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This article by Jamie Saxon was prepared for the March 10, 2004 edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.
Best Bets: Crop Circles — Working Moms’ Haven
What do a group of stressed-out working moms — including a surgeon from the University Medical Center at Princeton, a project manager at Bristol-Myers Squibb, a paralegal, and a real estate agent — do to blow off steam on a Friday or Saturday night? They yank piles of family photos off their closet shelves and gather for a “crop.”
“The crop is the modern quilting bee,” says Lynette Young, an ex-IT consultant and owner of Netsie’s Scrapbooks in Hamilton, a 3,600-square-foot scrapbooking emporium. The crops, held Fridays and Saturdays from 6 p.m. to midnight, are open to all but timed for the convenience of working moms. “I know working moms get very disconnected from other people,” says Young. “We all talk via E-mail; there’s no face-to-face. There’s a big push to come back home and just anchor and root yourself in your family and friends. Scrapbooking and crops are an extension of that.” The crops cost $10 and include pizza, soda, and chick flicks to watch on DVD.
Raised in Manville by a single mother of three, Young fell into computer consulting in 1989, through her high school’s work/ study program. After completing some coursework at Rutgers, she first worked as an IT project manager for Merrill Lynch in Plainsboro, then joined a consulting firm in New York.
“Scrapbooking was stress release for me,” says Young, who started her hobby at age 14. “The consulting work I did was very analytical,” says Young, who routinely worked until midnight or 1 a.m. and then had to be back in the city at 8 a.m. “My head was on the chopping block. Scrapbooking was creative, something in my control.”
But it was 9/11 that spurred Young’s jump out of the rat race. On that day, her daughter, Bailey, was just a month and a day old. Her husband, David Young, the founder and owner of Z-Systems Inc, a software architecture consultancy, was working on a contract for a company in a building kitty corner to Tower 2, but was not in the city because he had decided to take an extra day of paternity leave.
Many of their friends weren’t so lucky, including one, pregnant with twins, who lost her husband. “That was a whole big turning point for me,” says Young.
Netsie’s is the only independent scrapbook store in Mercer County and one of only about 15 in the state, and Young is reaping the benefits of what was a $2 billion industry in 2003 and is heading toward $3.5 billion this year. Unlike the big chain craft stores like Michael’s and A.C. Moore that buy new scrapbooking products just twice a year, Young brings in new merchandise twice a week.
Young describes the routinely sold-out weekend night crops — in which space for 16 croppers is available by reservation only — as “a type of therapy. I’ve had several people who have had their moms or close friends battle breast cancer or they themselves are survivors.” The most moving work she has seen was a “gift album,” a cheerful, inspirational scrapbook filled with photos of friends and family made by one cropper for a friend going through treatment for ovarian cancer. The recipient “can open up that book and see how much her friends love her,” says Young.
Scrapbooking, she adds, is a great release for any working mom, and crop attendees routinely leave having made new friends. “It’s not work. It’s not your kids. It’s a place to work out your own issues. If it’s important and meaningful, put it on the page.”
Netsie’s Scrapbooks, 528 Route 33, Hamilton. 609-890-0666. Next theme crop: “Luck o’ the Irish,” Friday and Saturday, March 26 and 27. Reserve your space. $10.
Only one Princeton area company is among the exhibitors at the Philadelphia Flower Show, running through Sunday, March 14, at the Pennsylvania Convention Center. And it’s not a nursery, landscaper, or garden tools manufacturer.
I t’s a sachet company. Not those potpourri-stuffed blobs granny stuck in her bureau drawers, these upscale oder eaters “take sachets to another level,” says Ivy Weitzman, right, a Philadelphia native and owner of A Touch of Ivy. The heaven-scented danglers, which retail for $12.50 to $70, have been snatched up by the First Lady and celebrities alike.
With a touch of whimsy, each sachet is a little gem — a miniature ballgown on a tiny hanger, a Parisian salon chair, an Elizabethan shoe — expertly crafted from luxurious fabrics like velvet and silk charmeause and stuffed with the company’s signature “Lily” scent, a beguiling mix of whiteflower fragrance beads including freesia and Amazon lily.
A 1985 NYU graduate, Weitzman started the company in her New York apartment, covering hatboxes and making throw pillows with vintage fabrics at night while working in Ralph Lauren’s menswear showrooms by day.
Sweet Nellie, an exclusive home furnishings shop on Madison Avenue, started to carry her creations. “Metropolitan Home magazine saw my stuff and used it in a full page. From that Henri Bendel’s called, then Bergdorf’s. The business just grew from there.” Today, her sachets are sold worldwide, and they even made it onto Oprah’s O list. While she was still working in New York, she and her husband, who works in Philadelphia, moved to Princeton, the perfect in-between commute.
So, why the Philadelphia Flower Show? Weitzman says the typical flower show attendee and her target audience share the same aesthetic sensibilities — someone who loves beautiful things and is very visually-oriented. “We usually only do wholesale shows, so the flower show gives us an opportunity to meet face-to-face with consumers. We spend a lot of time designing and don’t really see the direct public.” That may change — the flower show drew 265,000 attendees in 2003.
A Touch of Ivy, 51 Everett Drive, Princeton Junction, 609-750-9004. Sachets are available at Blue Tulip, 240 Nassau Park Boulevard, West Windsor, 609-720-1005; Euphorbia, 6 Gordon Avenue, Lawrenceville, 609-896-4848; and Matteo & Co., Princeton Shopping Center, 301 North Harrison Street, 609-430-1400 and www.matteoandco.net.
Why wait until March 17 to start your St. Patrick’s Day celebration? Take a day trip on Sunday, March 14, to tiny Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania (population: 5,000), two hours from Princeton, for the annual St. Patrick’s Day parade, which starts at 1 p.m. (but arrive early for best parking).
More than 2,000 marchers — including plenty of Irish dancers, bagpipers, and AOH members (Ancient Order of Hibernians, the group true Irishmen belong to) — will fill Broadway, the main street. More than 10,000 revelers attended last year, lining the streets four to five deep.
After the parade, stop in at the Treasure Shop (www.irishtreasureshop.com), 44 Broadway, chock full of upscale Irish goods, like fine mohair jackets, wool capes, men’s tweed hats, fisherman sweaters, Celtic music, books, pewter, claddagh and Celtic rings, and a bounty of gold and silver jewelry from the Emerald Isle. Owner Peggy McBride Dart also specializes in customized wedding rings. Two doors down, enjoy a pint at the Molly Maguire Pub, which pumps keg after keg in honor of the green.
The Old Jail, at 128 W. Broadway, built in 1871, now a museum (complete with dungeon) owned by Thomas and Betty Lou McBride, is where seven alleged Molly Maguires were hanged, after being convicted for murdering mining bosses in 1877. Over 16,000 people a year come to see the famous handprint in Cell 17.
Legend has it that one of the accused put his hand on the wall and said, “If my handprint appears on this wall tomorrow, you have killed an innocent man.” It appeared, and then reappeared even after the cement block bearing the print was replaced in the 1970s; it’s still there today. (Note: The museum is only open Memorial Day through October, but if you go for the parade, you can see the jail’s striking stone exterior, wrought ironwork, and watch tower, or come back for Jim Thorpe’s birthday celebration in May.)
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