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Hinkson's Eyes Move To Shopping Center From Nassau Street

Matthew Hersh

After more than 40 years at 82 Nassau Street, Hinkson's, the office supply mainstay in downtown Princeton, may now be considering a new home.

Owners have said that they have been in contact with the Princeton Shopping Center to discuss possible retail availability.

The potential move indicates a trend throughout downtown Princeton bringing more national chains, and fewer privately-owned businesses.

Entertaining this idea does not reflect a decline in business for Hinkson's, owners said, but an acknowledgment of a Princeton that is drastically different than the one Hinkson's entered.

"We know how we have to run the business, and we have to make a living," said Andrew Mangone, who, along with John Roberto, is co-owner of the Nassau Street establishment.

The problem, Mr. Mangone said, is that Hinkson's caters largely to area offices in the form of large office supply deliveries; about 70 percent of its sales. About 30 percent of their business, he said, is from local businesses or individuals physically coming into the store to buy goods.

With Princeton Borough about to embark on a tax hike of historic proportions, Messrs. Mangone and Roberto said that now is the time to start considering locations still convenient for in-town shopping that may be more suitable for their business and their clientele.

The Shopping Center may suit that need.

"If you told me five or seven years ago that we'd be in this [situation], I wouldn't have believed it," said Mr. Roberto, whose father, Bert, bought the shop from Harold Hinkson in 1960. Then, Hinkson's was located in Lower Pyne, a building that was razed in 1963 to make way for One Palmer, the building that currently houses J. Crew and PNC Bank. Lower Pyne was the sister building to Upper Pyne, which still stands on the northeast corner of Nassau and Witherspoon Streets.

Mr. Mangone likened Hinkson's situation to the success of Ace Hardware at the Shopping Center. When Urken's Supply Co., the hardware store formerly located on Witherspoon Street closed, it created an in-town need for a hardware store. Mr. Mangone said the Shopping Center creates an in-town location to which people can drive, find parking, and purchase bulk items, thus catering to a wider percentage of Hinkson's clientele.

The Hinkson's co-proprietor also pointed out that the Shopping Center can sustain an office supply store. Center Stationers, located in the unit that is now home to PetCo, was a longtime resident there.

The Hinkson's building is owned by the Roberto family, including Mr. Roberto's mother, Rosemary. And while the building includes Burger King, Zorba's Brother, and office and apartment space on upper levels, the stationery store itself does not bring in enough walk-in revenue to justify keeping an in-town location.

"I'm pretty sure that within the next five to 10 years, you will see only national chains in town, because you have to make sure the taxes get paid. That's your number one priority," Mr. Roberto said. "We're just not able to pay the taxes."

But both owners said business is at a high and bulk deliveries have escalated. Mr. Roberto said he would like to see a new venue where he could possibly start vending office furniture.

Mr. Roberto was also emphatic in his desire to keep the store in the community.

"We're not, in any way, leaving [town]," Mr. Roberto said. "We have a very strong commercial business, and we think that's a good way to go."

"But we have to move," he added.

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