If the Straube Center were a cat, it would be going through its ninth incarnation.
But that’s OK, because it has been able to keep changing with the times. In 1900 it started out as a foundry. Since then the stone buildings have been used to make boilers, chemicals, wires and cables, candy, cosmetics, and Cointreau liquer. It was an almost irretrievably burned out factory site in 1976 when Win and Hildegarde Straube bought it and made it into a 50,000 square foot center for smaller offices and medium sized technology businesses. In the past year it has changed yet again.
“We are responding to the market,” says Win Straube. Some large tenants, such as Cambridge School and a multi-professional counseling service, take up big blocks of space. But more and more, the would-be tenants – many downsized from corporations and starting their own businesses – are looking for small amounts of space.
Entire sections that used to be occupied by light manufacturing have been turned into small offices, some no bigger than a desk with an Internet connection in a room the size of a closet. Tenants range from an architect to a yoga studio.
Thus Straube finds himself as the landlord for shared office space, and he is in this market with national firms such as Regus and Office Gallery. Like Harold Kent, who informally hosts a high tech incubator at Princeton Corporate Plaza on Route 1 South, and like other large single-owner complexes such as Research Park and Princeton Service Center, the Straube center has the flexibility to nurture a small business during its growth spurt. Tenants don’t need to worry about changing their address as they expand, because mail is delivered to a phalanx of post office boxes and packages get dropped at the central office.
Whether located in the old stone buildings or the new ones, all tenants get free broadband fiber optic access to the Internet. They block out desired times for the free conference rooms on the center’s private network without going through a secretary. Also every tenant gets a web listing and display at www.straube.com.
Most shared office centers have a virtual phone answering service. A similar Straube offering costs $100 and includes free mail service, a web ad, and use of conference rooms. Then the tenant chooses from among the components of the information network — satellites, fax machines, video phone connections, video conferencing, voice mail, and/or E-mail.
Change did not happen quickly. One building used to house a solar panel manufacturing company, Solec, which moved to Ewing 10 years ago, and the space was just recently fitted out to accommodate the smaller tenants.
The Straubes are an ebullient and determined pair. The son of an insurance executive who died in the World War II concentration camps, Straube escaped from East Germany. He met his future wife, trained as an accountant in Frankfurt, and emigrated to Canada in 1953. They came to the United States in 1961. A linguist, he earned a degree in patent law, managed factories that made engineering equipment, and bought a company, Pegasus International, that exported American technology.
Straube moved Pegasus from New York to Pennington in 1976. Now the couple lives most of the year in Honolulu, coming to the United States in the summer time to see their grandchildren and get face time with staff and tenants. Other times they communicate by video conference. They own a similar center in Singapore and administer the Straube Foundation, dedicated to providing world class education with online learning.
The Straubes collect art and in the past have staged exhibitions. The hallways doubling as galleries have built-in high security devices and special lighting. John Stinger, on behalf of the Fine Arts Alliance, is the curator (www.stingerfineart.com). One show opens Friday, November 7, with a reception from 4 to 8 p.m., followed by a reception on Saturday, November 8, at 1 p.m.
The Straubes are serious about their art. They planned to honeymoon in Italy in 1951, but Win unexpectedly landed a job that required going to the United State two weeks after their wedding. His bride stayed behind, went to Italy, and then waited in Germany until Win returned four months later.
“I understood the job offer was a wonderful opportunity for Win,” she has said. “But I had already bought my ticket to Italy and was not going to miss seeing the art.”
Straube Center LLC, 106 Straube Center Boulevard, Pennington 08534; 609-737-3322; fax, 609-737-6829. www.straubecenter.com.