Relic Music owner Mike Nicosia with one of the Dunable guitars his shop carries. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge.)


Amid a booming market for six-stringed instruments, a boutique retailer of electric guitars has opened in downtown Red Bank.

Also in this edition of Retail Churn: a new combo toy and sports memorabilia shop, and a Ukrainian maker of custom tables and jewelry making its United States landfall, both on Broad Street.

Pop Freak Collectibles, opened at the corner of Broad and Wallace streets. Below, Olena Prykhodko, owner of the Kochut jewelry and epoxy table store. (Photos by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge.)

• In addition to having been the birthplace of Danelectro guitars and amps, Red Bank was once a retail mecca for guitarists. It was home to a handful of stores carrying six-strings, amps and gear, including Guitar Trader, then located at 12 Broad Street.

The 2018 closing of Monmouth Music, two years after it gave up on retail sales in the face of competition from the national Guitar Center chain and direct-to-consumer sales by manufacturers, meant the end of guitar-only retailing.

But since the start of the pandemic, “this business has exploded,” said Mike Nicosia, who opened Relic Music Shop at 13 Monmouth Street last month. “There’s never been a better time to open an indie music store.”

Relic store carries “some entry-level stuff,” Nicosia said, but is mainly focussed on helping players achieve the tone they hear in their heads, using the right mix of guitars and effects pedals, which Relic also carries.

Nicosia, 42 and living in Ocean Township, started working as a salesman at a chain music store right out of college 20 years ago, and fell in love with it, a feeling that stayed with him even as he ventured into other fields, he told Churn.

But with the pandemic driving guitar sales skyward, Nicosia decided that it was time to follow through on a long-nursed dream: open his own guitar shop.

The key to survival is “you have to eat it, you have to live it and you have to breathe it,” Nicosia said. “If i had any sense, I’d go back to a regular job. But this is what I’ve always wanted to do with my life.”

His shop, which took space last tenanted by Sassy Chic dress shop, carries guitars by Dunable, Bilt, Fano and Robot Graves. The instruments sell for from $200 to “the five digits,” said Nicosia, who also offers guitar and amp servicing.

Pop Freak Collectibles has opened at 65 Broad Street, at the southeast corner of Wallace, replacing a long-gone carpet store.

The business pairs retailing of Funko and other toys, under the management of Jay Spedale, and sports memorabilia, run by Rolf Luberoff.

Some Funko toys have become high-price collectibles. In 2012, a new Star Wars toy could be purchased for $15. Today, with only 480 having been produced, it might trade for $1,500, Spedale said.

The store features a soda machine, or something that looks like one, that dispenses cans, inside which you get either the “common” version of a Funko toy or a variant, known as a “chase,” which Spedale said “may be more collectible because those are produced in more limited numbers.”

Having the shop located next door to Jay and Silent Bob’s Secret Stash makes for good potential synergy, drawing on like-minded customers excited by pop-culture collecting, Spedale said.

This Sunday, the store hosts former New York Ranger Stephane Matteau and former New York Met Howard Johnson for an autograph session from noon to 2 p.m.

• Olena Prykhodko has opened Kochut Wood at 37 Broad Street, previously occupied by a clothing boutique called Anima.

Kochut is a Ukrainian company offering jewelry and epoxy-and-wood furniture. And if it sounds like an odd business model, well, it’s booming in Europe, Prykhodko says. The recent transplant to Morganville, from Brooklyn, is the owner of the Red Bank store, the first in the United States.

The company began when three brothers named Kochut opened a jewelry store in the Ukraine in 2013. Needing displays, they created their own, which led to an epoxy -and-wood table factory that now employs more than 300, Prykhodko said.

So customers walk in searching for jewelry and walk out having purchased a table? “That is very possible,” Prykhodko said, adding that over the summer, while the store space was still be readied, she sold seven.

The tables range in price from under $1,000 to $15,000.

Prykhodko said she expects to have all the jewelry, and additional tables, in time for the Christmas season.

• Artist Mike Quon, the last holdout among several tenants who shared 86 Broad Street on a “pop-up” basis for the past year, has relocated across the street, to 93 Broad. Both buildings are owned by Ten Co.

Quon Art Gallery 93 replaces Midtown Authentic.

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