September 5, 2012

McCaffrey’s is a favorite of Princeton shoppers. In fact, when you stop in at this popular market in the Princeton Shopping Center, you are almost certain to run into someone you know.

On the other hand, it attracts many out-of-towners.

“If I had McCaffrey’s where I live, I’d never cook!” said a visitor from Michigan. She was captivated by the variety and quality of McCaffrey’s prepared foods. Just heat and eat — a boon for those getting home late after a long day.

But there is much, much more. Take note of the quality produce (including a large organic section); gourmet cheese; the outstanding meat, poultry, and fish departments, featuring special cuts and made-to-order platters; the bakery with its custom cakes and crusty bread, (“best donuts in town,” says a customer); the deli, the floral department, gift baskets, the center aisles with the crackers, cookies, cereal, condiments, and staples of every kind; and the busy catering department.

Now celebrating its 20th anniversary, McCaffrey’s has grown and evolved since it opened in August 1992. At that time, manager Steve Carney was working in the store’s highly regarded meat department.

Great Match

“I was here two days before we opened, and it was phenomenal,” he reports. “People liked it right away, and it was a great match with Princeton.”

Princeton was the second McCaffrey’s store to open under the guidance of president and owner Jim McCaffrey. The first is in Yardley, Pa., a third is in West Windsor, and a fourth opened in Newtown, Pa. in July.

“Jim McCaffrey is a great owner,” says Mr. Carney. “He is very hands-on, and he is very respectful of the staff and the customers. He always has an open door policy. He is also very community-minded, and supports many charities and organizations.

“And, very important, we now have 160 employees at the Princeton store, and 80 percent of them are full-time with benefits. People can build careers here with opportunities for advancement. We’re giving them a living wage, and when customers shop here, they are not only purchasing the value of the product, they are helping the staff.”

Each store has its own personality (“Of course, Princeton is the best!”), he notes, with different items more popular with different customers and locations.

“One of the important things at Princeton, too, is that our staff have all built relationships with clientele. Many times, they know their names. Also, many of our customers are ‘European-style’ customers. They come in every day for fresh produce, meat, and bread.”

Colorful Display

“The food at McCaffrey’s represents quality,” says a longtime Princeton shopper. “They always stand behind everything they sell, and you can count on it.”

And, adds another: “I especially like the wonderful selection in the flower department and the helpful staff there. I also like the colorful display of the produce. It is pleasing to the eye, and makes shopping a pleasant experience.”

Produce is a very important department at McCaffrey’s, representing 19 percent of sales. The store focuses on local and regionally grown produce, including more than 100 fresh organic produce items.

“Organic has become very popular,” says Mr. Carney. “Our customers want this. We have dedicated and aware consumers, who want to eat healthier. This is an educated community, with educated consumers.”

In addition, customers can find unusual items such as fiddle head ferns, ramps (baby wild leeks), French wild asparagus, pluots (hybrid plum and apricot), Charantais melons, as well as the best-tasting heirloom tomatoes.

McCaffrey’s emphasis on offering the healthiest products is evident in the meat and fish departments too. “We have meat from Simply Grazin’, where the cattle are grass-fed. And we now have certified Angus all-natural beef, raised without biotics or growth hormones, on a 100 percent vegetarian diet.

Trust Factor

“Also,” he continues, “Our staff will do special cuts of meat if customers request them, and they will help customers make a selection out of the case. We don’t pre-cut meat as other stores do. Everything is cut and packaged here, and we grind our own meat on the premises. I believe we have the best meat in any store. The meat staff has a real relationship with customers. The trust factor is very high.

“We also have chicken and pot pies from Griggstown  Farm, and we work on bringing in sustainable fish. We are very conscious of the over-fishing problem and what is happening in the oceans.”

The deli is another popular spot at the store, with the cold cuts and McCaffrey’s homemade salads (without preservatives) always in demand. “We offer Boars Head, and this is a big item. Many customers want it.”

A variety of platters is also available from the deli.

“Our prepared food section has grown tremendously over the years, and the salad bar and hot bar are extremely popular, especially Monday through Friday. Interestingly, that drops by two-thirds on weekends, when more people are cooking at home.”

McCaffrey’s also has a very busy catering department, which prepares full dinners for events, especially during the holidays, when orders come in full-force, says Mr. Carney. “We do them for everything — Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’, Easter, Passover, Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur. People can place an order on-line or in the store.”

The bakery department is also in demand. “Our specialty cakes are enormously popular,” he says. “We have our own decorators. I’ve said to the bakery, ‘cake to me is the centerpiece of a gathering. If that is wrong, it spoils the party.’ People always say ‘who did the cake?’ It’s so important for it to be right. During May and June, with all the graduations, celebrations, and other events, we had our biggest cake sales ever.”

Java Jim

Because Jim McCaffrey and his staff want everything to be “right”, they have been remodeling the Princeton store during the past two years. It is expected to be completed this month.

“One of the things I really like about McCaffrey’s is its manageable size,” says a Princeton customer. “It’s not too big — just the right size to get around and see everything easily.”

“We are remodeling to enhance the shopping experience and make it more comfortable, convenient, and inviting,” explains Mr. Carney. “We are rearranging sections and departments to make them more accessible. We have a new coffee bar, too, with McCaffreys own coffee — Java Jim!”

“In addition, we are replacing all the light bulbs with energy-efficient, environmentally-friendly lighting. We’ve updated the refrigerator with high-efficiency evaporators and fans. We are always trying to be aware of protecting the environment.”

Changes and challenges are a part of any business, and the food industry is no exception, points out Mr. Carney. McCaffrey’s is not only faced with competition from the traditional food stores and supermarkets but also from such companies as Target, WalMart, and Sam’s Club.

“Some of these stores, including Wegman’s, have private label products now, offered at lower prices. We are a national brand store. We try to do our best for our customers. We have always been very conscious of our price structure, especially since the problems began in the economy in 2008.

“We are also involved in environmental programs to eliminate waste, and we donate many products to food banks. We are a big supporter of Crisis Ministry and other organizations helping people in need. Jim McCaffrey has always supported many charities in the area and beyond.”

Capable Staff

Last year, two major storms disrupted power in the area, leaving McCaffrey’s without electricity for three days during one storm, resulting in a $150,000 loss in perishables.

“During the storm, it was rewarding to see what a capable staff we have, and the customers were so supportive. They were overwhelmingly happy to see us reopen,” says Mr. Carney. “The staff spends a lot of time together, and we’re really like a family here. When there’s a problem to be solved, we solve it!

“The most challenging episode we had was at the same time as the storms, when a person drove a car through the front door, right up to Register 6. Two people were hurt, but we were so lucky that no one was killed. It was very frightening.”

Now, McCaffrey’s looks forward to the 20th Anniversary Celebration, including the Food Fair, September 29th and 30th. “We’ll have all kinds of food, a band, door prizes, and lots of surprises. It will be a great event,” reports Mr. Carney.

“We love the Princeton Shopping Center. It’s a village community center, just right for us. And, we want our customers to know how much we appreciate their business and how important they are to us. We have an unlimited customer base, which continues to grow. And we have this great hometown store in Princeton. We’re the only real ‘super’ market in Princeton, and we have to take care of it.”

MCaffrey’s is open seven days 7 a.m. through 9 p.m. (609) 683-1600. Website:

A romantic dinner for two, an elegant cocktail party for 50, a wedding for 200, a backyard picnic for 20 — whatever the number of guests or the style of event, Joss & Jules Catering and Event Design can provide everything from soup to nuts!

In addition, the firm can also coordinate all the arrangements, including table settings, servers, flowers, bar needs, and tent set-up.

“Give us your theme and vision for the event, and we will work closely with you from start to finish to ensure that your event is a stunning success,” says founder and owner Julia Flesch.

“Cooking is very creative, and it’s a real art to present it. We have a talented team of chefs, designers, and coordinators, who make the world of food design come to life. We also reach out to seasoned florists and servers to complete the package. When you are planning an event, you are building that show, and you have to take care of every detail.”

Quality and Presentation

“I also want to point out that we work within someone’s budget. We never sacrifice quality or presentation, but you’ll be amazed at how beautiful you can make an event within a small budget.”

Ms. Flesch, who opened Joss & Jules in 2006, has had an extensive history in many areas of the culinary arts. “Cooking was easy for me,” she explains. “I had a mom who cooked a lot — we were a family of 10 children! — and I watched her and was her helper. Also, as a young girl, I really liked to rearrange the design and presentation of the food.

“My mom had a commitment to cooking and for healthy food. She said if you learn to make a pot of sauce and a pot of soup, you’ll be okay. She was a professional cake decorator, and my grandfather was a chef.”

A native of Trenton, Ms. Flesch moved to Princeton 18 years ago. A single mother, she focused on what she knew best and was comfortable with — food. She was advised to contact Jack Morrison, owner of Nassau Street Seafood & Produce Company, and got a job in the catering department there.

“Princeton has been such a wonderful place for me,” says Ms. Flesch. “It has been a series of stepping stones. I ran Jack’s catering business, and was also involved with Blue Point Grill and the Witherspoon Grill for many years. I give Jack great credit for where I am today.”

Ms. Flesch has also served as a personal chef, including for Mr. and Mrs. William Scheide for four years. “This was another stepping stone for me, and it has been a wonderful experience.”

Extensive Catering

Her work for the Scheides has included extensive catering and entertainment planning, she adds. “For example, for his 70th Princeton University reunion, Mr. Scheide invited the entire Old Guard (alumni celebrating 66 years or more) to his house. They had a huge tent, and the Scheides continue to do this every year.”

When she decided to open Joss & Jules, Ms. Flesch needed a large kitchen, and in another positive series of circumstances, she found exactly what she needed,

“I had been church-hunting, and then I found the Assembly of God Nassau Christian Center on the corner of Chambers and Nassau Street. I didn’t have to look any further. The people seemed so happy there. They also had a campus outreach program, and I began cooking for the University students on Sunday evenings.

“This was another stepping stone. The church had a spacious basement kitchen, and I was able to use this as my headquarters. This has been so important. Jack Morrison, the Scheides, and my church have all empowered me.”

Joss & Jules has evolved over the years, and continues to grow, she adds. Every kind of event — weddings, anniversaries, birthdays, graduations, corporate fund-raisers, cocktail parties, and picnics; and every kind of food, including Mexican, Chinese, Indian, Italian, French, and American gourmet — are part of Ms. Flesch’s expertise. The emphasis is always on quality, healthy eating, and simplicity, she points out.

“The specialty of the business for me is the simplicity. We don’t do a lot of salty and heavy sauces. We have a real farm to table focus and feel. We want to teach people to eat healthy. Within a 20 mile radius of Princeton, you can get fresh food. The sustainable food movement is very big, and we have tapped into that. We want people to eat right. We also have a tent at the West Windsor Farmers Market.”

Artistic Design

Ms. Flesch enjoys both the cooking and the artistic design of the food. “It’s a way of expressing myself and the theme of the event. I’m always changing and tweaking the recipes, so they’re even better.

“Another thing,” she says, “we always want the best quality and choices for the client. We have a nice interaction with the other caterers, and we always utilize the catering community. If we know someone makes the best cake or pie, we’ll get it from them. For example, we always have Sweet Mama’s key lime pie for the Princeton reunions.”

Ms. Flesch recommends contacting Joss & Jules two weeks before a small event and four to six weeks for a large event. She is delighted to have many repeat clients.

“I think people see how happy we are and that we have such energy about what we do. I am so pleased about the popularity of our business. I want to share this. I wake up every day, and it just gets better and better. I love what I do, and l’m having fun.

“Cooking very healthy food is empowering. The sense of empowerment and the happiness that it brings is wonderful. We take our own talents and abilities and make it happen. Take one step at a time, work with what you have, and do that 100 percent.”

And never forget those who have helped, she emphasizes. “I love having my business in Princeton. There is such a great support system here. The resources, passion, and people here are special. They have been there for me every step of the way — stepping stone after stepping stone.”

Joss & Jules can be reached at (609) 954-2372. Website:

August 29, 2012

CREATIVE CATERING: “We are a 2-fold business. We can do catering alone or combined with designing the event. We can also design the event without doing the catering. Of course, we like to do both!” Julia Flesch, founder and owner of of Joss & Jules Catering and Event Design, is an experienced chef and event designer and coordinator.

A romantic dinner for two, an elegant cocktail party for 50, a wedding for 200, a backyard picnic for 20 — whatever the number of guests or the style of event, Joss & Jules Catering and Event Design can provide everything from soup to nuts!

In addition, the firm can also coordinate all the arrangements, including table settings, servers, flowers, bar needs, and tent set-up.

“Give us your theme and vision for the event, and we will work closely with you from start to finish to ensure that your event is a stunning success,” says founder and owner Julia Flesch.

“Cooking is very creative, and it’s a real art to present it. We have a talented team of chefs, designers, and coordinators, who make the world of food design come to life. We also reach out to seasoned florists and servers to complete the package. When you are planning an event, you are building that show, and you have to take care of every detail.”

Quality and Presentation

“I also want to point out that we work within someone’s budget. We never sacrifice quality or presentation, but you’ll be amazed at how beautiful you can make an event within a small budget.”

Ms. Flesch, who opened Joss & Jules in 2006, has had an extensive history in many areas of the culinary arts. “Cooking was easy for me,” she explains. “I had a mom who cooked a lot — we were a family of 10 children! — and I watched her and was her helper. Also, as a young girl, I really liked to rearrange the design and presentation of the food.

“My mom had a commitment to cooking and for healthy food. She said if you learn to make a pot of sauce and a pot of soup, you’ll be okay. She was a professional cake decorator, and my grandfather was a chef.”

A native of Trenton, Ms. Flesch moved to Princeton 18 years ago. A single mother, she focused on what she knew best and was comfortable with — food. She was advised to contact Jack Morrison, owner of Nassau Street Seafood & Produce Company, and got a job in the catering department there.

“Princeton has been such a wonderful place for me,” says Ms. Flesch. “It has been a series of stepping stones. I ran Jack’s catering business, and was also involved with Blue Point Grill and the Witherspoon Grill for many years. I give Jack great credit for where I am today.”

Ms. Flesch has also served as a personal chef, including for Mr. and Mrs. William Scheide for four years. “This was another stepping stone for me, and it has been a wonderful experience.”

Extensive Catering

Her work for the Scheides has included extensive catering and entertainment planning, she adds. “For example, for his 70th Princeton University reunion, Mr. Scheide invited the entire Old Guard (alumni celebrating 66 years or more) to his house. They had a huge tent, and the Scheides continue to do this every year.”

When she decided to open Joss & Jules, Ms. Flesch needed a large kitchen, and in another positive series of circumstances, she found exactly what she needed,

“I had been church-hunting, and then I found the Assembly of God Nassau Christian Center on the corner of Chambers and Nassau Street. I didn’t have to look any further. The people seemed so happy there. They also had a campus outreach program, and I began cooking for the University students on Sunday evenings.

“This was another stepping stone. The church had a spacious basement kitchen, and I was able to use this as my headquarters. This has been so important. Jack Morrison, the Scheides, and my church have all empowered me.”

Joss & Jules has evolved over the years, and continues to grow, she adds. Every kind of event — weddings, anniversaries, birthdays, graduations, corporate fund-raisers, cocktail parties, and picnics; and every kind of food, including Mexican, Chinese, Indian, Italian, French, and American gourmet — are part of Ms. Flesch’s expertise. The emphasis is always on quality, healthy eating, and simplicity, she points out.

“The specialty of the business for me is the simplicity. We don’t do a lot of salty and heavy sauces. We have a real farm to table focus and feel. We want to teach people to eat healthy. Within a 20 mile radius of Princeton, you can get fresh food. The sustainable food movement is very big, and we have tapped into that. We want people to eat right. We also have a tent at the West Windsor Farmers Market.”

Artistic Design

Ms. Flesch enjoys both the cooking and the artistic design of the food. “It’s a way of expressing myself and the theme of the event. I’m always changing and tweaking the recipes, so they’re even better.

“Another thing,” she says, “we always want the best quality and choices for the client. We have a nice interaction with the other caterers, and we always utilize the catering community. If we know someone makes the best cake or pie, we’ll get it from them. For example, we always have Sweet Mama’s key lime pie for the Princeton reunions.”

Ms. Flesch recommends contacting Joss & Jules two weeks before a small event and four to six weeks for a large event. She is delighted to have many repeat clients.

“I think people see how happy we are and that we have such energy about what we do. I am so pleased about the popularity of our business. I want to share this. I wake up every day, and it just gets better and better. I love what I do, and l’m having fun.

“Cooking very healthy food is empowering. The sense of empowerment and the happiness that it brings is wonderful. We take our own talents and abilities and make it happen. Take one step at a time, work with what you have, and do that 100 percent.”

And never forget those who have helped, she emphasizes. “I love having my business in Princeton. There is such a great support system here. The resources, passion, and people here are special. They have been there for me every step of the way — stepping stone after stepping stone.”

Joss & Jules can be reached at (609) 954-2372. Website: Facebook:

SWEET TREAT: “There is something very communal about ice cream. People gather together and want to share their ice cream experience. It brings back happy memories of going to get ice cream with the family and friends when you were a kid.” Clark Reed (right), owner of Jack & Charlie’s 23, the new ice cream parlor in Hopewell, is shown with manager Will Randall.

Ice cream in the summer! Ice cream any time — how sweet it is!

A brand new opportunity to enjoy everyone’s favorite sweet treat has just become available in Hopewell. Jack & Charlie’s 23, located at 23 Broad Street, is the new venture of owner Clark Reed.

“We just opened the end of June, and Hopewell did not have an ice cream shop before. I had been thinking about doing this for several years, but I had to find exactly the right ice cream,” reports Mr. Reed. “It took a year to find it. I checked all over, and selected Uncle Dave’s ice cream from Shady Brook Farm in Yardley, Pa. Uncle Dave, who has been in business for 20 years, makes the ice cream with cream from the farm, and it fits Hopewell’s special personality. We have 23 flavors at any given time out of a possible 60.”

The shop, which is named for Mr. Reed’s two young sons, Jack and Charlie, is the ninth retail store to carry Uncle Dave’s ice cream, and the first in New Jersey.

1950s Motif

“Uncle Dave has a rigorous application process,” continues Mr. Reed. “Our staff is great, and they’re all from Hopewell. Our manager Will Randall is doing a very fine job, and has everything under control.”

Mr. Reed had a particular image in mind for his ice cream parlor: friendly, unpretentious, and fun — all with a 1950s motif. “We do have a ’50s look, with black and white checkerboard floor, dining plate on the counter, and we have a friendly, down-to-earth atmosphere. We are not complicated.”

One definitely non-1950s feature, however, is the 21st century ATM machine!

Cones, cups, sundaes, sodas, banana splits, milk shakes, and root beer floats are all available for customers who can take out or savor their scrumptious specialty within. Twenty people can be accommodated on the outdoor porch benches and 10 at tables inside.

Mr. Reed is clearly pleased with the response from the public, and many repeat customers have already been sampling the delicious confections — and even more than once a day! “One customer came in with her mom for ice cream, and then came back for more later that evening. And for people with children the age of my kids, five and two and a half, this is the place to go. We have family-friendly prices.”

Billionaire Chocolate

Who can resist such flavors as billionaire chocolate (very rich!), banana chip walnut, vanilla beanie, cookies and cream, tiramisu, cappuccino, dulce de leche, butter pecan, peanut butter, peach, black raspberry, and mint chocolate chip. Toppings, such as hot fudge, caramel, strawberries, and of course, sprinkles, are big favorites.

Choices include hard ice cream, soft serve, frozen yogurt (sugar-free is an option), sorbets, frozen chocolate-covered bananas, ice cream sandwiches, and premium pops with caramel sea salt and top-of-the-line Belgian chocolate.

“By the way,” notes Mr. Reed, “the biggest season for Uncle Dave’s ice cream is fall. The number one seller is pumpkin, with pumpkins from the farm. We look forward to having that in September. Also, the peanut butter ice cream is very popular, and the peanut butter is fresh from the farm.”

In addition to the ice cream, Jack & Charlie’s offers hot dogs, soft pretzels, Fat Boy cookies, and a variety of sodas and juices.

“The Fat Boy cookies are baked here, and are very popular,” says Mr. Reed. “Also, everyone loves the hot dogs. We offer signature hot dogs from cities around the country, with their special toppings. For example, New York with sauerkraut and brown mustard; Chicago with mustard, relish, onion, pickle, and celery salt; New Orleans — BBQ sauce and onions; Dallas — chili, onion, and shredded cheese; San Francisco — chili, mustard, onion, ketchup, relish, pickle, cheddar cheese, and celery salt; and Philly, which is build your own!”

These are just a sampling of the many hot dogs from famous cities available at Jack & Charlie’s.

“Dollar Dog Night”

The shop offers lunch specials, including hot dog, beverage, and small ice cream at $5.99; $4.99 for children. A small ice cream cone or cup is $4.69 (with a very generous scoop); a hot dog is $2.

“We also have a lot of specials,” continues Mr. Reed. “Every Tuesday is ‘Dollar Dog Night’ — all plain dogs are $1. If you come in wearing a special sports shirt, you get a discount, and we offer coupons on FaceBook. We also sell Jack & Charlie’s T-shirts, and it is the only T-shirt I know that has Hopewell, N.J. on it. We also plan to have black and pink bowling shirts.

“My vision has been to start slow and gently add. The idea is to under-promise and over-deliver,” explains Mr. Reed. “I envision adding coffee and perhaps fondue in the winter, and a real first class shaved hot chocolate. We will also have live music on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.

“This is a tremendous feeling of accomplishment, and I am happy to be able to offer this to our town. Hopewell has become elongated. Now, people can savor an ice cream cone as they walk along the street enjoying the streetscape and all the stores. Ice cream is a happy business!”

Manager Will Randall agrees. “I’ve always been in food service, and this is the most fun I’ve had!”

It is also important to Mr. Reed to support the community and organizations he believes in. He has created a unique way for customers to join him in this process. “Instead of tips, we ask customers to leave a donation to St. Michael’s Farm Preserve, part of the Delaware & Raritan Greenway Land Trust.”

Jack & Charlie’s is open Monday through Thursday 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m., Friday through Sunday 11 to 10.

(609) 333-9866 (YUMM). Website: Facebook:

August 8, 2012

FRIENDLY FASHION: “I wanted dresses that would appeal to all ages. Most are my own designs, but there is also a selection from other vendors, both from the U.S. and abroad.” Aruna Arya, owner of Miss Simoni, the women’s boutique, is enthusiastic about her new venture.

“What you love to wear is fashion!”

Aruna Arya should know. As a fashion designer and owner of Miss Simoni, the new women’s boutique at 14 Nassau Street, Ms. Arya is an expert on the latest styles and trends in today’s fashion.

It is about comfort, individuality, informality, and versatility. Unlike times past, when the great fashion houses of Paris, London, and New York set strict guidelines about styles, skirt lengths, and the like, today it is up to the individual.

“Some women are looking for something totally different, unusual,” points out Ms. Arya. “Skirt lengths are everywhere — long, short, mid-length. Our long dresses have been so popular, they are currently sold out. I have always been attracted to comfortable clothing myself, and I incorporate that in my designs, free-flowing with an informal theme and lots of color.”

Fashion Design

Originally from India, Ms. Arya earned masters degrees in fashion design and fashion business administration in the United States and India. She worked for several years as a designer in San Francisco, where she developed a network of colleagues in the fashion industry.

“I worked with designer Joseph Domingo, and I learned a lot from him,” she notes.

India is known for its stunningly vivid colors and color combinations, and Ms. Arya’s styles often reflect this stimulating background. “My knowledge of Indian fashion helps me in in selecting a fine fabric, experimenting with colors, and achieving the highest quality of hand embroidery.

“Red is very popular at the shop, and also lots of combination prints,” she reports. “I carry tops, dresses, and skirts, no pants. Most items are 100 percent cotton in solids, prints, and plaids. Sizes are small to extra large.”

Accessories include a wonderful selection of scarves of varying sizes in colorful prints and patterns. Some are 100 percent silk and silk chiffon, featuring embroidery, tassels, and fringe. Others are accented with beading.

Handbags, jewelry, and hair accessories are also available, and many are one-of-a-kind. “I have colleagues who make handbags for me,” says Ms. Arya. “They are all customized, and I choose the fabric and color combinations.”

All Combinations

A variety of choices is available, including a beautiful linen fabric clutch, others in silk and with sequins. There are many lovely bags in all sizes.

The selection of jewelry includes earrings and colorful bangle bracelets. “The bangles are popular because they are so light and colorful, and in all combinations,” notes Ms. Arya. “They can match any dress. We also have sets with a necklace, bangles and earrings, all wrapped with silk thread. They are from India and very beautiful.”

Hair accessories from India have been very popular at Miss Simoni, and again, they feature vibrant color combinations, and are in many designs, including in silk.

Ms. Arya is very pleased that so many customers have found her shop, are returning, and that many have become regulars. “The dresses and scarves have been most popular so far,” she reports. “One day a lady came in and bought four scarves! Another time, a woman bought a dress in the morning; she came back later that day, was wearing it, and brought a friend with her.

“In another case, three ladies from a nearby company came in, and they were all wearing my dresses! I enjoy seeing the people who come in, and I like to notice their taste in the clothes. It enhances my design style. I like to see the customers’ personality, what they look at when they’re here. It all helps in my design work.

“Also, seeing regular customers come back makes me very happy. Seeing a familiar face is wonderful. I really have had great experiences with customers. A lady has come in several times, and admired the clothes, especially the detail work and the styles. She talked about clothes that her aunt had made for her, and the styles here reminded her of them. We really made a connection.”

Summer Sundresses

Indeed, there are many wonderful dresses at the shop — from summer sundresses to more elegant, sophisticated black vicose styles with gold accents.

There are also intriguing tunic tops and “Kurtas”, an Indian term for a fitted or unfitted top, explains Ms. Arya. They are in unique floral and natural designs, and in every color in the rainbow.

In addition, for the summer, the shop will have a selection of beach wear and cover ups. Ms. Arya is also very proud of the decor of the shop, which features a black and white motif, offering a dramatic showcase for the vibrant colors of the clothing.

“Giedre Miller was the interior designer, and she did a wonderful job in the store,” says Ms. Arya.

Prices at Miss Simoni are reasonable, with scarves from $20, hair clips at $8, and sales of selected items always available.

“We also offer a special discount for students, who have an I.D., and we’ve had a lot of students coming in, and also mothers and daughters. Our styles appeal to everyone — from teens to all ages. I also want to compliment my staff. They are great, and they really help me.”

Ms. Arya looks forward to becoming a mainstay on the Princeton scene, and eventually, she hopes to introduce a children’s line.

“The shop is named for my daughter, Simoni, which in Hindu means ‘obedience,’” she explains. “I am definitely here to stay. We are attracting a lot of customers, who are Princeton residents as well as tourists. We have a warm, friendly atmosphere here, and we look forward to welcoming even more customers.”

Miss Simoni, at 14 Nassau Street, is open seven days 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. (609) 252-0888. Website:

August 1, 2012

POPULAR PIZZERIA: “Pizza is so popular because it tastes good, and it’s healthy. It’s bread, cheese for protein, tomato, and healthy toppings. It can be a healthy meal.” Ciro Baldino, president and an owner of Conte’s, the popular Princeton pizzeria, is shown behind the restaurant’s bar.

The current site of Conte’s Pizzeria at 339 Witherspoon Street, was once a bocci court, says Conte’s president and owner Ciro Baldino.

“The Conte family lived in the house next door, and this was a bocci court,” he explains. “They had a bar, The Golden Eagle, on Leigh Avenue. They enjoyed the bocci court with their family and friends, and they often made pizza for them. It became so popular that they began to think about making it a business.

“So, in the late ‘50s, they put this building over the bocci court, moved the bar here, and established Conte’s. The Contes were a long-time Princeton family, and Sam Conte was the owner.”

“The best pizza on the planet!” says the Conte advertisement, and a lot of people agree. The popular pizzeria has been going strong all these years and continues to draw crowds of hungry customers every day.

Best Pizza

In 1967, Ciro started working at the pizzeria when he was a boy. His uncle Louie Lucullo had become owner at that time, and Conte’s had also added sausage sandwiches to the menu.

“However, in the 1970s, the New Jersey Monthly magazine survey named Conte’s as having the best pizza in New Jersey,” recalls Mr. Baldino. “From then on, the pizza soared in popularity.”

He came on full-time in 1982, after a varied career, including teaching and working for the State of New Jersey. “I was always curious, and I wanted to learn about things,” he explains.

Of course, he had been learning about running a restaurant over the years, and when Conte’s became his full-time career, he and partners Tony Baldino (vice president) and Angela Baldino (secretary) formed a corporation Cirton, Inc. to oversee the operation.

Mr. Baldino is a firm believer in “if it’s not broken, don’t fix it”, or as he says, “You don’t add ice to cognac!” Conte’s had established such a strong reputation in Princeton — and beyond — for its quality pizza, friendly service, and warm atmosphere that the plan was to ensure its continued success.

“The menu has changed very little,” Mr. Baldino notes. “You don’t want to change a good thing. What we got from the Conte family, we never changed. We have the best recipes, and the key is how you cook it and the ingredients. Our ingredients are the best in the world! We also make our own sausage. The sausage sandwich is popular, and our most popular pizzas are plain, or sausage, or pepperoni.”


In addition to sausage, other sandwiches include meatball, steak, ham, and salami. Selected choices of pasta are available, including penne and spaghetti, plain or with sausage or meatballs.

Conte’s is, of course,   known for its delicious thin-crust pizza; toppings include everything from anchovies to mushrooms, peppers, olives — and much more.

Many people enjoy ordering a salad with the pizza, adds a long-time customer,  who also points out the friendly atmosphere. “We like it that there is always a celebratory, happy atmosphere at Conte’s. It’s always a fun place to go. I like the friendly waitresses, and I like the family atmosphere, especially in the early evening when people bring everyone but the dog! You’ll see little kids, big kids, moms and dads, and grandmas. Of course, we love the thin-crust pizza.”

Many other customers agree with this assessment, and Mr. Baldino reports that there are many regulars in attendance at any given time — lunch or dinner. “70 to 80 percent of the customers are regulars, and I know them all! We have lots of weekly customers, and some come even more often.”

Neighborhood Place

Princeton residents Terri and Michael David are counted among them. They go to Conte’s every Thursday evening without fail. “We have been doing this for decades!” says Mrs. David. “Conte’s has the best pizza, possibly in the world, and we’ve had pizza in many places. Coming on Thursday gives us a start on the weekend. We also like the feeling of a cozy neighborhood place. We know a lot of other people who come, and we are friends with the wait staff. Conte’s is just dear to my heart.”

A variety of beverages is available, and Mr. Baldino points out that many customers enjoy a glass of chianti or beer to accompany their pizza.

“We have also had lots of famous people over the years,” he adds, “including the current governor, who stops in and picks up a pizza to go.”

Conte’s is also popular with groups. Various sports and school teams come in after a game, and Princeton Democrats recently celebrated the nomination of their candidates for mayor and the new Council with pizza at Conte’s.

“I enjoy all the people who come in, and they’re from all walks of life, all backgrounds — University, business, students, families. It’s fun to interact with them all,” says Mr. Baldino.

Adds secretary and owner Angela Baldino: “We have people of all nationalities coming in — from India, China, France, all over. We want them all to have a wonderful experience — great pizza, a comfortable, friendly atmosphere, and we also want to thank our loyal customers who have supported us all these years.”

Conte’s is also available for private parties on Saturday and Sunday between noon and 3:30 p.m.

Regular hours are Monday 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m., Tuesday through Friday 11:30 to 11, Saturday and Sunday 4 to 9. (609) 921-8041. Website:

MADE -TO-ORDER: “Customers love this! It’s so easy to personalize things, and so quick. It’s right here, right now!” Hannah Teiser of Landau’s is enthusiastic about the store’s “Wonder Machine”: the AnaJet Direct-to- Garment Digital Printer.

Imagine this scenario. A store opens in Jersey City in 1914, moves to Brooklyn, then relocates to Princeton in 1955, is still going strong, and is still all in the family!

This is, in fact, the story of Landau’s, the popular clothing store at 102 Nassau Street. Now owned by Robert and Henry Landau, grandsons of founder Henry Landau, it has long been the place to go for wool, and it continues to offer an extensive selection of sweaters, throws, scarves, and other wool items for men, women, and children. In addition, it always adapts to the season, and there are many items for spring and summer. Currently, a large assortment of hats of all types — versatile, reversible, collapsible, crushable, crocheted, big brims, small brims, visors, straw, raffia, cotton, mixed fibers, simple to elegant — are big sellers for all ages.

What is especially intriguing about Landau’s is that you will always find something new, and often something unexpected. As Robert Landau has pointed out. “We are always finding the next best thing.”

So, in 2010, they introduced the AnaJet Direct to Garment Digital Printer. It will instantly print any design on a fabric item that has a flat surface and is at least 50 percent cotton. Tee and sweatshirts, aprons, wine and tote bags are all possibilities for this technology.

43,000 Impressions

This “Wonder Machine” has been a big hit, reports Henry Landau. “We have made 43,000 impressions since we began in mid-May two years ago. We went from doing 10,000 impressions in the first nine months to 33,000 in the last 15 months. We can do anything with a flat surface, both color and black and white, and any size.

“I had been to a trade show and saw this laser jet digital printer with water-based ink and a closed system,” he continues. “It works on a variety of items, has no set-up charges, is made in the U.S., and the technical support is second to none. Customers bring in their photo or design on a zip drive as a jpeg — we can also get the image off their website — and then we’ll print it out for them in minutes. We can instantly create exactly what you’re looking for. It’s so quick!”

They have expanded the initial series of T-shirts, polos, and sweatshirts to items such as hoodies, sweat pants, aprons, towels, wine and tote bags, even chair backs.

Customers are all ages, and include companies, organizations, and institutions as well as individuals. Popular images are animals, rock groups, sports, school teams, and business logos, but the machine has also replicated a book cover, the Titanic, The Pink Panther, and Red Hots candies! One image was a beer coaster.

700 Shirts

Numbers of items printed range from one to 700, and everything in between. We recently printed 700 shirts for Princeton Hospital’s employee giving campaign prior to their move, also 500 for the Math Olympiad at Princeton University Nassoons’ 70th Anniversary, and hundreds for numerous Princeton University events. And, we also did 60 shirts for a company a while back, and now they want 300 more because they have changed their logo.”

Birthdays, graduations, anniversaries, family reunions, bar/bat mitzvahs, and other events are all perfect opportunities for custom printed shirts, he adds.

“We did a shirt for a family party, and it was the dad’s 70th birthday. They wanted a shirt with his picture on the front, and then on the back, we did one shirt with ‘Happy’, one with ‘Birth’, one with ‘Day’, another with ‘To’, and then ‘You’. The family all wore them to surprise the dad.”

Mr. Landau is pleased with the wide selection of shirts — all sizes, colors, and styles — that he is able to offer customers. “What I love about this from a supply standpoint is that there is a national T-shirt and apparel supply company, with warehouses. One is in Robbinsville. So we can order from the Robbinsville warehouse and pick up what we need in two hours. Or they can send it the next day. If they have to get it from another warehouse, they ship it in two days. We’re never out of stock. This cuts the inventory I need to have on the shelves because we can get what we need so quickly from the warehouse.”

Landau’s not only offers all the shirts customers want, but in one case, they have provided a unique design as well. As Mr. Landau notes, “My brother Robert came up with a T-shirt design, and people have gone haywire over it. It says: ‘What part of E=MC2 don’t you understand?’ The T-shirts with this design have been flying out of here.”

It is certainly in keeping with the unique Albert Einstein mini-museum located in the store.

Many Reasons

Customers have been intrigued with the new machine for many reasons, but particularly because it is so quick and does such a great job, adds Mr. Landau. “The customer service aspect about it is wonderful. Landau’s has always been about customer service — service, service, service! We have always offered quality at a good price. The concept is: ‘what is a good value?’ And also, Robert and I are here. We listen to what the customers say. We are not absentee owners.

“We have also always had a quality staff. Many have been with us for a long time, and our staff is intelligent and knowledgeable. We all enjoy the customers and spending time with them. I think they know that we have a good time here.”

Landau’s has a wide price range, with many discounted prices. Custom design printed T-shirts are $20 for one, with lower costs for more volume: seven to 12 shirts each, $14.50; 50 shirts $9.50 each.

“I have really been thrilled with the machine and with the customer response,” says Mr. Landau. “It’s beyond what I expected. I am having fun, and so are the customers.”

Landau’s is open Monday through Saturday 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., Sunday 11:30 to 4:30. (609) 924-3494. Website:

July 25, 2012

WORK IN PROGRESS: “Our firm is restoring, waterproofing, and cleaning the facade of St. Paul’s Church in Princeton. It is a large project, and we are skilled craftworkers who specialize in church restoration, among many other types of projects.” Shown left to right, working high above ground, are Paul ­Pennacchi, president of A. Pennacchi & Sons Masonry Restoration Company, and stone masons Gene Davis, Edwin Arroyo, and Samuel Bowens.

High up on the scaffolding surrounding St. Paul’s Roman Catholic Church on Nassau Street, men are busy cleaning, waterproofing, and restoring the stone and mortar of the 56-year-old church.

“It’s a pleasure to work with the great community of St. Paul’s, including Pastor Monsignor Joseph Rosie, business administrator Lee Brennan, and so many others,” says Paul Pennacchi, President of A. Pennacchi & Sons Masonry Restoration Company, which is handling the project.

The bricks, stone, and mortar are crucial to a building, but never underestimate the people who see that the structure remains secure, stable, and strong.

Headquartered in Trenton, A. Pennacchi & Sons is a long-time family business. Established in 1947 by Anthony and John Pennacchi, it has a storied history. Anthony and John’s father, Gaetano, came to Trenton from Italy in the early 1930s, and started a masonry business in the Chambersburg section of the city.

Family Business

The company grew when his sons came into the business, and by the 1980s, business had branched out into the surrounding area, especially Princeton. “We have even worked as far north as Newport, R.I., and as far south as Washington, D.C.,” notes Mr. Pennacchi. “We are the oldest masonry contracting company in Mercer County.”

Mr. Pennacchi, who grew up in the business and worked there after school and on weekends, became a full-time employee in 1985, and president in 1995. It’s a family business in every way, he adds.

“My brother, Anthony, Jr., who runs the suburban Philadelphia division, is a master stone mason, who can design, build, and erect any form and pattern of stone work. My father, the ‘Patriarch’ of all operations, who is now 81, is still a very active consultant. He helps me every day overseeing the crews, and with estimates and scheduling. My nephew, Sam Risoldi III is foreman and oversees the work getting done on time.

“My wife Rose and daughter Adriana help in the office with payrolls and accounting work, and my son, Paul, Jr., at 16, already works here part-time, and after college, he will join us, and work from the ground up, as we all did.”

As a full-service masonry, restoration, and waterproofing company, A. Pennacchi & Sons works on both light commercial and residential projects. It has a full-time staff of 10 craftsmen and multiple sub-contractors, who are employed year-round. It handles industrial brick, stone, and stucco work, brick and stone pointing, masonry and concrete repairs, chimney restoration, and waterproofing both above and below grade. It also installs French drain systems, sump pumps, and does foundation restoration.

In addition to St. Paul’s, current and recent projects include work at Jasna Polana Country Club, St. Lawrence Rehabilitation Center, the Institute for Advanced Study, the Hamilton Township Municipal Building, The Trent House, Drumthwacket, the Clark House, and countless private residences.

Basic Necessity

“Business is doing very well,” reports Mr. Pennacchi. “Sales are up, and last year was one of our best years. We are not a luxury. The work we do is a basic necessity for people. We are diversified, and we do all kinds of jobs, and we treat everyone the same regardless of the size of the project. The diversity of the work is such that one day we are at St. Paul’s, then at a golf course at Jasna Polana, then work at the Institute for Advanced Study, and at the New Jersey State Prison in Trenton.

“We’ll fix steps at a house, sidewalks, chimneys, patios, etc. A job could take one day, a week, three weeks, or months — it varies. For St. Paul’s, it is three months, and we are on schedule. I estimate how many hours, how many days, how many workers, and how much material will be needed for the job. There are no hidden costs or surprises. The challenge is managing all the jobs, but I really enjoy the diversity.”

Mr. Pennacchi, who is a member of Brick Layers Local Union #5, knows how important it is to be hands-on in the business, and he appreciates the skill, workmanship, and experience of his employees.

“As a bricklayer and stone mason, you serve a four or five year apprenticeship to a skilled mason. It is such a valuable experience. Our employees are our greatest asset. They are very skilled at what they do, and have their own specialties, and they are very dedicated. When we look at a building, we already have it conquered! We have people who are stone masons, others who specialize in basement waterproofing, and others who are plasterers. Here at Pennacchi & Sons, we all work as a team.”

New Techniques

“And, we are constantly learning and researching new techniques in restoration,” he continues. “My brother and nephew have completed the Jahn Restoration program, a select form of stone sculpturing, and they are pro’s at replicating ornate stone work.

“Another thing. I don’t call my competitors ‘competitors’. They are my colleagues and friends. If we all get too busy, we will work together.

“We also have great suppliers, including Yardville Supply, Heath Lumber, Kucker-Haney Paint Company, and Tattersalls. All are family-owned businesses that have supported us from the beginning.”

Mr. Pennacchi is very proud of his company’s longevity and fine reputation, and looks forward to an outstanding future. “I believe that success is based on quality, honesty, and personal relations with our customers. I look forward to continuing what we’re doing. My father, brother, and I are very content with how far we have come. It will be up to the fourth generation to take it to a new level. We are very proud of the business and what my grandfather began, my father and uncles continued, and how much the business has grown in 65 years. We still have customers whose fathers and grandfathers hired my dad back in the day! We are here to stay!”

A. Pennacchi & Sons are members of the Mercer County Chamber of Commerce, the Better Business Bureau, the Newport Historical Preservation Society, registered by the State of New Jersey as Historical Preservation Contractors, and are certified Jahn Applicators.

(609) 584-5777. Website:

ADVOCATE AND ACTIVIST: “The legal profession is really a helping profession, as hard as that sometimes may be to remember. I have always had a variety of clients — brilliant scientists, business people, educators, physicians, authors, and other creative people who have given me the privilege of working with them. And that is what it is — a privilege.” Attorney Cathryn A. Mitchell looks forward to putting her legal expertise to work for those who need it.

Princeton has been home to attorney Cathy Mitchell for 21 years. For much of that time, she practiced law with her husband, until three years ago when she left that partnership — both personally and professionally. It was at that time that her life in Princeton started anew, reports Ms. Mitchell.

“In many ways, my situation was not entirely different from that of a well-educated mother who left the work force for some time. In my case, my law practice — counsel to global business — had focused on the work and aspirations of my then partner. When that connection was severed, all of that changed. I am now living and working in accordance with my own values. As Gandhi said, happiness is when your thoughts, actions, and words are in harmony, and now, for the first time in my life, they are.”

Ms. Mitchell’s transformation, new sense of fulfillment, and professional reawakening evolved while facing the challenges and opportunities that came along with ending a partnership that spanned almost two decades.

“I gave myself permission to let go of the attention paid to another person’s dreams, and, for essentially the first time, to consider how to pursue my own. For example, I have always wanted to teach in a law school, and recently, I was a guest lecturer for an entertainment law class at a university in Philadelphia. It was a mind-blowing experience.”

High Achievement

High achievement has been a hallmark of Ms. Mitchell’s life. Born in New York City, brought up in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., she attended the University of Florida, where she received a BS, BA in finance. She continued her education at the University of Florida Law School in Gainesville, and while there, she was named to the University of Florida Hall of Fame, and was a prosecutor on the student honor court.

In law school, she earned three “Book Awards”, which recognized the highest grades in the class, in her case: business organizations, corporations, and criminal procedure.

After law school, Ms. Mitchell worked in a boutique litigation power house firm in Miami known for antitrust and intellectual property (IP) litigation, and white collar criminal defense. She honed her IP litigation skills there on cases for famous watch companies, such as Rolex and Cartier.

Moving to Princeton in 1991, Ms. Mitchell worked in the legal department of Prince Sports, then in Lawrenceville. While there, she began filing trademark applications, handling endorsement agreements for athletes, human resource and employment issues, and anti-trust compliance.

In 1993, she moved to the Princeton office of a New York law firm, but eventually left to start her own practice, which her husband would ultimately join.

Her view of career choices has changed dramatically, reports Ms. Mitchell. “I put the professional desires and goals of my husband before my own, despite the fact that I had worked hard to earn a law degree. I cannot say I would make the same choice today, and certainly would not recommend it to my daughter, or a friend. It was not the smartest thing to do.”

True To Yourself

“It is important to retain professional independence, not only to ensure that your professional identity remains distinct and intact, but also to give you an opportunity to be true to yourself and to follow your own professional aspirations.”

Having said that, she does look back with pride on a number of her cases over the past years.

“The law suit in Miami by Pat Metheny against soon-to-be governor of Florida Bob Martinez for using sound-alike music in his political advertisement was one of them. It was a right of publicity case, and brought to the forefront a number of music-intellectual property issues that had propelled me into the field in the first place.”

Then, there is the 10 years she spent as “private prosecutor” for Princeton University — different in scope and subject from her other cases, but legally challenging and interesting.

“This work for the University had me interfacing with the Princeton University Office of Public Safety — the campus police force — almost every day for a 10-year period. I attended court on behalf of the University in Princeton Borough and Township two days every week, and handled dozens of trials and hundreds of criminal cases. It was great to be on my feet and interacting with the community in this way.”

Ms. Mitchell also spent 12 years as the law columnist for The Times of Trenton. In addition, she has published seven scholarly pieces for the New Jersey Law Journal in the past two and a half years, for a total of nearly 75 overall.

She has received numerous awards and honors, including the 2006 NJ Biz “Best 50 Women in Business” award; 2005 Princeton YWCA’s Tribute to Women award; Who’s Who 2002 New Jersey Business Leaders; “40 Under 40” (New Jersey’s most successful business leaders under 40), recognized by Business News NJ, among others. She has also served as president of the Princeton Bar Association.

Epitome of Community

Community is paramount to Ms. Mitchell, and this is one of the treasures she finds living in Princeton. “I believe that community is transformative and Princeton, to me, is the epitome of community. It’s the synagogue that is two blocks away and its two incredible rabbis, including a young woman rabbi for my daughter to see; the shopping center, the library, the Arts Council, tennis courts, free summer concerts Thursday nights at the shopping center, the farmer’s market at the library plaza, Princeton Merchants’ Association, Princeton rescue squad, where my son hopes to become a cadet.

“There is the tight-knit community in which I live in Princeton Borough, with its block parties and neighborhood picnics; Westminster Conservatory where my son has studied music for 13 years, and the Community Park pool where he is a lifeguard; the Hun School of Princeton, where my daughter is finishing middle school; also the Mercer County Bar Association in which I am very involved.

“I am teaching my children that safety and happiness and security and joy come from connection; from being part of something larger than yourself, from giving whatever you have to help others. These are my values, and this town, on its own, teaches these values to my children by allowing them to experience them for themselves.

“Professionally, I have worked on Nassau Street for most of the past 20 years, and I am continuing to do so now at 44 Nassau Street, Suite 310. This is a familiar, welcoming, and safe place for me. On the surface, I know virtually every banker and shop owner by name, and they know me. That gives every day a ‘Cheers’ feeling that very few people have today. I run into clients, contacts, referral sources, mothers and fathers of my children’s friends all day long. Every week I see a Third Circuit Court of Appeals judge and an Appellate Division judge, friends who are professors at Rutgers, neighbors, etc. It’s a welcoming feeling of connection.”

Ms. Mitchell’s practice is more diverse than in the past, she adds. She finds that she is often playing the role of “consigliore” or trusted advisor in legal matters, whether it is helping a physician in the hiring of a new employee, or sorting through some issues that may ultimately involve the dissolution of a business partnership, or discussing the ramifications in the event of the end of a marriage.

“This has come as somewhat of a surprise to me,” she notes. “Clients are asking me to handle different types of matters for them, because of trust. This is a humbling experience. I also continue to mentor young women and girls, especially young female lawyers, and I donate a portion of my revenue to Womanspace in connection with which I am doing a significant amount of advocacy; in particular, regarding safeguarding the protections of the Violence Against Women Act.”

Complex Tasks

In addition, she continues to file trademark and copyright applications for companies. As she points out, “It’s a rather routine process, but the reason that clients might select me is because there are software licensing issues, and some intellectual property litigation issues potentially as well, and I am therefore available to handle the more complex tasks as they arrive.

“And, if we are talking about family matters, I have considerable criminal trial experience and an understanding of the municipal court system here in Mercer County. So to the extent that there may be criminal or domestic violence issues, which come up often in a family matter, I might be able to provide something a bit more comprehensive on those issues.

“Similarly, I have a finance degree and an interest in forensic accounting and finding hidden assets as well as white-collar criminal issues (forgery, etc.), and to the extent those issues may be present in a family matter, I could be a good resource there as well; in particular, working with experts and preparing clients for trial/settlement, as well as with complex issues of child custody about which I have significant knowledge and experience of my own.

“Princeton is a town with a long memory,” continues Ms. Mitchell. “When you do a good job for someone, they often remember it, and they want you to help them again. This does not just apply to attorneys, but to accountants, investment advisors, and other professionals. I have found that many people are saying something a lawyer can only dream of when she begins the practice of law: ‘I trust you, and I want you to stand by me in good times and bad.’

“Our justice system is the best in the world; our courts try their best, but they are overworked — we know that. They do the best they can, however. As lawyers, we have a responsibility to make our clients’ lives easier, to the extent we can. I can say definitively that I most enjoy the people with whom I work. I learn so much from them, from being around them, seeing the way they handle their own lives, and meet the challenges they face with courage and grace and resilience.

“And I do believe that in helping people, I am setting a good example for my teenage children, which is what matters most to me right now. I want them to experience for themselves what the Buddha says: ‘If you knew what I know about the power of giving, you would not let a single meal pass without sharing it in some way.’ And also, ‘Your work is to discover your world and then with all your heart give yourself to it.’”

Ms. Mitchell can be reached at (609) 921-8383, and

July 18, 2012

IMAGINATIVE CREATION: “Creating jewelry is my passion. It’s what I always wanted to do and have always done. I am very fortunate to be able to do it.” Jewelry designer and goldsmith Robin Hepburn, owner of Orion Jewelry in Pennington, is shown in her new boutique.

As they enter the Orion Jewelry boutique in its new location in the Pennington Square Shopping Center, on Route 31, customers are captivated by the dramatic decor, highlighted by the striking “Chambord” walls and organic lattice work motif.

In addition, the warm and welcoming environment, featuring displays of imaginative, innovative, and beautiful jewelry, adds to their pleasure.

“I want people to feel comfortable here. This is very important,” says owner Robin Hepburn, who is a jewelry designer and goldsmith.

Ms. Hepburn moved to the new location in May, and she could not be more pleased. “I needed a larger place, and I am so happy to have a beautiful showcase for my work in this new boutique.”

Goldsmith and Designer

Ms. Hepburn is an experienced goldsmith and jewelry designer, having been in the jewelry business for 35 years. And before that, she was always interested in art and design.

“My father was a silversmith,” she adds, “and I went to art school. Later, in 1986, I had a jewelry business in St. Thomas, the U.S. Virgin Islands.”

Three hurricanes and 10 years later, she relocated to Pennington, where she had been born.

Today, in many ways, her jewelry design still evokes the tropical motif and the spirit and serenity of the islands. The sculptural forms and rare gemstones fuse to create hallmark pieces that are both elegant and exotic.

“I think the main draw has been the uniqueness of the jewelry,” she points out. “My pieces are all personal and one-of-a-kind, made from scratch.”

Many of her creations, including earrings, necklaces, pins, and bracelets, are on display, and in addition, she does a great deal of custom work.

Custom Design

“Someone can come in with a dream, and I help the dream become a reality. A customer may bring a stone to me, and I can create whatever they want. I also custom-design older pieces that a client may wish to have a newer look. This is one of my specialties. I like working with special pieces and creating something that is unique for the client. I recently made a cuff bracelet in gold with three diamonds for a man to give his wife for their 30th wedding anniversary.”

Ms. Hepburn also recalls one of her more unusual projects, but equally personal. “I made an 18k gold locket, which was to contain the ashes of the client’s beloved pet dog.”

Ms. Hepburn explains that when considering a piece, she first begins with a drawing, “and then I start to figure out how to make it three dimensional.”

Her pieces incorporate precious, semi-precious, and museum-quality gemstones with high karat gold and sterling silver. In keeping with her life-long dedication to fair trade practices and protecting the future use of rare materials, all Orion jewelry is made using 100 percent recycled and refined metals and ethically-sourced gemstones.

“I get the stones from people who mine and cut the stones, and I like to work with the more unusual stones, including tanzanite, drusy, and ametrine (combination of amethyst and citrine),” she explains. “I also include different kinds of opals and pearl, and stones, such as lapis, aquamarine, and turquoise. Opals can have many colors, and I have recently used bright Mexican fire opals. I’ll also use blackened sterling silver, which can be very dramatic.”

Three of Ms. Hepburn’s pieces, two necklaces and a brooch, were recently entered in an international contest.

Green Diamond

Among the pieces which are showcased is a beautiful green beryl pendant with gold chain, coordinated with matching earrings. Another necklace includes a green diamond with aquamarine set in yellow and white gold, with a white gold chain.

Still another superb necklace features a green garnet pendant, with matching earrings.

Ms. Hepburn is especially enthusiastic about the design and decor of her new boutique. In collaboration with Hopewell-based artistic designer Sean Mannix of Highland Design Farm, a uniquely attractive setting has been created.

“Sean designed the entire interior, the showcases, and the Orion brand. He implemented the entire look of the store brand and design. All the showcases, signs, and logos were done by Sean. His artistry and my vision came together, and made my dream come true.”

Dramatic and Intriguing

The design of the interior, including inspired lattice work-style motif, is dramatic and intriguing. Assorted lighting fixtures of different sizes are suspended from the ceiling, adding more interest. It is all together a very fitting setting to showcase Ms. Hepburn’s creations.

“It is important to note that everything — the materials, the showcases — were made locally,” she adds.

In addition to the jewelry, Ms. Hepburn offers elegant Orion “Tini”, sets of small martini glasses, which are suitable for hors d’oeuvres or “mini” drinks. They include solid silver picks, handcrafted by Ms. Hepburn. A set of four is offered in a beautiful lavender gift bag, and is an appealing hostess gift.

“I so much enjoy working with my customers, and I look forward to helping them in my new studio,” says Ms. Hepburn.

Orion Jewelry is open Monday through Friday 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., Saturday 10 to 4. (609) 737-7235. Website:

NEW LOOK: “Customers are so pleased with the new arrangement, combining hardware and housewares together. It is very convenient for them to have everything under one roof!” Kelly Babbitt, manager of housewares at Smith’s Ace Hardware & Housewares in the Princeton Shopping Center, is shown near a display of popular housewares items. The new configuration coincides with Smith’s Ace Hardware’s 10th anniversary in the Shopping Center.

Smith’s Ace Hardware just got bigger and better! Its companion store, Smith’s Ace Housewares, has now relocated with the hardware in expanded space at the Princeton Shopping Center.

“We wanted to have everything together, and we needed more room to expand,” explains owner George Smith. “Housewares is very popular, and we opened it originally in 2004 because of customer demand. People really wanted housewares.”

In its 10 years at the Shopping Center, Smith’s Ace Hardware has truly become the indispensable place! Carrying both a complete range of hardware and housewares, it offers customers an attractive local alternative to Home Depot and Lowe’s.

“I wouldn’t think of going anywhere else,” says a long-time customer. “They have everything you need, and the service is great. The staff is knowledgeable and helpful.”

Family Business

George Smith does know the hardware business. He and his brothers now own four Ace Hardware stores — in Yardville, Mercerville, Newtown, Pa., and the Princeton location. They are continuing the family business, started by their grandfather in 1946.

“Yardville Supply started out as a concrete plant, then added lumber and a hardware store,” says Mr. Smith. “My dad worked there and became president of the company. My brother Ed and I started helping out when we were 15 or so. I stayed in the building materials business, and Ed was in the ready mix business.”

In 1997, they joined Ace Hardware, which was established 75 years ago and has 5,000 stores across the United States. It offers a broad selection of its own private label products, as well as many name brand items.

The Princeton store opened in 2002, and has lived up to the Smiths’ expectations. “We thought Princeton would be a good location, and the space was available,” recalls Mr. Smith. “There has been an absolutely great reaction. The way the community has responded has been exceptional. People still come in all the time, and say “We’re so glad you’re here!’”

The expanded space includes 18,000 square feet and is filled with all the tools, supplies, and gadgets one expects to find in a hardware store. Everything is conveniently arranged according to department, with a full section devoted to housewares.

“We have 30,000 different items,” reports Mr. Smith. “30 different hoses, 100 different kinds of nails, 300 light bulbs, and new things all the time.

“The goal was to expand and not lose sales. Everything was completely rearranged — a total remodel, and we did the work ourselves. We hired the electricians, plumbers, carpenters, etc. Getting the remodel completed and in place has been a challenge. It took over a year and a half, and Princeton Township and the Shopping Center were very helpful. Everyone came together to make it happen.”

Room to Browse

Everyone loves hardware stores. There is so much to look at, and something so intriguing about all those gadgets. Now there is even more room to browse.

The paint department has grown significantly over the years, reports Mr. Smith. It now carries five lines of Benjamin Moore paint, including the environmentally-friendly Gen X, as well as the Ace brand lines, such as Clark + Kensington. All the painting supplies, stains, and varnishes are on display.

Bird seed of all kinds, feeders, and houses are year-round sellers, and as everyone heads outdoors for spring and summer, Smith’s Ace can furnish all the needs. Outdoor furniture, bistro tables with umbrellas, Tiki torches, solar lights, and hammocks are all in stock. Grills, including state-of-the-art Weber gas grills, are big sellers, and the store offers even more in the expanded space.

Lawn care supplies, from potting soil and planters to weed killers, grass seed and turf enhancers are available, as is a complete line of garden tools — pruners and rakes to wheelbarrows and hedge trimmers.

Mail boxes, outdoor thermometers, signs and numbers, and the all-important picnic needs: thermos, cooler, and basket are available.

All the hardware cabinetry, also door locks, padlocks, and hooks, nails, screws, and bolts of every kind; and plumbing items, from pipes and tubing to toilet seats, are on hand, as are shower caddies and curtains and storage containers. And don’t forget buckets, brooms, and bags!

Fix-It Place

“We also sharpen knives and scissors, and make keys, We’re the Fix-It place,” adds Mr. Smith. “We also have new wall and ceiling lighting fixtures, new faucets, and expanded cleaning supplies.”

Housewares have become very popular, he continues. “We have tried to get things others don’t have. We have the Ace brand products as well as many others, and everything is very good quality.”

Big sellers in housewares include the very popular “Soda Stream”, which allows customers to make their own soda at home. “It’s made in Israel, is ecologically important, and ultimately is less expensive,” says Mr. Smith. “There is a COT (a special container), which carbonates the water, and there are more than 30 different flavors. We’ve had it about a year, and it just keeps getting more and more popular.”

Blenders are always favorite housewares items, and Smith’s Ace has them all, including the very special $400 Vitamix model, which can do it all: make soup, juice, peanut butter, even flour.

Colorful Patterns

The Lodge enamel cast iron products, including Dutch ovens, are big sellers, as is the line of Melamine dishware in wonderfully colorful patterns, and with coordinated place mats, tablecloths, and napkins.

Tea kettles, trays, toasters, and timers are available, as are clocks, measuring cups, drying mats. and colorful aprons; Pots and pans, coffeemakers, and cutting boards in many designs and styles are always highlighted.

Canning is making a comeback, report the housewares staff. “Some people are canning with a passion now. They’re making relish, even mustard. A lot of people can tomatoes and fruit, and make jam. We have all the Ball jars and other needs.”

Prices at Smith’s Ace are geared for every pocketbook — from five cents to $1000, and everything in between.

Mr. Smith is very happy with the Shopping Center location. “I like the Princeton customers, and the diversity that is here. We have people coming from England and France and other countries, and lots of regulars. We offer a Rewards program, which accumulates. When someone spends $250, they receive a $5 coupon. And they get a $5 coupon on their birthdays. We have a lot of specials and sales as well.

“We try to fill customers’ requests, and keep their needs uppermost. We work hard to offer quality products and the best service.”

Smith’s Ace Hardware & Housewares is open Monday through Friday 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., Saturday 8 to 5, Sunday 9 to 3. (609) 430-4300.

July 3, 2012

LOTS OF LUGGAGE: “We have a very big inventory. Our selection is the largest around, and we also have an extensive website.” Adam Tieger, website customer service manager at the LuggageFactory in Ringoes, shows a customer the new “foldable” Spinner bag from Lipault.

Does anyone remember luggage without wheels? If you were born before 1987, no doubt you do. On the other hand, “wheels” have become such an integral part of the travel scene, that it seems they were always there.

In fact, says David Southard, CEO of the LuggageFactory in Ringoes, “A Northwest Airline 747 pilot, Bob Platt, came up with the idea in 1987. He invented the original Rollaboard R wheeled luggage, and he started the Travelpro company.”

Now, wheels are not only on the traditional “suitcase” but on carry-ons, duffles, backpacks, and even garment bags. There is also the 4-wheeled Spinner style, which can move in any direction, and the latest “foldable” wheeled luggage, which folds up when empty for easy storage.

And, whatever your luggage needs, the LuggageFactory at 76 Route 202/31 in Ringoes, can provide you with extensive choices at reasonable prices.

From A to Z

“We have the best selection in the area, and the best prices,” notes Mr. Southard. “Everything is good quality, and we have sales all the time. We do a lot of volume.”

All the major brands of luggage – from A to Z – are available, with Tumi, Briggs & Riley, Travelpro, Samsonite, and Vera Bradley among the most popular.

“We’ve only had Vera Bradley for a year, and it has become our second most popular seller,” Mr. Southard reports. “People like the entire line of Vera Bradley, including luggage, handbags, and accessories, with wristlets special favorites. “And it’s all ages — grandmothers, mothers, and daughters. And husbands come in to buy it for their wives.”

The LuggageFactory was founded in 1980 by Daniel Popkin, and remains a family business, says Mr. Southard, who has been with the company seven years. “At one time, the company even made luggage, but over the years, it evolved into selling all brands and accessories. We also now have a very big on-line business and an extensive website, which was established in 1997.”

Customers will find everything, including traditional luggage of all kinds, duffles, business cases, laptop bags, attache cases, and garment bags.

Even with the advent of wheels, people are opting for lightweight luggage. Gone are the days of heavy leather cases, although handsome leather products, including attaches, laptop and business cases, and messenger bags, as well as wallets, are still available.

Ballistic Nylon

“Most bags today are made of nylon and polyester, and ballistic nylon is the strongest and most durable,” points out Mr. Southard. “Another line that is very popular is the polycarbonate lightweight, durable, and hardside style from Rimowa, which is designed in Germany and made in Canada.”

Black is the number one selling color in luggage, but customers also like the very colorful luggage tags, including pom poms, to identify their bags easily. Also popular are “Margarita” tags and doggie tags.

Accessories include TSA locks, security bags, passport holders, lumbar supports, neck pillows, travel blankets, sunglasses “readers” and illuminators (eyeglasses with a light for reading), and travel underwear and socks. “This is very popular,” reports Mr. Southard. “You just wash it out when you’re in the shower, and it dries in two to three hours. We also have great crushable travel hats, and maps of many cities.

“Our staff is very knowledgeable, and we can advise customers on airline rules and security regulations. There have been big changes in checking luggage, and we recommend that people not buy the biggest bag. You have to pay extra to check any bag weighing 50 pounds or more.”

Great Selection

Many of the LuggageFactory employees have been with the company 20 years or more, points out Mr. Southard. Customers are equally loyal, he adds, and regulars come from Mercer, Hunterdon, and Bucks Counties.

“They count on us for a great selection, good quality, and reasonable prices, and really knowledgeable service. Also, many of the luggage lines we carry offer life-time warranties, even if there is airline damage.”

Luggage prices range from $100 to $600-$700, and an annual Tent Sale will be held July 20, 21, 22 with big savings in all categories.

“We have worked hard to build a great reputation, and we guarantee our luggage, our quality, and our prices,” says Mr. Southard. “We are also looking forward to renovating our space for even better customer service.”

The LuggageFactory is open Monday through Friday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Saturday and Sunday 10 to 5. (908) 788-4810. Website:

June 20, 2012

Family businesses, especially those that have stood the test of time, are rare today. Princeton has provided a congenial setting for a number of such firms over the years, but not many remain today. An exception is Hamilton Jewelers, located at 92 Nassau Street.

And not only has it marked 24 years in the Princeton location, it has a centennial celebration this year — 100 years since its 1912 beginnings in Trenton.

Irving Siegel purchased the business in 1925 for $15,000, and Hamilton Chairman Martin Siegel takes time to reflect on what it has meant to the family. “I started to help my dad in the business when I was 12 years old. I never thought of doing anything else. I came into the business formally in 1955, and now my son Hank is President and CEO. It has meant more than I ever expected to have the family business continue. It’s the dream of a father, passed on to a son and grandson.”

Excellent Quality

The business thrived over the years, and today, there are five stores; one each in Lawrenceville, Red Bank, two in Palm Beach, Florida, and the Princeton location.

Hamilton is known for its extensive selection of fine jewelry, estate and antique jewelry, watches, and giftware. Its own “Hamilton Collection” has become a signature part of the store’s inventory, and it is known for excellent quality at reasonable prices. Many of the pieces can be customized for additional personalizing.

Finding the latest and finest examples of quality jewelry often requires traveling to far away place, notes Vice President Donna Bouchard. “We bring in things from all over the world. We had a collection from India, and Hank was just in China. He finds the most amazing items.”

Having an eye out for inventive designs and the latest techniques is important in a fast-changing world. “We have tried to adapt our business model to best suit the needs of our clients, and we will continually embrace new technology and ideas to always improve our service and offerings,” points out Hank Siegel.

“The big change has been in the technology,” adds Ms. Bouchard. “A lot of people now shop on-line. We started our website 15 years ago, and it’s a thriving part of the business.”

“We try to be on the cutting edge of what is going on,” notes Martin Siegel. “We offer new and innovative ideas to our customers.”

Range of Styles

In addition to its signature Hamilton Collection, the store has always offered the creations of the finest jewelry designers, some exclusive to Hamilton.

Timepieces from internationally renowned watchmakers are a highlight at the store and available in a wide range of styles, all featuring the finest craftsmanship combined with modern technology. Hamilton’s in-house workshop features several certified Swiss watchmakers and master jewelers to provide high quality service for jewelry and watches.

Antique and estate jewelry and watches are another important feature at Hamilton. This distinctive selection is of special interest to those who appreciate pieces which carry the added dimension of untold stories of times past.

Giftware includes china, crystal, sterling silver, home accessories, and more. In addition, a Business Gift and Insignia Division is available for corporate gifting, and a VIP e-mail program delivers timely event announcements and exclusive product offerings.

With Father’s Day and graduations ahead, watches are always a welcome gift and can be engraved, notes Ms. Bouchard. “For girls, a first strand of pearls, gold hoop earrings, or diamond stud earrings are all good gifts.”

Even with all the fashion changes over the years, certain items can be counted on — diamonds, gold, and pearls, she adds. That string of pearls remains the jewelry of choice for many women. Pearls continue to endure and fascinate.

Happy Business

“This is a happy business. People are often celebrating special times in their lives,” points out Ms. Bouchard. “And they love jewelry! There is so much history to it. It was once used as currency in trading, and for some people, it serves as an amulet to bring good fortune or prevent bad times. It’s something you wear. It says a lot about your personal style and what you want to express.”

“Jewelry has been worn over the centuries as an adornment and as a symbol of love and caring,” adds Martin Siegel. “It is also a lasting gift that can be passed on as an heirloom from one generation to another.”

Hamilton offers items at a wide price range, to suit just about any pocketbook. Pearl bracelets start at $25, and the Hamilton Collection offers pieces, including silver, under $50. Then, there are those exceptional items in the hundreds of thousands of dollars!

The Siegels have always emphasized the importance of service, adds Ms. Bouchard. “We are set apart by our service and our attention to detail. Every one of our associates thinks about the relationship, not the immediate transaction. It’s the development of a long-term relationship that is important.”

Personal Greeting

As Mr. Siegel notes, “When my father took over this company in 1925, he started a custom of personally greeting each visitor. This warm gesture established the spirit of friendliness you find today at every Hamilton store.”

Ms. Bouchard has also been impressed with the Siegels’ employee involvement. “The business is very personal to the Siegel family. They pay attention to every detail. There are 125 employees, and Hank knows each one and has a personal relationship with every employee.”

Giving back to their communities has also been important to the Siegels, and Hamilton has supported numerous charities and organizations over the years. Currently, they have initiated “100 Days of Giving” in commemoration of their 100th anniversary. The program encourages all Hamilton associates to volunteer their time to an organization of their choice in their community. They volunteer one work day of service to the charity, and receive a full day’s compensation from Hamilton.

Hamilton is hoping to yield 100 full days of commitment to a wide range of organizations.

“For 100 years, we have enjoyed the support and loyalty of our communities,” says Hank Siegel. “We are proud to offer a way for our company and associates to give back. It was important for us to construct a program that could be relevant for each associate, while supporting the overall needs of our neighborhoods.”

Hamilton is also planning a series of other events to commemorate their anniversary.

The store is open Monday through Saturday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Thursday and Friday until 8, and Saturday 12 to 5. (609) 683-4200. Website:

SENIOR SERVICES: “We are trying to create an atmosphere of home and an opportunity for residents to age in place,” says the staff at Brandywine Senior Living Center at Princeton. Shown (left to right) are residents Gloria Pyne, Theresa Farkas, and Doris Bishop, taking part in the “Roots of Love” horticulture class.

Princeton is fortunate to have many choices of living arrangements for older adults. From independent to assisted living to long-term or continuing care, the options are abundant.

Choices can diminish for older people generally, notes Ellen Reid, Director of Community Relations at Brandywine Senior Living at Princeton. “We offer our residents a variety of opportunities and flexibility at Brandywine, and they appreciate these choices.”

Brandywine Senior Living at Princeton opened in October 2011 at the former site of Buckingham Place, 155 Raymond Road. Brandywine, which operates 24 senior living communities in five states in the mid-Atlantic and northeast U.S., purchased Buckingham Place’s assisted living and memory facility. The Buckingham Place adult daycare program is still in operation at the Raymond Road location.

As a leading provider of quality care for older adults, Brandywine offers assisted living, including nurses on-site 24 hours every day, as well as a special “Reflections” program for patients with Alzheimer’s Disease and Alzheimer’s-type conditions. It also provides short-term respite care and rehabilitation care.

Life-style Choices

The entire Buckingham facility was renovated, with new decor, featuring the Brandywine signature green and gold colors, as well as new artwork. 124 residents can be accommodated in comfortable studio or one-bedroom apartments, with a number featuring kitchenette including refrigerator/freezer, and microwave.

The attractive outdoor landscaping offers colorful gardens and plantings, and walkways for residents.

Life-style choices, including activities, trips, flexible dining times, abound at Brandywine. “We have all-day restaurant dining, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.,” points out Ms. Reid. “This is a program unique to Brandywine and enables residents to select whatever time they wish to eat.”

In addition, there is a private dining room in which residents can entertain friends and family for special dinners or parties.

These opportunities for choices help to validate the residents as individuals, adds executive director Holly Minnis. “They decide what they want to do. It’s up to them.”

And, indeed, there is much to do! A library stocked with best sellers, game room with pool table and slot machine, activity room with arts, crafts and cards available, book club, exercise, computer, cooking and art classes, gardening areas, daily on-site movies, as well as outings to museums and theaters are all available.

Residents also have the opportunity to act in the monthly plays held at the center, notes Stephanie Gaber, Director of Activities/Escapades Producer. “Curtain Calls is our once-a-month drama program. The residents audition to be in the play, and then they perform it for the other residents, family and friends. They love this!

“There is so much for people to do here. They love our ‘Let’s Make a Deal’ wheel game held twice a month, and there are real ‘card sharks’ for bridge, poker, and 21. We also have intergenerational programs with children from area schools and organizations. These are very popular, and the residents enjoy being with the kids.”

Special Events

Special events, such as residents’ birthday parties, theme parties, and Valentine’s Day parties for couples (a number of married couples live at Brandywine) are other amenities, she adds. “We had champagne, a strolling violinist, and the couples renewed their vows on Valentine’s Day.”

Entertainers, including “Seniors Entertaining Seniors” come to the center, and trips and outings are also available. “We go to museums, concerts, movies, theater, and to area places, such as Drumthwacket, Bainbridge House, Grounds for Sculpture, Terhune Orchards, Morven Museum and Gift Shop, and restaurants.”

In addition, amenities and services include basic cable TV, complimentary transportation to medical appointments in the area, weekly housekeeping (towel and bed linen service), full service beauty salon and barber shop, personal mail boxes, and a bistro with beverages and snacks available 24/7.

Residents are typically in their seventies up to 100-plus, with a median age of 82 to 83, notes Ms. Minnis. Brandywine gives them the opportunity to remain in their apartment, even as their health needs may change.

“Doctors, including primary care physicians, podiatrists, dentists, and wound care specialists, visit weekly, and we also have a psychiatrist and psychologist on-site. If someone needs a home health aide or ultimately, hospice care, this can be arranged. There are different levels of care available, and our team puts a health plan together for the residents, and continues to monitor their situation.

“Everything is as convenient as possible,” she emphasizes. “If they have an appointment with their doctor here, they don’t have to wait or drive to an office. It’s so much easier for them and their extended family. There is also a wellness center with portable X-ray and lab work service. Physical therapy is available. All our residents’ needs are met. Their apartments are checked every day to make sure everything is all right.”

Motivated and Engaged

“We offer an opportunity for people to be independent, and at the same time not to have to worry about cooking, cleaning, doing laundry, and housekeeping, etc.,” points out Ms. Reid.

The Brandywine staff makes it all possible, and sets the tone, note the administrators. Most staff members have been with Brandywine or Buckingham Place for many years. “We are set apart by our staff,” notes Ms. Minnis. “The staff here is the best clinical staff I have ever seen. They are highly motivated and engaged. They really care about the residents. It takes a certain kind of person, and our staff members are patient, caring, and capable.

“In addition, prior to anyone being hired, they are subject to a complete and thorough screening and background check. This is extremely important for the welfare of our residents. We want them to have the best care possible, and they do.”

Deb Shane, Brandywine Senior Creative Director, stresses the importance of continuing training and education for the staff. “We have ongoing education, emphasizing new ways to learn and grow, and there is always something new happening. We want to keep things fresh, as we strive to make a difference in the residents’ lives.”

“I feel we are making a difference in their lives,” says Ms. Reid, and that difference can extend to the entire family, she notes. “When families come in to talk with me, they can be in crisis. It’s amazing what people are juggling today. I am so pleased we are able to help and share these moments in their lives.”

“I originally worked in long-term care,” adds Ms. Gaber. “There was very little assisted living then. This has been a big change, and also, the opportunity for activities has really changed. There are so many options and kinds of stimulation offered now. This is so important.

“I love coming to work,” she continues. “Older people have stories to tell and a history to share. We have fun together. It’s wonderful when someone says they had such a good time at an event or outing. I walk away with a really good feeling.”

For further information about Brandywine, call (732) 329-8888. Website:

June 13, 2012

CAFÉ WITH A CACHET: “Everything here is gourmet, and it is all European inspired. We even play European music during the day.” Adriano Didonato, director of operations, is very enthusiastic about the new Bon Appetit Café in Princeton Forrestal Village.

Bon Appetit in the Princeton Shopping Center is a Princeton tradition. Established in 1964, it has always represented the finest quality in gourmet items from around the world, prepared food, and more than 250 different kinds of cheeses.

Now, owner Bill Lettier has extended its reach to Princeton Forrestal Village with the new Bon Appetit Café. “We had wanted to establish a new location, and we felt something was missing at Forrestal,” explains Bon Appetit director of operations Adriano Didonato. “There is the food court and full sit-down restaurants, but nothing in between. We thought there was a need for healthy gourmet food in a different setting. We could offer a café where you can get the best food, but not have to spend too long. It’s something different.”

The café, which opened last December, is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner with most of the food brought over from Bon Appetit’s flagship store in the Princeton Shopping Center.

“We already have a loyal group of regular customers, including lots of Forrestal office workers and store employees at lunch time,” says Mr. Didonato. “We get people from the gym, also shoppers, and many from Princeton. On Saturdays, we have a lot of families and kids, including many repeats.”

Big Draw

Bon Appetit’s popular sandwiches, salads, and pastries are a mainstay, but the café offers something new that has proved to be inspired.

“The really big draw is our crepes,” Mr. Didonato reports. “We make fresh crepes, and we’re the only ones in the area doing it. We wanted to offer something warm in the morning, and they have been a big hit. The inspiration for them really came from New York. We went and checked out a lot of restaurants that served crepes there. And we also wanted them to be reasonably priced. We offer both sweet and savory.”

Customers love them all! “These are the best crepes ever. They have wonderful flavor and taste great,” reports an enthusiastic customer.”

“The Classic” with two eggs, ham and Gruyere cheese, “The Monterey Jack”. including scrambled eggs, pepper Jack cheese, tomato, sour cream, and avocado; and “The Southwest”, with roasted chicken, cheddar cheese, avocado, tomato, and chipotle sauce are all big sellers.

Those with a sweet tooth have even more choices: “Italian Banana” with Nutella, fresh sliced bananas, dusted in powdered sugar, and topped with whipped cream and strawberries; “Spanish Treat” with dulce de leche sauce, dusted with powdered sugar, and topped with whipped cream; also “White Strawberry”, including white chocolate sauce, fresh sliced strawberries, dusted with powdered sugar, and topped with whipped cream are all specialties.

Other equally irresistible choices include “Belgian Classic” and “Fresh Exotic”.

Signature Sandwiches

Also popular are the café’s sandwiches and salads. Classic sandwiches feature bread, wraps, croissants, and foccacia. Signature sandwiches are served on baguettes. Classics range from the ever-popular BLT to chicken curry or tuna salad to ham and cheese to turkey and lingon berries to grilled portobello, hummus, and roasted red peppers on a spinach wrap.

Signature sandwiches include “The Italian” with mortadella, ham, salami, provolone, lettuce and toasted red wine vinaigrette; “Grand Bleu” with smoked turkey, caramel, red onion, blue cheese, arugula, and arugula mayonnaise; classic club; and turkey, brie, and mayonnaise chutney, among many other choices.

Bon Appetit’s fresh baked bread is available, and the wide variety of muffins, cookies, Danishes, and also chocolate croissants are other treats.

Beverages include coffee, espresso, cappuccino, latte, hot chocolate, and chai tea, as well as organic juices, special sodas, such as Dr. Brown, and also Coke.

Corporate and box lunches are also offered.

A variety of items can be purchased, including teas, nuts, cookies, and candy, such as chocolate-covered espresso beans and chocolate-covered dried fruit.

Prices include $5.99 for classic sandwiches, $6.49 for salads, and $5.99 for sweet crepes.


The café, which can seat 24, with its attractive, uncrowded setting, offers a friendly down-to-earth ambiance. Pictures of artisan cheeses and bread highlight the walls, and large baskets are filled with assorted products, such as Bon Appetit coffees. Windows face the large fountain across from the Westin Hotel, and outdoor tables will be available in the spring.

“We think we are set apart,” points out Mr. Didonato. “Everything we offer is made fresh every day, with fresh ingredients, and some items and sauces are exclusive to Bon Appetit. Our ambiance is different, with an artisanal European feeling. We have sponge-painted walls, and we definitely didn’t want to be crowded.

“We have a really good staff, including general manager Erin Miller, and we have all worked together to make this happen. It has been a real team effort. The original idea was Bill’s, but we all helped with ideas and the decor, etc.”

Mr. Didonato’s own Bon Appetit career began when he was 15. “I did everything and over time, I learned every aspect of the business, and did every job. The greatest thing I can say, as director of operations, is that it’s a big treat to put your own stamp on things and feel you can really have an influence on what happens.

“I try to plan carefully, and we want to keep on improving and expanding what we offer. We will have an ice machine in the summer, so we can have iced tea and coffee. It’s exciting to be involved in a new venture and to keep adding new ideas and items for the customers.

“We are very encouraged. We’re off to a great start, and we look forward to becoming a destination place.”

The café is open Monday through Friday 7:30 a.m. to 7 p.m., Saturday 9 to 6. (609) 454-5683.

BODY AND SOUL: “Gratitude Yoga integrates the physical practice of yoga with mindfulness meditation practices and the cultivation of compassion. Yoga is a vehicle for self-discovery and a means for increasing our awareness of the present moment, cultivating wisdom and compassion, and above all, opening our hearts to love and to serve others.” Gemma Farrell, owner of Gratitude Yoga, looks forward to introducing more people to the benefits of yoga.

“The world is too much with us; late and soon,

Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers:

Little we see in Nature that is ours;

We have given our hearts away,

A sordid boon!”

That was what William Wordsworth had to say in 1806. Imagine what he might think today!

Because of a world “too much with us”, many people are enjoying the calm and tranquility available in an hour session of yoga. It has been increasing in popularity, with practitioners participating in a variety of different yoga styles. The desire for calm and quiet is often the initial attraction.

“I just wanted to find a quiet place for an hour, where the phone wouldn’t ring,” says a Princeton resident, who has additionally discovered the benefits of exercise and toning the practice of yoga also brings.

Sustainable Exercise

One of the newest yoga studios on the scene is Gratitude Yoga at 27 Witherspoon Street. Opened last January by certified instructor Gemma Farrell, it offers several types of yoga in an attractive spacious setting at the back of the Holsome Tea & Herbs location.

“People have come to see yoga as a means of exercise that is sustainable,” points out Ms. Farrell. “It combines strength and flexibility, and it emphasizes the core. This is very important.

“There is also a spiritual component. It is very calming and tranquil, and we help our students to be in the moment and to be aware of their body. I love the opportunity to connect on this level and help people develop compassion and understanding of themselves.”

Ms. Farrell focuses on Vinyasa yoga, which emphasizes flow, she explains. She also combines it with aspects of other types of yoga. “Our current approach fuses the alignment precepts of Iyengar with the freedom and creativity of a Vinyasa flow practice, and incorporates the deeper release stretching and meditation aspects of Yin yoga.

Iyengar, power, hot flow, and Baptiste yoga are all available at Gratitude Yoga. Classes include gentle to strenuous, and students of all levels, from beginners to advanced, participate.

“There are typically 30 in my classes, and they are men and women and all ages, from teens to people in their 80s,” reports Ms. Farrell. Classes are usually one hour and 15 to 20 minutes, and are offered in the morning and evening, although there are some afternoon classes, including the popular noon lunchtime 45-minute session.

Seven Days

“Some people come several times a week,” she adds,” and some even come every day. Others come on a weekly basis. It varies from person to person.”

Teachers establish their own hours, and the studio is open seven days.

“Payment is by donation, and people pay what they are able to afford,” she explains. “We have a box for the donations.”

A pre-natal yoga class is also available, as are classes in Pilates, Tai Chi, and martial arts.

Ms. Farrell has been very pleased and encouraged with the response to her studio in such a short time. She is motivated to share yoga’s benefits with as many people as possible. “One of the most important things is helping students to keep in touch with themselves. We are so accustomed to projecting outward. This is a way to look inward and to become more comfortable and compassionate with yourself. And gratitude is so important. Out of the spirit of gratitude, we cultivate compassion for others.

“It is in the spirit of gratitude that I want to share the benefits of yoga so more people can experience it. In yoga, people can practice human connection.”

In addition to the yoga classes, Ms. Farrell is offering the “Gratitude Cleanse, a 21-day program to cleanse your body, open your mind, and awaken your heart.”

Inner Peace

The program, starting on June 1, is based on Ms. Farrell’s new book Gratitude Cleanse, which features daily instruction, nutritional information, yoga poses, spiritual reflections, and many raw vegan recipes. As she notes in the book’s introduction, “In addition to working with food to cleanse your body, you also may want to take these three weeks to incorporate other life-style habits that will promote well-being and a sense of inner peace.

“It is encouraging to know that we possess the potential for growth in many different directions. As you adopt some of the diet and life-style changes recommended in this cleanse, it may be helpful to recall the concept of seed potential. Recognizing and touching the positive seed within ourselves and others is the first step in promoting positive changes and in growing a compassionate, expansive, wise heart.”

For more information on the Gratitude Cleanse and Gratitude Yoga, call (732) 642-9721. Website: E-mail:

June 6, 2012

FAMILY FAVORITES: “We are a true family business. My parents have helped out, and also my husband’s parents and his sister and brother-in-law. Even the children are involved.” Jennifer Smit (left), owner with her husband Rudie of Olsson’s Fine Foods, is shown with family members, from left: Lauren, Charlton, Analice, and Niamh Smit.

Tangy and creamy Triple Creme, Australian Parmesan, Irish blue, semi-soft Pont L’Eveque, semi-hard Tumbleweed (cross between Cantal Fermier and aged cheddar), the unusual “Stinking Bishop” from England … all these and many more are available at Olsson’s Fine Foods at 53 Palmer Square West.

“We have more than 200 different cheeses, as local as Cherry Grove and as far away as Australia,” says co-owner Jennifer Smit.

The shop, which opened in June, 2011, has made its presence felt among cheese lovers. It has consistently received high praise not only for its quality products but also for its knowledgeable and friendly service.

“It can be an educational experience here,” points out Ms. Smit. “We love to tell people about the different cheeses. We also keep track of their purchases on green index cards, so we can make suggestions of other cheeses they might like to try. It’s also nice if someone wants to give a gift. We know what the person likes.”

Taste Sensations

Ms. Smit and her husband and co-owner Rudie Smit have had a long-lasting love affair with cheese and good food generally. They always enjoyed cooking, and when they traveled, they liked to explore new taste sensations, scouting out good restaurants and food and cheese shops.

“My husband is Dutch, and we travel often to see his family. Then, there is always an opportunity to find new cheeses and gourmet items,” notes Ms. Smit

Olsson’s has along history, she adds. Started by Chef John Olsson 25 years ago, it was located in the Trenton Farmers Market. Changing ownership over the years, it was eventually purchased by the Smits.

“Olsson’s was where we bought the cheese for our wedding,” reports Ms. Smit. “When we heard it was for sale four years ago, we decided to buy it. It was a way to take our passion for food and have it evolve into a new adventure.”

Moving to Princeton last year was an opportunity to expand the business, she explains. “We had a lot of customers from Princeton, and they wanted us to be open more often. Having the shop offers us opportunities to bring in cheeses we only dreamed about in the other store. We also sell to a number of local restaurants now and to Princeton University for targeted events.

“When we decided to move, we looked at a lot of locations, and we kept coming back here. We get new people in every day, and we have lots of regulars from Princeton and the area, including Bucks county. We find that many people in Princeton have a sophisticated palate. They have often traveled, and there is also a large international group here. They all enjoy cheese.”

Super Selection

The charming shop offers a super selection, arranged according to category (hard, soft, cow’s milk, goat and sheep), and with helpful identifying — and often whimsical — comments, such as “smooth and pillowy”, “sweet and salty”, suggestions for suitable wine pairings, and other useful information.

The Smits also provide background and history about their cheeses on the Olsson website, offering informative and entertaining “Cheese Thoughts”. For example, “We have a goat’s milk cheese that was once produced solely in the Garrotza area of Catalonia. Garrotza has a white interior with a very creamy texture that is surrounded by a natural mold rind. It has an unusual but mild flavor with a light acidity and a hint of hazelnut”

Another entry: “Port L’Eveque, a classic cow’s milk cheese made since the 12th century, today is still one of the most popular cheeses in France. Its cross-hatched, brine-washed, soft-ripened rind smells a bit pungent and earthy. This is wonderful semi-soft cheese, ready for tasting and bringing home!”

In addition to the cheeses, Olsson’s also offers a variety of delicious grilled cheese sandwiches and homemade soups. All are favorites including seasonal specialties, reports Mrs. Smit.

Red Dragon

“The Dragon”, with red dragon cheese, fontina, and bacon; “The Dutchman”, with vlastaas gouda, fontina, salami, and limon blueberry spread; and “The Traditional” with smooth fontina paired with aged cheddar are all in demand. “The Tuscan” and “The Newton” are other popular choices.

The soups include butternut squash with Griggstown Farm sausage; potato leek; tomato; carrot and ginger; and cheesy broccoli, among others. One or two different soups are available each day.

The shop is also filled with an array of tempting gourmet products, including unusual preserves and fruit spreads, organic red rice, English honey and almond cookies, and fig and oat biscuits that pair well with tea. Special chocolate sauce and European Nutella and the traditional Dutch toast-topping chocolate sprinkles are other intriguing items.

Turkish dried figs, apricots, and dates (also chocolate-covered figs) are big favorites, as is the variety of olives, nuts, crisp artisanal Italian flatbreads with olive oil and a hint of parmesan, and the European-style butter.

Wild Hibiscus

“We have wild hibiscus flowers to put in champagne glasses,” adds Ms. Smit. “When they are put in the champagne, the flowers open. It is a great gift.

“Another unusual item is an all-natural honeycomb from Savannah, Ga., which is very nice paired with cheese. We also carry Griggstown Farm and D’Artagnan sausages and meat, and fresh pasta, such as spinach, asiago, and roasted garlic ravioli and other varieties. The ravioli only takes four minutes to cook. In addition, we have small cheese platters to go, and bread from the Witherspoon Bread Company.”

Selected coffees, including espresso, cappuccino, and latte, are offered, as are hot chocolate and tea.

Cheese prices are by the pound, and customers are encouraged to taste before they buy. A small slice could be in the $1.90 range. Grilled cheese sandwiches start at $5, soups from $4.50, and special discounts are available every day. Gift certificates are also offered.

“We are so pleased with our welcome here, both by the customers and the other merchants,” says Ms. Smit. “People enjoy coming in and getting a grilled cheese sandwich and soup, and then taking it out on the Green in nice weather. We’re a small gourmet shop, specializing in cheese, and we hope to continue to build relationships. I enjoy meeting the customers and learning about them. We want to be part of the community and offer a community experience. And we hope even more people will come in and see us. We look forward to bringing in all the wonderful new products for customers to try, and we will have a new series of cheese tastings and classes soon.”

Olsson’s Fine Foods is open Monday through Saturday 10 a.m. to 6:30 p.m., Thursday and Friday until 8:30, Sunday noon to 5. (609) 924-2210. Website:

Every season is delightful at Blue Raccoon, but spring, with its focus on hope, new beginnings, and transformation, is especially notable at this iconic store. With its 20th anniversary coming up next year — a rarity these days when stores come and go so quickly — Blue Raccoon truly can be designated as “iconic”.

Opened in 1993, it moved to its current location at 6 Coryell Street in Lambertville three years later. “When we moved to this location, our lives changed,” says co-owner Nicholas Bewsey. “It was a bigger space, and we could add upholstery. Everything just exploded.”

Mr. Bewsey and co-owner Nelson Zayas had previously worked in retail in New York, and decided to open their own business in a new setting. “We had looked in several places, including upstate New York and New England, and we came to Lambertville at the invitation of a friend,” reports Mr. Bewsey. “We knew right away that this was the place.”

“And in all these years, I have to say I have not lost my respect, regard, and appreciation for Lambertville. This is a small American town. The people who live here shop here. They have made an investment to maintain the town’s authentic charm.”

Sensory Experience

And Mr. Bewsey and Mr. Zayas have also made an important investment. With their remarkable taste and the ability to present it so engagingly, they have focused on a selection that is both practical and imaginative. Everything in the store is pleasing to the eye, and it is obvious that much care and attention has been given to every detail.

“The setting itself is important,” Mr. Bewsey explains. “There are windows on four sides, and the store is filled with light. It enhances the environment we created indoors. We have always spotlighted the sensory experience: light, color, sound, and scent.”

The store is indeed richly textured. Colors abound, whether from hooked rugs, featuring vintage designs, Portuguese multi-colored dish towels, the collection of “Juicy” glasses in bright and cheerful patterns, a colorful new jewelry line, or in the selection of fine upholstered furniture.

Furniture continues to be a big seller at Blue Raccoon, and the Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams line is one of the highlights. “We also carry Vanguard Furniture, and we have added DwellStudio,” says Mr. Bewsey. “They are inspired by old Hollywood, with a contemporary twist. The collection includes couches, chairs, and a nifty grouping of tables, consoles, and case goods.

“All our furniture is American-made, and we are now carrying a new selection of farm tables from Lancaster, Pa. that are very popular,” he adds. “They are custom-sized with 20 different paint finishes. Made of reclaimed barn wood, mostly cypress, they are very sturdy. A 6-foot table is offered at $1470, a very good price.”

At the other end of the spectrum is a line of chrome cocktail tables with bleached stone tops. With their six irregular geometric shapes they can be puzzled together to form a surface for drinks, books, or bud vases — whatever your choice.

Bread Boards

Clocks of all types and lamps (floor and table) are welcome accessories and always popular sellers. Kitchen items range from handsome wooden cutting, serving, and bread boards and salad bowls to tried and true flour sack dish towels (three for $12.50) and bar cloths — a good gift for a guy — to Stonewall Kitchen pancake and waffle mix and Maine maple syrup to cookbooks of all sorts, including Glorious Pasta from Italy.

Candles of every size and shape are in abundance, and they always make a welcome hostess gift. Elegant pear shapes in lovely colors and beeswax 9-inch tapers (sets of six) from Ohio that burn for 15 hours are on display, as are scented candles in attractive reusable glass jars in varied colorful designs.

Soap — Blue Raccoon has some of the best soaps in the world! Triple-milled, long-lasting, wonderfully fragrant, and beautifully packaged, they are irresistible. Cucumber and olive oil, rosewater, jasmine, lavender chamomile, all with shea butter, are unforgettable. And, then there is the enormously popular signature sea algae, with its refreshing, revitalizing scent.

“Originally, we had this in just for the summer, but it was so popular, people wanted it all the time,” reports Mr. Bewsey.

Photo frames, coasters, ceramic coffee mugs, CDs (the best pop and jazz), books, and artwork are other choices.

“We have the work of fine art painter and photographer William Sloan of Bucks County,” notes Mr. Bewsey. The black and white photographs on display are particularly intriguing.

“Whisky Stones”

Blue Raccoon always has an array of eye-catching items you don’t see everywhere else. A fun remembrance for Dad on Father’s Day is the “Corksicle”. As Mr. Bewsey explains, “You put it in the freezer overnight, and then place it in the wine bottle. It keeps the wine cool at the appropriate temperature.”

Along the same line is a set of nine “Whisky Stones”. These are also placed in the freezer, then added to the beverage of choice. They don’t melt, so there is no diluting of the drink. They are also available as a set with tumblers.

Gardeners will find items to help with springtime planting. High quality garden tools from England, special sturdy extra long cotton-lined rubber gloves, and gardener’s soap are all available.

Prices at Blue Raccoon cover a very wide range, from $1 and up. Many items are priced from $25 to $35. A furniture sale, including Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams, is currently in progress through May 6.

Another important feature of Blue Raccoon is design. “Nelson does the design work, both in the store, and interior design in customers’ homes,” says Mr. Bewsey. “This has become a very big part of our business, and we have projects all over the area and beyond.”

After nearly 20 years in business in Lambertville, Mr. Bewsey and Mr. Zayas still look forward to the next collection and the next season. “You know that the next trip you take, you’ll find another good source and a great new item.

“We are so grateful to our loyal customers, many who have been with us since the beginning. We feel we always want to offer the best for them, and we want the store to look 100 percent every day. We find products that are different and priced properly. And always, we try to provide a welcoming environment that is fresh and engaging, and offers our customers a special touch of inspiration.”

Gift cards and complimentary signature gift wrapping are available, and hours are Monday through Saturday 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., Sunday noon to 5. (609) 397-5500. Website: The website will soon offer a brand new look.

May 30, 2012
NTU Polly 5-16-12

GRACEFUL GARDEN: “I love to work with plant combinations. That’s what makes a garden successful, using different textures and colors.” Master gardener Polly Burlingham, owner of Green Gardens & Polly’s Pots, is seated amidst a display of orange iris and ornamental grass in a garden she designed on Snowden Lane.

“A container garden personalizes things. Almost any plant can go into a container for a limited time, and what’s fun about containers is that you can start over again every year and experiment.”

Master gardener Polly Burlingham should know. She specializes in unique container gardens, including hanging baskets, and she knows what a difference they can make on a patio, terrace, or deck.

As owner of Green Gardens & Polly’s Pots for 10 years, Ms. Burlingham has designed innumerable container gardens for clients in Princeton and the surrounding area.

“I like to design and restore gardens, and I like creating intimate spaces,” she explains. “Most gardens have seasonal interest; things bloom at different times, and this creates variety. There can be fall colors, or interesting bark on trees, or texture that stands out in winter. Every season has something special.”

Master Gardener

Ms. Burlingham says she was always interested in creating beautiful gardens, a talent she shared with her mother. “My mom was a wonderful gardener, and I was a member of the Junior Garden Club.”

When she became a Master Gardener in 2001 (a process which entails a six-month study program, extensive volunteer work, and ongoing education), Ms. Burlingham became involved in the Barbara Sigmund Park. She has devoted many hours of landscaping, planting, and maintenance to the establishment of a garden there, which has provided a charming and colorful vista for the community.

“I also proposed doing a series of hanging baskets to the Borough, including on Nassau and Witherspoon Streets, and the Albert Hinds Plaza at the library.”

Her handiwork can be seen at all of these locations, as well as at the Princeton Shopping Center, the Peacock Inn, and Alchemist & Barrister. She is also known for the beautiful plantings in the elegant urns at Drumthwacket, the Governor’s mansion.

Ms. Burlingham’s clients depend on her throughout the year to combine her unique style with theirs to create a garden design that continues to provide pleasure, whatever the season.

“I enjoy choosing the plants,” she notes. “I’m very visual, and I also change my mind a lot. I shop for plant materials in a variety of nurseries, and find new combinations that I might not have thought of. This is the most fun — discovering a new plant or color combination.”

New Varieties

She adds that there are many more choices available today than in the past. “One of the surprises has been the emergence of so many new plants and varieties that are now available. The plant palette has expanded so much. Every year, there are new varieties to work with. It keeps it interesting.

“For example, there used to be a few types of geraniums; now, there are hundreds. Today, there are many different kinds of petunias. New varieties of old stand-bys keep us inspired.”

Placing a plant in the right location — whether sun or shade, wet or dry conditions — is crucial, Ms. Burlingham adds.

“The most important consideration is putting the plant in the right place. If a plant likes it dry, you don’t put it in a wet area. It’s good to put like plants together — that is, those that do well in similar types of soil and conditions. Although in container gardens, you have a little more flexibility because you can make changes. And, of course, you also have to think about deer-resistant plants.”

The ability to mix and match the plants in container gardens — from season to season or even within a season — creates ongoing interest, points out Ms. Burlingham. “I like to try several new plants every year. It’s great to experiment. I enjoy including more unusual plants. For example, in summer, you could have angelonia, coleus, and plectranthus. In spring, a container garden might include mini daffodils, herbs, such as rosemary, pansies, violas, and grape hyacinth.

“I also like to include succulents; they have so many interesting shapes and textures. And, I’ll use edible plants like herbs, kale, and lettuce. In addition, I like perennials, grasses, and small shrubs in containers.”

Textures and Colors

“I really specialize in interesting plant combinations, making the most of the textures and colors. My hanging baskets are a good example. There can be coleus (which does well in sun or shade), asparagus ferns (for a feathering look), trailing petunias, and upright angelonia. I can also add a big bold leaf like caladium.”

A winter basket could contain decorative branches, pine cones, berries, and evergreens, she adds.

Ms. Burlingham also provides the container for the plants, and this is another important part of the visual effect. “I use glazed containers, clay pots, wooden boxes, and unusual pieces of logs handcrafted by area artist Peter Soderman.

May and June are especially busy, but Green Gardens & Polly’s Pots is an active year-round operation. Ms. Burlingham has a part-time staff for digging, planting, and installation.

“Fall can also be busy,” she adds. “It is an excellent time for installing new gardens because traditionally, it’s a little wetter. Also, you can put in beautiful grasses, fall-blooming perennials, and a chrysanthemum as an accent. I often start with new clients in the fall, and it’s nice, too, because a lot of the containers are on sale.

“I have a real mix of clients,” she continues. “Some like to be very involved hands-on gardeners. Others just like to sit back and admire the lovely garden setting.”

Of course, budget is always a consideration in terms of the plant material and size of the project. In some cases, projects are on-going and done in increments, continuing over time. A work in progress can be very engaging, and more people seem to be taking an interest in improving their outdoor space, reports Ms. Burliingham.

“In some cases, people are not taking such expensive vacations as in the past, and they want to make their home environment more appealing. I love to help them, and I love to visit all the gardens. Many times, the clients have become good friends, and I really think of it as visiting my own garden!”

Green Gardens & Polly’s Pots can be reached at (609) 947-1015. Website:

—Jean Stratton

NTU Cafe 44 5-16-12

GREAT TASTES: “We thought it would be a good idea to have a place that offers breakfast all day and have a space that is easy to get to, with a down-to-earth atmosphere, and reasonable prices.” Jennifer Jefferis, owner of Cafe 44, and manager Matthew Miller, are happy their new coffee house is off to a rousing start.

“The best French toast ever!”

“The best ham and sausage omelette I’ve ever tasted!”

“It’s a great addition to the town — a real neighborhood gathering place.”

“Super food and friendly staff!”

These are just some of the rave reviews that are making the rounds about the hot new coffee house, Cafe 44 on Leigh Avenue.

Opened in March by Jennifer Jefferis, it is located in the former space of Tortuga’s Mexican Village, which has moved across the street, and which Ms. Jefferis also owns.

Great Response

‘We’ve had a great response,” she says. “There has been great word-of-mouth. People like to come, and they seem to enjoy everything. We have a friendly atmosphere; it’s fun, down-to-earth and good value for the money.”

Manager Matthew Miller has had extensive experience in the cafe business  and is a barista. “We roast our own coffee, and it is very popular,” he reports. “People are really commenting on how good the food is, and we have lots of repeat customers. Our staff is excellent, very reliable, and capable.”

The space, which is inviting and relaxing, was totally renovated, he adds. The new wood floors are handsome, and a side room, featuring leather sofas, comfortable chairs, and book shelves, attracts customers who appreciate a cozy “library” setting in which to sip coffee and also take advantage of the complimentary Wi-Fi.

“The main dining room’s tables and chairs can accommodate 34 people. Together, both rooms provide seating for nearly 50.

The cafe also offers rotating artwork, and on June 3, an artist’s reception will be held for Bucks County photographer Donna Lovely from 2 to 4 p.m.

Other than diners, not many places offer breakfast all day, and this has been a big draw. As a neighborhood customer reports, “There was a need for a place like this to serve breakfast all day. And what they have is delicious — generous portions and very high quality. I love to come for brunch. And you never feel rushed, even when it’s full of people.”

Fresh and Local

Fresh and local ingredients are emphasized, adds Mr. Miller. “This is important. We are a local establishment, and we support area farmers and vendors.”

“Some of the most popular items are the challah French toast, the peasant omelette (with red potato, onion, cheddar cheese, and bacon, ham, sausage or pork roll), and the home fries,” says Ms. Jefferis. Other favorites are pancakes, Belgian waffles, and the variety of omelettes, and scrambled or fried eggs.

Weekends are especially popular for brunch, but lunch is another option, and lunchtime customers are increasing in numbers. “We want people to see what a great place this is to come on week days, too. Parking is not difficult, and you can walk here from nearby offices. It’s just about a 10-minute walk from Nassau Street.”

Soups, sandwiches, and salads are on the lunch menu, and favorites include grilled turkey, brie, and green apple; also, the avocado BLT (with avocado added to the traditional bacon, lettuce and tomato). Other choices are grilled chicken with bacon, Swiss cheese, and honey mustard dressing, and grilled veggies with balsamic vinaigrette dressing.

Spinach, chef’s, Caesar, and mixed greens are all popular salads.

Cafe 44 is also noted for its scrumptious baked goods from Sweetmama. Muffins, scones, cinnamon rolls, brownies, cupcakes, and cookies are all big sellers.

A variety of coffees covers the spectrum, from a cup of Joe to espresso, cappuccino, latte, au lait, mocha, and macchiato, among others. Assorted teas, juices, sodas, and smoothies are also offered.

French Toast Fans

Prices include two eggs any style for $5, pancakes and French toast at $6, grilled sandwiches from $7, and salads from $6.

Take-out and catering service are also provided, and while Ms. Jefferis and Mr. Miller are very happy with the response to their daytime hours, they are looking forward to providing dinner within a few months. “We plan to be open Thursday through Sunday, and we also hope to have live music on Friday and Saturday nights.”

The focus is on Princeton customers, but as word gets out, people are coming from the surrounding area as well. “They really like the unpretentious atmosphere, quality food, and reasonable prices, note Ms. Jefferis and Mr. Miller.

Cafe 44 is very family-friendly, and many parents come in with children. The edibles and the surroundings attract all ages!

The reviews and critiques continue to be excellent, both in person and on-line, such as on Yelp, the user review website.

“We’ve had a great response, and I really enjoy connecting with the people,” says Ms. Jefferis. “I like to see them enjoying themselves. All they have to do is come in and taste what we have, and they’ll be back!”

Cafe 44 is open Tuesday through Sunday 7:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. (609) 924-3900. Web: Facebook:

May 23, 2012

CREATIVE CUTS: “Our specialty is Vidal Sassoon precision cutting. All our stylists have trained in a Sassoon salon center. We are set apart by our precision cutting, manageability, and style.” Tere Villamil, owner of La Jolie Salon Spa, is proud of its longtime success as a premier salon in Princeton.

Creative cuts and color are key to La Jolie Salon Spa, along with facials and massages, and attentive personal service.

All this and more has made La Jolie one of Princeton’s premier salons for the past 30 years. In addition, it has recently been named one of the top 200 salons nationwide by Salon Today Magazine.

“Jolie was the first female owner of a business in downtown Princeton, and I am the third female owner of the salon,” reports Tere Villamil, who purchased La Jolie in 2010.

“I had been a client for many years, and had 20 years experience in the hair industry,” she continues. “I was in the marketing and advertising end, and had also established a successful day spa in Manalapan. It had always been my goal to have my own business. My father and grandfather had owned businesses in Cuba, where I was born, and they always urged me to establish my own business.”

On-going Education

Ms. Villamil could not be happier with her own turn of events. Mindful of La Jolie’s tradition and reputation, she has fully respected that, while building on it to create a modern, up-to-date, fashionable salon in all ways.

“I have a great relationship with all the manufacturers and artists,” she points out. “They come here to give demonstrations, and we have continual training and on-going education courses in the latest styling techniques and product advances. We have an in-house education team, directed by Laura Benson, and our stylists have training sessions all over, from New York to Miami to New Orleans and abroad. Our products, including L’ANZA and Aveda, contain the most organic and healing benefits for hair available.”

Vidal Sassoon precision cutting is a specialty at the salon, as is the latest in creative color. La Jolie’s stylists include specialists in both areas, and the salon’s “level” system also includes intern/apprentices, recently graduated from cosmetology school, who train for six months to a year in La Jolie’s specialized, challenging program.

Long hair, short hair, mid-length, classic bobs, pixie cuts, curly hair, straight hair, perms, relaxers — everything is popular today, says Ms. Villamil.

People also like easy maintenance, wearable styles. Cuts today are so versatile, they can provide texture and volume and various styles to offer the easiest care.

“We are also known for our ‘up-styles’, up-do’s for special events, weddings, and parties,” she adds. “We do hair and make-up for bridal parties, and other groups or individuals.”


La Jolie’s services are for all types of hair texture and ethnicity. As Ms. Villamil points out, “We have many multi-cultural guests with different hair texture.”

Color, of course, is a hugely important part of a salon’s business today. Certainly, it is a long way from the days when it was a means to cover gray (although that is still one function). But, now it is seasonal — season-to-season color! Many guests opt for a total change — brown to red, red to blonde, etc. Highlights are another popular way to add interest, and lowlights offer still another option.

“Color is very safe now,” Ms. Villamil reports, “and we use the highest quality products with the safest ingredients. We also have corrective color for people who may have had a problem with home color experiments. In addition, we have products to help thinning hair. Sometimes, people may be undergoing chemotherapy or other treatments that can affect their hair.”

Both with color and cutting, careful attention is paid to a client’s facial structure, skin tone, eye color, and life-style. It is all about the individual at La Jolie, and each guest is given personal attention and focus.

This is true when they have spa services as well. Facials, massages, body treatments, waxing, pedicures and manicures are all available, and the spa setting will soon undergo expansion to offer an even more appealing atmosphere.

“Our facials are especially popular,” says Ms. Villamil. “We do active facials and hydrating facials, and they are all skin-specific.”

A spa service is an excellent gift, she adds. With proms, Mother’s Day, and graduations coming up, a gift certificate is a welcome way to remember — and often introduce — someone to the benefits of a facial or massage.

A variety of gift packages, offering savings, is available. In addition, all services can be mixed and matched for a custom gift.

Prices include manicures from $14, cuts from $50, facials and massages from $85.

Ms. Villamil is delighted to have so many clients who have been fans of La Jolie over the years, as well as newcomers. They are all ages, including children, and 40 percent are men!

Loyalty and Dedication

She looks forward to continuing to build on La Jolie’s success. “I think we are set apart by our technology and the ingredients of the products we use, and of course, our stylists. Not only are they talented, but they seek ongoing advanced education, and they demonstrate great loyalty and dedication to the salon and our guests.

“I strongly believe in building employee morale. We do this in many ways. We have 36 employees, and we have a wonderful management team, including Emely Molina, our general manager.”

Ms. Villamil adds that she is happily anticipating the salon’s “re-do.” “We’ll be going green in every way — in products and decor. We will have a wonderful new look!”

What is not new is the salon’s prominent place in the Princeton downtown, and Ms. Villamil is a strong supporter of local businesses. “We have a great relationship with the local people in town, and I love the networking. I love our location downtown, and Princeton is a great place to be!”

Ms. Villamil also makes a point of giving back to the community by La Jolie’s support of area foundations and organizations, including the Princeton Public Library, Autism Speaks, and AIR Foundation, among others.

La Jolie is open Monday, Tuesday, Thursday 10 a.m. to 8:30 p.m., Wednesday 11 to 8, Friday 10 to 7, Saturday 9 to 6, Sunday 11 to 5. (609) 924-1188. Website:

FINE FORM: “I love teacher training. It is so important. The teachers are passionate about what they do,” says Deborah Metzger, founder/director of Princeton Center for Yoga and Health. Shown is teacher Lesley Haas, demonstrating the Warrior I pose in the Amethyst Yoga room, featuring bamboo flooring.

“I love to see people get into harmony. My aim is to create a safe, welcoming, peaceful environment, and a sense of community. People can come here and feel safe and free and in harmony.”

Deborah Metzger, founder and director of Princeton Center for Yoga & Health (PCYH), is pleased that the center, which she opened in 1996, has been featured as one of the top five traditional yoga studios in New Jersey by New Jersey Life Magazine. It continues to attract many adherents, both longtime students and those new to yoga.

It has recently moved to a new location in the Orchard Hill Center at 88 Orchard Road (just off Route 206) in Montgomery. Ms. Metzger wanted more space for her growing operation, and she also wanted to offer a particular type of setting.

“This location is more like a retreat, with that kind of serene ambiance,” she explains. “You look out of the window and see wonderful views of the countryside.”

Gathering Room

The existing building has been renovated to accommodate the various types of yoga, meditation, and holistic services PCYH offers. There is also a shower, changing room, and gathering room for refreshments as well as assorted retail items for sale, such as essential oils, yoga mats and towels, etc.

Clients need only their own comfortable clothes, however, explains Ms. Metzger. PCYH provides all the mats and props necessary for the yoga session as well as complimentary teas and snacks.

Students come to PCYH for many reasons, reports Ms. Metzger. Yoga is a known stress reliever and a chance for quiet and calm, which is certainly a big plus in today’s fast-moving society. Some clients like to stretch and exercise; and still others like the challenge of hot yoga and the more vigorous classes.

Whatever the reason, more and more people are discovering the benefits of this ancient Eastern discipline.

“With yoga, you can find who you are. All the answers are inside — it’s the moment of silence within yourself,” explains Ms. Metzger, who came to yoga herself in the mid-1980s. She trained at the Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health in Massachusetts. The experience was so positive, including helping alleviate respiratory problems, that she determined to become a teacher and was certified in 1991.

“Here at PCYH, yoga is not simply a form of exercise, it is a life practice,” points out Ms. Metzger. “By establishing a regular practice, you can realize a deepening connection with your spirit. Each class deepens your connection to your true self. We offer different levels, traditions, and challenges.”

Yoga Styles

Classes at PCYH offer different levels, traditions, and challenges and are available in many types of yoga, from gentle to vigorous. They are all traditions of Hatha yoga, and they emphasize physical postures, alignments, breathing, and meditation. These postures or poses help to strengthen, stretch, and tone muscles, massage internal organs, and promote relaxation.

Other yoga styles at PCYH include Kripalu, the more vigorous Astanga, Vinyasa, and Soma yoga, among others.

The classes emphasize letting go of the stresses of the day, all those “To Do Lists”, and allowing them to fade away. Concentrating on breathing, on the physical poses helps to focus on “now” — present time consciousness. By doing so, a sense of calm, peace, and well-being is created.

“Be in the moment!” stresses Ms. Metzger. “The past is gone, we don’t have a clue about the future; we really only have this moment. When you focus on the sensation of the body and the breath, it brings you into the present moment.

“A number of things make yoga so popular now,” she adds. “Some people may have a health issue, such as stress, and they decide to try yoga. Or they may be involved in an active sport, such as tennis and golf, and yoga can strengthen and stretch their muscles in a way to help avoid injuries. Yoga also massages the glands and organs — it’s good for the whole body. You feel better afterwords, and it is not competitive. This is just about you.”

Poses can be modified and adjusted so that everyone can participate, guided by a well-trained teacher. As Ms. Metzger notes, there is never a sense of competition or pushing one’s body too far. The focus is on each individual’s sense of what is helpful and appropriate for that person. Therapeutic classes for people with specific physical conditions, such as multiple sclerosis, arthritis, shoulder or spine problems, or injuries, are also offered.

Singing Bowls

In addition to yoga; meditation classes, singing bowl workshops, and drum circles are available, and all-day retreats will also be offered.

Ms. Metzger co-leads two meditation classes with Dr. Jeffrey Rutstein. These include Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction and Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy for Depression.

In the first case, she helps people prevent stress from getting the upper hand. “I teach people not to be on automatic pilot, but to pause and take time to be in the moment. In the second case, I help give people the tools to learn to prevent a relapse into depression, including by identifying the early warning signs.”

A variety of other meditation sessions is also offered. “Studies have shown that meditation can help the brain to function better, and can even help people become more optimistic,” reports Ms. Metzger.

Classes for yoga and the other services are held throughout the week and weekend, most often in the mornings, evenings, or late afternoon. Drop-in yoga classes are $17, and there are many packages available, offering various savings. A first time try-out class is complimentary.

Approximately 50 classes are held each week, with 20 teachers, all certified in the various specialties. A full schedule of classes, including times and prices, is available on the PCYH extensive website. www.

Ms. Metzger looks forward to introducing even more people to the benefits of yoga. “Each time you do a yoga pose, it’s different because the body is different,” she explains. “We offer a safe, warm, inviting place where like-minded people can meet and explore different paths to health, healing, and personal growth.

“I am so pleased that they are giving me the privilege of sharing what I love with them.”

For more information, call (609) 924-7294. Website:

May 2, 2012

FEELING FIT: “One of the differences between us and other fitness centers is that at CrossFit you always work with a coach (trainer) and in a group environment. This is group fitness.” Dolph Geurds, owner of CrossFit Nassau, is enthusiastic about the CrossFit training method.

Couch potatoes, take note. There is another way to get up and get moving. If the traditional gym and fitness centers did not do it for you, it’s time to get off the couch and into the “Box”!

What is that, you may ask?

Here’s the deal. The CrossFit workout facility is called a “box”, not a gym.

Originally, it was kind of like a warehouse, explains Dolph Geurds, owner of CrossFit Nassau and CrossFit Mercer. “It’s like a big space. We don’t have the machines you typically see in a gym. We do have exercise bikes, dumbbells, gymnastic rings, boxes, medicine balls, pull-up bars, jump ropes, and kettle bells, but the emphasis is on using your own body weight in the workout.”

Training Methods

Founded in 1995 by Greg Glassman in California, CrossFit now has more than 3,400 affiliates worldwide. Its focus is on strength and conditioning by using a combination of training methods. Sessions usually include 12 to 15 clients (or CrossFitters), guided by a coach (trainer). Police and fire departments, and the military have all included the CrossFit method in their training, as have Olympic and professional athletes. Mr. Geurds is pleased that members of the women’s Olympic rowing team will come to train at his Princeton facility in the spring.

“Initially, CrossFit was for elite athletes, and then it became more about a community of people at all levels of fitness,” explains Mr. Geurds, who opened the CrossFit Nasaau affiliate at 255 Nassau Street (former site of Wild Oats) in early February. He has also owned CrossFit Mercer in Hamilton for the past three years.

“I had always been active in sports, including tennis, skiing, and soccer, and I had gone to different gyms,” he continues. “But then I happened to read about CrossFit in as magazine, and I thought it was something I wanted to know about.”

He was intrigued by the notion that function underlies much of the training. Exercises, such as sprints, lifting, pulling, and pushing, are movements that people often use in their own lives. The idea is to develop their strength, stamina, and agility, so they can perform these functions in daily life with ease.

The CrossFit concept is founded on 10 principles: cardiovascular/respiratory endurance, stamina, strength, flexibility, power, speed, agility, balance, coordination, and accuracy.

“These movements build on each other,” explains a CrossFit report. “We all possess strengths and weaknesses and range of motion issues. Coaches can scale the workout, manipulating weight, distance, repetitions, and intensity to your correct capability.”

Exercise Series

Mr. Geurds also liked the variety offered in the training. Each day’s workout is different (exercises for the day are posted on a wall), and this clearly helps prevent boredom from setting in. The idea is to complete a series of exercises within a specific time period. For example, a workout program could include five pull-ups, l0 push-ups, and 15 squats every minute for 20 minutes; or doing five rounds (sets) of three specific exercises as quickly as possible for 20 minutes without stopping.

That would certainly be demanding, but the workouts can vary in intensity, depending on the CrossFitter’s level of fitness. Thus, the program can be appropriate for all ages and levels of conditioning.

“Everyone in the group does the same exercise program, but some people will do it more slowly,” explains Mr. Geurds, who sees clients from five to 80 years old. “All our coaches are trained in the CrossFit method, and we are bringing the best kind of fitness to the world. We have taken the things that worked best, and combined them into a program for a range of people. It certainly can be high intensity, but it is all about scalability, moving within a scale, and modified to the ability of the each individual. The group includes people at different abilities together, so scalability is adjusted. The program is very flexible.

“We have people with special physical conditions, such as arthritis, injuries, etc. There is a CrossFit program for seniors and for unconditioned people. We help to strengthen the muscles, spine, and core, and this helps give people confidence.”

When people see that they can accomplish something difficult or that they thought they couldn’t do, it is very empowering, he points out.

CrossFit training offers a variety of benefits, from improving athletic ability to weight loss to better health, he adds. “We have had clients who have not only lost weight, but have been able to discontinue their medication. They lowered their blood pressure and cholesterol. I enjoy helping people in this way. When someone scales down 20 pounds and their cholesterol lowers, it makes a change in their life. I love seeing kids lose weight and be able to do the exercises, which helps to build their self-esteem. We have a special CrossFit kids’ program.”

Speedy Workouts

Workout sessions range from five minutes to 25 minutes, with 20 being typical. The speedy workouts mean less time in the box, he adds. “Everyone is in and out of here within an hour.” Introductory sessions are also available for those new to exercise and fitness.

Payment is $185 a month, with no initial membership fee. During the month, people can come as often as they wish. Three to four times a week offers the best results.

“I am very encouraged by the response,” says Mr. Geurds, who also underscores the social aspect of CrossFit. “Once you get to know the people in the group, it becomes relationship-based. You push each other. And it can extend out of the box. People get together elsewhere, such as Girls Night Out, etc. But they have the common thread of CrossFit tying them together. We are a community and a coach, and that relationship grows.

“This is THE way to train,” he emphasizes. “I want more people to benefit from it. We are really like a sport, the sport of fitness.”

Classes are held Monday through Friday, from 5 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.; Saturday 7:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. Exact times are available on the website or by phone. (609) 498-5221.

April 25, 2012

BAI BELIEVERS: “This truly has the potential to become an iconic product. It embodies all that is healthy — it is packed with antioxidants, has nothing artificial, and people like it because it tastes good, with a bold fresh-fruit flavor.” Danna and Ben Weiss, owners of bai Brands, are enthusiastic about their popular new product, a rising star in the beverage industry.

bai believers — bai guys — bai buyers — bai triers: they are all over town!

In case you haven’t heard, bai is the hot new soft drink that is packed with all the good stuff. 100 percent natural, with no chemicals or preservatives, it is rich in those vital antioxidants (so important to good health) that chase away the bad free radicals.

And, what is more — it tastes great!

Not only that, points out co-owner, Danna Weiss, “bai was born and raised in Princeton — a real hometown product and business.”

The creation of Mrs. Weiss’ husband, founder Ben Weiss, bai was introduced in 2009. It has an intriguing history, he notes, and it all began with a special ingredient, the secret coffee super fruit: the hitherto discarded fruit of the coffee harvest.

Super Fruit

“I had been in the coffee industry for many years. Energy drinks were popular, and I thought we could do better and create a health and wellness beverage that tastes great. Over the past two decades, I have cupped coffee from the hilltops of exotic regions across the globe in search of the best-quality green coffee available. When I learned that local farmers from these regions have always used the whole fruit of the coffee bush to make high energy foods and beverages, I knew that I had stumbled on coffee’s untold secret.

“While the bean has always been harvested, the fruit was left to perish because it was simply too delicate to process. Yet, filled with phenolic components that are found widespread throughout the plant and concentrated in the coffee fruit, it is truly an extraordinary antioxidant-packed super fruit.”

Voila! Mr. Weiss realized that he had the makings of something special, and he embarked on an intense research and development program to harness the coffee fruit into a marketable product. Mixing coffee fruit with exotic fruit juices, he developed a healthy, antioxidant-rich, low calorie beverage that — importantly — tastes good.

The Weisses named the product bai — for botanical antioxidant infusion, and “bi-product” of the coffee fruit. “Also, in Mandarin Chinese, bai means pure,” points out Mr. Weiss. “Pure ingredients, pure taste, and pure goodness. Just one bottle of bai contains the same antioxidant levels as a bowl of blueberries and provides 100 percent of the FDA’s Daily Recommended Intake for antioxidants.”

“Ipanema baitini”

Suitable for children and adults, it does contain a very small amount of caffeine from the white tea extract included in the ingredients, which is also an antioxidant source. For adults, who may wish to add a little octane, the “Ipanema baitini” is easy to create with the addition of a splash of vodka to the Ipanema Pomegranate bai5 or any other of your favorite bai choices.

Initially, the company produced three flavors, containing 70 calories: Tanzania Strawberry, Mango Kauai, and Jamaican Blueberry, all lightly sweetened with organic evaporated cane juice.

There are now 11 flavors, including bai5, the new 5-calorie drinks, infused with erithritol a natural sweetener. Red and black bottle caps differentiate the two choices. In addition to the original flavors, new tastes include Kenya Peach, Congo Pear, Ipanema Pomegranate, Sumatra Dragonfruit, and Costa Rica Clementine (and brand new bai’s continue to come along!).

“Every bottle touches the soil of a faraway place, from South America to Asia,” says Mr. Weiss, “and every ingredient is pure.”

The company, now headquartered in Hamilton, has experienced remarkable growth in a very short time. The product is manufactured and bottled in South Brunswick, and distributed along the eastern seaboard, from Maine to Virginia, also in south Florida, and southern California.

New York is an excellent market, and so is Princeton, point out the Weisses. bai is offered in many establishments here, including Olives, D’Angelo’s Market, Nassau Street Seafood & Produce Co., Bon Appetit, Chez Alice, McCaffrey’s, Main Street, Whole Earth, Whole Foods, and Hoagie Haven, among others. It will also soon be available in Wegman’s.

Major Distribution

“From 2010 to 2011, we tripled sales, and from 2011 to 2012, we are increasing 5-fold. We have formed partnerships with major distribution companies, such as Canada Dry and Snapple Dr. Pepper, and we now have 32 employees,” says Mr. Weiss.

“Our customers are incredibly loyal,” adds Mrs. Weiss. “All of the stores that started with us originally are still with us today. We love what we do. The whole family has been involved — our parents, and kids. The kids are so proud of it. They love bai! It’s become a life-style. We also plan to have a stand on Communiversity Day, Saturday, April 28.”

Both the traditional bai and bai5 are flourishing in the market place, and the Weisses are very optimistic about bai’s future. “This is basically an affordable luxury. It’s supernaturally good for you! It’s healthy, it’s relevant, and it’s interesting. For you, it means pure ingredients, pure taste, pure goodness. For us, it means sharing the goodness of coffee’s super fruit with the world. Pure and simple!”

For further information, email: Website:

NTU red barn

MAGICAL MISCELLANY: “People like antiques because they’re getting a little slice of history. They just like older things, and that’s one reason my furniture restoration business here is also important.” John Balestrieri, owner of the Red Barn Antique Shop in Blawenburg is shown by a five-gallon early 1900s stoneware jug and a Tiffany-style lamp, two of the many items available in the shop’s eclectic selection.

A 1903 Underwood typewriter, a 1920 clarinet (with case), an 1890 school house wall clock, vintage fountain pens, late 1800-1900 oil lamps, vintage toys, collectible spoons … the list goes on … and on!

All these — and so much more — are available at the Red Barn Antiques Shop in Blawenburg.

Owner John Balestrieri opened the shop 10 years ago, when he and his wife received an inheritance of furniture.

“We asked the Elks if we could use their barn to sell the furniture” explains Mr. Balestrieri, a Princeton native, who is also a cabinet-maker and former contractor.

That was the beginning of a new venture, which has grown into a full-fledged antiques and collectible business, and is still located in the Princeton Elks barn on Route 518.

Functional, Decorative

Lamps, framed artwork, glassware, china, pottery (including Buffalo blue and white, often used on trains in past times), antique jewelry, vintage toys, clocks, fireplace equipment, Stangl pottery, Hubley dog doorstops, old butter churn, vintage wash basins and pitchers, collectible Life Magazines, Baldwin Brass, old tools, candle sticks, humidors, soup tureens — all these are part of the eclectic selection.

“Our accessories are both functional and decorative,” points out Mr. Balestrieri. “For example, we have a silver plate coffee pot, along with a collectible Horsham doll, duck decoys, an old rotating Shaefer beer sign, hand-blown cobalt blue vase, pitcher, and bowl, milk glass items, and a “House” cannister set.

“A real conversation piece is the ‘Beermatic’, a container that holds six cans of beer or soda. Just press a button and the can is released. It’s a great idea for a party.

“We also have 33 LP record albums as well as old 78 records, and fountain pens are very popular. People also like to collect keys, old coins, spoons, license plates, and post cards — it’s really everything. In addition, we have cabinet photographs from the 1880s and early 1900s and an important 19th century lithograph collection.”

Baseball Legends

Vintage toys, especially little metal cars and trucks, are always in demand, and there is a fun casino game in a large wooden box, featuring “gambling” games, including roulette, black jack, and others. The collectible “Baseball Legends” poster offers a collage of baseball card photos of many of the greatest players through the years.

Furniture remains an important part of the Red Barn inventory, with children’s desks and smaller bookcases currently very popular. Customers will find a complete variety, including chairs, tables of all sizes, dining room sets, and a unique and very useful 1910 oak “hall set” or stand, combining mirror, pegs to hang hats, and “chair” storage area for gloves, etc.

Mr. Balestrieri continues his full-scale furniture restoration business, including caning. His projects range from walking stick restoration to repairing and refinishing chests, chairs, and cabinets. He recently restored a trunk from the 1920s, and relined it with cedar.

“I love to see something old that I can bring back to life,” he says. “This is an important part of my work.”

Quick Turnaround

Customers, including many regulars, are from the area and beyond, he adds. “Because of our website, we are now getting people from all over, including New York City. We also get a lot of word-of-mouth in the Princeton area. Summer is the busiest time, but it’s steady all year, and we have a quick turnaround, with new items all the time.”

Mr. Balestrieri obtains items from estate sales and auctions in the area, and individuals also contact him offering pieces to sell. He also receives requests for all kinds of items, from chairs to collectible toys, and he tries to fill them when he can. The shop has an ongoing “Wish List”.

Prices range from $10 up to $1500 for the hall set, and everything in between. There is something for everyone’s pocketbook.

“We try to keep prices reasonable,” he notes. “I really enjoy meeting the people who come in, and I look forward to continuing to do this and offering our products. Sometimes, what we have reminds customers of things their mother or grandmother had. And one time, a man came in, and bought a lot of little metal toy cars, which were replicas of Ford models. He had been employed by Ford, and had actually worked on the real cars. Something like this makes it special.”

The shop is open Thursday through Sunday 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. (609) 638-0494. Website: www.RedBarnAntique