As the holidays draw near, trees must be trimmed, stockings stuffed, “secret Santas” satisfied. You are busy, of course, and you are not a seasoned shopper. Where do you begin? You could do it all online: hang out at Amazon.com, or Google “gift for the biggest jerk on my list.” Not such a bad idea. That search will take you to jezebel.com and Passive-Aggressive Gifts for Jerks. It’s good for a few laughs, if not any actual gifts.
Or you could take a stroll around town, and select some gift items that say Princeton, either literally or figuratively. We did the stroll recently and here are some of the possibilities that might help you in the holiday hunt (and possibly even make that jerk on your list think that you really care). We started our shopping trip in the heart of the Princeton University campus, the headed up Nassau Street to Witherspoon, and then to Palmer Square, finally ending up on the western edge of town, at one of the oldest sites in town.
Princeton University Art Museum, Princeton campus, (609) 258-3788.
The Princeton University-themed items include “Inner Sanctum — Faculty Room at Nassau Hall” and “Princeton and the Gothic Revival, 1870-1930,” both vital to local history buffs.
Other items include Princeton artist Pam Kogan’s stationery with the pen and ink rendering of Nassau Hall, a baby’s onesie boasting the image of the campus’ famous black squirrel, and various guidebooks on Princeton University gargoyles and sculpture. And for that extra Princeton touch, there is PU wrapping paper.
Princeton’s most famous resident, Albert Einstein, appears on mugs, DVDs, a few biographies, and even the recent “Einstein Encyclopedia.” Also look for the Alessi tea kettle and watches by the late Princeton architect and designer Michael Graves.
Triumph Brew Pub, 138 Nassau Street, (609) 924-7855. You might think that your gift recipient has to show up in person to appreciate any gift from Triumph, but that’s not the case. Triumph “merch” is available at the hostess station: Golf shirt, $35; sweatshirt $25; hoodie, $60; T-shirts, $20; hats, $18; and pint glasses, $5 — all emblazoned with the distinctive Triumph logo.
And your gift can even include some of the craft beer brewed right in the 10-foot high vats looming over the bar area. The full sized “growler” holds 64 ounces of beer and is priced at $25.
Labyrinth Books, 122 Nassau Street, (609) 497-1600. Not every town has a bookstore these days and not many of the those towns have a bookstore that is locally owned and operated. Among all national bestsellers and academic classes are a nice collection of books intended for a Princeton readership.
The Princeton University communications office has published booklets — with campus maps that are helpful to town residents as well as to visitors — on various campus landmarks: Gargoyles, Presidents, Tigers, Trees, Sculpture, and Spires, among others. Most are $5.95.
Labyrinth’s shelves also offer pamphlets on Maclean House, Prospect House, the University Chapel, and other intriguing and historic Princeton landmarks by William K. Selden, a 1934 Princeton alumnus who returned to Princeton in the 1960s after a career in higher education. Most are priced at $6.95.
Other Princeton area authors with Princeton-specific books:
Barksdale Maynard, Princeton Class of 1988, who has written a comprehensive study of campus architecture, “Princeton: America’s Campus,” in paperback for $19.95.
Richard D. Smith, a Rocky Hill-based journalist, researcher, and author whose Arcadia Press books include Princeton University, Princeton the town, and Princeton’s “Legendary Locals,” $21.99.
Princeton University professor Harry Frankfurt’s philosophical treatise “On Bullshit,” published originally in 2005 by the Princeton University Press. It’s a compact size, and just 67 pages long — obviously no BS in here. $9.95.
Finally you may need to send a wry or ironic greeting to someone you know. Note cards by Hillary Brown, Princeton ’75, that are a step beyond the imagination of Hallmark are priced at $3.99.
You can carry all these treasures away in a book bag that lets everyone know you have just shopped locally, priced at $10.95.
Princeton University Store, 116 Nassau Street, (609) 921-8500. The store offers Princeton-themed Christmas ornaments ($10 to $45) and plenty of stocking stuffers: vintage magnets ($18), a “somebody from Princeton loves me” stuffed tiger ($14), iPhone case ($20), and “future Princeton tiger” orange piggy bank ($25).
Princeton notecards make a nice stocking stuffer, with a set of 10 priced at $20. A Princeton desk calendar, which runs through January of 2018 and features seasonal photographs of the Princeton campus and university landmarks, costs $14.99.
Robert Gambee’s hefty coffee table photo book, “Princeton Impressions,” is available for just $19.95 at the U-Store, due to a special arrangement with Princeton’s Class of 1963. But otherwise the U-Store does not traffic in too many bargains. Its short sleeve officially licensed Princeton tee shirts sell for $30; the long-sleeve version is $40. That may seem reasonable (hey, Princeton is often ranked No. 1 on that U.S. News & World Report college ranking so what do you expect). On the other hand you can walk just a few doors further down the street and discover a different view of Princeton.)
Landau’s of Princeton, 102 Nassau Street, (609) 924-3494. A Princeton institution that rivals in retail years Princeton University itself, Landau’s specializes in woolens imported from far and wide. It also has a strong inventory of licensed Princeton products sold at state college-level prices. Short sleeve Princeton tee shirts are just $15.99, long sleeves are $19.99.
There’s lots more Princeton stuff at Landau’s: Orange cashmere socks, $15; orange and black and grey patterned Irish lambs wool scarves, $19.99; and unique scarves made from orange and black Japanese silk kimono fabric, $189.
In addition Landau’s also sells photographs of campus scenes by Princeton University photographer Wiebke Martens, ranging from $4.50 for notecards to $50 for 8 1/2 by 11-inch frameable prints.
And if you need a touch of Albert Einstein to impress the relatives back home, Landau’s is the place to go. The store even has a mini-museum of Einstein memorabilia that is worth taking the relatives to if they come in from out of town. And Landau’s can do in-store monogramming of tee shirts or sweatshirts on the spot. Custom embroidery can be delivered in a matter of days, not weeks.
Hamilton Jewelers, 92 Nassau Street, (609) 683-4200.
The town’s biggest jewelry store has a section of Princeton-themed gifts. Wooden Princeton trays designed by Annie Modica, a California-based decoupage artist, are big sellers. They are also big ticket items. The 21” x 15” size sells for $395; the smaller 12” square tray is priced at $295.
Other Princeton-themed items include glassware, starting at $50 for a set of two old fashioned glasses with the university seal, as well as ornaments ($25 and up), and a range of decorative tiger figurines ($270 and up).
Small World Coffee, 14 Witherspoon Street, (609) 924-4377. Tee shirts with the slogans “sleep is for the weak” and “coffee makes you smarter” are available in men’s and women’s styles ($21.95). “Sleep is for the week” also comes on a baby onesie ($19.95), children’s shirt ($15.95), and ceramic mug ($6.95).
Also available: A pint glass with logo for $5.95; and an insulated, stainless steel Kleen Kanteen, also with the Small World logo, $34.95.
You can also, literally, give the gift of coffee: weekly, biweekly, or monthly deliveries of one or two pounds of coffee for up to a year. One pound of coffee every month for one year costs $264. (Or you can go to the shop yourself, buy a pound for $15.95, and then hand-deliver it to your recipient and save a lot in shipping — remember, sleep is for the weak.)
Jane, 7 Spring Street, (609) 683-5263.
Consigned Princeton items include antique metal Reunions beer cans — $17.50. New creations include paintings by James McPhillips, who holds a special sale of holiday prints and paintings on Saturday, December 3, from 5 to 8 p.m. at jane. Prints are under $80 and paintings start at $250. Preview works for sale at jaymcphillips.com.
Greendesign, 42 Witherspoon Street, (609) 651-4643.
At the store specializing in environmentally friendly goods, a tiger puppet, made by Tibetan artisanal craftspeople is $115 and a tiger coin purse is $15.
The purse comes from the Dropenling center in Lhasa, Tibet. Dropenling is a Tibetan word meaning “giving back for the betterment of all mankind.” All profits are returned to the artisan community to improve working conditions and livelihoods.
Princeton Public Library, 65 Witherspoon Street, (609) 924-9529.
For the bibliophiles in your life, mugs with the library logo are $12, and a red library tote bag is $2.
A heftier bag showing a drawing of a cat reading “To Kill a Mockingbird” is $20, and a bright red PPL collapsible umbrella is $15.
The library also offers two gift-themed events on Saturday, December 3. “The Gift of Books,” at 10:30 a.m., is a special story time featuring a selection of new children’s books. A list of new books for kids and teens will be available. At 3:30 p.m. “The Gift of Games” offers a selection of new family-friendly games from jaZams. Families are invited to try out the games, and a list of game gift ideas will be available.
And the Princeton Farmers Market, held in Hinds Plaza during the summer, moves to the library’s Community Room on Thursday, December 15, for a holiday market including candles, jewelry, and other gift items as well as fresh local meat, produce, cheese, honey, and baked goods.
The Farmhouse Store, 43 Hulfish Street, (609) 688-0777.
No farmhouse ever held the vast assortment of handmade furnishings and decorative objects that can be found in this spacious store next to Mediterra restaurant. And there are plenty of Princeton-themed items that could satisfy anyone who bleeds orange and black.
For example: A Princeton University floor mat, $109.99; pillow embroidered with scenes from the Princeton campus, $159.99; a wooden bench with Princeton University emblazoned on its padding, $429.99.
If you want to escape from the orange and black color scheme there is a framed piece of wood reclaimed from the seating at the old Palmer Stadium (built in year 1914 and torn down when 1996) that sells for $99.99. A reproduction of Albert Einstein’s office sign in Fuld Hall at the Institute for Advanced Study sells for $189.
Cranbury Station Art Gallery, 39 Palmer Square West, (609) 921-0434.
Proprietor Kathleen Morolda sells prints of her paintings featuring familiar Princeton and holiday scenes as well as works by area artists including Sydney Neuwirth and Charles McVicker.
Arts Council of Princeton, 102 Witherspoon Street, (609) 924-8777.
The 22nd annual Sauce for the Goose Holiday Market from Friday to Sunday, December 9 to 11. Local artists offer unique gift options with their ceramics, glassware, ornaments, and other arts and crafts. The market is open Friday, 5 to 9 p.m.; Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; and Sunday, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Morven Museum and Garden, 55 Stockton Street, (609) 924-8144.
The Morven Gift Shop is located on the first floor of the former servants quarters located behind the mansion. While it serves as ticket booth for exhibitions and tours in the historic house built by Declaration of Independence signer Richard Stockton, there’s no admission to browse through the collection of county and home-related gifts.
Some of the bestsellers are stationery and postcards — some with images of Morven and others by New Jersey photographer Richard Speedy, who mounted a photographic exhibition of the Pine Banners at Morven.
Books share the same subject: “Morven: Memory, Myth & Reality” by Princeton historians Constance Greiff and Wanda Gunning, the Morven publications “Portrait of Place” and “Hail Specimen of Female Art,” and state related books such as, “Life of Richard Hughes” (one of the governors who lived at Morven), “Wildflowers of the Pine Barrens, and “Dishing Up New Jersey — 150 Recipes from the Garden State.”
And then there is the Bruce Springsteen biography, “Born to Run,” along with a Springsteen calendar and CD, complementing the museum’s current exhibition on one of New Jersey’s favorite favorite sons.