By Lisa Girard
A family run business is the new destination for vintage finds and custom denim
ASBURY PARK — Down among the artsy shops on Bangs Avenue is Sweet Joey’s, a vintage boutique that is quickly becoming known for its one-of-a-kind merchandise and some of the coolest jeans imaginable.
On any given day, owner Joey Pisch, 32, a Czechoslovakian immigrant and former rock ‘n’ roll drummer, is likely to be talking to customers while his dad and partner Vladimir Pisch hammers rivets in the background. Since opening the business a little more than a year ago, Vladimir has made about 50 pairs of custom jeans, or “Vlad jeans,” and their growing reputation is drawing in people from all over the tristate area.
“I’m a third generation ‘garmento,’ which is a Yiddish term for someone who works in the clothing industry,” says Joey Pisch, whose grandfather made suits for government officials in Czechoslovakia and whose mother Katarina Pisch owns The Gold Thimble, a Rumson-based shop that focuses on custom tailoring and alterations, including bridal.
The Pisch family emigrated from Czechoslovakia in 1985, settling in West Belmar and pursuing the American dream of owning their own business. Katarina opened The Gold Thimble in 1998 and when Joey decided to retire from his position as drummer a few years back, he wanted to use his family’s background and his growing interest in vintage clothing and accessories to start a business.
After looking into some Brooklyn locations, he found a vacancy on Bangs Avenue. “The owner told my mother about this space, and it turned out the landlord was also Slovak, so it was kind of serendipitous,” he said. “When I saw the shop in its raw form, I knew it was right.”
Pisch likes the fact that Sweet Joey’s—the name taken from his own childhood nickname—is situated in this growing Asbury Park neighborhood, which also boasts a European-style café, skateboard shop and art store, among other trendy shops. People come from Long Branch, Red Bank, Point Pleasant, Toms River, Brick and other towns to see what unique vintage items Sweet Joey’s might have that day. There are leather jackets, boots, sunglasses, jewelry and pieces brought over from Eastern Europe. And then there are the T-shirts, countless old designs—many with an Asbury Park theme. “I thought people would prefer the new ones with our own Asbury Park design, but they want the old ones, complete with holes and stains,” he said.
Vladimir has his workshop at the back of the 900-square-foot shop. Customers interested in a custom fitting are asked to wear their favorite pair of jeans to the first fitting, where they brainstorm ideas and pick out some raw denim, which Pisch says “has a life of its own and contours to the character of your body.” Some customers prefer to use Japanese selvedge denim, which has a finished edge and a very chic appearance.
The jeans, which can be styled to fit loosely or formfitting, start at $300 and go up from there, depending on the material, styling and embellishments. They require an initial measurement and a final fitting that determines the length and actual fit before the pair is complete. And there’s no such thing as a typical customer for Vlad jeans, Pisch says, adding, “We’ve sold them to 9-year-old twin boys to a gentleman in his late 70s.”
In addition to the jeans, Vladimir is also gaining a reputation for his custom utility aprons, which are becoming popular with people who work in food services, carpenters, dog cleaners and tattoo artists. He also does denim repair if someone has busted out a knee, as well as hemming or turning jeans into skirts or cut-offs.
Allison Devers, who lives in Brooklyn but spends weekends fixing up the small Victorian cottage she and her husband own in Asbury Park, says Sweet Joey’s caught her eye as the “first of a wave of new shops catering to a young, creative crowd.” When she heard they make custom jeans, she knew she would be a customer.
“Jeans in New York City are already close to $200, and I thought it would be amazing to support this local, independent store doing something you can’t really get anywhere else,” she said. “Plus, Joey and Vlad have an incredible friendly and customer service-oriented store. They take pride in their business. Their rapport with one another is wonderful. I love Vlad’s energy and Joey’s dedication to hunting down unique vintage duds. They sort of blow me away.”