December 7, 2022

New Businesses Bolster Local Economy

By Anne Levin

In downtown Princeton and the Princeton Shopping Center, effects of the pandemic and ongoing construction projects have been blamed for low numbers and more than a few retail and restaurant closings. But recent openings, and announcements of future openings planned by businesses and restaurants, are encouraging signs for the local economy.

“We have a whole bunch of businesses developing here,” said Isaac Kremer, executive director of the Princeton Business Partnership (PBP), formed last May to encourage the development of local businesses. “So the future looks bright.”

New eateries to open in recent months include Maman on Hulfish Street, offering coffee, baked goods, and light fare; Ani Ramen House at 140 Nassau Street; Mtea, a tea/sushi/dessert spot at the former Dunkin’ Donuts at 49 Nassau Street; and Taim in Princeton Shopping Center. Maruichi, a Japanese food and deli chain that has locations in Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Maryland, is planning to open in the former Panera Bread at 136 Nassau Street, which has been closed since before the pandemic.

The upscale clothing retailer Hermes plans to open in fall of 2023 at the former Ann Taylor site on Palmer Square.  Signs on the window of the space next door indicate that clothing retailer Faherty will precede Hermes, with a spring 2023 opening planned. Charbellem Boutique is planning a shop on Witherspoon Street. The women’s clothing chain Johnny Was recently moved in to 69 Palmer Square West.

“Opening in Princeton really fits their geography, which goes from Long Island to King of Prussia, Pa.,” Kremer said of Johnny Was. “Their decision was driven by Hermes. The retail strategy that I’ve found works best is one in which you have a high-end store like Hermes, but also things that are affordable for most people. It’s called fusion strategy, and it works really well when done right.”

Vacancies are being filled on Palmer Square. “We are pleased to welcome new retailers and restaurants to our downtown community,” said Palmer Square Vice President Lori Rabon, in an email. “The increased interest and momentum in the Princeton area and Palmer Square is a true testament to the vibrancy of our town.”

Hamilton Home, an offshoot of Hamilton Jewelers, recently began operations at 33 Witherspoon Street. Arhaus, the furniture retailer, opened on Palmer Square East early this year. Across the street from Arhaus, work continues on the new location of Triumph Brewery, at what was for decades the town’s branch of the U.S. Post Office. The glass doors are in place, but much work clearly remains to be done.

Councilwoman Michelle Pirone Lambros, the governing body’s liaison to the PBP, said the opening of the Graduate Hotel on Chambers Street, which is targeted for late next year, is attracting retailers to town.

“I think there is a positive impact of having a new hotel coming, even though the construction is painful for the short term,” she said. “Knowing we are doing a major investment in the streets and infrastructure is an attraction. So potential tenants see that.”

Kremer said the new hotel will spur additional investment. “An overnight guest spends 140 percent of what a day guest spends,” he said. “Retailers know this. My expectation is that we’re going to see more and more traveler/shoppers, and that’s a niche we’re going to cultivate and serve.”