Labyrinth and U-Store open on Nassau St., plan celebrations

Nov. 6, 2007 10 a.m.

Labyrinth Books will open its doors this month on Nassau Street, where it will serve the University's bookstore needs, while the Princeton University Store will complete its transition to expanded insignia and apparel operations by opening its own new location on Nassau Street.

Labyrinth plans to open by Wednesday, Nov. 14, at 122 Nassau St., and the U-Store is scheduled to open Thursday, Nov. 15, at 116 Nassau St. Both stores are planning grand opening celebrations to introduce their offerings to the community -- scheduled for Wednesday, Nov. 28, at the U-Store and Thursday, Dec. 6, at Labyrinth.

"The addition of these two quality independent retail establishments to Nassau Street will benefit both the University and the greater Princeton community by providing an array of merchandise and services, not only to faculty, students and staff, but to visitors to Princeton and the residents who live here," said Paul Breitman, the general manager of University Services who has worked closely with both businesses on their transition.

The opening of both storefronts is the result of a close collaboration with the University following a decision announced in December 2006 by the owners of Micawber Books to close and sell their location to the University. Labyrinth, an independent bookseller, owned and operated a store serving Columbia University in New York from 1997 until the store changed ownership in 2007, and it currently has another location at Yale University in New Haven, Conn. The Princeton store will be Labyrinth's largest at 10,000 square feet.

According to the store's owners, the opening of a new independent bookstore of this size and with this depth of inventory -- at a time when independent bookstores are closing in university towns and across the country -- is an important counter-trend.

"Princeton University recognizes the role of a bookstore as a space where knowledge is celebrated, and where town and gown can intersect," said Cliff Simms, who owns and operates the store with co-owners Dorothea von Moltke and Peter Simms. "Princeton University has taken the changing bookselling landscape in town as an opportunity … to help ensure that there will still be an independent, community bookstore on Nassau Street and that it can meet the University's own book-related needs, including course books, as effectively and economically as possible."

The timing of Labyrinth's opening will give faculty teaching classes in the spring term an opportunity to use the bookstore's multi-pronged system to order course books and have them stocked before the semester begins. Faculty will be informed via e-mail of the options for ordering books, with an online ordering website serving as the primary tool, in addition to desk copy assistance and foreign language book ordering.

Labyrinth is asking instructors to submit book orders by Dec. 5 to help the store have books available before students leave campus for the break at the end of the fall semester.

Before the end of the fall term, students will receive notices outlining Labyrinth's distinctive method of providing texts to customers. This consists of a system through which students provide staff with course or professor information and receive the books directly from store staff.

The store owners say the hands-on system ensures that students are served personally, receive their assigned books quickly and leave with information they need about books that are not yet available.

The grand opening at 4:30 p.m. Dec. 6 will offer an opportunity to members of the campus and surrounding communities to explore Labyrinth's diverse inventory of 80,000 titles, to meet its booksellers, and to learn about its extensive events programming.

"The project at Princeton," von Moltke said, "is to put down roots in the community so that the store can grow to be a site for an ongoing exchange of ideas, trying at all times to reach across intellectual as well as social divides."

While returning to Nassau Street for the first time since operating a music shop in the current Chase Bank location in the 1930s, the U-Store has served the campus and the community for more than 100 years. It began as a student enterprise in 1890 and later incorporated as a campus cooperative in 1905.

The store's new 6,500-square-foot location will boast the world's largest selection of apparel and gifts bearing the Princeton insignia for students, alumni, visitors and the general community.

The store's primary location at 36 University Place -- its home since the late 1950s -- will discontinue the textbook services being assumed by Labyrinth, while continuing to offer dorm supplies, convenience and prepared foods available 24 hours, stationery and educational learning supplies, small electronics, health and beauty products, and a full-service Clinique cosmetics counter. The Princeton Pharmacy and Pequod Printing also will continue to operate at the store.

"The University and the town merchants have been very supportive of our change in direction, and it has generated much excitement," said James Sykes, president of the U-Store. "We believe this new opportunity, a storefront on the town's main thoroughfare, will better position us to directly serve the needs of the students and the community while adding to the lively retail mix on Nassau Street."

The space previously occupied by textbook sales and insignia and apparel operations at the University Place location is slated to house four of the University's administrative support groups for students: Career Services, the Study Abroad Program, Health Professions Advising and the Community Based Learning Initiative.

Schematic designs are being completed of the store's second and third floors and upper mezzanine to prepare the space for the administrative offices to move in during the 2008 calendar year.

The Nov. 28 grand opening celebration for the U-Store's Nassau Street location will begin at 3 p.m.