By MOLLY MULSHINE
Autumn eschews the mall in favor of Red Bank because of the town’s artsy feel, she said. “A lot of the styles I’m into, I can find here,” she said. “And I feel safe in this town.”
If any trend is apparent in downtown Red Bank this summer, it’s the return of teens and young adults, lured to modest-priced clothing stores and eateries, including relative newcomers Urban Outfitters, women’s clothing boutique Dor L’Dor and Mexi-Cali chow purveyor Surf Taco, as well as staples like Funk and Standard.
Merchants see the influx of teens as a rebuke to the idea that the town is becoming too upmarket and squeezing out younger shoppers and others with moderate incomes.
“People like to cry that whole ‘upscale’ thing, but I still see a lot of stores that are affordable, more mom-and-pop-ish,” said Funk & Standard owner Patti Siciliano.
Siciliano’s store, where shoppers can find clothing, records, books and tchotchkes, has catered to a younger crowd since it opened in November, 1998. There’s also a new organic and vegan juice bar at the store’s entrance, further solidifying its cred with young shoppers
Located within a few blocks of one another, Funk & Standard, Dor L’Dor and Urban “are like a team,” according to Leanne Navarrette, 20, of Red Bank, who both shops and works locally at Backward Glances. “I’ll get something you can’t find anywhere else at Urban and then I’ll run over to get a shirt to match it at Dor L’Dor.”
Some locals expected Funk & Standard to be threatened when Urban Outfitters, which is part of a popular national chain, moved into town less than two years ago. But Siciliano wasn’t worried.
“You have to have stores that are like you,” she said. “A lot of people, if they were me, would have kind of bowed down and quit when Urban Outfitters said they were opening, but I say that it can only help us.”
The right goods and price points are also key, store owners say.
Ninety percent of the apparel sold at Funk & Standard is manufactured and designed under the Funk & Standard brand, which is unavailable anywhere else. This enables Siciliano to offer goods that are both unique and inexpensive, she said.
“We keep everything affordable and we try to keep it as cutting-edge as possible without going too far ahead,” Siciliano said.
Dor L’Dor, which opened in mid-2010, also emphasizes low prices and singular items. The boutique gets small, frequent shipments, according to manager Chelsea McCain. Thus, “the chances of you seeing another girl wearing [something bought at Dor L’Dor] out the same night are very slim,” she said.
Part of a chain with stores in Manhattan, Brooklyn and Hoboken, and another opening soon in Summit, the Broad Street store is doing “really well,” McCain said. The inexpensive clothing offered at each location is “what people are looking for in this economy,” McCain said. “It’s fashion-forward, trendy merchandise at a low price point.”
Although teenagers of previous generations were known for their love of the shopping mall, some who frequent Red Bank say they prefer the downtown.
“I don’t really go to the mall,” said Kayla Jagusch, 17, of Eatontown. “It’s too cliché.”
Navarette also said she prefers the downtown’s laid-back vibe over the mall’s atmosphere.
“I stay around here,” she said. “If I have a party to go to, I know I can run to Dor L’Dor and get an outfit really quick and I love doing that.”
Navarette, who has lived in town for years, remembers Red Bank as attracting “more punks and skaters” about 10 years ago, she said. The clientele the town attracts now is cleaner cut, but still “with a little hippie twist … Red Bank’s really chill, and it attracts chill people.”
So chill, in fact, that Navarrette finds herself befriending customers, such as Autumn and her father.
When he isn’t dropping her off to hang out with her friends, Avery Byrd frequents some of Red Bank’s attractions, as well.
“I come for the restaurants, I come for the concerts,” he said. “There’s something for the senior citizens, 50-year-olds, 40-year-olds, all the way down to teenagers. And the kids are always going to want music and clothes, so I think they pretty much have a sustainable model.”
Byrd also recognizes the business sense behind attracting a younger demographic.
“Let’s face it if you get the kids, you get the money, because if they get $20, they’re going to spend $20,” he said.
After spending the day shopping, kids are bound to get hungry and the Surf Taco, which opened on Broad Street in March is the perfect place for them to go, father and daughter agree.
“It’s like heaven in a burrito,” Autumn said.
The Mexi-Cali eatery brings in tons of teenagers and young families, according to its employees.
“It’s really the only place that they can go where there’s no bar,” said Elizabeth Jaskiewicz, 17, of Middletown, who has worked at Surf Taco since March. “And two people can eat here for like $20.”
Elizabeth and Kayla not only work on Broad Street, but also shop at the lower-priced boutiques.
“It’s kind of like a mini-New York,” Kayla said. “It’s up-and-coming and trendy. You can always walk around and everyone has cute outfits.”
Kayla and Elizabeth and their friends also enjoy hanging out around town even when they aren’t shopping. According to Elizabeth, there are a lot more teenagers in town than there were in years past.
“Since I’m here I just go shopping before I come into work,” Elizabeth said. “It’s easy and convenient.”