From Springsteen coasters to Italian ‘gravy,’ NJ shop sells everything Jersey
MORRISTOWN — Looking for that perfect gift that just screams New Jersey?
There's a little shop in Morristown that can help.
Paul and Tina Miller co-own Just Jersey Goods in Morristown. While Paul is born and raised in Morristown, Tina hails from Pennsylvania but has called New Jersey her "chosen home" for the past 20 years.
The business started in 2012 as a local school fundraising idea.
Tina had connections with local artists who made beautiful, handmade pieces. Unfortunately, many of these artists were struggling financially. So to help them find a new market audience, Tina created a school fundraising program that raised money for the schools while helping New Jersey artists.
She created a catalog with about 30 local artists and worked with 16 schools throughout the state.
Then, in 2014, she and Paul decided to turn this idea into a retail store. So they first opened the shop as a pop-up just to get their feet wet and it was well embraced by the community.
"People loved the idea of supporting local. People finding things that had a New Jersey theme to them, but at that time, there weren't a lot," Tina said.
But even without a lot of Jersey-themed items, the concept was well embraced because it was almost like an extension of the "eat local" campaign, Paul added. People understood that buying everything and anything local would have benefits to their community and society in general.
What started as 30 vendors, has now ballooned to 300 local artists, small businesses, and multi-generational businesses.
"Behind every product, there's a maker. Behind every maker, there's a story," Paul said. A gift from Just Jersey Goods is more than just a thing. It has a personal connection.
The Millers also said because of the pride in the state and the pride that the makers have taken in developing products, it's been so much fun to see the ideas that have come about based on customer feedback.
Paul said there are so many " New Jersey shaped" items, everything from license plates, leather key chains, cutting boards, signs, chocolate, bottle openers and jewelry.
Tina's favorite is the gift boxes because they are custom-made and represent different makers and stories.
"The idea is to send something to a family member who has moved away or to someone who is coming to New Jersey. A lot of corporations have embraced the idea too, and are using these boxes to follow up when interviewing new talent to come into the state," Tina said. The boxes represent New Jersey in a positive light.
The Millers customized 300 gift boxes for the New York Jets last year and hope to do the same this year for the draft.
When asked if there are any Bruce Springsteen or Jon Bon Jovi-related items in the shop, Paul quipped, "well, what kind of a Jersey store would we be without that?"
He said a big seller are these cork-back coasters with beautiful designs representing Springsteen and Bon Jovi songs, lyrics, and album names.
Plus there is a series of these coasters that celebrates other New Jersey musicians, writers, actors, inventors, and sports legends.
There is also an entire "Jersey Girl" and "Down-the-Shore" collection featuring pillows, books, candles, notecards, and more, all with attitude, of course.
"Sopranos" fans? Sorry, but there is no merchandise attributed to HBO's beloved fictional Italian-American organized crime family sold at Just Jersey Goods right now, but the Millers are working on that.
Another fun item sold with the New Jersey-shaped pasta is Jersey Italian gravy. Paul said getting in the middle of the "is it sauce or is it gravy?" conversation among some feisty Italians is interesting.
The couple has also heard and been involved in some colorful conversations between New Jerseyans from the north and south involving the pork roll and Taylor ham debate.
Jen Ursillo is a reporter and anchor for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach her at email@example.com
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