April 24, 2019

Pins and Needles To Close After 18 Years in Princeton

END OF AN ERA: Kathleen Gittleman says online retail and frustrations with Princeton’s revamped parking system have brought her to the decision to close Pins and Needles, the yarn store she has operated on Chambers Street since 2001. (Photo by Erica M. Cardenas)

By Anne Levin

Pins and Needles, a Princeton retail institution since 2001, is closing in mid-May. Owner Kathleen Gittleman sent an email Tuesday, April 23, to patrons of the colorful shop on Chambers Street, announcing the news. She blames the municipality’s new parking system and online shopping patterns for her decision.

“It is not a decision I’ve come to lightly — I’ve wrestled with it for months,” the email reads. “The reasons are simple and yet complicated. Traffic, and business has been down dramatically and suddenly since the beginning of December. The specific reasons for that are many, too. Parking, for sure, and changing retail shopping patterns…a perfect storm, if you will.”

Gittleman said Tuesday morning that customers were already frustrated by parking problems before the town put in new meters and raised prices last November. “No one comes here who hasn’t had a parking ticket — a $42 ticket,” she said. “So now, with these new changes, people are angry — really angry. And our foot traffic has dropped, too.”

The town’s parking changes have been particularly devastating for the knitting and needlepoint store because they were put into action in November, the beginning of Gittleman’s most important season. “We are a winter sport,” she said. “The really horrible part of this is that at some point, someone should have said that November was not the time to start this. For most stores in town, business dies dramatically after Christmas. That’s our season.”

The changing retail landscape has been equally damaging. “So much has changed. Maybe five percent of the global population knits or needlepoints,” Gittleman said. “People still knit and they still love it. But a huge portion of the business has gone online. Yarn stores are closing all over the place.”

The store’s four-week closing plan began Tuesday. Through April 29, everything is 20 percent off. From April 30 to May 6, the discount is 30 percent. From May 7 to 14, the discount rises to 40 percent. The final week, May 14 to 21, whatever is left is reduced 50 percent. Everything is final sale, with no returns, refunds, or holds. The shop will be open till 6 p.m. each day during the sale.

Classes and assistance with projects have always been available at Pins and Needles. “A huge portion of what we’ve done here is teaching and support,” Gittleman said. In the letter to customers, she wrote that assistance will be limited during the sale. But after the store closes, some public and private lessons will be offered for anyone mid-project who needs help.

Gittleman, who opened Pins and Needles three days after 9-11, said she wrestled for months with the question of whether the store could survive. Online shopping has made retail “a really difficult place to be,” she said. “I’m working twice as hard as I was two years ago.”

But ultimately, she had to face reality. “Pushing that send button on that email [to customers] was the hardest thing I’ve ever done,” she said. “And almost immediately, I began getting emails back from people who are saying such nice things and are so sorry to get the news. It’s been a long time, and it’s tough.”

Gittleman said she will miss the camaraderie among loyal customers and members of her staff. “For all of us the best part of this place was always each of you, and the joy we shared in helping you nurture a creative outlet in your life, develop lifelong skills, and sometimes find shelter from the storms of life in the simple act of manipulating two sticks and string or pulling a needle through a canvas,” she wrote to patrons. “You will all be missed.”