Ian Yarnell, above, with the balsa wood surfboards he and his brother, Colin, sell in their tiny shop, below. (Click to enlarge)
By JOHN T. WARD
It’s one of the more ticklish delights of downtown Red Bank: a 100-or-so-foot-long stretch of alleyway filled with shops and reminiscent of Old Europe.
Tiny, tiny shops. We’re talking 150 square feet or so, in some cases. And the looming proximity of the Dublin House Pub, with its ample courtyard out front and bustling Temple Bar out back, only adds to the fleeting sensation of being transported back in time and space.
So what an additional treat it is now to glance in the window at the former Lee Yarnell Jewelers shop rebranded as Outside Set and see it packed to the gunwales with surfboards.
Colin Yarnell at his jeweler’s bench as his brother Ian looks on. (Click to enlarge)
The shop is owned and manned by the Yarnell brothers: Colin, 35, and Ian, 40, “business partners and housing partners” in their home on the borough’s West Side, as Ian puts it.
They inherited their father’s jewelry business, which was situated for years on White Street, and then for 14 more years on Monmouth Street, next door to Mr. Pizza Slice. They relocated the shop to its current location, off Monmouth, about five years ago, eking out a living based largely on Colin’s custom jewelry work.
But then the price of gold soared, and suddenly, “a piece that a couple of years ago would cost $100 now has to be priced at $350, and nothing else has changed,” said Colin. There went the customers.
So about five months ago, the brothers retagged the business as Outside Set, and started offering a mix of beach-themed items, including the jewelry, which they describe as “inspired by the sea.” But now, the store’s display case also carries Ambika crocheted cotton bikinis, and two walls are lined with balsa-wood Soultree surfboards made by Yarnell buddy Jesse Raymond.
No one line of products “is making the whole rent, but it’s all sort of chipping in,” said Ian.
Though there’s barely room to turn around carrying a surfboard in the shop, and walk-by visibility “is definitely a huge problem,” said Colin, the Yarnells believe they’ll be able to build on an existing clientele that shares their love of the sea and an eco-friendliness with the Earth.
“You overcome the challenge by image and drawing in new customers,” said Ian.
Plus, the brothers consider themselves “resourceful,” holding down other jobs and operating Outside Set by appointment only for the time being. As the holiday season nears, they expect to have regular shopkeepers’ hours.