Despite what a certain television show would have you believe, the New Jersey shore is not just a bastion for hair gel, tanning salons and malls. Asbury Park—home of Jon Bon Jovi and Bruce Springsteen—is in the middle of a profound revitalization. Once a seedy beach resort, this vintage-American town is fast becoming the Shore’s answer to Brooklyn’s Williamsburg, as hip restaurants and chic boutiques take the place of decrepit medical supply repositories and crumbling, formerly unoccupied storefronts.
When Sweet Joey’s opens for business on Bangs Avenue in Asbury Park on Saturday, selling custom-made raw selvedge denim, it will mark a milestone in the saga of Vlad Pisch, the owner’s father, a “self-taught jean maker” who figured out a way to dress his family in denim back in Communist Czechoslovakia. In an era when American jeans could cost a month’s salary, Vlad found ways to acquire hard-to-come-by denim fabric and created a booming underground business refashioning and designing denim in the latest styles. When his friends fretted about where to find beer money, he’d respond, “Don’t worry, I’m going to make some jeans today!”
The family fled to the US in 1985, and now, son Joey Pisch is bringing his denim heritage into the twenty-first century. Sweet Joey’s offers custom-made jeans starting at $300, meticulous denim repairs starting at $80 and select vintage. There are also bags made from antique Slovakian hemp, by Joey’s sister Barbara. And in keeping with the family tradition of tailoring, alterations will also be available from Joey’s mother, Katarina, an accomplished tailor who counts Bon Jovi and The Boss among her customers.
With its ornate tin ceilings, roughneck-Americana vibe, and on-site workshop, Sweet Joey’s oozes history: motorcycle culture, Coca-Cola, rock n’ roll. “It feels like an old tailor’s shop,” says Joey, “but as if it were owned by Buddy Holly.”
Sweet Joey’s, sweetjoeys.com 523 Bangs Avenue, Asbury Park, NY, 732.455.3183