By Michele J. Kuhn
SEA BRIGHT – In a sense, Brian George is back home.
After three months in temporary quarters in Rumson, the longtime area haberdasher has moved his Northshore Menswear shop back to the borough in a new location at 1127 Ocean Ave.
After refurbishing the space, George is now ensconced in a building he has nicknamed “big yellow.
“If you’re looking for us, just look for the ‘big yellow’ building,” he said recently with a smile as he was preparing to move back to Sea Bright.
The store will continue to sell men’s “traditional clothing with a twist,” but is now reintroducing fashion for females. George previously sold women’s clothes but jettisoned that part of the business about eight years ago.
When the official grand opening of Northshore is held on Saturday, April 6, George hopes to have space for four lines of women’s apparel – Vineyard Vines, Tori Richards, Island Company and Castaway. “My daughter, Mary, helped me put these lines together,” he said.
Meanwhile, Northshore customers have been buying menswear in a makeshift store at 45 River Road in Rumson, in space meant for offices and using the men’s room to try on clothes.
The space and his loyal customers have been good to George. The building is the same one he occupied 30 years ago – in three offices on the second floor – when he first opened his store and his customers have followed him there since his Sea Bright store at 1080 Ocean Ave. was substantially damaged and his entire inventory swept out by the tidal surge of Super Storm Sandy.
“When the threat of the storm came, we never anticipated what would happen would happen, not in our wildest dreams,” George said. “The year before was Irene and all we got moisture.”
Though he prepared for the Oct. 29 storm by putting merchandise higher up and boarding windows, the surge – coupled with extraordinary high winds – broke through. It filled the store with about 8 feet of water and then tore the shop’s contents out through huge gaping holes broken open by the tide along the building’s side wall.
George’s merchandise and store fixtures, including two pool tables, were swept away.
“I didn’t even have a chance to think … because we were going into the Christmas season. This is the retail business and the fourth quarter is 40 percent, sometimes 50 percent, of your sales and so I couldn’t afford to miss December,” he said. “I had nothing left.”
George’s vendors were helpful and after about two weeks of planning and restocking he put together the temporary shop.
George had flood insurance so he was able to pay the bills on merchandise that had just washed away and then started anew.
He moved into the Rumson building on Dec. 1 and spent three months there. He closed the shop at the end of business on Feb. 27 and was expected to move the contents Feb. 28 and reopen March 1 in Sea Bright. “It has really worked out,” he said.
George initially moved to Sea Bright about 10 years ago. He started in the building occupied by Cono’s Sea Bright Pizza, which he owned. When he sold that, he moved to 1080 Ocean Ave.
Now he is in a building he has “always loved.” He calls it a “classic building … and it hasn’t changed much.”
George has overseen the renovation of the space. There are white cabinets, hardwood floors, Oriental rugs and traditional mahogany furnishings.
“I’m very proud of the way it looks … It’s nice and clean and kind of beachy,” he said. “We’re really excited.”
George is a big supporter of Sea Bright. As an officer in the Businesses of Sea Bright group, he has high hopes for its rebuilding.
“Believe it or not, behind the scenes in some of these buildings, there is cleaning up being done,” he said. “There is progress going on. But, the lifeblood of the town is in the downtown business district. Even the governor said, if the business district gets together, the whole town will feel better.”
George is working to do just that.
“I think Sea Bright will be better than ever. It’s just going to be a matter of time and people have to be patient.”