April 20, 2016

Closing of Jordan’s Is Latest Of Changes At Shopping Center

“What’s going on? Are you closing? No, you can’t!,” a customer at Jordan’s Stationery and Gifts in Princeton Shopping Center exclaimed to owner Lewis Wildman last week after noticing the “Everything Must Go” signs in the windows.

The refrain has become familiar to Mr. Wildman, who has operated the eclectic store for almost 35 years and has been informed by EDENS, the owner of the center on North Harrison Street since 2012, that his lease is not being renewed. He has until the end of June to get rid of his inventory and vacate the space.

Taking a break from the cash register where customers were lining up to purchase cards, giftwrap, candles, and other assorted items at reduced prices, Mr. Wildman reflected on the situation. “It’s not that I want to go. I don’t. But like people say, ‘When it’s time to go, it’s time to go.’ I guess it’s that time.”

Mr. Wildman said he has been paying half of the $8,000 rent for more than two years, and was told by an EDENS employee to continue doing so until his lease was up and the company would contact him about negotiating and renewing. “They never did get in touch with me,” he said. “It would have been nice to have gotten a phone call or something.”

Mr. Wildman said Tuesday that EDENS has told him he owes them $120,000 in back rent. He is considering starting a crowdfunding campaign to raise the money. “Some customers were talking about it this morning, and one of them is an IT person who said she could set it up,” he said. “So we’ll see.”

The situation at Jordan’s is the latest jolt to shoppers who have counted on the store, and other long-time tenants of the center, for basic needs. Mr. Wildman is not the first to be told to vacate. The leases of Camillo’s Cafe, in 2013; and more recently Taste of Mexico, were not renewed. With several empty storefronts along the walkways С Mr. Wildman said he counts 10 С and the imminent arrival of some trendy eateries such as Nomad Pizza and LiLLiPies, it appears that the 60-year-old shopping center is in transition.

“While we are unable to comment on the details of our tenants and their businesses, we appreciate the concern that has been shared by members of the community regarding Jordan’s,” wrote Ann McCarthy, Communications Director of EDENS, in an email. “We are committed to creating a vibrant and welcoming center of community life at Princeton Shopping Center. As our efforts progress, our patrons will find that we are continuing to craft an inviting marketplace and meeting place.”

At a recent meeting of shopping center tenants with EDENS, the company laid out plans for new construction and some future plans. “They said it’s been hard for them to rent because of the construction that’s coming and that once that’s over it will be easier for them to rent,” said George Smith, an owner of Ace Hardware, which has been in the shopping center for 14 years and has another 15 years left on its lease.

“There are all kinds of rumors going around,” Mr. Smith said. “It’s not a secret that they kind of wait until a lease is up and then raise the rent if it’s not a long lease, and then only give maybe a year lease. That’s difficult for places like Jordan’s. How do you plan, if you buy [inventory] way in advance, if the landlord won’t get back to you with a lease?”

The empty storefronts at the center are a concern. “We never used to have all of these openings,” Mr. Smith said. “It doesn’t seem like EDENS’ philosophy is to aggressively go after new people. But if they’re raising their rents, then they’ll have to. At the meeting where they were asked how they are going to attract customers, they really didn’t answer.”

At Communiversity last weekend, EDENS heard from several residents about the state of the shopping center. Ms. McCarthy said the company shared with the residents the details of “steps we are taking to improve the center over the coming months.”

Those plans are on display at the shopping center this week and next. As outlined by Ms. McCarthy, they include repairing and repaving parking lots, improving parking lot layout and circulation, new LED lights throughout the parking lot, landscaping enhancements including more than 500 new trees and shrubs and new furniture, expanding walkways, repainting and refreshing all building facades, and increasing the number of bike racks. Those improvements are expected to be completed by next fall.

Addressing rumors that have circulated that EDENS wants to add a residential element to the shopping center, Ms. McCarthy said, “We have no plans for a residential component at this time.”