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These articles were printed in U.S. 1 Newspaper on March 11, 1998.
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Clothes for a Cause
I always felt like the money I made didn’t really belong
to me," says Robert Albert, founder and sole owner of the
60-year-old Stacy Shop in the Lawrence Shopping Center at Route 1
and Texas Avenue. He is launching an innovative way to use
to help increase profits. By taking no salary (at his age and stage,
he says, he doesn’t need the money) he hopes to accumulate at least
$50,000 in profits from the upscale women’s store — and turn them
over to the Breast Cancer Resource Center of the Princeton YWCA.
The son of a Lithuanian immigrant who ran an ice factory in Trenton,
Albert earned a Wharton degree (Class of 1937) and then with his wife
Sylvia opened a small women’s wear store that grew to be a Trenton
tradition. They had three daughters, and they worked together in the
Many of his compatriots have died, and all the other large stores
have disappeared, victims of malls of the ’70s, discount policies
of the ’80s, and — in the ’90s — special deals that
department stores can cut with their suppliers.
When his wife died in 1988, Albert lost heart, sold his business to
his senior employees, and moved to Florida. He remarried in 1989.
Then — overtaken by the turmoil of the fashion industry in 1992
— the employees asked him to come back.
This storeowner differs from his compatriots in more than one way;
he has always given 20 percent of his income to charity. The paneled
walls of his office are filled with pictures from the ’50s (of his
children and grandchildren) and with plaques from the causes he
And when asked, he does not mind telling his figures. Stacy’s Shop
grosses $1.5 million now "but it had been much more than that,
it used to be $2.8 million." He believes it would have been $5
million, he says, if only the store were closer to Princeton and in
a better maintained shopping center.
Albert will try this philanthropy plan for two years and see if it
brings customers into the store. "All I would like to do is make
enough money to support these things and support the people working
here," says Albert. "We do a fairly good business, but it
could be a fairly profitable business if the community supports
Here’s how he hopes it will work: as a woman’s store, Stacy’s wants
to support a woman’s cause, and breast cancer is of continuing
concern to virtually every woman. Albert has promised Jane Rodney,
the director of the much-lauded Breast Cancer Resource Center, that
he will be a sponsor of the nationally sponsored Race for the Cure.
The store has sent invitations to 4,000 breast cancer survivors and
500 of its customers to a brunch at Stacy’s on Saturday, March 21,
at 10:30 a.m. Anyone who calls 609-882-2821 for a reservation may
attend this brunch. Albert will present an initial check, $2,700,
to Rodney. Also on the podium will be a celebrity — Lesli Kay
Sterling (Molly in "As the World Turns") who just happens
to be Albert’s stepdaughter. Albert will explain his plan: the first
$50,000 profit from that day on will go to the Resource Center. Should
there be more profits, they will go to other charities — Deborah
Hospital, muscular dystrophy, the Rider Holocaust Memorial center,
and so on.
If the plan works, he’ll open another store. If not — well, he
really does not want to close. "I would just love this business
to continue," he keeps saying. "I don’t want to go out of
Preserve the past while moving to the future is Susanne
Hand’s motto. She recently testified for an assembly committee on
a bill sponsored by Reed Gusciora, a Democrat representing the
area. Called the Historic Property Reinvestment Act it would give
provide state tax relief for homeowners who renovate or preserve
Hand begins a five-session course, "Exploring Princeton’s
on Thursday, March 19, at 7:30 p.m. at Princeton High School,
with a two-hour walking tour on Sunday, April 19, at 1:30 p.m. Cost:
$40. Call the Princeton Adult School at 609-683-1101.
Hand is a Barnard graduate, Class of 1972, with a master’s degree
in historic preservation from Columbia’s architecture school. She
is former chief of the New Jersey Office of Historic Preservation,
worked with Clifford Zink on getting the Roebling Machine Shop on
the National Registry, is on the board of Preservation New Jersey,
and will publish an article on "moved buildings in Princeton"
in the Historical Society of Princeton bulletin this spring. She and
her husband, David Kinzey, have two school-aged sons and share a
(Kinzey and Hand) on Aiken Street for planning, historic preservation,
and affordable housing.
"This would be the first financial incentive for private citizens
to invest in their own homes," says Hand of Bill A 102. Under
this proposed law, if you lived in an old house in a National Historic
District, you could get a state tax rebate for 25 percent of what
you spend up on renovations up to $5,000. So that everyone gets to
enjoy the rehab, sixty percent of your expenses must be for improving
"This is not a big financial incentive," admits Hand. "But
sometimes people, when they are remodeling their buildings, don’t
think about doing it in the most appropriate way." To please the
preservationists you must replace clapboard with clapboard (not
siding), repair a porch instead of removing it, keep the windows in
their original shapes, and make any additions blend into the original.
"If the difference between `doing it right’ and `doing it wrong’
costs money, this is a way for the property to owner to recoup the
Though the current bill restricts these tax incentives to 100 of the
state’s most poverty stricken district, it may be extended to include
the entire state.
Hand’s top pick for a house that needs renovation is the 1880s Fine
house, formerly on Prospect Street, now on the southwest corner of
Nassau Street and Princeton Avenue in what is known as Jugtown. Hand
calls it "a big aluminum-sided ungainly building" that has
suffered from the loss of its shingles, its detailing, and its
In Princeton, the historic districts include the central business
district, Jugtown, Bank Street, and Mercer Hill. Hand’s tour for the
Adult School will include the row of Victorian houses along University
Place and the Steadman houses along Alexander Street, built from the
1830s to the 1850s. Steadman was an architect builder who often
Federal and Greek Revival details, she notes.
Thanks to Steadman’s influence, the massive columns associated with
Greek Revival are not evident in Princeton, says Hand: "Having
a house in the form of a Greek temple was very popular in northern
New Jersey and Flemington, but this part of New Jersey had a bit of
a Quaker influence. We tend to be more conservative."
She finds two exceptions: the Bonner Foundation’s new home at 10
Street and the columns transplanted from a private residence to the
middle of Battlefield Park. The Bonner House was moved here from
and the Greek columns belonged to a house built in Pennsylvania.
didn’t build anything like that in Princeton," says Hand.
She was responsible for a $2 million budget, an
membership, a fulltime staff of 15 people, 500 part-time instructors,
1,000 volunteers, and an afterschool program for 355 children at 10
different locations. In her "spare time" she supervised a
women’s conference for 250 people and volunteered to give free
on "stress management" for church groups and the high school
Marge Smith has retired as executive director of the Princeton YWCA
but she continues her work with a home-based business called Princeton
Association for Training and Development, which offers workshops on
communication skills, decision making, and problem solving for
She leads a workshop in "Motivating Yourself and Others" for
the Central Jersey Women’s Network on Wednesday, March 18, at 6:30
p.m. Call 908-281-3119 for $25 registration.
Smith majored in English at Smith College, Class of 1962, and married
the following year, earned a master’s in education at Columbia
and had her first of three daughters. Her husband, David Smith, is
an orthopedic surgeon with Sports Medicine Princeton. She volunteered
at the YWCA and helped raise about $375,000 to purchase Bramwell House
— the red house on Bayard Lane adjacent to the YWCA that is now
used for programs. In 1988 she took the job of executive director
and under her leadership the YWCA grew from 8,000 to 14,000 members
— the eighth largest in the nation.
"I don’t put labels on people, or on myself," Smith says.
"I’m in support of women succeeding and having opportunities
From first grade on, I started to look at groups and how to appreciate
what each person has to offer because that person could be me."
Perhaps this is why Smith has a talent for leading, be it the YWCA,
a workshop, or a meeting. "I’m going figure out a way to run a
meeting where you are going to say something even though you don’t
think you have anything to offer," she says. "You are not
going to leave without contributing."
"I can never understand why people are threatened by other
strengths," she says. "Why not enable people to understand
the talents that they have. And then, understand why each person is
unique and celebrate those talents rather than put them down."
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