By Maddie Orton
Jersey makes, the world takes. That’s the idea behind Just Jersey — a retail shop in downtown Morristown celebrating its one-year anniversary of selling items made exclusively by New Jersey artisans. Tina Bologna and Paul Miller co-own the store.
“I think initially it was a lot of work on our end. We’d go out to different craft shows, different galleries, certainly look online,” said Bologna. “And now our job’s getting a little bit easier because they’re starting to hear about us.”
The concept started as a pop-up store featuring 40 New Jersey makers. Now they carry products by nearly 150. It’s a wide array: furniture, artwork, jewelry, even maple syrup.
“Supporting the local economy was a big motivator for us,” said Miller. “But what we pleasantly found, was that there was an awful lot of Jersey pride out there, and that we didn’t have anywhere near enough — or as many certainly as we do now — products that actually said New Jersey or the Garden State.”
So they stocked up. Seeing what sells, Bologna and Miller gave vendors ideas on how to tweak products to reach more customers.
Graphic designer Alex Wilson is a recent college grad. “It allowed me to start paying off some loans before I had an actual full-time job,” he said. “I can just maintain the same inventory here and I know that it will keep selling successfully.”
Like a small handful of other makers in the store, Sergio Burani donates the profits from his sales to charity. So, selling more means giving more.
“Everything I had on the shelves, in terms of Morristown photography, went off the shelves,” Burani said. “Today, I replenish my inventory.”
Beyond the buying and selling, Just Jersey can feel like an art gallery. Corin Wright sells her soy candles here. She says it’s hard for her to drop them off without staying to look through other people’s work.
“It’s really cool to put a face behind a product. So you come in here, drop off your product, you look at everything, and it’s really cool to see and hear the stories of who’s making these products,” she said.
Bologna agrees. “You know, you kind of give them the backstory,” she said, “and I think that gift or that item takes on a whole new meaning when they have that knowledge of why it was made and who made it.”
But often, being a Jersey-made product is meaning enough. Themed gift boxes of assorted items were shipped all over the country this holiday season.
“Some of my family lives out of state, so I come here all the time to remind them where they’re from, and where their roots are,” said customer Lori Sica.
“So many people were so excited to finally have a source for New Jersey-made products because they had been getting them from friends from Texas and other parts of the country,” Bologna said. “‘I’ve been getting your hot sauce for so many years, now here’s some of ours.'”
Another group excited about these gifts: realtors. Miller says they’re really embracing it as a way to show new residents what the Garden State has to offer.