New Thrift Store E. Tittlemouse & Co. Brings Designers and Deals to Bay Street

When former Brooklyn resident Belinda Vargas and her husband Napoleon Diaz first came to Jersey City, they knew they had found a place to call home.

“Our friends took us out to dinner out here and we fell in love with Downtown Jersey City,” says Vargas, 29. “We’ve wanted to open our own thrift store for a while now, and we said, ‘Why don’t we open up here?'”

They moved to the Hilltop neighborhood by Dickinson High School early this year with their 4-year-old son Esme and began scouting for storefronts. In April, they found a space on Bay Street between Erie and Newark which they dubbed “E. Tittlemouse & Co.” – “E” for “Esme,” and “Tittlemouse” from Beatrix Potter’s book The Tale of Mrs. Tittlemouse, one of Esme’s favorites.

“‘Tittlemouse’ is a character from a book we would always read to son. Every time we said it, he would start cracking up, so we’d call him Esme Tittlemouse,” Vargas explains.

After fixing up the space, Vargas and Diaz opened up shop June 1. Their store features designer clothes at marked-down prices (the store carries labels like Vera Wang, Diane Von Furstenberg, Dolce & Gabbana and Fendi) as well as accessories and odd trinkets gathered from as far as upstate New York and Utah.

“My husband and I love thrift shopping… it’s something we did together,” says Vargas. “We love finding really high-end quality merchandise and as we looked together, it became a hunt.

“We said we need to bring this to people, especially with the economy – a lot of people who were able to afford the clothing they always wanted to get probably can’t afford them now,” she says. The most expensive item in the store is only $68, she says, and prices start at about $8. Her most favorite pieces in stock now are a Diane Von Furstenberg dress she recently hung in the store’s window ($42) and a Dolce & Gabbana button-down shirt ($48).

E. Tittlemouse’s stock consists of items the couple collected over the years and other pieces her husband, a photo shoot director, personal assistant and stylist, regularly finds through his connections in the fashion industry.

“We try to have a little bit for everyone and right now we’re trying to get a feel for the people in Jersey City,” she says. “We have button-downs for women going to work, and for men, we have a couple of suits. We have laid-back dresses, that you could just walk around in… from sophisticated to going out at night or for the middle of the day… we have a little bit of everything right now.”

Jersey City certainly has its share of thrift, vintage and other nontraditional clothing stores, from basic places like Goodwill and the Salvation Army to more homegrown businesses Boomerangs (open on weekends at Pianoland, 196 Morgan St.), Ed’s Salvage Co. in McGinley Square and Another Man’s Treasure on Grove Street. Vargas said local response to her shop has been positive.

“It’s been great… once people walking by and see our place or a friend of theirs tells them, they’re so happy there’s a new store like this,” she says. “A lot of people are loving it.”

For now, Vargas’s goals are simple. “We’re just hoping to expand our clientele and maybe in future have a couple of other E. Tittlemouse (stores) in different places… just pretty much being a place where people can come and get what they need for a great price.”

E. Tittlemouse & Co. is located at 246 Bay St. For more information, call (201) 888-7385.

Photos by Summer Dawn Hortillosa

Summer Dawn Hortillosa

is a freelance arts and entertainment writer whose work has appeared in the Jersey City Independent, The Jersey Journal, the International and other publications. She is also a creative writer and theatrical director.