I was putting up some shelves in the back of the shop on the morning of September 11, 2001 when a friend called and asked “Have you heard? A plane crashed into the World Trade Center!" That, plus the memory of four recently shuttered Princeton menswear shops, made, shall we say, an inauspicious atmosphere for our October opening.
But open we did. And here we are. 19 years later, standing by the front desk, waiting for you to come in. We’ve witnessed a lot of beautiful, hopeful events: tripled in size; twice changed our store’s name; opened a wonderful women’s shop; Catherine joined us, making it five generations of Hiltons as clothiers. We’ve been honored to become part of the life of the community, helping with weddings, with occasions and celebrations of all kinds, preparing folks for new careers, helping them adapt to new dress codes, expanding horizons, instilling confidence. This turned out to be the best job I ever had.
We’ve been through some scary stuff, glum predictions, existential threats, recession, war, civil strife, social chaos, and now, pandemic. Sinatra sang it: “That’s Life.”
Of all these nineteen years, it’s a sure thing 2020 has been most challenging, but the flip side is the value of what we’ve learned going through it. Which designers are the most responsive to our needs (yours and mine)? What brands and which products are the best value in this new, more relaxed world? How do our standards of quality apply to the growing sportswear market? The changes going on are not abrupt, but really an acceleration of trends. Our job has become more difficult, but new thinking and new perspectives make it exciting in new ways.
This is all by way of an introduction to our new web site. For internal reasons we have changed web platforms because this new one is integrated with our system and our real-time inventory is now reflected, by size and color and style, in the web store instantaneously. This will give shoppers an immediate notice of a product’s availability. Manual adjustments proved frustratingly difficult to keep up with accurately, but now what you see is what we’ve got. Ultimately this fits in with our philosophy as the customer can pre-shop, browsing at home over our seasonal offerings, and have a real idea of what’s in store.
We have always considered ourselves the “anti-internet” shopping experience because we cater primarily to a client who wants to feel, to touch, to try on, to have things altered superbly well, who wants some guidance and/or reassurance from real (really real) professionals. Our customers are our friends, and the personal relationships we have enjoyed over the years are the most important payback of our endeavors. But life goes on, and times and preferences and habits change. Here’s to that.
When we conclude a sale and say “Good-bye” and “Thanks a lot!” it never feels like enough, and so we wave so-long and repeat it until you’ve gone out the door. In the internet world we can’t even do that. I can only hope that the spirit of who we are and what we do and what we hope to do for you will come through in everything we do, and that we’ll go on helping you through the generations and through life.