408 Sixth St.
The name of this unique boutique has nothing to do with the owner wanting it to pop up first in your online search. Turns out, it’s an Urdu word meaning to decorate, embellish, or adorn—a perfect description of the store’s merchandise, which is imported from India.
The shop specializes in boutique home furnishings, fine Indian fabrics, fashion jewelry, clothes, and footwear. “They’re not heavy on the pocket, and you can look like a million bucks,” says owner Neeta King, who is a native of India. “I like the independence here,” King says. “I wanted to prove to myself that I could make it away from my country and culture.”
The cotton, chiffon, and woolen fabrics, King says, are authentic, unlike what you often see in this country.
The jewelry comes from all over the world, including from Brazil, Scandinavia, and local U.S. designers. Other items include tunics, sandals, slip-ons, scarves, bedspreads, cushions, and handmade boxes.
The winter holiday season is a busy time for aaRaa. King says that Hobokenites sometimes just refer to the shop as the Indian Store or the Gift Store. “I love it,” King says. “Call it whatever you want, as long as you remember to come.”
1414 Willow Ave.
Folks moving into those condos in the high rises on the waterfront need to fill them with something. Enter Battaglia’s Home, the hip west-side furniture store. “That’s our market,” says owner Brian Battaglia. “Mostly young people who come here for bright new stuff. We have contemporary sensibilities.”
He has clear ideas on what is contemporary. “Very clean lines, nicely designed, not slapped together,” he says, adding that he likes to “warm it up. Not just a white leather sofa sitting on a white rug like Architectural Digest.”
He says you can warm up a room with fabrics and pillows that make it look like a home in Dwell magazine.
Battaglia moved to Hoboken in 1991. “It’s a place where you can come home at 10 o’clock at night and there’s still a night life,” he says. “People who like city living take advantage of that, and the restaurants.”
Battaglia prides himself on being able to offer things that the “big stores” can’t. “They don’t have a lot of depth in what they carry,” he says. At Battaglia’s Home, they offer custom upholstery—and advice.
“We do a lot of the same things interior designers do,” Battaglia says. “We sit down with people and help them go through the process without the interior-design fee.”
His far-west-side location means that he is not going after “walk-by” business. “No matter how many times you walk by a table, if you don’t want a table, you’re not buying one,” he says.
Instead, folks know where he is and what to expect. The very popular Pilsener Haus Biergarten nearby is a big boon, and “building is starting again,” Battaglia says.
THE CHEESE STORE
720 Monroe St.
Last summer the Cheese Store celebrated its fifth anniversary. “It’s enjoyable to sell cheese in this day and age,” says owner Chung Park. “With the mass production of food, we’re realizing how unhealthy food production is, and people are going back to eating the foods made the same way for hundreds and thousands of years.”
Wow, talk about aged cheese. “Cheese and wine, those things are natural,” he says, “and natural food tastes the best anyway.”
Cheese is great for entertaining. “Unlike other foods, you don’t have to cook it, so you can be out of the kitchen,” says Park. “It’s ready there for you.”
Park, who lives in Queens, New York, had his sights set on Hoboken when he wanted to open a shop. “It’s an ideal demographic.” What he means by that is an educated, well-heeled, and cultured populace that “appreciates the product.”
Park, who went to college in Vermont, appreciates that state’s cheese. But he gets his product from all over the world and right nearby in New Jersey and New York. Right now, he says, the “most appealing” cheese comes from—you didn’t guess it—Wisconsin!
The shop sells high-end sandwiches, olives, and coffee, and nearby wine stores make the Cheese Store top of mind when Hobokenites are shopping for at-home wine and cheese gatherings. Folks taking in studio tours or the theater at the Monroe Center also like to stop off at the Cheese Store.
“We’re not dependent on foot traffic,” Park says. “We’re a destination type of place.”
GENERAL LUMBER COMPANY
200-202 Clinton St.
Tax day is bad for everyone, but it was especially bad in 2007 for the General Lumber Company when its warehouse burned to the ground. The company, which was established in the 1930s, reinvented itself after the fire as a True Value Hardware store.
Esther Grauso is now manager of this family-owned business. A registered dietician by profession, she abandoned that career in the late 1980s when she started having kids, and came back to work in the family store.
“It was a great opportunity,” she says. “I am pretty much a business-minded person, and there are not a lot of business skills in the nutrition field.”
The store doesn’t sell lumber on site but will drop-ship it to customers who order it.
“The old lumber yard was such a different kind of business,” Grauso says. “You’d walk in and see and smell the lumber. I miss it sometimes.”
Though the family picked up the pieces of their shattered business, they never left their beloved Hoboken. “I love Hoboken,” says Grauso, who was born here but lives in Allendale. “I worked here every summer when I was in high school. My grandparents came here from Italy. My grandmother had a fish store on Third and Clinton.”
She’s seen the town evolve. “It’s metamorphosed,” she says. “It’s phenomenal. There are baby carriages and dogs. It’s wonderful. We’ve been here forever, and it’s a great place to be.”
URBAN CONSIGN & DESIGN
38 Jackson St., 2nd floor
(201) 710-5075 (office)
(201) 921-6800 (cell)
Paul Fitzgerald had been working on Wall Street for 15 years and moved into retail sales when the market started getting soft, but he always wanted to do something on his own. “I had been working for other people for a long time,” he says. And, after working in retail for four years, he realized, “I had no idea how much I was paying for retail, and I decided I would never pay retail for anything again.”
With that thought in his head, he launched Urban Consign & Design.
Fitzgerald had accompanied his wife, Cyndi, to KC Consignment in Hoboken, a kids’ consignment shop. “It was a little place for tiny things,” he says. He liked the concept but wanted to deal in bigger merchandise.
A consignment shop works like this: People bring in lightly used items for resale and then split the proceeds with the shop 50/50. A $200 price tag would net the shop $100. Fitzgerald liked the profit margins.
“I have an eye for furniture and antiques,” he says. That would be the bigger merchandise he would sell. The loft space at 38 Jackson would be perfect for displaying the living room, dining room, and bedroom sets, armoires, and older home goods.
Fitzgerald wants the loft to do triple duty as a meeting space and venue for displaying local art. “I like supporting the arts,” he says. “There’s no reason to get a picture from IKEA when you can get something original.”
Interviews by Kate Rounds