Packet Letters to the Editor for the week of 12/8/17


Longtime Princeton business
thanks loyal customers
To the editor:
Well, we had a good run here in Princeton, but after almost 10 years of sharing with you our passion for great wine, craft beer and inspired spirits, this CoolVines store will be closing in early 2018.
While this decision certainly comes with a measure of sadness, the overall story is a happy one, for you helped us launch an innovative business model in a category that had long been stuck in a format that underserved wine enthusiasts. There was too much focus on commercial brand names, point scores and “discounts” rather than value. You helped me personally connect to this amazing town in a meaningful and substantive way. It offered me the opportunity I was looking for – to be part of the local business community, to participate in many fund-raising collaborations with the Library, The Arts Council, Sustainable Princeton, Corner House and other organizations that are helping to make this town better every day.
It was a delight to partner with the university, with the Keller Center for Entrepreneurship – even conducting taste experiments right in our store with the graduate students in the Department of Molecular Biology. CoolVines gave me and my family an identity and a connection to Princeton that I sought when I started the business.
But sometimes the destiny of a business, like that of a person, is found not in its original manifestation, but in a path that leads from it to another place. Our little shop in Princeton was discovered by a prominent developer in Jersey City who wooed us to build a store in his planned building in a rising neighborhood in that once beleaguered city. We rolled the dice and it paid off – within a year the Jersey City store was our highest performing store of the three (we also had a store in Westfield, N.J., which we have subsequently sold), and is now outselling our Princeton store 3:1.
We connected well with the market of young urban millennials who enjoy our fresh approach to wine selection and merchandising. And with that success, we have found ourselves in the enviable position of being sought out by other developers who see a “fine wine shop” as a marker of progress in building new neighborhoods.
And so two more stores are underway with Jersey City #2 and, believe it or not – Newark. In that once-great city, the largest in N.J., we will be part of a project involving Whole Foods, Marcus Samuelsson (of Red Rooster, Chopped, Iron Chef fame) and other strong names in retailing and restaurants. Our fingers are crossed much as they were in 2013 when we committed to our first Jersey City store.
In those same years here in Princeton we have seen some changes on “Main Street” in Princeton. The businesses that are now thriving most are those who serve the strong visitors and tourist traffic, and the ones – like us – who depend mostly on the resident population, are at best flat. Too many empty spaces on Nassau Street and Palmer Square attest to this. I’ve commiserated with my fellow business owners who rely on this same core of residential customers and all are feeling the impact.
And so it feels like the right gesture at this point to offer up my slice of the retail wine pie to my comrades in arms on Palmer Square and elsewhere in town. In a few months, I will be closing our store on Spring Street and focusing my energies up north – and hoping that my fellow marchands de vin find sustainable success with the addition of my beloved customers whom I’m reluctantly leaving behind.
Please take care of them. Thank you Princeton for the 10 years of amazing support.
Mark Censits
Founder and president