VINCENT J. FAIELLA
RED BANK SURPLUS
16 WALLACE STREET
I’ve been here four months. We were in Brooklyn for 79 years Reliable Naval Tailoring Co. I’m third-generation.
I’ve been living in Little Silver for 15 years. I was born and raised in the city and wanted to get out of there, found a house in Little Silver and was commuting for 15 years. The opportunity came about that I could rent a nice little store in Red Bank, and I jumped on it.
I was getting my haircut next door at Rocky’s, and I asked Rocky [Foderaro] if he knew of any storefronts, and he said, “I have a place that may be available soon.” So I came by the next day, and he showed me the space, told me how much it was, and I said, “I want it.” But it was still occupied until July. I said, “You want me to sign something, give you a deposit?” He said, “No, wait until they get out.” Never took a dime. And I know he was approached by several other people interested in renting. Never took a dime from me until July.
I knew Rocky was a man of his word. People said to me, “How can you believe it?” And I said, “Well, he told me. That’s it.”
Red Bank’s a good town to be in, obviously, for a business. And it’s really close to home. That’s the biggest thing.
How’s it going so far?
It’s kind of quiet. People are getting to know me, and once the word gets out, they’ll certainly come here, because I’m one of the more reasonable shops in Red Bank.
Tell me what you sell.
A lot of Army surplus, not necessarily genuine. Pea coats and field jackets and all kinds of military-style winter coats. Plus I still have a full selection of Navy and Marine uniforms the real thing. I’ve already sold some items to Marine recruiters, because there’s no place to buy them in New York. You have to go to either Camp LeJeune or Quantico, Va. Or you can do it mail-oreder, but sometimes you need to actually try something on or see something.
How did the business come about?
We were across the street from the Brooklyn Navy Yard. My grandfather started as a tailor. Eventually, one of the uniform insignia people came in and told my grandfather that he had to put the insignias on the uniforms and that he would sell that. He put up a little display and told my grandfather, “I’ll pay you for whatever you sell,” and that’s it.
One of the biggest manufacturers of Navy uniforms started right down the block from us, Sea-Going Uniforms. When they were closing out, they would call up my father and say, “We’re going to sell you this, and it’s going to be dirt-cheap, and you pay me when you can pay me.” Eventually the family sold the business, and we got a lot of stuff when they did I mean, tens of thousands of dollars worth of stuff.
Later, my father bought their factory. So I ran a factory for a couple of years, in Bush Terminal in Brooklyn. Didn’t work out well, but I learned to cut, and can do a lot of things I couldn’t do before. My father had the store, and I had the factory, but I was only making a few items.
The Navy yard closed when?
That was in ’66. It put all the other companies out of business, and we were one of the few to survive. What my father did was smart: when the others went out of business, he bought them out. Sometimes it was the building, sometimes it was the inventory. And that’s why I have a tremendous inventory.
Of course, Red Bank has a deep history in the uniform business, with the Eisner Uniform factory having been where the Galleria is today. Did your family do business with the Eisners?
No, they had mostly Army, and we did Navy and Marines.
What are you thoughts on the contention that Red Bank has too much in the way of upscale offerings?
There are a lot of upscale stores, no question about it. I’m not one of them. I’m an Army-Navy store, is what I am. I put up a sign, “Red Bank Surplus,” but I really should have called it “Red Bank Army-Navy,” because I’m really selling work clothes and stuff like that, and not much as far as uniforms go.
Is the appeal to young people?
It’s not just young people. People want quality merchandise at a reasonable price, they’ll come in here. I’ll get the working guys from across the street [a construction site] come in.
But isn’t there a bt of chic to this stuff?
The kids come in for the BDU pants, the battle dress uniform pants, the fatigues with all the pockets on the side, because they’re very stylish and functional. The pea coats are like a timeless thing they never go out of style.
What’s the price range?
Field jackets without a liner, those go for $75. Then I can sell you a leather jacket for four or five hundred dollars. The old bomber jackets. They make them in Jersey Perth Amboy, I think, though they might have moved.
So, four months in, what’s the outlook?
I think things will work out fine. Obviously, it doesn’t matter that I was in Brooklyn for 79 years; I’m the new store. People will have to find out about me, they have to come in and see what I have. And once they do, I think they’ll appreciate the fact that I’m here.
They don’t want to buy a pair of workboots for $200, or $100, when you can buy a pair for $50 that are probably better made. I mean, I have Navy steel-toe workboots for $45 that are American-made. You can’t buy anything American-made to begin with. [Shows off a pair of boots.] This is what the Navy would wear on the ships all leather.