As 2013 comes to a close, we, the owners of the family-owned restaurant in the Princeton Shopping Center, Camillo’s Cafe, say good-bye and thank you to all our loyal customers.
Many of you have asked Camillo, “What happened? Where will you be opening next?” The story, in brief, is that Camillo was set to relocate downtown and had a local Italian restaurateur ready to take over our location at the Princeton Shopping Center (seemingly, a marriage made in heaven). Despite Camillo having a very qualified buyer, the new landlord, Edens, refused to renew our lease and denied the buyer a new lease as well. Therefore, we had little to sell with only few months’ lease remaining. Instead of being able to expand and grow our small family-run business, Camillo’s Cafe was forced to close its doors after eight beautiful years.
We are, understandably, distraught. To help ourselves find closure with this “graceless ending,” we ask you to reflect with us on your individual and corporeal responsibility in the developing situation at the Princeton Shopping Center. The new landlord, Edens, professes on its website to be committed to sustainability, connectivity, and community. However, as a family run business whose owners have lived and worked in this town since 1997 — and as a Princeton family shockingly blocked and left without a foot to stand on by this type of greedy and inhumane corporate mentality — we say “rubbish.” We are locals who have raised two children in the Princeton Friends School who then graduated from Princeton High School.
Just thinking about how Edens’ behavior will possibly sustain connectivity and help progress our community leaves us absolutely dumbfounded. The inconsistencies of Edens’ professed “guiding principles” and their actions toward us are incongruent, at best. Will there be any moral limits or social restraints placed upon Edens’ continued actions in this community? We believe, as locals, that we carry a moral imperative and a humanitarian ethic to answer back to the business ethics of this company; watching quietly as these big businesses steam roll over all our family run establishments isn’t right. How many other local families will they wipe out?
We appear to be among the first group of merchants who have had their lease renewal denied and judging from the voices of other Shopping Center merchants, many more will follow. We’re all waiting to see how Edens develops and tries to change the Princeton Shopping Center “community.”
We wonder if the people will be heard in the discussion going forward. Will other local families/merchants be asked to close their doors after years of blood, sweat and toil as they’re told, “Oh well, this is just business. Might as well accept it.” Our family asks this community to join in and ask the important ethical questions: Isn’t there something wrong with a world where money holds more value than people? How can we prevent market values from reaching into spheres of life where they don’t belong?
Some might consider us idealistic, yet we have to ask: might Princeton — a town that has never been afraid to effect change and stand at the forefront of many pioneering endeavors — consider its moral responsibility to speak out and commit to new economic practices that promote more locally run family businesses? We believe it’s crucial for our business decisions to reflect more humanitarian ethics while working towards a better world and a more enlightened community.
We wish you all a very Happy New Year and hope that you reflect upon this situation with us. Blessings to you all in 2014. And do keep your eye out for Camillo! He has big plans for the year to come.
Camillo Tortola, Roberta Pughe, Zach Pughe-Sanford,