Jersey City Review: The New Face of Retail

For years we’ve shopped the malls, boutiques, specialty stores and even big box retailers for the latest trends, classic looks and designer gear. Many Saturday afternoons have been spent bouncing from one shopping destination to the next hoping to find the perfect fit, color, price and style. A longing to ‘make an entrance’ when attending a social engagement, job interview, place of worship or white sandy beach keeps consumers motivated and retailers capitalizing.

According to the National Retail Federation, spending totals for the 2012-2013 holiday season alone was a staggering $579.8 billion worldwide. Yep, that’s just shy of $600 billion which is indicative of the flooding of new merchants and creative types sprouting up and going just about anywhere to peddle their wares. Entrepreneurs are constructing ingenious strategies aimed at persuading customers to see beyond the systematic retail concept of a traditional storefront and embrace an innovative, non-traditional approach which incorporates resourcefulness and varying environments. And it seems to be working.

As many endeared brick and mortar shops are forced to hang ‘going out of business’ signs, fresh talent is intent on taking on retail giants in hand-to-made by hand combat. By traveling markets, social media, trunk shows, and online multi-vendor sites like Etsy & Big Cartel, most newbies find they don’t need a lot of start up capital – just a plan of action and a highly trafficked area online or on land.

I chatted with a few up & comers:

PaperMeFriendly:  Heidy Perdomo, owner

Born and raised in Jersey City, this former mid-town NYC server knew she needed a change when a colleague started crying over a misplaced designer bag. During her restaurant employ, Heidy witnessed a daily menu change, which resulted in the discarding of stacks and stacks of paper. This was the beginning of Heidy’s fascination with this wood pulp substance. She salvaged much of it and launched an eco-friendly line of jewelry made out of just that, paper.

With months of planning and appearances at Brooklyn’s Artists & Fleas, Heidy found herself enlarging her line by subscribing to the hand-made credo set forth by online giant Etsy. Heidy also discovered that being in touch with her creative sense helped engage her environmentally ethical business style. Her husband’s full support, and his supply of used guitar stings for pendants, doesn’t hurt either.

Ed Ramirez: Where do you sell your jewelry?

Heidy Perdomo: Etsy. It is very competitive. Artist & Fleas in Williamsburg, Brooklyn is also great but pricey at $125 per day. I was completely surprised when they accepted me, especially since I am relatively new, but customer response was brilliant so it’s worthwhile.

ER: What inspires your jewelry line?

HP: All products are up-cycled or given a better, new use. Environmental awareness and individuality are essential to jewelry design’s future and I want my products to represent that. Since paper is so versatile and organic, it can be transformed into so many things.

ER: Are there any pieces you find more alluring than others?

HP: Every piece is derived from an emotional connection so it’s hard to replicate unless I experience that emotion again. The process would only repeat if it made someone else feel good in some way, otherwise everything is one-of-a-kind and all hold a very special quality.

ER: What’s your average price point?

HP: The process is rigorous. I shred, liquefy/pulp then sculpt and or paint or carve and double coat it, apply a macramé finish. Neck pieces range from $15-$20 & Sets (neckpiece and bracelet or earrings) are $30.

The Nomad Truck

The Nomad Truck

NOMAD: Jessie Goldenberg, owner

After noticing the growing trend of trucks selling everything from grub to apparel, this 24 year old set out on an adventure all her own. Searching the Craigslist’s classifieds in May 2012 brought Jessie one step closer to her dream of combining her love for fashion and desire to travel. She purchased a former delivery truck and retro-fit it to house bohemian styled women’s clothing and accessories and cleverly named it NOMAD.

After the birth of her fashion mobile and with roots already laid in Chilltown (Jessie’s mom is from Jersey City) the transition from New York University film school graduate to truck driver was relatively effortless and the community embraced the concept right from the start. Handpicked designer goods with a nod to vintage keeps the Wandering Fashion Boutique’s offerings up to date and gives consumers an opportunity to shop in this tricked-out yet intimate and unusual setting.

ER: Where can we find NOMAD?

Jessie Goldenberg: We have parked in Brooklyn, Long Island City and the greater NYC area but find that Jersey City’s Creative Grove on Fridays has been a hot spot for us. There’s music, food, fashion and the atmosphere is electric.

ER: What inspires you to buy the lines you carry?

JG: Our selections are gypsy and rock & roll inspired. They are easy to wear and these looks speak to varying age groups. Stylish comfort is essential when buying new products for the shop. Backpacking through Europe after college and visiting wonderful flea markets abroad has also added to my rustic sensibility.

ER: Are there any pieces you find more of a hot seller than others?

Jewelry does really well and we carry very unique items, many from local designers. Tops also lead sales and surprisingly enough, although we have a fitting room, most shoppers don’t utilize it. Sometimes, it’s more of an impulse buy to wear out that night.

ER: What’s your average price point? Any plans to carry men’s apparel?

JG: Products range from $30-$50 and we make it a point not to exceed a $100 on any given item. In terms of men’s, maybe in the future but the space on the truck is so limited and we need every nook & cranny to accommodate our brands. However, we just launched an online shop so we’ll see.

Trabintres

Trabintres

Trabintres Vintage Clothing: Flo Jimenez, co-owner

What started out as styling friends and family for fun has turned into a burgeoning business enticing clients from all over the United States. Tres, French for three, is part of a combination of words that describes the trio’s business philosophy. Trabbin (derived from ‘Prappin’, which means urban hustle according to Flo) was added as a means to eliminate negative concerns associated with urban entrepreneurship without disregarding the ‘hood.

After receiving myriad compliments on their personal style, Flo “E.Z.” Jimenez along with cousin Kip “Flizzy” Smith and friend Rasheed “Jetsetter” George decided that vintage goods didn’t necessarily need to be sold out of a brick & mortar shop. In fact, it could be sold right out of Flo’s apartment on Jersey City’s Ocean Ave and it’s been a hit.  Specializing in vintage track jackets, snap back caps and old retro jerseys, one can score varying pieces by simply making an appointment or checking them out online.

ER: Where are you selling your goods?

Flo Jimenez: Online and out of my apartment on Ocean Ave. We’ve been extremely successful with Instagram and have over 2200+ followers. Sales are steadily climbing and we try to listen to what our customer base asks for without compromising on our approach, which is very different from the typical urban look. Your personal dress should never be dictated by your environment.

ER: What inspires you when selecting new merchandise?

FJ: The early 80s and 90s because you could wear whatever you wanted. It was more about a freestyle approach to fashion and color coordinating wasn’t as imposed. You just needed to have a Kangol and Gazelles and you were good to go. Rasheed gathers inspiration from Jean-Michel Basquiat and Kip from Wu Tang Clan although we aren’t followers of celebrity or hip hop fashion. We like to be original.

ER: Are there any pieces you find more appealing than others?

FJ: It varies. Female clients love tops. A great top can go with anything. Multi-color patterns and prints like paisley and hounds tooth catch the eye. We focus on carrying anything you wouldn’t find at the mall. It’s important to be an individual and not compromise.

ER: What is your average price point?

FJ: Pricing varies because sometimes things are very rare. We’ve carried jerseys from former NBA players such as Scottie Pippin and retired Hall of Fame and fashion icon Dennis Rodman. Pricing these can be tricky and we research carefully so as not to jeopardize our relationships with clients by overcharging. You could get a men’s shirt for $20 though.

Top photo: Courtesy of the artist, necklace made by Heidy Perdomo, truck photo by Eladi Bermudez, Trabintres Vintage Clothing photo courtesy of Flo Jimenez

Ed Ramirez

is the owner of Ed's Salvage Co. in Jersey City, runs the McGinley Square Market, and blogs on his site Jersey City Review. He possesses years of experience in the world of high-end fashion sales and public relations. Having worked for Calvin Klein, Gucci, Valentino, Reem Acra, and Roger Dubuis.