Vin­tage ef­fort, a vague fu­ture


Barbara Pisch was about 20 years old when she re­al­ized she had to save East­ern Europe’s past.

Not all of it. Just the fab­ric, specif­i­cally an­tique home­spun hand­wo­ven hemp linen tex­tiles. Hav­ing im­mi­grated from Slo­vakia as a child with her par­ents, she had dis­cov­ered such pieces in her grand­mother’s pantry and at­tic.

“I loved them right away,” Pisch said. “I had a strong re­ac­tion to them.” Now she fills the light wood book­shelves in Pa­triae, her store at 713 Bangs Ave. here, with bolts, greige tote bags and nat­u­ral tu­nics all made of the creamy old cloth.

“Peo­ple were just throw­ing this stuff out,” Pisch said of the dead­stock rolls, sheets, tow­els and wagon cov­ers she has sal­vaged from flea mar­kets and the homes of friends’ par­ents dur­ing reg­u­lar pil­grim­ages to the old coun­try. “I had this feel­ing. Like, ‘Oh my God, I have to save this piece of his­tory.’ ”

Pisch could have eas­ily been talk­ing about As­bury Park. For years, the area was de­fined by crum­bling 100-year-old build­ings, des­o­la­tion, gov­ern­ment cor­rup­tion and poverty.

But af­ter an in­flux of the LGBTQ com­mu­nity, along with ded­i­cated mu­sic fans, artists’ col­lec­tives, his­to­ri­ans, lo­cals and a part­ner­ship be­tween two ma­jor de­vel­op­ers, Madi­son Mar­quette and iS­tar, the re­cent re­vival of this small city in­cludes not only a deep ded­i­ca­tion to its own relics, but also a grow­ing con­tin­gent of mer­chants and artists in­ter­ested in pre­serv­ing the past.

Joey Pisch, Pisch’s brother and the owner of Sweet Joey’s (523 Bangs Ave.), has been here for seven years. “Bangs was off the beaten path, but we like that,” Pisch said of the now thriv­ing district, about half a mile from the beach.

The Pisch si­b­lings scour for vin­tage items to­gether and col­lab­o­rated on de­sign­ing a Grate­ful Dead T-shirt that singer John Mayer wore last sum­mer to one of his gigs.

This year, Joey Pisch be­gan a self-de­scribed “econ­omy rock ‘n’ roll” sun­glasses com­pany, with frames in­spired by Buddy Holly and Light­nin’ Hop­kins. Next, he said, his com­pany will de­sign a wrap­around style Lou Reed made fa­mous in the 1960s.

The vin­tage shops are mostly lo­cated east of the town’s rail­road tracks, not on the West Side, where ri­ots in 1970 took place and most com­mer­cial build­ings were de­stroyed.

Ac­cord­ing to the United States cen­sus, 48.5 per cent of As­bury Park’s res­i­dents are Black, yet store own­ers are pre­dom­i­nantly white. Sylvia Sylvia-Cioffi, the ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the city’s Cham­ber of Com­merce, said that as re­de­vel­op­ment con­tin­ued, par­tic­u­larly on the West Side, she an­tic­i­pates more mer­chants of colour would be rep­re­sented.

“Our phi­los­o­phy is that we’re on the West Side,” Sylvia-Cioffi said of her of­fice build­ing, on Spring­wood Ave. “It makes a real state­ment that the cham­ber is here where the next phase of de­vel­op­ment is re­ally needed and sup­ported.”


Joey Pisch’s shop, Sweet Joey’s, is part of the re­cent re­vival in As­bury Park, N.J.

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