Retail Scene: Bone


Editor’s Note: Bone is now closed.

Carmen Mendiola likes watches so much she sometimes wears two at a time.

She owns about 700, ranging from playful — a lifesaver face on a liquid-filled band — to tributes — a swatch by Keith Haring, one of her favorite artists.

Recently she added her own designs to the mix. Mendiola owns Bone, a boutique near the corner of Bright Street and Jersey Avenue open since July. The store began with watches, funky pieces of Mendiola’s own creation. Most have bones for hands, of the small cut-out type seen on The Flintstones. Packaged in reusable cases meant to store loose change, the watches range from simple to sparkly, with Austrian crystal and mother-of-pearl accents.

This is Mendiola’s third business in Jersey City, and her first boutique. The Cuban-born attorney is also an owner of the Hard Grove Cafe and Bubby’s Burritos; the latter is visible from Bone’s front door.

Why Bone? The name is an acronym; it stands for Believe Obstacles Never exist.

It lends itself to wordplay reminiscent of French Connection’s “fcuk” — white and black Bone tees are printed with catch phrases like “bone hard,” “bone sex” and “bone u.” There is “bone life” — “maybe you had a rough day,” says store manager Angel Hilario — and “bone spill,” meant to send a message on the Gulf oil spill. (Mendiola plans to donate a portion of the proceeds from those shirts to the cleanup.)

“You want to have fun with it,” says Mendiola, who sometimes wears one of her tees to court under a suit. “It’s clothing with an attitude, reflecting what you feel.”

Bone’s other clothes, which include flannel and cotton drawstring pants, are made for lounging. Also on sale are soy candles, tote bags and organic-cotton children’s tees — some printed with “Boney,” a swirling character Mendiola designed with little chick feet.

The frequently doodling and painting Mendiola came to the U.S. from Cuba as a young girl. She started a job in Jersey City in the early ’90s after making good on a childhood dream to become a lawyer, and she currently lives Downtown.

Mendiola is excited about her next watch, an almost completely biodegradable timepiece with a bamboo face and case made of corn resin. She hopes to have it and other new items, including jewelry, available later this fall, and will also add products by local artisans to the store.

Duda Penteado, a Jersey City artist whose work is displayed at the Hard Grove Cafe, will design “Fishbone,” an upcoming Bone collection of clothing and watches set to debut this spring. One of his fish graces a store wall.

Mendiola has plans for monthly parties at the store, and hopes to attract other small businesses to a city she loves.

And as for the many challenges presented by the economy, Mendiola might say, “bone it.”

“You have to focus on what you want to do,” she says. “People aren’t shopping as much, they’re not going out to eat as much, but if you believe in something, you do it.”

This story originally appeared in the 2010 Fall/Winter issue of NEW (now JCI Magazine).

Photos: Steve Gold




a freelance journalist whose work has appeared in the The Wall Street Journal, and Agence France-Presse. She is also a former editor for Jersey City Independent.