Princeton Merchants Association looks for ways to assist businesses

Princeton business operators gathered virtually for a Princeton Merchants Association (PMA) forum during which they discussed their operations in the midst of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

The online forum took place on March 19.

On March 21, Gov. Phil Murphy directed all non-essential retail businesses to close.

The PMA forum featured discussions about how business operators are coping with the changes necessitated by the virus and identifying areas of local need.

β€œClearly articulating future ways a forum like this could be helpful. We also thought this could be a useful opportunity for folks who are trying to find creative solutions to our current business practices and challenges,” said James Steward, director of the Princeton University Art Museum.

Labyrinth Books was one business that contemplated staying open during the crisis prior to Murphy’s directive that non-essential businesses had to close.

β€œAt Labyrinth we ask ourselves every day whether we should be open or not. The only reason we (stayed) open (until being forced to close) is because we have a spacious environment and social distancing is possible even while people are in the store,” owner Dorothea Moltke said.

The book store is selling books online and by phone, and is offering home delivery. The owners are preparing author and book discussions for customers to watch from home.

β€œThe municipality set up a website in conjunction with the public library and school system called princetoncovid.org, which informs residents about what is happening in town,” Mayor Liz Lempert said.

“One thing being established on the site is a calendar of live-streamed events so there is a centralized place for people to go view events. There is also a tab for what businesses are open. If a business is operating in some capacity it can be listed on the site,” the mayor said.

Lempert said there is a strong feeling in Princeton from residents who want to help business operators.

β€œI think one piece that would be helpful from this (PMA) group is how we channel that energy. If we can make it easy for people to help businesses, that will be the best idea moving forward,” she said.

The purchase of gift cards or gift certificates, and promoting community support to shop local were ideas highlighted in the discussion.