Tigers in Town: Innovative program at Princeton supports local business community

Princeton University has creating Tigers in Town, an innovative way to help spur economic growth in the community while helping its students get time out of their dorms, safely exploring the town — at no cost to the students.

Using money that was budgeted but not spent on COVID-canceled events, the school has created a fund that provides students with free items at stores and restaurants in the Princeton area.

It’s a program that could be used by any university in the state.

At Princeton, students have been able to take advantage of credits at coffee shops (Small World Coffee, Sakrid Coffee Roasters), food establishments (Hoagie Haven, Pizza Den and Say Cheeze Cafe, Tico’s Eatery & Juice Bar and Ficus) — even a local toy store (Jazams).

So far, the fund has managed to raise approximately $40,000 from various university sources and clubs and programs affiliated with the school.

University officials said Tigers in Town is providing students with the best the town has to offer, while businesses will get to reintroduce themselves to a student body thrilled to be back on campus.

Renee De Bernard, the owner of Tico’s, was thrilled with the concept. She said she had lost nearly 75% of her business overnight, when the university was forced to keep students off campus in the fall.

De Bernard shut down her store for almost two months and worried about its future. She said Tigers in Town is helping her regain some lost income while rebuilding her relationship with the student body.

Her store held the first event of the program — and has held many more since.

“This program is helping everybody get back onto their feet,” she told Town Topics. “It also introduces my store to incoming freshmen who haven’t been on campus until now, and it’s a great way to introduce my product to any student. An amazing program.”

The students have been active participants in the program, finding creating ways to attract groups — but doing it with scheduling procedures that have helped maintain safety protocols.

And the on-site program options are just one way the Princeton student population has attempted to help the local businesses. The Senior Class Government also organized “Taste of Campus” care packages of goods from Princeton businesses and mailed them to seniors around the world.