Juliet Theater Reopens as College Store

By Jeff Kosmacher

The landmark Juliet Theater just north of campus served generations of Vassar and Hudson Valley moviegoers from 1938 to 1990, and held the distinction of being the first Poughkeepsie-area theater built to show “talkies.” Like many small movie operations, the Juliet ultimately succumbed to competition from larger multiplex theaters.

The former Juliet houses the Vassar College Store. A wide-angle view of the Vassar College Store. The Juliet's interior was completely renovated to make way for the store. The store, once operated by Barnes and Noble, is now an independent Vassar operation. The college store sells items created by local artists. The store sells Vassar, Juliet, and Hudson Valley merchandise. The Vassar College Store includes a stage for events and a BurgerFi restaurant. The college store sells textbooks during the first few weeks of each semester. School supplies, technology products, and personal items are sold at the store. The BurgerFi restaurant offers all-natural ingredients in its food. From left to right: Dutchess County Executive Mark Molinaro, BugerFi Managing Partner Dom Simon, Vassar President Catharine Hill, and Town of Poughkeepsie Planning Board Chairman John Weisman at the store's Grand Opening. The store has kept busy since its September grand opening. The Juliet sign was refurbished, along with the building. Alumnae/i are encouraged to visit the store when they next return to campus.

Now a Vassar-held property, the Juliet building has been extensively renovated and reborn as the location of the newly conceived Vassar College Store, meant to serve both the campus and the general public.

Vassar purchased the property in 2001 to help maintain the vibrancy of the college’s Arlington neighborhood. Eateries and a billiard parlor were tenants for the next decade, while the college community explored a variety of new uses for the beloved building.

Grand-opening activities were held in conjunction with the neighbor-hood’s annual Arlington Street Fair on September 20. The independent BurgerFi restaurant, known for its use of all-natural ingredients, environmentally sustainable building practices, and strict recycling programs, also celebrated its opening in the Juliet building.

The store itself is once again an independent Vassar operation; the college has reestablished full management after jointly operating it with Barnes & Noble for many years.

“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, whose office oversees the operation.

The store is taking a different approach than the former on-campus bookstore. “That store was focused on the book business while also selling merchandise. The new college store is a gift shop with a course-material service,” explained Walton.

The front section of the 4,500-square-foot store stocks basic personal items and classroom supplies from local vendors, as well as personal technology products.

The main section of the store carries Vassar-branded clothing and other college-related items. Course textbooks will be available in this area during the opening weeks of Vassar’s semesters. But once students are stocked up, a special shelving system on wheels will make it easy to move the textbooks to a storage area.

Bryan Swarthout, Vassar’s director of budget planning and enterprise services, who spearheaded day-to-day implementation of the project, says the idea is to “keep the store fresh for customers.”

In a nod to the local community, the store will avoid selling trade books like those that may be purchased at the long-standing neighborhood bookstore Three Arts. It also will display and sell the works of a different Hudson Valley artist each month. A small stage at the rear of the store will be used for events, including performances by campus and community talent.

“The store will be a new gateway to the college for people from Poughkeepsie and the surrounding area,” added Swarthout. “Offering locally sourced products and spotlighting local artists are other important ways for us to show that the store and the college care about their connection to the community.”