Beloved by generations of Vassar students and Hudson Valley moviegoers alike, the landmark Juliet Theater, located on a corner across from campus, was the first Poughkeepsie-area moviehouse built to show “talkies.” The Juliet screened films from 1938 until 1990 when, like many small operations, it succumbed to competition from larger theaters in shopping malls. But the venerable theater space is now extensively renovated and has a renewed lease on life – as the new Vassar College Store.
The store is taking a different business approach from the former on-campus Vassar College Bookstore, placing more emphasis on merchandise for the general public while still serving the distinct needs of Vassar students, employees, alumnae/i, families and other visitors. Vassar-branded clothing and other College-related items are featured in the main section of the 4,500-square-foot space. In keeping with the Internet Age, course textbooks are only displayed in this area during the opening weeks of the College’s two semesters, allowing for more general interest merchandise to be emphasized throughout the remainder of the year.
The front section serves as a gift shop, stocking items from local vendors, basic personal and classroom supplies, and personal technology products. With an accent on the local, the store displays and sells the works of a different community artist each month, and a small stage area is used for events that include performances by campus and community talent.
Sharing the revitalized Juliet building with the College Store is BurgerFi, a restaurant that aspires to be known for cooking with all-natural ingredients, building with environmentally sustainable best practices, and maintaining a low carbon footprint and strict recycling programs. Its new 2,900-square-foot operation includes easy walk-through access to and from the adjacent store.
“We're excited about our store and the restaurant combining to create a new neighborhood gathering place for everyone, as part of Vassar’s ongoing commitment to the vitality of the Arlington area,” said Robert Walton, Vassar’s vice president for finance and administration, who was a driving force behind the renovation of what will still be known as The Juliet.
Restoration of the large iconic “Juliet” neon sign on the main façade of the historic building is among a variety of improvements that have been made, as well as innovative interior lighting systems that maximize natural light and provide considerable energy efficiency; a nine-screen LCD display where archival and contemporary film footage and photos are projected, spotlighting the Arlington neighborhood and Vassar campus among other subjects; and two large Art Deco-influenced sconces from the original Juliet Theater entrance that were discovered and restored during the renovation.
In keeping with Vassar’s ongoing commitment to its neighbors, Tinkelman Architecture of Poughkeepsie provided overall design for the Juliet project, with construction by Arris Contracting Company of Poughkeepsie. Staff at the Vassar College Store continue to be represented by the Communications Workers of America.