By Mary Ann Bourbeau
SEA BRIGHT – When Brian George, owner of Northshore, a clothing store on Ocean Avenue, pulled out his giant ribbon-cutting scissors on Dec. 11 to open The Porch at Northshore, it was not the first time.
When Super Storm Sandy hit Sea Bright, a tidal surge broke through the wall of Northshore, and dragged nearly everything that was inside into the Shrewsbury River. After taking on 7 feet of water, the building was condemned and later demolished.
With the help of his vendors, he reopened a few weeks later in a temporary location in Rumson. “I couldn’t afford to not be open for the Christmas season,” he said.
By March 1, 2013, just four months after the storm, the Rumson resident cut the ribbon on his new location, across the street on the ocean side of Sea Bright.
The brand new 700-square-foot addition is dedicated exclusively to women’s wear – a totally new adventure aimed at the next generation of female teens.
With a high ceiling and an open layout that resembles a sun porch, The Porch has a whole different feel from the darker shelves and clothing racks in the men’s section.
“The men’s store is like a man cave,” George said. “The women’s store is kind of elegant.”
Super Storm Sandy may have torn Sea Bright apart, but it helped bring George and his daughter, Mary Dobson, closer together. Dobson is now manager of The Porch, working alongside her father, who will run the men’s section of Northshore.
“My dad and I are so similar,” Dobson said. ”I grew up with two brothers and I was not a girly-girl. We’re an athletic family and I was always part of the team. When we’re doing something, we have a team mentality. We work well together because we have the same visions of how we want things.”
Dobson and her husband lived in Hoboken and she commuted into Manhattan for seven years, but when the borough approved Northshore’s expansion into what was a 100-year-old shed adjacent to the store, she decided to make a change.
“I was ready to leave Wall Street,” said Dobson, who now lives in Little Silver. “It was a stressful grind. I always knew I would come back to Monmouth County.”
Northshore’s men’s store has a casual beach club vibe. Customers can buy suits, sporty blazers, a belt with embroidered lobsters or a tie emblazoned with the zip codes of Sea Bright and Rumson. Some of the labels for sale include Hickey Freeman, Vineyard Vines, Trafalgar and Sperry Topsider.
“It’s definitely a lifestyle,” George said. “Not everyone wants to wear pants with shamrocks on them.”
Women’s wear was previously a few racks crowded into a corner of the men’s store and now it has a place of its own.
“For the first time, we’re able to merchandise our women’s wear and I’m really excited about it,” Dobson said. “We used to have a more classic, tailored look. We still have clothes that mothers can wear, but also a new look for the next generation. It’s exciting to see high school students come in and get excited about our clothes.”
Although the merchandise at Northshore is new, much of its former décor was actually recovered and is back in the store. Many of the nautical signs that hung on the walls and college football helmets that lined the shelves were found by area residents after the storm and returned to the store.
“We would come to the store and find signs and ties on the front porch,” Dobson said. “It’s such a tight-knit community but everyone really pulled together.”
A framed family photo of the George clan, which hung on the wall in the old store, was found after the storm. It now hangs behind the cash register, proudly wearing the sand it took on during Sandy. Another relic, the only thing that didn’t get washed out of the store’s former location, is a 500-pound National crank cash register that dates back to 1904.
“We had it since the day the store opened 33 years ago,” Dobson said. “It means a lot to my father.”
Despite all the destruction that Sandy brought, the owners never considered relocating Northshore to another town.
“My dad and I are not ones to sit there and wallow if something goes wrong or not according to plan,” Dobson said. “We had no second thoughts about Sea Bright. My dad has grown to love the quirkiness and uniqueness of this town.”
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