So the people on your Christmas/Hanukkah/Winter Solstice Festival list don’t get much out of pants covered with embroidered geese or yet another Overpriced Princeton Memorabilia Item™ from the U-Store. Maybe it’s time to look around for some alternatives – without venturing too far from the cozy Orange Bubble!
20 Nassau St (near the University Place end)
Princeton, NJ 08542
Stuffed with all things cutesy, from blankets to stationery, and run by an extraordinarily pleasant owner, this is your one-stop-shop for the Sanrio maniac. Don’t forget to pick up a few awesome mechanical pencils topped with miniature plastic bowls of ramen (comes in different flavors!) for when that problem set just REALLY needs some lightening up and the ol’ yellow 2-B doesn’t cut it. Plus, carries some anime-related swag for your favorite fanboy/girl.
20 Nassau St, Princeton, NJ
After emerging from the Nirvana of Cute that is Morning Glory, pause in this charmingly decorated dance-related store right next door. It’s got the pointe shoes for your serious dancer, but also loads of sporty clothes and accessories from the practical (toe cushions) to just plain sweet (everyone needs a rhinestone-studded tiara to wear once in a while). Bath-and-body products complete the lineup, and service from the actual dancers on staff could help you choose the perfect surprise – and I don’t mean the “another pair of purple socks from Aunt Betsy” kind.
68 Palmer Square West
Honestly, how many mothers would rather get a box of the luscious (and not too pricey)
Lindor Truffles in her favorite flavor than another macramé wall hanging? Also excellent for Valentine’s Day. If you’ve really got cash to burn, a gift box or a customized set of bars will surely put that faraway look of intoxication in their eyes.
The Papery of Princeton
43 Hulfish Street
No, not just for paper fetishists. In fact, they also have everything else possibly related to paper…ever. Stationery and a big wall full of greeting cards aside, there are high-end writing utensils, all manner of albums and notebooks, and enough desk accessories to make their workspace look well-used – even if all they do is surf thefacebook.com there. A nice alternative for the prep who has monogrammed everythings or the carrel-bound senior with leather-bound tastes (not like that!).
The Bent Spoon
35 Palmer Square West
Oh come on. This wouldn’t be a Unique Shopping Guide if I didn’t include the Spoon. Shipping ice cream through USPS is not advised, but for other denizens of the Bubble there’re always gift certificates, and t-shirts, too! Plus you’ll need to re-energize after all that hardcore shopping action.
The Princeton Record Exchange
20 South Tulane St
If you haven’t been here yet, you probably don’t even know what a CD is. But college is for branching out! Apart from CDs, records and cassettes, they’ve got DVDs and video games, so you can cover at least three bases with one trip. I advise not getting bogged down in the new stuff and heading straight for the used, über-cheap and über-awesome racks of secondhands in the back. It helps to know what your giftee likes, but hey, helping them broaden their horizons is definitely not a bad thing. Watch out for getting overly absorbed in selecting your loot, though – time passes faster in the Exchange.
Nearly New Shop
234 Nassau St (in a back lot, near Tomo Sushi)
Princeton, NJ 08542
Sure, it’s not big (for that, venture out to Red, White and Blue in Trenton), but this secondhand store has a nice variety and personable owners. The selection of women’s clothing is admittedly fuller than men’s, but there are always the occasional treasures – this also goes for the books and accessories and shoes.
Princeton Running Company
108 Nassau Street (next to Micawber’s)
For the runner, or the would-be runner, or perhaps those who just like wearing running shoes. The manager did his first marathon when he was fifty, as if the slick clothes, $200 shoes and high-end sunglasses wouldn’t guilt-trip the couch-potato in your life enough.
23 Hulfish Street
On a similarly guilt-ridden note, give one of your Independent friends a cookbook full of tantalizing recipes that require actually using more than the microwave and a can opener. Alternately, pick one of the other of the enormous array of kitcheny products for the Food Network junkie on your list: my favorites (you can also see them on the website) include the “Cocktail-opoly” board game, “Danger Men Cooking” warning tape, and a finger guard for newbie slice-and-dicers.