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Words: Lyz Mancini

Photos: Corey Lugg

When indie meets urban, one would expect a brawl worthy of a million memes and Reddit threads; Nike Air Jordans flying, ironic Christmas sweaters trampled, and an array of Beastie Boys paraphernalia and original Neutral Milk Hotel records left to a slow hipster death. However, the two equally stylish fashion aesthetics have made a peaceful home in Jersey City’s vintage clothing store Very, nesting not too far from Manhattan and Brooklyn but full of truly special and curated finds. Owners Izzy Bermeo, Matthew Michael McKay, and Jean Cataldi became neighbors and, in truly un-New York fashion, met each other and became friends. Bonding over their love of reasonably-priced vintage, their store-front was founded and opened in one dizzying month. Now, it seems as though the bustling Erie Street is very much owned by Very.

As a personal attestation, the VNDL crew left with overflowing bags of printed sweaters, a cozy long-sleeved camo thermal (it was pretty hard to pass on the “Beavis and Butthead” tee), Pendleton flannels, and one-of-a-kind In God We Crush stamped pendants made by local designers James and Andrew Kenny, who create their pieces utilizing the speed and danger of oncoming trains and nimble fingers. The shop is definitely a reason to get to know the PATH train and heck, I might even move there.

 

Tell me how this all started, how you met up, and made Very!

Izzy: I moved to Jersey City in April, and I moved two floors below these guys. Our landlord was asking me about what I do and I told him about the vintage store I had in New York, and he told me that the guy upstairs does the same thing. We didn’t meet for a few weeks but I was kind of checking him out but didn’t know how to get the conversation started.

Matthew: Then it just happened! We started hanging out and we did know we were doing the same thing but in different areas, but we didn’t talk business for a while. Once it did go there, Izzy let me know that he had been watching me and wanted to make sure that before anything was propositioned that he had an idea of who I was in a fashion sense and as a person.

Izzy: Getting into a business is worse than a marriage, so we wanted to make sure.

Matthew: Then once the topic was breached, it was like a firestorm. Jean and I had looked at this space (9 Erie Street), before Izzy and I came back to revisit it. We were actively searching for a brick and mortar in May. Our inventory levels and financials were a ways off, but it was still very much a goal.

What were you doing at that point, while dreaming this up?

Matthew: Jean works from home for Kaplan, and I at the time was doing Very in Jersey City as a pop-up at friend’s gallery spaces and street fairs. I had that previous November, taken a job with Armani. I took a job in retail management to fund this endeavor and once Izzy and I got together, we were ready. Within a month of talking, we formed the LLC overnight, nailed down the space…
Izzy: This space was taken already, and I drove by and saw it was for rent again.

Jean: We chased down this spot specifically. When we partnered with Izzy, our dream became more feasible, so we knew this was the place for us.

Matthew: Erie Street, and this area is like the Bleecker Street of Jersey City. There is so much going on here, it’s really exciting. This is the prime location. I was so worried that we had already missed the boat, and having landed here is just amazing.

Jean: The easiest part oddly was their creative ideas behind the shop. They have such a vision about the clothes, the people, the merchandising, but the biggest part was a good location. It all fell into place.

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When you were discussing the vision of the store, did you have the same aesthetic in mind or was there more of a compromise?

Izzy: We had the same vision, I feel like I met the people I was supposed to do this with. This has always been a passion, and once I stalked Matt out a little, I was keeping an eye on what he was wearing, his Etsy shop, and his style.

Matthew: A lot of things aligned in the universe for this to happen, and it couldn’t have happened in a better way. There is a tiny difference in our vision, but it’s not the product that’s different, it’s just how it’s worn. Pieces that we consider to be Very quality, it runs parallel. The Izzy client and the Matthew client would pick out the same stuff but style it separately.

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Give me an example of how they would style an article of clothing.

Matthew: My client is more beatnik or hipster, indie…where Izzy attracts more of an urban client. So take a graphic sweatshirt, my guys would wear it with a Members Only Jacket and jeans and boat shoes. His client would wear it with a flat top and painted-on jeans and Dunks, and an Adidas jacket.

Izzy: Or with a denim jacket, Matt would wear it over a sweater, a shirt, or a cardigan. I would be in a jersey, a hoodie, and the same jacket. The people who come here, Monday they dress like Matt, Tuesday they dress like me. That’s why the shop just fits them so well.

Matthew: We bring something unique to the table. People would go to other vintage stores to look force something specific and they couldn’t find it, so they would be forced into shopping retail for it. You won’t find vintage Reeboks or windbreakers at a lot of places, because other shops don’t value that kind of fashion history.

Also, your prices are super on point and reasonable I noticed. As is evident by my many purchases.

Jean: The majority is under $50, and a few special pieces (a Dior jacket, a vintage fur coat), is under $100. We don’t get super crazy when we see labels, we take into account the quality, and what we think our clients are looking for. As a consumer, I hate going into a vintage store, the worst feeling is just immediately being priced out. We want everyone to walk in and be able to afford something cool; the kids playing basketball down the street can buy our $20 t-shirts, we have dresses for $40 for a girl who can wear it a variety of ways instead of going to H&M.

Matthew: There is a common misconception that vintage is more expensive than retail, and that’s propagated by vintage shop owners. We share the belief that by nature it shouldn’t dictate that it is worth more than retail because it’s something you will be wearing that 100,000 people aren’t wearing. That’s the model we are following here. You can buy a coat retail for $140 that will fall apart within the season, or spend the same amount or less on a coat that has a story, a history, and will bring a uniqueness to your wardrobe.

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One word that came to mind when I walked into Very was the word “curated.” Everything looks very carefully and thoughtfully chosen.

Jean: We do very much bring an aspect of curation to it, because we have searched through inventory, kept in mind trends but also quality and uniqueness, so we can guide you to the best pieces.

Matthew: Anyone who wants to make it in vintage knows or should know that your number one priority to be successful is to find channels and connections to source inventory that allows you to be priority but also to follow trends but also to set trends. We are doing a sale on sweaters, and because of that, we could source tons of Cosby sweaters (which are always in), and now everyone in the neighborhood is wearing one.

Izzy: This area is changing so much. Over the past even seven months, there is a definite movement happening.

Why should people come to Jersey City besides to buy awesome, reasonably-priced Cosby sweaters from Very?

Jean: In the next six months, there is going to be five new restaurants opening on one square block. It is such a foodie city. It is really blossoming but it isn’t morphing into an already existing place like Hoboken. It has its own vibe and identity as being artsy and cultured and under the radar. I love being a apart of the community.

Matthew: We started something called the Good Morning Initiative where if you’re walking down the street in the morning, you say “good morning” to people. You really notice and feel a difference.

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So I hear that the name Very is a Heathers reference?

Matthew: There is a line in the movie where Winona Ryder says “how very.” It felt so bitchy in the sense that it is so cool. The lack of any adjective, it is left up to the imagination. Also, four letter words are always catchy and can lend themselves to a lot of things.

Izzy: We plan on branching out eventually, repurposing and designing pieces, creating a label, making Very t-shirts and other pieces. Very doesn’t back us into a corner in terms of our future plans and how to expand creatively.

Matthew: It is “very…” then whatever you think it is or what you want it to be. You can make it yours with your style. I want people to come in and think the store belongs to them.

Contact Info:
Address: 9 Erie Street, Jersey City, NJ
Very Facebook page
Very Instagram:@shopvery
In God We Crush Etsy

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