys, including coats, both informal and dress, and a variety of toys and gifts.

Popular lines, both imported and domestic, include Biscotti, Magnolia Baby, Kissy Kissy, le Top, and Sozo. Shoes and boots, and fun socks with novelty animal accents are also favorites.

The items are hard to resist: adorable onesies and layettes, some with matching caps and pants; traditional red and green velvet holiday dresses for little girls; dress and tight combinations, hand-knitted sweaters in holiday motif and ballerina design; a handmade red crocheted poncho — these are just some of the choices.

Outerwear includes buttery soft snowsuits for babies, play and dress coats for boys and girls; and a very special young boy’s herringbone jacket with velvet collar will be a wonderful surprise.

Heirloom Quality

“I really like the opportunity to dress children to look like children rather than little adults,” points out Ms. Pawlikowski.

The boutique also carries christening gowns and first communion dresses, which are not available in all children’s stores. “These are silk and cotton, and are really heirloom quality. They can be passed down in the family.”

The gifts, toys, and specialty items round out the selection. Gund and Ganz stuffed animals (including toy reindeer and gingerbread men) in assorted sizes; a fun knitted “lion” backpack; “My First Purse”, a little pocketbook, complete with pretend cell phone and compact; colorful plastic aprons and bibs; and “Animal Friends, Color By the Number” toy dog and cat with felt markers (which can be washed off and re-colored) are all on display.

Diminutive baby pillows, baby keepsake boxes, photo albums, and rattles are other choices, all in a variety of price points. Toys and animals start at $10, a layette is in the $45 range, and dress with tights $50.

Special Occasion

A grand opening sale is currently available, with a 25 percent discount on all items.

What is so incredibly appealing about a children’s store, particularly one featuring items for babies, is the sense of “newness”. All the items are new, and for the child, they will be new experiences — whether a toy, or a new dress, or special occasion item.

“Remember, a child never had this dress before or this toy before,” says Ms. Pawlikowski. “Everything is new and exciting to a small child. I always love seeing children come in, and buying for children is a happy experience. It’s all fun; the newborns are so special — and so are all the ages!”

She adds that the response has been very encouraging. Customers are coming in and leaving with a special item. “We are definitely a place grandmother’s love!” she says, with a smile. “People come in and say, ‘I’m so glad you’re here!’”

Ommie’s Mini Boutique is open Tuesday through Saturday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. (609) 924-1824.

Not many independent companies today can boast a 90-year-old history. Such firms are few and far between on the business scene, and becoming more so, as Big Box stores and chains move in on the independent owners.

Founded by Stanley and George Hutchinson, Hamilton Supply Company (later becoming Hamilton Building Supply Company) opened its doors at 65 Klockner Road in Hamilton, still its current address, in 1924. At that time, it sold masonry products, such as cement and lime. As it expanded, it began to include lumber, building materials, and coal.

In 1967, the company was sold to Jesse Coleman, Jr. and his brother Earl (who also owned the Coleman Buick dealership). Later, Earl sold his share to Jesse, and Hamilton continued to expand, adding pre-hung door manufacturing, a custom millwork shop, a commercial door division, new windows and replacement windows, and a tool rental department. There is also now another location in Newtown, Pa.

“We began to concentrate on building materials, lumber, windows, doors, and custom mouldings,” explains current president, CEO, and owner Keith Coleman, who started working at the company on weekends and after school when he was a boy. He came on full-time in 1986.

Strengths and Specialties

“One of the things I remember is that when I started in the business, there were about 14 lumber yards in Mercer County. Now, by and large, they are gone. I grew up in Clarksville in West Windsor, and my dad was a farmer before he bought the business. He just turned 89, and he is still involved. He likes to keep an eye on me!”

“Our strengths and specialties today include windows, exterior and interior doors, and custom millwork. We have a shop on site. We do a lot of custom work, including for Princeton University, and commercial work, and we work with a lot of different contractors. We are very quality-conscious.

“We are really in a unique niche,” continues Mr. Coleman. “The contractors we work with are also quality-conscious, and the Big Box stores don’t have an on-site shop, for example.”

In its mission statement, the company emphasizes three main concepts.

Create and maintain relationships with customer/partners and vendor/partners in order to achieve maximum long-term growth and value for all parties.

Reinforce client relationships through creative problem-solving, efficiency, professionalism, and a broad offering of services that cater to the individual needs of customer/partners.

Develop the industry’s best workforce by developing the potential of each associate and treating them with respect and dignity.

“We have a slogan: ‘Simplify your life,’” adds Mr. Coleman. “We are really good at taking a look at an existing situation and helping the client to get the right products so their expectations are met. There are so many options out there. The thing about our business is that we have so many different products that you need a specialist to help you with that and to understand your best option. We have specialists for cabinetry, windows, doors, decks, etc.

“And our employees on an average have about 20 years experience here. They are very knowledgeable, and they’re a great group.”

Proprietary Lines

“We are also unique in that we have proprietary lines that are not available everywhere. For example, you can’t buy Marvin Windows at Lowe’s or Home Depot. They are a very important line for us.

“We also carry Zuri® decking material, which is offered only through select distributors, and we have been chosen the exclusive distributor of Zuri® in New Jersey.”

Technological developments in recent years have greatly improved the available choices of decking materials, explains Mr. Coleman. These materials look like wood, but offer very easy maintenance.

“After scouring the U.S., I am convinced that Zuri® is the most realistic and durable. It’s part of Royal Blue Products, and they offer a 25-year warranty. We are sticklers for working with companies that are well-backed, and can honor their warranties. Also, the vast majority of our products are made in the U.S.”

He adds that Hamilton Building Supply is part of a cooperative, LMC (Lumberman Merchandising Corporation), which it joined two years ago. “Throughout the country, independent companies are members of this organization, and they combine their efforts to go to manufacturers and make deals for a better price.”

Hamilton Building Supply’s clients run the gamut, including homeowners and contractors, who are dealing with new houses, remodeling or renovating existing houses, and working on historic replicas.

Big Brand

“Princeton is our primary target market, and also some of our clients have homes elsewhere, including in Cape May and Manhattan,” points out Mr. Coleman. “We work with new homes and a lot of existing houses. The average age of houses in Princeton is 40 years, although, of course, some are much older. Everything has a life span. Exterior trim, wood siding, etc. Hardi Siding is popular now. It looks like wood, but has a cement base. It is very durable and also fire-resistant.”

Windows are a major part of the business, with double-hung and casement both popular. “Marvin is a big brand for us, and we also carry Andersen. A lot of glass is coated today, which reduces fading of items inside the house. That is pretty much standard now, and other coatings are also available. There are always new advances in window systems coming along. We carry many styles, including a wonderful Marvin window system with a built-in pleated shade. We also have the Andersen Tilt-Wash replacement window and the Andersen 400 series Tilt-Wash double-hung insert window.

“We do a lot of replacement windows for existing openings,” he continues. “The whole spectrum, from low end vinyl to very high end. Black is very popular for window frames right now. Many color options are available for windows and shutters and in many styles.

“French doors continue to be very popular,” he adds. “We manufacture our own, and also carry Tru Stile. In addition, we have Therma Tru doors and Andersen storm doors, among others. Almost all doors are assembled and pre-hung on-site, greatly reducing turn-around times.”

Kitchens are another area of expertise for Hamilton, and the cabinetry display is impressive. “Kitchens require a lot of time,” points out Mr. Coleman. “The kitchen seems to be the gathering place of the house, and it’s important to know how people use it. Do they have kids? Entertain? Cook a lot? We really cater to the homeowner and their life-style.

“Our cabinetry lines include Mouser (customized) and KraftMaid. These are classic and traditional, and also Euro-style, which is more contemporary.”

High Quality

Hamilton also offers closet organizing systems, including modular styles with hanging shelves to fit into existing closet openings.

He adds that while Hamilton focuses on high quality products, the company is mindful of a customer’s budget. “Budget is a factor, and we work with people’s budgets. Also, clients often phase in the work. Frequently, for example, they will start with the baby’s room. Also, we don’t charge for delivery, which is unusual today.

“I am thoroughly convinced that at the end of the day, we provide the best overall value and best experience when it comes to purchasing of building products and millwork items for the house. We deliver on value. So many people out there will tell you what they have, and not think about what you need.

“This is a challenging business. We deal with a lot of unique projects, and one of the things that is special about our business is that it brings joy to people. It’s a form of investment for them and a way to enjoy themselves. I am also very pleased to carry on my father’s business and continue the family tradition. That is very important to me.”

Hamilton Building Supply Company is open Monday through Friday 7 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday 7:30 a.m. to 4, and by appointment. (609) 587-4020. Website:


December 3, 2014
DECORATIVE DESIGN: “We import the finest Italian plasters and decorations,” says Antonio Ramondini, founder and owner of AR Building Technologies. He is shown with a sampling of the San Marco line of Italian plasters and decorative finishes, suitable for use on walls and ceilings.

DECORATIVE DESIGN: “We import the finest Italian plasters and decorations,” says Antonio Ramondini, founder and owner of AR Building Technologies. He is shown with a sampling of the San Marco line of Italian plasters and decorative finishes, suitable for use on walls and ceilings.

The finest Italian plasters and decorative finishes for walls and ceilings are now available in Princeton to add definition, panache, and character to your home.

These finishes, from the San Marco Group of Italy, are imported by AR Building Technologies, which recently opened in Princeton.

“We provide materials for stylish, one-of-a-kind wall and ceiling decorations, as well as the knowledge and training for their application,” explains Antonio Ramondini, AR Building Technologies founder and owner.

A native of Italy, Mr. Ramondini spent 20 years in the construction business, later living and working in London. Although he has extensive knowledge of the overall construction process, he likes to focus on interior design, renovation, and decoration. Learning his craft in Italy, a country well-known for the striking and stunning interiors of its villas, he perfected his decorative techniques while working in many of the grand houses of Tuscany, as well as in southern Italy. Precision, style, and the allure of Italian design permeate every aspect of Mr. Ramondini’s professional expertise.

Choices and Styles

“I like to deal with people,” he notes, “and I look forward to educating them about the Venetian plasters and why they are so special. I want to see the installation done properly, and I hope to see many more people enjoy having these exquisite products in their homes. We are the only importer here of the San Marco line.”

Mr. Ramondini points out that the wide range of choices and styles of the finishes guarantees that they are appropriate for any type of house — classic, traditional, modern, contemporary, elegant or rustic.

“There are so many colors — at least 60 — and different designs and textures and finishes. There can be a marble look, a more textured feel, shiny, sparkling, matte, metalic, iridescent, mosaic — the range is just unlimited.

Some, such as the waterproof Concrete Art line, and Canalgrande, and some of the lime plasters are especially suitable for the kitchen or bathroom.  There is also the Disegno line of durable and easy maintenane multi-layer resin finishes for floors, which are also a part of the overall AR Building Technologies projects.

He adds that for design purposes “one wall can be an accent, with a different finish and color. Lighting can also make a difference to the look of the finish, and the size of the room can be a consideration regarding the type of finish chosen.”

Mr. Ramondini points out that the San Marco Group products are environmentally-friendly and guarantee the absence of harmful emissions. “Our products are all water-based, and use universal tinting colorants.”

Focusing on both residential and commercial projects, he often works with architects and interior designers, as well as home and building owners. He does not install the plasters and finishes himself, but he recommends appropriate and skilled contractors for the work. A typical job can take one or two days, depending on the size and the materials chosen. After the first step of priming, the finishes can be applied to walls of a new building or to older walls, he notes.

Increasing Number

The customer base is currently in New Jersey and the tri-state area, including the east coast, he says, adding that he is getting an increasing number of clients nationwide and even worldwide via the internet.

The price range typically includes finishes $2 to $15per square foot. “You can have finishes for walls and ceilings of a room for under $1,000, he says.

Mr. Ramondini is very enthusiastic about the future of these unique finishes in homes in the U.S., and he plans to have exhibits and presentations, displaying their variety and combination of style. “We will have an Expo at the Javits Center in Manhattan in October, and we also plan to have several demos in the Princeton area.

“I want people to know they can have a decorative alternative now for their walls and ceilings. Something with imagination and magic that will set your decor apart.”

(609) 751-8934; email: Website:


November 26, 2014
“Susan and I started this place so people can come in either to buy something or just look at nice things. We want them to walk in and feel welcome, and think ‘I really feel good here.’ And we really feel good here ourselves!” Scott Mulhern (left) and his wife Susan are owners of Marvelous Matter in Hopewell.

“Susan and I started this place so people can come in either to buy something or just look at nice things. We want them to walk in and feel welcome, and think ‘I really feel good here.’ And we really feel good here ourselves!” Scott Mulhern (left) and his wife Susan are owners of Marvelous Matter in Hopewell.

“You don’t know you love it until you see it!” said a customer recently upon entering Marvelous Matter, the charming new shop at 33 West Broad Street in Hopewell. Then, she added, “And what you see here is all eye candy! Every time you turn around something else catches your attention.”

Indeed, creativity, imagination, and innovation are on display at this special shop. Owners Susan and Scott Mulhern have presented an intriguingly eclectic display of antiques and collectibles, including furniture, glassware, jewelry, artwork, toys, and general miscellany.

“We like to think we offer beautiful things that were beautifully made, and that are presented in a beautiful setting. That is the focus of the shop,” observe the Mulherns.

Formerly located in The Tomato Factory, the store opened the doors to its new home in July. “We wanted a larger space, and this was available,” says Ms. Mulhern, who is a painter and potter, with a masters degree in ceramics. “I had grown up with antiques. My grandmother was a collector, and I collected as an adult. I had many items, and when we opened the shop in The Tomato Factory, that gave me permission to shop!”

Visual Perspective

Ms. Mulhern comes by her visual perspective naturally, she explains. “I got my good eye from my mother, who had a degree in fashion design. She knew quality and construction. Growing up, I learned about good quality.”

Gathering the collection over the years has been both exciting and satisfying for both of the owners. Before opening the store, Mr. Mulhern was engaged in a series of professions in which he was often exposed to a variety of intriguing collectibles. An actor, yoga instructor, and award-winning wallpaper hanger, he had many opportunities to view items of interest. Now he travels the east coast in search of new additions for the shop.

He also finds time to do I Ching Chinese Interpretive Life readings, and he is a published author of prose and Haiku poetry.

“We specialize in everything at the shop,” points out Mr. Mulhern, “and basically, we buy things we like. The idea is if we like it, maybe the customers will like it too. We also try to listen to what people are looking for. For example, someone wanted model boats, especially sailboats that were well-made and crafted. Someone else came in looking for a window settee, and other customers wanted a certain kind of lamp or game table or other items. They’ll all come in with something in mind, and then they’ll see things they didn’t expect to find. And then they can come upon that really singular item.”

Tramp Art

Mr. Mulhern adds that items are acquired from many sources, including church thrift shops, estate sales, auctions, etc. The Mulherns also accept items on consignment. Customers may send a photo via email, or bring in the item. The pricing arrangement is 60 percent for the customer, 40 percent for the store.

And everything seems to be popular. Tramp art, kitchen glass, carnival glass, and jewelry are all in demand, as is the furniture selection.

“There is a trend toward mid-century furniture now, and people always want antique furniture,” says Ms. Mulhern. “They like old things because so often, they are made better. We tend to admire things that stand the test of time, and there is an artistry to these items and a history. Who had them before? Where did the people live? What did they do? These pieces all have a story.”

“There’s nothing like authenticity,” points out Mr. Mulhern, “and then the history of the piece will continue with the new owner.”

The furniture selection includes several Eastlake items (an American style of furniture especially popular from 1870 to 1890). A wonderful ladies’ upholstered chair, made especially for a woman’s configuration, and noted for being extremely comfortable, is a highlight.

Another Eastlake piece is a maple roll-top desk dating to 1870, which is accented with burled elm wood. A handsome oak chest dates to the late 1800s, and also available are a mahogany high boy, a credenza, and a versatile game table, which folds against the wall when not in use.

Sense of Fun

In one of the store’s windows, a charming display features chairs arranged in descending order according to size, including two small doll chairs. Assorted baskets adorn the chairs, and on one a little doll perches engagingly.

“The idea is always to bring in the child to the adult. Add a sense of fun and whimsy,” explains Ms. Mulhern. ‘For example, we’ll have a very sophisticated item and put a little doll or toy next to it. This is unexpected and creates interest.”

Another window display features a large tomb rubbing on canvas of a knight in full regalia overlooking a pair of Windsor chairs. The window displays are changed frequently, point out the Mulherns. Customers will always find an inviting presentation of a new selection.

Boxes, baskets, and bowls are very popular at the shop, and some of these represent Tramp Art, which originated in in the late 1800s, says Ms. Mulhern. “It started in Europe, especially France, Germany, and Holland, and then came to the U.S., and continued into the 1930s. It was made by unschooled artists, who used boxes and baskets, often cigar boxes. It has a textured or chipped effect and some are also painted. It was done by people who rode the trains, rode the rails.”

Another area very popular with collectors is carnival glass. “This is hand-blown and then pressed, and was originally given away at carnivals,” she notes. “It dates from the early 1900s, and can include dishes, bowls, glasses, etc., and it is often iridescent.

“Kitchen glass also originated in the early 1900s, and is another favorite item. It is very durable, and will outlast anything made in China today.”

The presentation of items in the store is one of the delights of visiting Marvelous Matter. Surprises are everywhere. A 1920s wooden playing card holder reverses to a cribbage board, and sitting next to it is a Thai Buddha. In the corner, a king-size wooden toy soldier in bright red painted jacket stands watch, and nearby are three hollow copper balls in assorted sizes, which make a perfect garden ornament. On top of a shelf is a baby cradle, also a vintage washtub, and across the aisle is a very special hand-painted Tibetan Thangka. On another wall, a beautiful 1920s German tapestry is displayed, and a large wooden screen can serve as both a decorative and functional piece.

Whether customers are looking for picture frames, paper weights, antique sterling silver scissors, or carpets, they will find all of these and so much more, and with prices everywhere from $10 up to $1000s.

“There is so much to know about a specific area, and I get so interested in groups of things that I research everything about them,” reports Ms. Mulhern. “I just love this. I like to look at beautiful things and be around them. And I love accumulating the collection. It’s the thrill of the hunt and the surprises when you come across something you never expected to find.”

Adds Mr. Mulhern: “We have done so many things in our lives, and we thought how can we present the beautiful things we’ve seen, known, and experienced, and put them in this store so that it satisfies us and everyone who comes into the shop.”

Marvelous Matter is open Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., Wednesday and Friday 11 to 8, Sunday 11:30 to 5. (609) 466-1972. Email:

SERVICE AND SUPPORT: “People can count on my work. It’s quality, professional workmanship. And, I am very competitively-priced.” Martin Yonkowski, owner of Yonkowski Plumbing & Heating, is proud of his company’s reputation for excellent service in Mercer County.

SERVICE AND SUPPORT: “People can count on my work. It’s quality, professional workmanship. And, I am very competitively-priced.” Martin Yonkowski, owner of Yonkowski Plumbing & Heating, is proud of his company’s reputation for excellent service in Mercer County.

Someday, you will need a plumber. It’s a given.

When the occasion arises, you want someone who will show up on time, whom you can count on, and who is reliable, experienced, and totally qualified.

Martin Yonkowski, owner of Yonkowski Plumbing & Heating, fills all of these requirements. With headquarters in Hamilton, he has owned his business since 1996. Prior to that, he worked with other plumbers in the area.

Growing up in Trenton, Marty was interested in working in the plumbing industry — even from an early age. “I started vocational school to learn plumbing my junior year in high school, and started working in the field with a plumbing contractor the summer before my senior year,” he explains. “During my senior year, I attended high school until 11:30 in the morning, and then was involved in the work program from the vocational school, working from noon to 4:30. This was a good program, which gave me credit for school, and I was also getting a pay check.”

Quite a Record

“After graduation from high school, I continued working with the same contractor for four years as a plumber’s apprentice while I attended an apprenticeship program two nights a week for four years at Mercer County Vocational School in the adult program.

“At the end of my apprenticeship, I switched jobs to another plumbing contractor, and worked with the company for two years. At this time, I was 24, and I applied to take the state master plumbers exam, which I passed, and received my license in 1994. In 1996, when I was 26, I opened my own company.”

Quite a record — indicative of a young man with a definite plan and purpose.

Today, Mr. Yonkowski focuses primarily on residential work in Mercer County, although he also does some projects for restaurants and stores. He covers the full range of plumbing, from leaks and broken pipes to installation of new water heaters and oil to gas conversions.

Another important focus is handling installation systems for new construction.

“In 2005, I got very busy working in Princeton with Ugur Kaytmaz of BlueCrest Builders,” says Mr. Yonkowski. “We do a lot of work with new houses and new construction. This is a specialty for me now. I’m geared for newer work, including custom houses.”

He also works on kitchen and bathroom remodels and renovations as well as additions, which often include a bathroom.

Full Spectrum

Mr. Yonkowski continues to remain busy, too, helping homeowners who experience the full spectrum of common plumbing problems. “I work on everything,” he points out. “Leaking faucets, dishwashers, kitchen sinks, washing machines, clogged toilets — you name it!

“I also work on sump pumps, and install back-up sump pumps. I do high efficiency water heater replacement, and underground sewers and water services can also be repaired or replaced.”

Other aspects of his work include conversion of wood-burning fireplaces to gas log systems, and oil to gas conversions for hot water boilers.

Over the years, as many plumbers have, Mr. Yonkowski has come upon a fascinating array of items during his work. “I have found all kinds of stuff in toilets, including multiple sets of car keys, lots of toys, and once, a diamond engagement ring! This was really a ‘feel good’ story,” he explains. “The ring belonged to a woman whose husband had recently died, and she was so upset to have lost it. I was very glad to be able to return it to her.”

Frozen pipes in the winter are a common problem, he adds, and depending on the type of system, water to outdoor hoses should always be turned off in the winter. He also recommends that homeowners turn off the entire water system if they plan to be away for a while. “If people go away, it’s a good idea to shut off the water as a safety precaution. This can be done manually or automatically.”

Mr. Yonkowski notes that the advent of the internet and Big Box stores, such as Home Depot, have made a difference in his work. “Years ago, the plumber supplied everything. Now, customers often buy the items themselves, but then there is no warranty from the plumber. People also get a lot of information on the internet, and sometimes, they think they can solve plumbing problems themselves.”


This doesn’t always work out, he adds.

“Another change I see is that the number of plumbers is dwindling, especially with younger people getting into the trade. The business has become more computerized.”

Nevertheless, there will always be a need for that hands-on plumber to arrive to save the day!

“If it’s an emergency, I will do my best to come immediately, as soon as I possibly can,” notes Mr. Yonkowski. “For regular work, two or three days notice is helpful. I will always call back the next business day, and I have two other plumbers working for me. Payment is by the job, and I come out to assess the situation, and then establish the price. I am very competitively-priced. I offer a year’s warranty on my work.

“The most challenging part of the business is getting the work done on time,” he continues, “and of course, making the customer happy, and that is what I strive to do.

“This has been a very good trade for me. I really enjoy the work. There is something different every day, and it’s always challenging. I meet so many people, and I have many repeat customers. I look forward to the work continuing to be steady. And I want people to know they can always count on my work.”

Yonkowski Plumbing & Heating can be reached at (609) 371-0200; or via e-mail:

November 19, 2014
BEST BIKES: “We cater to biking enthusiasts for whom cycling is a life-style. It’s very important to them. They’re always thinking about their next ride!” Jason Fenton, owner of Halter’s Cycles in the Montgomery Center, is shown by a selection of road bikes.

BEST BIKES: “We cater to biking enthusiasts for whom cycling is a life-style. It’s very important to them. They’re always thinking about their next ride!” Jason Fenton, owner of Halter’s Cycles in the Montgomery Center, is shown by a selection of road bikes.

The thrill of that first bike. Almost everyone can remember the special moment when that shiny new red or blue bike arrived on the doorstep.

Some of that feeling is captured in the new location of Halter’s Cycles, which recently moved to the Montgomery Center on Route 206 North.

Originally opened in Monmouth Junction in 1987, the shop has had many customers from Princeton over the years, notes owner Jason Fenton. “Now, we are only 4.2 miles from downtown Princeton. This is a great location, with easy parking. I want us to be a destination place. This move has given us the opportunity to be more in contact with our customers and closer to the local cycling routes and mountain biking destinations. We are looking forward to establishing a base for a healthy and environmentally-friendly business in Montgomery. It feels really good here.”

He points out that both new and longtime customers are coming to the new location (formerly the site of Friendly’s Restaurant). “They really like the new space. I wanted it to be a special place. We’ve used environmentally friendly materials, including reclaimed wood, LED lighting, and the floor is cement with an epoxy covering, which results in less dust.”

Unique Look

The new store has been extensively refitted by the Historic Building Company of Lambertville, reclaiming materials that emphasize Halter’s commitment to sustainable business. It features beams and woodwork rescued from a local Rocky Hill barn to produce a unique look and experience for the customer, while making good use of these materials.

“Larry Vellensky of the Historic Building Company of Lambertville helped renovate the building, and I wanted it to be comfortable and environmentally-friendly,” explains Mr. Fenton.

And within, there are all those bikes! Two hundred on display. Road and racing bikes, mountain bikes, hybrids, and balance bikes for toddlers.

“Each member of my staff is an avid cyclist, and our interests cover the whole range of cycling activity, from leisure and utility cycling to competing at the highest level,” says Mr. Fenton, “Every bike and accessory from our extensive inventory has been tested by us. We only sell what works.”

Mr. Fenton loved cycling from the time he was a boy. He was active riding and racing mountain bikes, and that interest has remained strong. He is a steward of the Six Mile Run Reservoir, and has been instrumental in blazing and maintaining the extensive networks of trails there.

Sharing his love of cycling is a big factor in his commitment to offering the best products to his customers. Among the bicycle brands are Cannondale, Cervelo, Felt, Focus, Salasa, Surly, and frames by All City, Se7en, and other specialty suppliers.

Full Selection

In addition, a full selection of accessories and apparel is available. Helmets, saddles, shoes, socks, shorts, jackets, and jerseys are on display in the spacious showroom.

Mr. Fenton cannot be more emphatic about the importance of wearing a helmet for every cyclist, whatever their age. “I’ve been riding a long time, and even if I go a short distance without a helmet, I feel I’m on borrowed time. You just never know what can happen. It’s really important. Common sense should prevail.”

Just adjacent to the showroom is a full-service work shop. Everything from flat tire repair to annual tune-ups to complete overhauls can be taken care of here. The Halter’s staff recommends tune-ups once a year to check the brakes, gear shifting, and overall function. Tires should be checked by the cyclist weekly or even more often, depending on how often he or she rides.

“Every customer’s requirement is unique, and we strive to find solutions that are appropriate for anyone,” explains Mr. Fenton. “We always ensure that the bikes we sell are the right size and will do the job the purchaser wants. We specialize in customizing and professionally fitting bicycles. We have a special machine that we use to custom-fit the bike to the customer. We make an appointment with the customer to do this, and it is very detailed. There are 11 to 12 different sizes of bikes, and the fit is very important.”

Easier To Ride

“The bikes today are more durable, lighter, and easier to ride than those of the past,” he adds. “We ask the customer about their life-style regarding cycling. How experienced are they? What is their goal? To ride comfortably for hours on end?”

Bikes at Halter’s Cycles start at $400/$500 ($200 for kids’ bikes). Helmets range from $40 to $250.

Mr. Fenton believes he has a bike for everyone. “This is one of the few sports when for not a ton of money, you can have a world class product. Cycling is more popular than ever. I think in some ways it has replaced golf for networking, and it’s healthier with more exercise. There are multiple bike clubs in the area. People are thinking more about fitness, and like-minded people tend to hang out together.

 “I look forward to creating a dedicated place for people for whom cycling is way of life,” he continues. “A comfortable place where they can find information and great service. And, we are a fun place — a bike shop for people who ride bikes!”

Halter’s Cycles is open Monday through Friday 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., Saturday 10 to 5.

(732) 329-9022. Website:

October 29, 2014
COSTUME CREATIONS: “I like customers to come here and have fun. I love meeting and talking to people and making them happy.” Amanda Sharpe, owner of The Costume Scene in Trenton, is a vision of pop art a la Lichtenstein in a bright red dress, long yellow wig, and red polka dots decorating her face. “During the month of October, I dress up every day,” she adds.

COSTUME CREATIONS: “I like customers to come here and have fun. I love meeting and talking to people and making them happy.” Amanda Sharpe, owner of The Costume Scene in Trenton, is a vision of pop art a la Lichtenstein in a bright red dress, long yellow wig, and red polka dots decorating her face. “During the month of October, I dress up every day,” she adds.

Medieval to modern, the “Roaring Twenties”, including fashionable flappers, groovy gangsters, and The Great Gatsby; princesses, pirates, and pilgrims, Dracula, dragons, and devils, soldiers and sailors, cowboys and Indians, clowns and cartoon characters, witches and wizards, skeletons, zombies and ghouls, Marie Antoinette and Scarlet O’Hara …. These, and so many more, are all available at The Costume Scene, 1710 Liberty Street in Trenton.

Who doesn’t like to dress up and for a brief moment in time become someone else? Whether for a play, costume party, or Halloween trick or treating, donning a costume inspires imagination and a chance to pretend. Most of all, it’s fun!

This is certainly the point of view of Amanda Sharp, owner of this special shop.

A graduate of Stuart Country Day School of the Sacred Heart and Arcadia University, where she majored in theater and costume design, Ms. Sharp both designs and constructs costumes. When the opportunity to purchase The Costume Scene arose last July, she did not hesitate. It was a chance to combine her love of costume and theater.

“I used to come here for costumes and make-up for plays when I was at Stuart,” she explains. “This is an opportunity for me to continue the shop and also for me to continue my own costume design for theater in the area.”

Special Effects

“I had always thought about doing something creative and exciting, and where I could be my own boss.”

The shop, which has been in Trenton for 35 years, has a strong existing client base, an is the foundation on which she hopes to expand, says Ms. Sharp. “I want to expand the connection with professional and community theater, as well as the schools. We have a lot of newer items, and a lot more special effects, including molds for prosthetics, especially scary and gross stuff that the kids love.”

Ms. Sharp can create make-up and special effects pieces for the creepiest Halloween or costume party characters. Make-up, from glamorous to gross, is a specialty. Of course, the more gruesome, gory, and grotesque, the better the kids like it, she points out.

“Blood Buckets” and “Zombie Gutz” enhance an overall grisly effect, with faux cuts, bruises, and abrasions, and nasty-looking “infectious matter” and “body fluids” dripping off some other-worldly creature.

False teeth, fake beards, moustaches, sideburns, and bald caps are all popular, as is the tremendous assortment of masks and wigs of all kinds.

And, the costume selection is unmatched. “We have the largest selection of costumes in central New Jersey and the surrounding areas,” reports Ms. Sharp. “We specialize in theatrical costumes and make-up as well as characters and holiday costumes. This includes time periods and historical figures, favorite animated characters and super heroes, Halloween costumes, Santa Claus suits, Easter Bunny suits, and so much more. Tens of thousands of costumes are on -site for you to try on.”

Hats and Tiaras

“We also carry a large selection of professional make-up, and we do make-up applications for customers attending special events. We also have hats, tiaras, and all kinds of
accessories, including sunglasses and gloves.”

The majority of costumes are available for 24-hour rental, but a selection is also offered for sale, starting at $25 for children and $40 for adults. Rentals are priced everywhere from $35 to $200. Ms. Sharp is also able to design and construct special costumes, if customers wish.

Mascot cartoon characters and animals are very popular for children’s birthday parties and graduations from pre-school and elementary school, she adds. Characters like Mickey Mouse, Winnie the Pooh, and other favorites are all available.

Adults enjoy the shop just as much as the kids — dressing up is ageless, says Ms. Sharp. Costume parties are great fun, and customers enjoy looking at the extensive sea of possibilities.

Hamilton Square resident Anita Oliver was in the shop recently to find an appropriate outfit for a “Hollywood Oscars” theme costume party. “I decided to go as a 1920s flapper, and I needed to get a dress, headband, and jewelry,” she explains. “This store is so much fun! They have everything I want, and they are all so helpful.”

Theme costume parties are very popular now, says Ms. Sharp. “The Roaring Twenties is a big favorite, and also the 1960s, with the hippies; and different decades generally are often themes, as are Disco and dance, such as ‘Saturday Night Fever’.”

Own Back Yard

Customers come from all over the area, including Princeton, and many are repeats, she adds. “It’s really easy to get here, and we are in a very nice residential neighborhood, with our own parking lot.

“It’s so important for
people to know that we’re here. I want them to enjoy coming and shopping in a small shop where they can see everything, touch it, and try it on. We have four dressing rooms. It’s very important for people to take the time to investigate what is in their own back yard. There is no place like this between here and Philadelphia.

“I am very excited about it,” she continues. “I love everything here, and I want this to be a place where people can come, have fun, and use their imagination. I don’t think people use their imagination enough. Come in and be a clown, or a knight or Batman or a mermaid. The sky’s the limit!

“I just want to keep on doing what I love and sharing it with the customers.”

The Costume Scene is open seven days, Monday through Saturday 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., Sunday 11 to 5. (609) 394-7788.

Website: www.the



FAMILY FOOTWEAR: “We have always offered top-quality men’s, women’s, and children’s shoes. We make a point of giving customers the right fit. We have always been a family shoe store, and we are still a family business.” Chuck Simone (left), owner of Hulit’s Shoes, is shown with his son Ryan and family favorite “Sonny”.

FAMILY FOOTWEAR: “We have always offered top-quality men’s, women’s, and children’s shoes. We make a point of giving customers the right fit. We have always been a family shoe store, and we are still a family business.” Chuck Simone (left), owner of Hulit’s Shoes, is shown with his son Ryan and family favorite “Sonny”.

There aren’t too many anymore. The friendly family home town shoe store has become a vanishing breed in many areas. Princeton is lucky to have Hulit’s Shoes, a downtown mainstay since 1929, as part of its vibrant Nassau Streetscape.

Celebrating an 85th anniversary is a major moment in the life of a business, and the fact that Hulit’s is a family business makes it even more special.

Opened by Warren Hulit, it has been “All in the Family” ever since. His children, Ralph, Pete, Clara, Nellie, and Lillian were all involved in the store, and another son, Gus, owned The Cummins Shop, a former Princeton gift shop. Today, Clara’s son, Chuck Simone and his wife Phyllis, are the owners of Hulit’s.

The Simones’ son Ryan is also on staff full-time, representing the fourth generation of Hulit family members in the store.

Loyal Patrons

“I worked in the store after school, and on weekends,” recalls Chuck Simone, “and my father Charlie Simone was also at the store. A lot of my cousins worked here too.”

In addition, generations of customers from the same family have been loyal patrons. Kids who got their first baby shoes at Hulit’s now have children or grandchildren also getting their shoes at the store.

“We have very loyal customers. Generations of people. Fourth and even fifth generations of customers come,” says Mr. Simone. “We carry a product that people need, and service is very important here. We fit the foot. This is a major focus at Hulit’s, and is something we have always done. We help customers find the right shoe.”

Princeton has had its share of celebrities, who also need shoes and the right fit. One of the Hulit family’s most cherished memories was the opportunity to fit the feet of the town’s resident genius, Albert Einstein, in 1952.

According to a Time Magazine report, Professor Einstein’s secretary called the store, requesting an emergency house call. Dr. Einstein’s feet hurt, and he suspected ill-fitting shoes. Partner Pete Hulit arrived at 112 Mercer Street with a foot measurer, and a few pairs of shoes. Professor Einstein, attempting to find the source of his discomfort, had sketched a diagram of his shoes, indicating the pattern of foot pressure. One labeled “bad” identified pressure on the outside of his foot.

Mr. Hulit decided that Einstein needed larger shoes. A pair of black shoes were comfortable, and the famous physicist signed his name to his shoe drawing, and gave it to Pete Hulit.

Comfort Features

Shoe styles have undergone dramatic changes since Einstein’s day, and Hulit’s has seen trends come and go. One that seems here to stay is the public’s demand for comfortable footwear. Indeed, comfort is key.

Comfort as an issue has been around for a number of years now, reports Mr. Simone, and it is evidenced in the big selection of walking shoes, athletic shoes of all kinds, clogs, sandals, and dress shoes with comfort features.

“The emphasis on comfort is one of the biggest changes I have seen in the shoe business, he says. “Also, the idea of comfort was in all areas of dress, not just shoes,” he adds. “When I first worked here, we always wore jackets and ties. It’s much more informal today.”

Customers will have no trouble finding a comfortable fit at Hulit’s. A full range of styles and brands in all categories is available for men, women, and children of all ages, including infants.

Choices for children are more abundant than ever. Athletic shoes are popular for kids too. Geox sneakers are favorites for boys and girls, and a very popular line now is Tsukihoshi from Japan, notes Mr. Simone. “Kids love them. The sneakers are machine-washable, and they have a great fit.”

New Balance, Saucony, and that old favorite Converse also offer athletic footwear for children, and the longtime Sperry Topsiders continue to be in demand for boys and girls alike.

Penny Loafers

“Mary Janes” have never gone out of style for little girls, and they are available from Primigi. The Kio Trend line, with its leather lined styles is popular for girls, and Kenneth Cole also offers dress shoes for girls.

Penny loafers for boys are still favored, and laced dress shoes are also available.

Winter boots will soon be in stock, including the ever popular Uggs, as well as well as several brands with Gortex for waterproofing.

New Balance and Saucony offer a complete array of athletic shoes for men and women, and all are big sellers at the store. Tennis, cross-training, running, and walking shoes are available, with running styles the most popular.

Tennis shoes are important too, and as Mr. Simone points out, “Not all shoe stores carry tennis shoes today, and we have a good selection.”

The Sperry Topsider line of boat shoe styles are also a favorite among many male and female customers.


In keeping with the focus on comfort, flats continue to be in demand for many women. “We have flats of all kinds,” reports Mr. Simone. “Both dressy and casual, ‘Stretchies’, which are flexible with a comfort sole. We have a lot of European shoes, including L’Amour Des Pieds from France, Waldlaufer from Germany, and we also carry BeautiFeel, a very popular women’s line from Israel. The shoes are all leather-lined, many with foam inner sole. They are very high quality, both durable and flexible, and available in heels and flats.”

Clarks continues to be a best seller at Hulit’s for men and women, with many styles, from casual to dress. All have comfort features.

“Ecco is another line for men and women, and it is all comfort footwear. You can walk 20 blocks in New York City with these shoes,” says Mr. Simone.

Picolinos offers popular fashion ankle boots for women, as does La Canadienne from Canada, which also has a line of tall boots. SpringStep also has a line of dress/casual shoes and boots for women. Boots are a big deal in footwear today, and not just to withstand winter weather. In many cases, they are a fashion statement.

When winter does arrive, however, Hulit’s will be ready. Sheepskin-lined Uggs and Kamik boots from Canada?, among others, will keep the toes toasty.

Women (and some men) still like clogs, which continue to be available in a wide variety of choices. Dankso, Birkenstock, and Haflinger (noted for its wool clogs and slippers) are among the popular brands.

Many Options

Men certainly look for comfort these days too, and Hulit’s has many options for them, from dressy to casual. Clarks is a mainstay, as is Johnston & Murphy for dress shoes with a leather sole.

The slip-on dress shoe with a tassel, and the penny loafer from Bass Weejun are always in style, and there is still a call for those time-honored “Bucks” in dusty tan and white.

Hiking boots from Merrell are an important line at the store, and there is a variety of men’s boots for all seasons.

Slippers and socks are other big sellers, with SmartWool the most popular line of socks for the entire family. Available in many colors and designs, these socks are a “must have” for many customers.

Slippers from Uggs, Minnetonka, and Acorn are favorites, and in all categories, color is a big factor today. In particular, women’s shoes display a blaze of color, and this is true in men’s athletic shoes as well.

“We go to shows and keep up-to-date on the latest trends and styles,” reports Mr. Simone. “Everything changes, and many of our customers come in two to three times a year or more for shoes, and we always try to have what they want. We offer a lot of personal attention — we stress service and a friendly face. We want to help people get the shoes they want. I think people like the way they are treated here.

“I really enjoy the people who come in,” he continues. “There is such an interesting variety of people, and many have become friends over the years. We look forward to offering them the best service, and we want to see the store and the family tradition continue.”

In addition to its annual summer and winter sales, Hulit’s offers regular weekend specials.

Located at 142 Nassau Street, the store is open Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m., Thursday until 7, Saturday until 5:30, Sunday 12 to 4. (609) 924-1952. Website:


September 10, 2014
SUPER SUBS: “The response has been even better than we expected. We’ve had a great welcome, and our customers are really enjoying it here. We have already had lots of repeats, and some even come every day.” Dee Curran, owner (left) and Tyler Smith, manager of Jersey Mike’s Subs at the Shops At Windsor Green, are very enthusiastic about the future of their new sub shop.

SUPER SUBS: “The response has been even better than we expected. We’ve had a great welcome, and our customers are really enjoying it here. We have already had lots of repeats, and some even come every day.” Dee Curran, owner (left) and Tyler Smith, manager of Jersey Mike’s Subs at the Shops At Windsor Green, are very enthusiastic about the future of their new sub shop.

Jersey Mike’s Subs has a history and a long connection with the Jersey shore. The original Mike’s Subs opened in Point Pleasant in 1956. At that time, there were very few chain restaurants, and the submarine sandwich was a relatively new item on the American casual dining scene.

Residents, summer visitors, and vacationers to Point Pleasant looked forward to Mike’s special sandwiches, and began to spread the word.

In addition, as an independently-owned “Mom and Pop” business, Mike’s emphasized personal service and friendly attention to customers. People were soon lining up to buy the sandwiches and enjoy the informal and authentic shore atmosphere.

Almost 60 years later, Jersey Mike’s is still going strong — even stronger — with more than 800 independently-owned franchises nationwide.

Strong Believer

CEO Peter Cancro, who purchased the original Mike’s in 1972, when he was 17, is such a strong believer in the product that he has expanded it dramatically, notes Dee Curran, owner of the new Jersey Mike’s Subs at the Shops At Windsor Green.

“Peter had worked at Mike’s since he was 14, and when he heard that the owner was thinking of selling, he decided he wanted to buy it. A senior in high school at the time, he approached his football coach, who also happened to be a banker, and asked if he could help out. The coach backed the loan, and Peter became owner of Mike’s Subs at the age of 17!”

The rest, as they say, is history.

Over time, Mike’s expanded its operation into independent franchises, eventually changing the name to Jersey Mike’s Subs, and the business is more successful than ever. Jersey Mike’s at Windsor Green opened June 18, and Dee Curran couldn’t be happier.

“This is an excellent location, just four miles from Princeton University and on the Route One corridor. We get customers from the area, including Rider University, The College of New Jersey, and many others. Parking is so easy here. We’re right by Whole Foods, and this is a good spot for us.”

What keeps people coming back are the great subs and the friendly service, he adds.

“The sandwiches focus on ‘Mike’s Way’, a combination of onions, lettuce, tomatoes, oil and vinegar, spices, and then the choice of ham, cheese, turkey, roast beef, etc. The secret of the whole thing is the ‘juice’. That is, the combination of oil, vinegar, and the spices. This adds a certain zing. Once you have it, you definitely want it again!”

Fresh Ingredients

Fresh ingredients are a priority, adds manager Tyler Smith. “Every morning, everything is prepared fresh, including fresh-baked bread and cookies on site. We slice the tomatoes, onions, and lettuce ourselves, and we slice the meat right in front of the customer. We also trim, tie, and cook the roast beef in-house. This is the way the original Mike’s did it. Freshness is crucial in our world.

“In addition,” he continues, “it’s all about communicating with the people. Our staff really cares about the product, and they are genuinely engaged with the work and the customers. It’s genuine and authentic.”

Jersey Mike’s offers both cold and hot subs, with a big variety of choices in three sizes. “We’re probably best known for our cold sandwiches, but we’ve developed a specific hot sub business too,” reports Mr. Smith.

Popular cold choices include the Original Italian with provolone, ham, prosciutto, cappacuolo, salami, and pepperoni; the Famous Roast Beef and Provolone, cooked on the premises using only certified Angus USDA top rounds; the Turkey Breast and Provolone, including 99 percent fat-free turkey; and the Veggie, featuring Swiss cheese, provolone, and green bell peppers.

And, of course, “Mike’s Way” is the secret ingredient in all of the cold subs.

Among the hot subs, Chipotle Cheesesteak with grilled onions, peppers, and chipotle mayo is a favorite, along with the Big Kahuna Cheesesteak, including grilled onions and peppers, plus mushrooms, jalapeno peppers, and extra cheese.

Meatballs and Cheese, Chicken Parm, and Grilled Pastrami Reuben are other popular choices.

“Sub in a Tub”

In addition, Mike’s offers wrap sandwiches, including Chicken Caesar, Buffalo Chicken, Grilled Veggie, and Turkey Wrap, among others.

Another big favorite for many customers is the “Sub in a Tub”. “We can turn any sandwich into a salad,” says Mr. Curran. “This is also popular with those who want gluten-free since it eliminates the bread. Choose any cold sub and select your topping. Then, all you need is a knife and fork!”

Beverages include fountain and bottled drinks and brewed iced tea. Chips are also available along with the cookies and brownies.

Jersey Mike’s offers sit-down (for 52 people), take-out, and catering. All are popular, and Mr. Curran notes that they have already been very busy with catering orders. “We have done many catering jobs for local businesses. We expect to do more of this, and of course, we are very busy with people coming in here. Lunchtime is especially busy, and a lot of people also stop in after work to take a sub home.”

Subs start at $5.25, and there is also a children’s special with small sub, drink, and cookie for $4.45. Student plans are available as well.

“We believe we are set apart in lots of ways, including ‘Mike’s Way,” adds Mr. Curran. “An important aspect of Jersey Mike’s is that the company really believes in giving back to the community. We do this in a number of ways. Whenever a new Jersey Mike’s Subs opens (always on a Wednesday), for the five days through Sunday, customers can have a free sub with a minimum donation of $1. We will select a charity, and all the money will go to a local charity or non-profit. For our opening, we chose the Princeton YMCA, and they put the money toward building a new playground for the kids.”

Numerous Causes

Since 2010, Jersey Mike’s locations throughout the country have raised nearly $10 million for worthy local charities and have distributed more than 750,000 free sub sandwiches to help numerous causes.

“We are also involved in Wreaths Across America, an organization which places wreaths on military graves at holiday time. We really look forward to becoming an established part of the community; we always want to give back. This is a big part of the Jersey Mikes concept.”

Visitors to Jersey Mike’s at Windsor Green enjoy — in addition to the subs! — the shore-like setting. Posters and photographs of shore scenes are on display, as is an eight foot surfboard suspended on the wall. A giant blow-up of a vintage post card from Point PIeasant adds another fun touch to the atmosphere.

“The product we give out in every way is so important,” points out Mr. Smith. “We want to make sure you are satisfied with the overall experience: the food, the service, the atmosphere, and the welcome you receive.”

Jersey Mike’s is open seven days per week from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. (609) 799-8094. Website:

FASHION FORWARD: “Fashion Week is a big designer event in New York City from September 11 to the 17th. We were asked to do the hair for more than 20 models taking part in the event.” Amy Kaczowski (right) and Heather Rizzo are co-owners of Salon Pure at Palmer Square.

FASHION FORWARD: “Fashion Week is a big designer event in New York City from September 11 to the 17th. We were asked to do the hair for more than 20 models taking part in the event.” Amy Kaczowski (right) and Heather Rizzo are co-owners of Salon Pure at Palmer Square.

The mission of the stylists at Salon Pure is to help clients look and feel their best. A new haircut and well-defined highlights can do wonders for a new look, as the fall season gets underway.

“We make people happy here. If they look nice, they feel better and have more confidence and self-esteem,” says Heather Rizzo, co-owner with Amy Kaczowski, of the very popular salon.

Opened in 2007, the salon was originally located on State Road, before moving to 31-A Hulfish Street (on the second floor, just above Mediterra Restaurant). Both Heather and Amy are experienced stylists, having worked for several years in the hair industry before opening Salon Pure.

“We wanted to open our own salon because we had another vision,” explains Amy. “We wanted to offer a special atmosphere and the best hair service. We are set apart by the environment we create. Our clients say they feel as if they are on vacation when they come here.”

Salon Pure is a full-service salon, offering haircuts and color, extensions, and treatments, as well as manicures, pedicures, waxing, and make-up applications.

“We have a wide range of experienced stylists and experts in their field who can accommodate different price ranges,” point out the owners. “Our staff is really superior, and we have a lot of continuing education. We train all our assistants for two years in addition to their previous cosmetology education. Everyone goes to New York City once a month for haircutting and color demonstrations, and we also have on-line training.”

The demonstrations are at the Nick Arrojo studio, and this famous hair stylist and TV personality has become an important asset for the salon. “We can create what is really in style because of our association with Nick Arrojo,” says Heather. “Knowing Nick, we are on top of everything that’s new.”

“I had seen Nick Arrojo at hair shows, and I liked his cutting approach,” adds Amy. “It was close to Vidal Sassoon, but edgier. Nick invited us to come to one of his cutting demonstrations, and we have been associated with him for a few years.”

Certainly, access to the very latest styles and trends and the professional expertise of the staff is a real plus for their clients. It has also been noticed by the media. For the third year in a row, Salon Pure has been voted “Best Salon in New Jersey” in New Jersey Monthly magazine.

Long hair, short, curly, straight — all are popular today, although there is a trend back to short, reports Amy. “Short hair is really in right now. You see lots of pixie cuts and also bobs.”

For teenage girls, however, tossing those long locks is still irresistible, and long styles are still popular for their versatility.

“One of the newest looks today is the American Wave,” continues Amy. “This is a ‘New Age’ perm, and it’s great for both long and short hair. This is very new. It doesn’t need styling or blow drying. It can just air dry, or if you want a little different look, it can be blown dry briefly.”

For those in a hurry, who want to “wash and go”, this is a terrific time-saver.

In fact, easy maintenance is a requirement for many Salon Pure clients. “Life-style is a very important factor in deciding on a hair style,” points out Heather. “We have a very in-depth conversation before we start, so we can create the ultimate hair style for the client. Something that is very individual, and is the best choice for that person. We always take facial structure, age, and life-style into consideration. Our clients are all ages, from kids to grandparents. Women, men, and children. We are very family-friendly.”

“There are many ways and techniques of cutting hair,” she adds. “For example, a razor cut gives more texture. The right cutting technique can make the difference between a good hair cut and an outstanding haircut.

“Some people will come in every week just for a blow-dry. Because of a great dry shampoo, they don’t have to wash their hair in between visits. The Nick Arrojo dry shampoo is the best. It takes out the oil, adds body and texture, and men love the fragrance! It’s just a great product, and extremely popular.”

Color, of course, continues to be the big news on the hair scene scenario. For many people, it is a fashion statement today, changing with the seasons. Highlights, lowlights, multi-dimensional color, ombre, balayge, hair painting are all popular techniques, and many clients are not afraid to experiment. Brunettes become blondes, blondes become redheads, and vice versa. Color creates interest and often can contribute to a more youthful look for the client.

And, whether customers want an unaffected, natural shade and style (most do) or a highly dramatic coiffure, they can be accommodated at Salon Pure, where the color experts are prepared to help clients perfect their “look”.

“Color is huge, and it’s fashion today; it’s not just to cover gray any more,” points out Heather. “Coloring products are safer than ever. It’s very safe, and it’s all about the application and the skill of the professional. It is also very individualized, but as people get older, the trend is to go a little lighter with color. The skin tone changes over time.”

Also, she adds, many factors can affect the color result. “Medication is a big factor in color. It really can affect the outcome. Pregnancy can also make a difference, due to hormonal changes.”

In addition, for those who have had a bad “do it yourself” coloring experience, corrective color is available. The Salon Pure color experts have specific products and the skill that can repair the damage.

Hair design and styling for special events are also a major part of the business, as are bridal packages — for the bride and the wedding party. Make-up is another area of expertise, and make-up applications are offered for special occasions and for bridal parties, both on the day of the wedding and for “trial runs” a few months before the big day.

Manicures, pedicures, and waxing are also available, and Heather and Amy emphasize that all the implements used in these services undergo thorough sterilization.

“Shellac is very popular today,” says Heather. “It’s a type of gel, and lasts longer than regular polish. Also, it is very ‘in’ to have the nail art on the ring finger to be different than the other nails. The nail art is really incredible today. As for color, we have everything, but ‘Sugar Daddy’ is a big favorite now. It’s a light pastel color.”

Heather and Amy are delighted with the direction their business has taken. Many of their clients have become friends, and word-of-mouth has been excellent.

“This is a very creative business in all ways,” they note. “It’s very important to keep on top of everything so it all runs smoothly, which also is reflected in a happy staff and happy clients. In keeping with our welcoming atmosphere, we offer coffee, tea, cookies, and other refreshments, and we encourage walk-in customers. We also continue to welcome new staff. We want everyone to get to know us. We want to be really well-known in the community and be a part of it.”

They have indeed worked very hard to become a part of the community, and are pleased to support many organizations and charities in the area and beyond. Some of these include Locks for Love, Parkinson’s Disease Foundation, the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure, and SAVE.

“We will also be part of Wellness Day,’ to be held October 12 on the Green,” says Heather. “There will be a different mix of businesses and organizations taking part, as well as trainers, yoga, and other activities.”

Salon Pure is open seven days: Monday 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., Tuesday through Thursday 9:30 to 8, Friday 9:30 to 7, Saturday 8:30 to 5, Sunday 10 to 4. (609) 683-8384. Website:


August 6, 2014
SIMPLE WONDERS: “I wanted a unique toy shop that represented my view of play as well as reflecting the community. The mission of sticks and stones is to provide children of all ages the tools to creatively explore their world and to embrace the simple wonders of unstructured play.” Jennifer Ghannam, owner of sticks and stones in Hopewell, is shown with a butterfly net over her shoulder and a “Nature House” for “collecting insect specimens, which you capture, observe, and then let go.”

SIMPLE WONDERS: “I wanted a unique toy shop that represented my view of play as well as reflecting the community. The mission of sticks and stones is to provide children of all ages the tools to creatively explore their world and to embrace the simple wonders of unstructured play.” Jennifer Ghannam, owner of sticks and stones in Hopewell, is shown with a butterfly net over her shoulder and a “Nature House” for “collecting insect specimens, which you capture, observe, and then let go.”

The “young at heart” of all ages will not want to leave sticks and stones! This charming toy shop, located at 16 Seminary Avenue (just off Broad Street) in Hopewell, is filled with a variety of intriguing items guaranteed to pique the curiosity and imagination of all who enter. “Nature-inspired Toys and Playful things” is sticks and stones’ motto, and it reflects owner Jennifer Ghannam’s concept of what children’s play should encompass. “We are unique in what we offer,” she explains. “It’s things that I have very carefully and thoughtfully chosen. And it provides kids with the tools to discover the world around them.” A mother of twins and a former teacher of elementary and middle school students, Ms. Ghannam initially had an on-line toy business, started in 2012, but she had always hoped to open a shop in Hopewell. “There were no other toy stores here, and there is so much value in face-to-face dialogue with the customers. I enjoy meeting everyone, and we have all ages coming in.” Newborns and Up Customers will find items for newborns on up, with a focus on products made of recycled materials, including wood and fabric. “Also, I try not to put firm ages on everything,” she points out. “Because everyone is different in what they like, and it doesn’t depend on age.” Indeed, there is a plethora of items for young explorers, artists, gardeners, inventors, builders, actors, and naturalists of every age! Items, which cover a price range of $5 to $160, with everything in between, also cover a wide spectrum, from bird and bat houses to model-making kits to assorted arts and crafts to books, blocks, and board games. The variety appeals to customers of all interests, and all the categories are popular, reports Ms. Ghannam. “I seek out things that are unusual, and people have really responded. There seems to be something for everyone.” Fun is a key word, and it underlies much of the inventory. It helps combine learning and education with a real sense of play. When the kids come in, they are very much engaged — as are their parents. Insects and Airplanes Two very popular items are the Needle Felting Kit and the Fairy-Making Kit. With the former, explains Ms. Ghannam, “You shape the felting fabric with the needle. It is a lot of fun, especially for ages 10 and up. They can make all kinds of little animals, and even adults enjoy it. “The Fairy-Making Kit includes wood, felt, and pipe cleaners to make the fairies. This is a favorite for kids from five and up. There are also recycled cardboard kits to make trees, animals, insects, and airplanes. A Pirate Map-Making kit is another favorite, as are the Lille Huset recycled cardboard houses from Grow Studio in Chicago.” Also available are “Edible Chemistry kits”, which kids can use to concoct root beer and bubble gum. “Glux Glow” (Glow-in-the-dark Putty) and Gels and Slime Kits are other favorites and are very popular birthday gifts at $15. In addition, the Yellow Owl Workshop from San Fransisco offers stamp and ink pads, stamp carving kits, jewelry, note pads, etc. Blocks and marbles stand the test of time, and the block sets include themes with insects, nursery rhymes, and the classic alphabet. “We also have a block and marble building kit, with which the kids can create towers and buildings,” she adds. “It’s from the Amish, and is really beautifully made.” Among the many irresistible items on display are “Chalk Rocks” created by Ms. Ghannam, who made them out of sidewalk chalk. The rocks are in all colors and are fun to look at, and then can be used as sidewalk chalk for hopscotch and other games, she explains. Giant Bubbles OGAS sailboats, handmade in Germany, do indeed float; special kaleidoscopes that can be taken apart and then put together for different images; magnifying glasses, telescopes, and “Optic Wonder,” which combines binocular, monocular, signal mirror, compass, and magnifier; and “Bubbles” which creates giant bubbles are all appealing to many ages. The “artists” among the customers still opt for old favorites, such as colored pencils, oil pastels, sketch pads, and modeling beeswax. And 32 Ways to Dress A Cat (or Bunny, etc.) features partly drawn pictures, which the kids can complete. Books, often focused on nature, are available on the second floor of the shop, and appeal to a variety of ages. A Strange Place To Live (Where Animals Live) by Marilyn Singer and On a Beam of Light, A Story of Albert Einstein by Jennifer Byrne are two favorites. Wooden puzzles and board games are also available. “We have cooperative games, ‘Play Together, Not Against Each Other’, where the kids play as a team to reach a common goal,” says Ms. Ghannam. “And we have competitive games as well.” Finger and hand puppets are very popular, she adds, and charming little stuffed animals from Moulin Roty in France are irresistible. Larger items include a Balance Bike, and Ms. Ghannam points out that electronics are not a focus at sticks and stones. “There is one battery-operated toy here. We are kind of ‘unplugged’ in the store.” “Make and Take” arts and crafts workshops are held at the shop the second Saturday of every month, she adds. “The kids come in and participate in a specific project that has already been planned out. For example, they can make little bird houses out of toilet paper rolls and little birds out of paper, etc. I put out the materials, and am here to help with instruction. “I also plan to have birthday parties here. The crafts idea is very popular. Kids really like to make things. I enjoy it when they come in, and have such fun looking at everything and get excited.” In addition, Ms. Ghannam has a display of “Happy Faces”, photos of many of the children who enjoy coming to her shop. “I love it when people send over photos of the kids, and when they have made something from the store. We have lots of pictures, including one of a boy who got a pond kit, then went to the pond in the park, caught a fish, and came back to show me. It just made my day! “I look forward to the shop, not as just a toy store, but evolving into a destination for people to do creative things, such as workshops, parties, puppet shows, etc. As sticks and stones evolves, it is my goal to provide, as much as possible, products that are friendly to the environment. You will find more and more products created by hand, made of recycled materials, and made right here in the U.S.A. “I also want to be community-based. I want the shop to become part of the fabric of the Hopewell community.” Sticks and stones offers on-going sales, gift bags for all purchases, and can be easily identified by the decorative colored yarn adorning the nearby trees outside the shop. Hours are Tuesday, Wednesday noon to 5 p.m., Thursday 11 a.m. to 5, Friday and Saturday 1 to 6. Sunday hours will soon be established. (609) 466-6536. Website:

July 30, 2014
ACADEMIC EXCELLENCE: “When you start a new school, it’s a new adventure. It’s exciting, and it’s on-going. We are still sorting out ways of doing things.” Lesley Skousen, PhD, history teacher at the Princeton International School of Mathematics and Science, is shown on the attractive grounds of the new school.

ACADEMIC EXCELLENCE: “When you start a new school, it’s a new adventure. It’s exciting, and it’s on-going. We are still sorting out ways of doing things.” Lesley Skousen, PhD, history teacher at the Princeton International School of Mathematics and Science, is shown on the attractive grounds of the new school.

The love of learning is celebrated at the Princeton International School of Mathematics and Science (PRISMS). Located at 19 Lambert Drive, former site of the American Boychoir, the school recently completed its first year of operation.

Thirty-three enthusiastic, intellectually curious, and committed day and boarding students from the U.S. and China in 9th and 10th grades were challenged and stimulated by PRISMS’s unique learning experience.

“The mission of the Princeton International School of Mathematics and Science — a visionary, intercultural research community educating and inspiring high school students through rigorous scholarship and personal responsibility — is to ignite a passion for inquiry, innovation, and investigation that will instill a compassionate commitment to enrich the quality of life in school, community, and country, and make an enduring difference in our world,” says Head of School Glenn McGee, PhD.

“We believe that our model of inquiry-driven education can be an exemplar for both independent and public schools worldwide. Data from parent and student surveys show that this first year we succeeded in our goal to ‘illuminate powerful ideas, nurture a compassionate community, and inspire profound inquiry.’”

Learning Experience

Dr. McGee, formerly president of the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy (IMSA), is a veteran educator. During his 40 years as an educator, he has served in many spheres, from teacher to school superintendent of education for the state of Illinois. IMSA is known as “the world’s leading teaching and learning laboratory for imagination and inquiry, for its innovative inquiry-based curriculum and student research program.”

Supported by the Bairong Education Foundation, which purchased the campus, PRISMS is associated with a “sister” school in Beijing, a high school affiliated with Renmin University (RDFZ). Dr. McGee is enthusiastic about the chance to offer such an outstanding learning experience in Princeton, which offers its unique location and variety of opportunities.

“Princeton University, the greater Princeton community, and New York City all offer countless resources and opportunities for our students. They have talked with artists in Manhattan studios, been mentored by professors at Princeton and professionals at Ernst and Young, engaged with exceptional innovators, and been able to attend numerous cultural events that were not available in their home communities. Very few places in America, let alone the world, can provide students with these experiences. This region has enabled students to learn so much outside the school day and beyond the campus boundaries.

“Our goal was to combine the best of the Chinese educational system, specifically the academic rigor and work ethic, and the best of the American educational system, its innovative practices and inquiry-driven teaching and learning,” continues Dr. McGee. “We managed to do it and do it well this first year. I especially enjoy seeing students from different cultures working together on projects as well as enjoying free time together. These students have learned so much about global collaboration that I have no doubt they will be leaders in their fields — and in fields that don’t even exist yet — because they have a deep conceptual understanding of the subject matter and the ability to work as true partners with students from around the globe.

“Solving our current and future global problems will require global collaboration, and the Princeton International School of Mathematics and Science is where students will first experience the opportunities, challenges, and successes of working with talented peers from around the world both on campus and through interactive research with students and scientists thousands of miles from our home. Our young scholars will develop the habits of mind to excel in future demanding educational endeavors, to become ethical, responsible leaders; and to succeed in their pursuit of chosen careers.”

“There has been so much enthusiasm among the students to get to know each other,” adds PRISMS history teacher Lesley Skousen, PhD, formerly of IMSA. “ A real sense of international enthusiasm has developed. At first, the Chinese kids and the American kids tended to stay among themselves. Then, we had a big Halloween party, and they started getting together. We also had a camping trip in the appalachians as a combination field trip for the Wild PRISMS survivalist club and the astronomy club. We visited an observatory sponsored by the Lehigh Valley Amateur Astronomy Society, and our students were allowed to use a solar telescope for observing solar flares. They really enjoyed themselves.”

Rigorous Curriculum

“Another thing that is so special about PRISMS is the emphasis on inquiry-based learning,” continues Dr. Skousen. “Instead of lectures, we ask questions. For example, I’ll say ‘What were the causes of the American Revolution?’ I also have students write essay questions. To write a question, they must have knowledge about the subject. We have lots of class participation, which stimulates discussion. We have very active learners, and it’s personalized learning. Our classes are small, with 10 to 12 students. There is no place to hide!”

These high-achieving students pursue a rigorous curriculum. A full range of disciplines, including math, physics, science, history, English, several languages, and art, is offered. Another very important aspect of the educational opportunities at PRISMS is the focus on independent year-long research projects.

“The students meet one day a week for dedicated research,” explains Dr. Skousen. “There are no classes that day. The research program is essentially graduate research in such fields as chemistry, political science, astronomy, and economics. Our students can participate with older established scholars at other institutions, and I also hope to see publication of their work and their participation in conferences. I am confident about their ability to do this.”

Dr. McGee agrees, and points out that “This program is an important way in which PRISMS is set apart from other schools. Every student is required to complete a formal research project that will culminate in a published paper or formal presentation at a major conference by the time they graduate. Our faculty mentors help students identify projects that interest them, and then we try to pair them with researchers and practitioners in the field who help them develop their proposals, conduct their research, and prepare formal posters, papers, and presentations.

“Also, every Wednesday, we invite a professional to conduct a seminar for our students or hold our in-house Global Studies Seminars. The quality of the students’ projects is impressive. In addition, we are able to personalize learning to assure that every student has opportunities to accelerate in areas in which he or she has special talents and receive additional support in areas in which he or she struggles.”

Life on the PRISMS campus, in addition to the academic focus, offers a broad learning experience. The nearly 18-acre campus was designed by world-famous landscape designer Frederick Law Olmstead (designer of New York’s Central Park), and currently includes four buildings. Expansion will feature a state-of-the-art laboratory, fitness center, and a new dormitory.

Life Skills

“With students’ rigorous academic schedules, it is important to keep other aspects of life in perspective, especially in these habit-forming years,” points out Dr. McGee. “We want all of the students to be able to work together, to have fun, and to learn to respect each other. Community life is not just about behavior in the dorms, where students live together; it includes the way we act in the classroom, in the dining hall, and in common spaces in general. The life skills learned through the boarding experience here are just as important as the academic experience.

“We expect students to be respectful of other students, of faculty and staff members, and of the campus. We expect that students learn to collaborate with others, and to be interested in finding the best way, not just in having their own way. We expect them to learn that, to be heard, they must listen. We hope that students will graduate with a much more mature understanding of balance between mind, body, and spirit, to be further cultivated throughout their lives.”

After having launched PRISMS and achieved its first year of success, Dr. McGee will leave to embark on yet another new learning adventure. In the fall, he will become superintendent of the Palo Alto Unified School District.

“With its 17 schools and 13,000 students, it provides an opportunity to make an enduring difference on a very large scale,” explains Dr. McGee. “I will still be working at PRISMS as a consultant and even mentoring a research student. It is my fervent hope that I can connect students in Palo Alto with our students here in Princeton on some significant research projects that ideally will engage mentors from two of the top universities in the world, Princeton and Stanford.”

He adds that Matthew Pearce, formerly of the Thomas Jefferson School of Science and Technology, will assume the position of PRISMS’s executive principal in July.

PRISMS is currently accepting 9th, 10th, and 11th grade students for the fall term. (609) 454-5580. Applications are available on-line at


Durable Driveways: “Customers can rely on us to do the job right the first time. We are reliable, experienced, thorough, and affordable.” Glenn Layendecker, owner of Budget Paving in Lawrenceville, is shown with the fleet of his paving vehicles, which must be continuously maintained to provide the best service.

Durable Driveways: “Customers can rely on us to do the job right the first time. We are reliable, experienced, thorough, and affordable.” Glenn Layendecker, owner of Budget Paving in Lawrenceville, is shown with the fleet of his paving vehicles, which must be continuously maintained to provide the best service.

If your driveway is beginning to take on a grayish tinge, and telltale cracks and weeds are visible, it’s probably time to consider a re-do!

Glenn Layendecker, owner of Budget Paving, located at 34 A Black Lane in Lawrenceville, is ready to put in a new driveway, add a seal coating finish, or do needed repair work.

Driveways are a specialty, but his company also provides services for parking lots, as well as patio hardscapes and walkways, power washing, etc.

“We offer professional asphalt maintenance at affordable prices,” says Mr. Layendecker. “And we pride ourselves on prompt, reliable service. We’re a fully-insured company, and we perform our services on residential, commercial, municipal, and industrial properties. Our services include seal coating, paving, patio work, crack repairs, and line striping of driveways and parking lots.”

In business since 1999, Mr. Layendecker began with a focus on seal coating (a topping to protect against water seepage, cracks, and winter damage), then added paving as a major service in 2007.

“The life span of an asphalt driveway is 10 to 15 years,” he explains. “Seal coating once a year or every two years, depending on the condition, will help keep it from cracking and also give it a nice look.”

The majority of his driveway work is with asphalt, but he also uses concrete, pavers, and Belgian blocks on some jobs. He works on every size and shape driveway, including flat, inclines, curves, straight, double drives, and circular.

“The busiest time for paving is spring into summer,” he reports, “and this takes a lot of careful scheduling. That can be a challenge because of weather conditions. If there is a lot of rain, things can get backed up.”

The busiest time for seal coating is the end of fall, he adds, because people want to protect their driveway from the possible ravages of winter weather, including from snow plows, etc.

When customers inquire about paving their driveway, Mr. Layendecker visits the property, and provides an estimate. Once the job is underway, he is on site regularly.

“Most paving jobs take one or two days,” he explains. “I enjoy the interaction with the customers, and every job is different. I am proud of my excellent staff. Everyone who works for me is good-hearted and cares about the job. There is a skill to putting the paving down correctly. There are many components to be considered, including making sure there is proper drainage. This can be a problem. You want the run-off water to go toward the street, not toward the house.

“Our company stands out because we are straight-shooters. We do the job the right way; we are very thorough, and we don’t cut corners. We offer a one-year warranty on paving jobs. The challenge is to compete with people who ‘low-ball’ prices, and who then don’t do good work.”

Paving jobs typically start at $1500 for new asphalt, and seal coating is $100 to $275, depending on the size of the driveway.

“I’d say we’re in the middle price range,” points out Mr. Layendecker. “We give you the most value for the money. Size is an important factor in establishing the price, and, of course, the materials. Concrete, Belgian block, and pavers are more expensive.

“One point I’d make to customers is that when choosing a company to take care of their asphalt, be sure to ask questions and feel comfortable with the people. It’s not always about the lowest price. And, also, it’s good to invest in a local contractor. If they are local, their reputation depends on doing a good job.”

In addition to paving and seal coating, Mr. Layendecker works on hardscapes for patios and walkways, power washes houses, surface cleans store fronts (that is, power washing sidewalks). And in the winter, when paving jobs are not normally on the agenda, he often keeps busy with snow plowing projects.

Customers are in Princeton and the surrounding area, and excellent word of mouth continues to expand the customer base. As Mr.Layendecker says, “People know they can count on us.”

Budget Paving hours are 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. for appointments. (609) 586-5600. Website:


July 23, 2014
COMFORTABLE ELEGANCE: “We specialize in custom design, and we call it comfortable elegance. This is reflected in the ambiance of the shop. There is a certain image geared to people who want to look nice.” Nick and Jennifer Hilton, owners of Nick Hilton Princeton, offer the finest apparel for men and women.

COMFORTABLE ELEGANCE: “We specialize in custom design, and we call it comfortable elegance. This is reflected in the ambiance of the shop. There is a certain image geared to people who want to look nice.” Nick and Jennifer Hilton, owners of Nick Hilton Princeton, offer the finest apparel for men and women.

Sophisticated, elegant, and tailored clothing for men and women is the specialty at Nick Hilton Princeton. This unique studio/store at 221 Witherspoon Street, opened in 2001, and has become an important resource for Princeton clients looking for fine quality styling.

Long known for its outstanding menswear, the store added women’s clothing in 2006. It became such a success that the studio/store expanded its space in 2013 to accommodate additional items for women, as well as more room for men’s made-to-order, custom clothing.

“The biggest change is the size of the women’s section,” notes Mr. Hilton. “The expansion actually gave women their own store. There are really now two separate stores under the same roof: men’s and women’s. The women’s section is no longer just a corner in the men’s store.”

Of course, gentlemen continue to count on finding the highest quality apparel as well as helpful, knowledgeable service. Mr. Hilton is an expert in all areas of menswear, including customized design, featuring comfortable elegance.


The award-winning stylist represents the fourth generation of his family to dress American men. The client list includes U.S. presidents, statesmen, captains of industry, entertainers and sports figures. Mr. Hilton’s classic yet individual designs have been featured in GQ Magazine, among others.

“My great-grandfather Joseph Hilton and his brothers came from Russia in the 1880s, and started a custom-tailoring shop,” recalls Mr. Hilton. “They opened a series of shops called Joseph Hilton & Sons, and eventually, there were 10 stores in New York and New Jersey. The name was later changed to Browning King & Co.

“My grandfather Alex Hilton and my father Norman Hilton continued in the business. After graduating from Princeton and serving in the Navy in World War II, my father later created the Norman Hilton Country Line. He established a wholesale business that we never had before.”

Nick Hilton wasn’t quite sure whether to follow in the fashion footsteps of his forebears, but in fact, the interest was there, and he started out in Italy, working for a trouser manufacturer. When he returned to the U.S., he became a salesman for the family business, and found that he was to wear many hats.

“By 1975, I was head stylist, buyer, and salesman, and in 1980, I became president of the company.”

His real interest was in design, however, with a focus on softer tailoring and subtle patterns. His designs emphasized an international updated traditional style. “It’s not fashion in the sense of anything trendy or a novelty,” he notes. “We reinvent and update tradition.”

Formal Wear

When he opened his own studio, sports coats, trousers, shirts, and ties were available all with the Nick Hilton label. Eventually, Hickey Freemen suits, sports coats, sweaters, and jeans were added, as well as pajamas and robes.

The holidays — as well as weddings and other special events — are a popular time for formal wear, even in an increasingly informal society. Tuxedos and accessories are available, as well as a handsome black velvet jacket, suitable for a tux or even as a smoking jacket.

“We also have private label dress shirts from New England, and our shearling coats with cashmere outers are very popular for the winter. They can be sporty or dressy, and some of the coats are waterproof. In addition, we have high-quality Canali suits and sports coats from Italy. This is a very fine Italian line. The quality and styling of Italian tailoring is outstanding, and it creates an appreciation for high quality among customers.”

The store also offers a selection of Santoni shoes from Italy, adds Mr. Hilton. “These are light-weight, and often have rubber soles. They are stylish and very comfortable.”

In addition, new this year are “Heal Goods” socks for men designed by Princeton resident Grant Ward. “He decided to go into the hosiery business,” explains Mr. Hilton. “The socks have been very popular, and offer great designs in cashmere, wool, and blends.”

The variety of scarves, including cashmere, leather gloves, and belts, offers many sought-after accessory possibilities.

Total Look

Mr. Hilton enjoys helping his customers achieve a total look. “Men don’t always like to shop or change their style. I enjoy exposing them to something new and educating them. We help them with the total outfit. They typically buy three or four items rather than one. We can put it together for them.”

Indeed, the shop includes a number of displays featuring ensembles which Mr. Hilton has coordinated to show how different colors, textures, and patterns can work together.

And the displays for women are just as appealing. Sophisticated, elegant, tailored clothing that their customers enjoy wearing are the focus of the women’s department, notes co-owner and women’s buyer Jennifer Hilton. “We have a lot of new lines, including Dara Lamb, which we will offer in the spring, as well as a Max Mara boutique. Max Mara has been very popular for us, and we currently carry two of their lines — Weekend and Studio.”

She points out a lovely Max Mara double-faced fabric jacket and a charming lightweight leather jacket, also a Max Mara design.

Cambio jeans continue as customer favorites, she adds, “And we have had fabulous novelty printed designs on the jeans, tone-on-tone and printed on velvet. We’ll be getting more of them for spring. Prints generally are very big now, including in printed dresses. Cropped pants from Italy are also big sellers.”

Another popular seller is a soft, lightweight goatskin jacket featuring a stretch side panel for fit from Gimo’s of Italy. A selection of lovely cashmere sweaters in a palate of pastels is available for winter or spring.

Life and Color

“Scarves add life and color to any outfit,” points out Ms. Hilton, and the store offers a wide assortment. A beautifully soft and filmy lightweight wool is in an “Ombre” design with a “lobster” red and “chalk” blend of colors.

A gorgeous line of extra large silk scarves features dramatic designs and stunning colors, with nature motif, including birds and flowers. “They are 42 inches square, and I wanted them to be large enough so they don’t slide off the shoulder,” notes Ms. Hilton. “Made in North Carolina, they are in crepe de chine, and are extremely dramatic with extraordinary clarity of color”

Quality is the key to Nick Hilton Princeton, and both Mr. and Ms. Hilton are proud of what they have offered their scores of customers of all ages over the past 12 and a half years. “We offer fit and style that is appropriate to all ages,” notes Mr. Hilton. “We don’t have the most expensive items, but we do have the best quality. Quality is not just about durability and how it feels. It has to do with beauty and an aesthetic. And we think in terms of style, not fashion. Style remains; fashion comes and goes.

“I’m enjoying myself thoroughly,” he adds. “What I do as a retailer is my real passion. It is most enjoyable interacting with customers all day. What is most satisfying is helping people with their lives. Helping to give them enjoyment, confidence, and satisfaction. Clothing is evidence of one’s personality. And it is nice to help someone select an outfit they can enjoy.”

Mr. Hilton also looks forward to focusing more on design in the year ahead. “We are planning to work with a tailor shop, which will make clothing only for us. It will basically be our design. In addition, I will be designing men’s sport coats and trousers. Custom work has always been our hallmark, and we will focus on this.”

Customers who visit Nick Hilton Princeton will find a store filled with beautiful clothing for men and women in an atmosphere of friendly, knowledgeable service.

Hours are Monday through Friday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Saturday 10 to 5. 609-921-8160. Website:

GREAT TASTES: “We are set apart by the quality of our ingredients. We use all organic vegetables and chicken, and we have special recipes. We also offer customers a beautiful artistic setting.” Lisa Shao, owner of the Peony Pavilion, looks forward to introducing more diners to her Asian fusion restaurant.

GREAT TASTES: “We are set apart by the quality of our ingredients. We use all organic vegetables and chicken, and we have special recipes. We also offer customers a beautiful artistic setting.” Lisa Shao, owner of the Peony Pavilion, looks forward to introducing more diners to her Asian fusion restaurant.

“We offer our customers a special experience: delicious Asian fusion cuisine in a wonderful, beautiful setting. This is a special place.”

Lisa Shao is owner of the Peony Pavilion, the new Asian fusion restaurant at 20 Farber Road, near the MarketFair Mall. She is proud of the restaurant’s reputation for high quality cuisine and also, its exotic, dramatic interior design.

Named for a famous 16th century Chinese opera, the restaurant focuses on the peony — a Chinese symbol of peace, nobility, and prosperity. Replicas of the flower are prominent throughout the spacious restaurant, which can seat 200. Suspended jewel-like red pendant peony motif etched glass chandeliers and elegant red lacquer wood peonies are displayed throughout the lavish setting.

A panel of copper peonies creates the backdrop for the framed kimonos and 200 photos and images relating to the opera that are exhibited in many areas. Gorgeous red and black hanging lanterns enhance the Peony Pavilion’s exotic Asian ambiance. Customers can enjoy dining in booths or at tables in several settings.

Leisurely Dining

Ms. Shao’s artistic interest and background played an important role in creating this intriguing interior design. “I wanted the entire atmosphere to be very artistic,” she explains. “It reflects the cultural aspect of the opera, and combines that with Asian fusion food, and it is complemented by soft western jazz, adding a relaxing touch. Especially, we want people to be relaxed and enjoy leisurely dining here.”

Ms. Shao, originally from China, also owns Szechuan House in Hamilton. Interested in opening another restaurant in a new location, she decided to focus on sushi as well as blended Asian fusion cuisine.

“Our unique menu takes its cue from time-honored Asian cuisine, including Chinese, Japanese, Thai, and Korean flavors, with contemporary approaches, using the freshest, finest ingredients we can find. The Peony Pavilion provides the opportunity to experience food with a rich history.

“Our presentation of the food is also very important,” continues Ms. Shao. “Our chefs showcase the dishes in very special ways. Even our plates are different for different dishes — round, square, and oval.”

“Absolutely the best sushi around!” reported a customer, just leaving the handsome 10-seat sushi bar. Indeed, reports Ms. Shao, “Sushi is a big favorite for us. Yoshi, our master sushi chef from New York, creates wonderful choices, which can also be customized. We have the freshest fish available, and the sushi is always extremely popular.”

“Yoshi” sushi, named for the sushi chef, is always in demand, she adds. It features crunchy, spicy tuna, avocado, and asparagus, wrapped with soy seaweed, topped with salmon, tuna, yellow tail, and Wasabi soy sauce. Unlike most sushi, it does not contain rice.

Many Variations

“Peony Sushi” includes toro salmon (the fatty cut of the fish) and yellow tail, asparagus, and red peppers, wrapped with soy seaweed, and jalapeno spicy yuzu sauce. The “Angry Dragon” features shrimp tempura and avocado, topped with spicy King Crab orange, edamame, and eel sauce.

Many variations and combinations are available, including sushi and sashimi, sushi and assorted rolls (California, tuna, spicy salmon, peanut avocado, to mention just a few).

Rice and noodle choices, Pad Thai (hot rice noodles, with choice of beef, vegetables or seafood), and Peony fried rice with chicken, beef, shrimp, or vegetables are also very popular. Ms. Shao notes that homemade Wasabi crackers are served with spicy tuna and caviar.

In addition, appetizers offer many choices, such as soup (creamy butternut squash is a big hit) and salads (seaweed to crispy calamari) and special hot appetizers, such as eggplant tofu (sauteed Japanese eggplant with basil crispy tofu).

Hot entrees range from organic grilled chicken to Chilean sea bass to Szechuan rack of lamb to Peking duck and Thai bacon filet mignon, among many other choices.

Also available are special lunch boxes, served with soup and salad and appetizers, incuding chicken or salmon teryaki, tempura shrimp and vegetables, and ribeye steak teriyaki, as well as a variety of sushi favorites.

Daily Specials

Daily specials are offered, and on weekends, the popular Chinese Dim Sum is served from noon to 3 p.m.

The Peony Pavilion offers catering, and a party room for special events. Prices cover a wide range, with lunch specials (including any two rolls for $10 and three for $13); lunch boxes are $12 and $13, appetizers from $5, a la carte sushi from $3, and entrees from $20.

The Peony Pavilion also features a special Chinese Tea Ceremony, featuring appetizers, traditional Chinese music, and of course, tea.

“We offer high quality English tea from Harney & Sons,” notes Ms. Shao. Other beverages include coffee, soft drinks, and juices. Desserts, such as molten lava cake (served warm with vanilla ice cream), tempura ice cream, creme brulee in three different flavors, and cheese cake lollipop tree, are popular with many diners.

The Peony Pavilion is BYO, but it also offers the purchase of wine by the bottle through an association with the Alba Vineyard.

“I am so encouraged by the response to our restaurant,” says Ms. Shao. “We already have many regular customers. I enjoy it so much when people come in and say how much they appreciated dining here, and I look forward to even more people enjoying our unique dining experience. We also support local Princeton and area events. We believe giving back to the community is important.”

The restaurant offers lunch, dinner, and take-out, and delivers to local businesses in the area. Hours are Monday through Thursday 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m., Friday, Saturday 11:30 to 10:30, Sunday 11 to 10. (609) 580-1850. Website: