SEA BRIGHT – Even as a kid, Sayreville native Brian George loved putting classic outfits together and looking tailored.
And since 1982, he’s been bringing that expertise to others through Northshore Sea Bright, his Sea Bright-based shop featuring fine tailored men’s clothing, sportswear and accessories.
“Growing up, my mother worked at JC Penney in Sayreville and by the time I was 12, I was a clothes horse,” recalled George, 73, a longtime Rumson resident who now lives in Little Silver. “I remember saving up money from my paper route and going shopping at a men’s store named Roy’s in Perth Amboy. The clothes represented classic tradition to me and although I didn’t come from money, I wanted to look successful and different, not like everybody else.”
After graduating from King’s College in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, with a degree in history, George landed a job at J.P. Stevens Textile Corp., which was then the second-largest textile company in the industry (behind Burlington Industries).
“I was transferred to St. Louis, and then a few years later I was offered the opportunity to return to New York City and work for Burlington Industries, where I sold fabric to companies like Levi Strauss, Jones New York, Evan Picone and Hart Schaffner & Marx,” he said. “I was selling fabrics to some of the industry’s biggest customers at a young age.”
Following a transfer to Chicago, “I returned back to the New York City area at 28 and started an executive search firm specializing in the apparel industry,” he said. “I was successful, but I realized that being a merchant was in my blood.”
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And George opted to honor that passion.
“In 1982, a business partner and I started a company in Rumson that featured specialized beach chairs, beach bags and wind screens; I named the company Northshore Sport Tech because I’d lived on the North Shore of Chicago and we were on the north part of the Jersey shore, so I thought it worked,” George said. “As part of the company, I contacted a bunch of apparel manufacturers I’d previously worked with and created our Northshore Sportables line of sportswear.
“We offered beachy stuff and menswear, women’s wear and dry goods like beach towels and blankets and ended up with a lot of products left over at the end of that season, so we decided to have a tent sale in Rumson,” George said. “We made over $10,000 in two weekends and everyone told us that our products would make a great store, so we bought a building on River Road in Rumson, established a store, and were there for the next 20 years.”
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Though George bought his partner out after a year and the business relocated several times in the last two decades, it’s thrived for 40 years.
“In 2002, we moved from Rumson to a space in Sea Bright that was formerly occupied by an ice cream shop and changed our name to Northshore Sea Bright, then moved to former pharmacy space nearby,” said George, who noted that business was strong.
After superstorm Sandy hit, however, “we ended up with eight feet of water in the store and the building was condemned, so, since 2013, we’ve been located in a classic colonial building in Sea Bright that’s very beachy and we love it.”
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Tailored clothing and more
While the cozy 1,400-square-foot shop previously carried men’s, women’s and boy’s wear, “we recently got out of the women’s wear business and now focus exclusively on outfitting men and boys,” George said.
“We sell tailored clothing, including suits, sport coats, formal wear, shirts, neckwear, socks, shoes, belts and sportswear (such as outerwear, slacks, sweaters, and sport shirts) by premium apparel brands such as Peter Millar, Scott Barber, Johnnie-O, Southern Tide, and Turtleson and also offer shoes from Alden, Peter Millar, and Johnnie-O as well as our own private-label shoes,” he said.
“At Northshore, we respect the traditions, but with a fresh twist,” George said of the store’s personality. “Today, men are going back to the office but want the comfort of the sweats and casual clothes they enjoyed while working at home during the pandemic, so comfort is the name of the game in menswear,” he said of the current trend.
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“As a result, customers love such products of ours as trousers, slacks and modern five-pocket pants made of fabrics that stretch as well as performance-knit shirts and even casual shoes that are made of fabric that you slide right into,” George said.
“Because we’re at the Shore, color is also very important to our store. We want to be different but not over the top,” he added, noting that royal blue is currently in hot demand. “Layering and mixing and matching different colors and textures is also very popular and helps create a clean, traditional look — or as we say, ‘classic with a kick.’”
While George acknowledged that “we’re not cheap, nor is our merchandise,” he said that “our quality is the best, and even if we sell a hand-tailored sport jacket for $895, the same jacket might cost $1,500 in New York City or elsewhere. We’re all about merchandising and personalized customer service and will provide customers a discount if they buy an entire outfit,” he said.
“We offer everything — from apparel and furnishings to shoes to tailoring — and are dedicated to making things easy for customers by being a one-stop shop,” he said.
According to George, Northshore Sea Bright customers are mostly professionals who come from as close as Sea Bright and as far away as Colts Neck, Middletown and Spring Lake.
“This is a tough industry and there are fewer than a dozen stores like ours left in New Jersey today,” he said. “But our customers appreciate quality and I enjoy helping them by explaining the value behind the garment and how and where to wear each piece. We love educating them on how to be comfortable while still being crisp, clean and professional.”
“An organized appearance reflects an organized mind and when people see you for the first time and you’re dressed professionally, it’s a show of respect and that you have your act together,” George said of the importance of quality haberdashery. “People like to associate with successful people, so we try to project success.”
‘Proud to be part of this community’
Unlike many other businesses, George hasn’t faced challenges sourcing products during the pandemic. “We have great relationships with our vendors and our store is packed with inventory,” he said.
But he jokingly laments not being able to do everything his younger self could. “I’m 73 now and just had a knee replacement. I need a day off!” he laughed, noting that the store recently cut back its hours by closing on Sundays.
Supported by three seasoned associates, “Northshore Sea Bright promotes itself as ‘quality goods sold by courteous professionals at a fair price’ and we’re proud to be part of this community,” George said. “I’ve known our customers and their families for decades; some kids got their first blazer here at 6 years old and are now all grown up and starting their own careers. It’s a nice feeling to serve multiple generations.”
George credits his store’s four decades of success to his wonderful customers and also to his own creativity.
“I love putting together a line to make it a concept,” he said. “We don’t just sell clothes — we sell a laid-back, casual-chic lifestyle and the pieces all work together to help you carve out your own identity. We’re the threads of the Jersey Shore.”
Northshore Sea Bright
Location: 1127 Ocean Ave., Sea Bright
Owner: Brian George