Princeton University’s beloved mascot has always been the tiger. But some residents and alumni have an equal love for a different animal in town—the black squirrel.
Tradition has it that Moses Taylor Pyne, Princeton University alumnus, class of 1877, first brought black squirrels and orange squirrels to Princeton some time after graduation. Pyne felt that the colors of the squirrels brought the university and the community together and strengthened the area. Now, years later, local residents of Princeton want to continue Pyne’s mission of bringing the town together in a new way.
The Princeton Black Squirrel Company is a new line of localized apparel, made to help the local library, as well as to bring the community together again.
The owners and faces behind the squirrel apparel, Rob Green and Mimi Omiencinski, met back in February. Omiencinski owns the Princeton Tour Company, and Green realized the two of them could work together to get the idea of the Princeton Black Squirrel Company off the ground in no time.
“I did a T-shirt line in Dayton,” Green said. “I wanted to give back to the [Princeton] community. Mimi and I quickly became good friends and realized that it could be a good idea to make an apparel business.”
In May, Green and Omiencinski brought the apparel to Communiversity—Princeton’s local arts festival where businesses and vendors from the town and from all over the region can get together to help bring Princeton University and the community itself together. The black squirrel apparel sold so well that Green and Omiecinski knew they needed to take it further and decided to give five percent of its profit to the Princeton Public Library.
“Communiversity gave confidence to our business,” Omiecinski said. “We figured out the details and we figured out squirrel’s size and position on the shirts. We played around to get what [customers] want.”
The logo—a black squirrel with an orange acorn—is known as Momo, after Moses Taylor Pyne. With its black color and an orange nut in hand, Momo represents Princeton University’s colors and is a symbol of the town’s original black and orange squirrels. The logo’s tail is also curved into a half-heart shape, to show love for the community.
“The tail took many weekends to complete,” said Omiecinski. “It is a lovable, affable character.”
Green and Omiecinski may be the main creators of the brand, but there are two other influential people to be named.
Steve, Omiecinski’s husband, and Molly Vernon, a local business owner and friend, have helped market and manage the brand from the beginning, as well. Vernon owns the store Luxaby Baby & Child, a clothing store for infants, toddlers and young children in Palmer Square.
Vernon has recently began carrying the Princeton Black Squirrel apparel, including both adult and children sizes, mugs and stickers. Luxaby is the only store in Princeton where the merchandise can be purchased.
The Princeton Black Squirrel Company also sells their items on their Web site, princetonblacksquirrel.com. Items range from $5 to $30.
“I’m surprised no one thought it before,” said Jennifer Mermans, a Princeton resident.
Search for Princeton Black Squirrel on Facebook. On the Web: princetonblacksquirrel.com.