THIS NEW RED BANK BOUTIQUE FEATURES A SIZZLING PLATTER OF HARD TO FIND FASHION BRANDS AND ECLECTIC STYLES
BY JESSICA JONES GORMAN • PHOTOS BY VIOLET KARYN PHOTOGRAPHY
Gwendolyn Esposito and Michelle Serpico have always had an eye for fashion. Devoted to several designer brands and constantly on the lookout for contemporary pieces to add to their wardrobes, the friends made a hobby out of seeking out and unearthing truly unique looks and accessories. But when retail shuttered amid the pandemic, Esposito and Serpico were forced to scour the web for their favorite hard to find brands, and the search soon sparked an idea: Why not compile all of their favorite, hard sought fashion finds under one roof?
“We knew if we gave these influencer fueled brands a local presence, shoppers would show up,” noted Esposito. “Everyone sifts through social media and sees all of these great clothes and accessories. But there’s no brick and mortar store that you can visit and buy them.”
When retail space became available on Monmouth Street in Red Bank, the friends seized the opportunity, quickly transforming a former home décor boutique into a modern retail destination, splashing the store in shades of gray and blue and adding oversized mirrors and LED lights throughout. The friends decided to call the location GEMS a perfect blend of their initials. They filled the racks with brands like Boys Lie, Rollas, and a high end label that rebrands and repurposes vintage Levis. After opening their doors on Black Friday, they were immediately inundated with sales and orders.
“We can’t keep items in stock, everything flies out the door so fast,” said Esposito. “Every pair of jeans is a hit and people can’t believe we’re stocking We Wore What. These are brands that you don’t normally see anywhere else, and our shoppers respect and admire that.”
Together the friends form an ideal team. Serpico, the former owner of the high end Red Bank boutique Love Me More, brings years of retail experience to the table, and Esposito, whose mother worked as a seamstress, has an eye for quality craftsman ship.
“We’ve taken a lot of different roads professionally,” said Serpico. “But we’ve both always had a desire to own a boutique. The timing was just perfect for this…we’re both so glad all of the stars aligned.”
The pair is extremely motivated, taking any means necessary to pursue and obtain exclusive brand rights.
“We tracked down the owner of Boys Lie on Instagram and personally messaged her multiple times until she responded,” said Esposito. “When she realized how eager we were she signed on with our store. Sales of the label have been so amazing she has since invited us out to California so we could offer our input on the line.”
GEMS also stocks brands like Selkie, Love Shack Fancy, and Frankie’s Bikinis each of which have a strong presence in New York City. To locate new items for their store, Esposito and Serpico search brands online and scour trade shows for vibrant new finds
“We’ll attend Coterie at the end of September at the Jacob Javits Center,” said Serpico. “We love seeing things in person, feeling the fabric, and investigating the quality up close. Many brands also invite us to their warehouses now so we can look at the items before buying.”
Defining the store’s style as trendy and contemporary, the owners describe their clothes as a mix of sexy and conservative, running the gamut from work to nightlife. They maintain a strong social media presence to market their products.
“The second we post a new outfit we start receiving calls and orders,” said Esposito, describing how the store’s posts are created in neighboring stores and throughout the streets of Red Bank.
“Instagram has really helped grow our business. We tag other stores and do a lot of free giveaways during slower months. It has helped create a large following and has been an absolute game changer for us.”
For fall the duo has stocked lots of plaid, bodysuits, and wide leg jeans. “A lot of looks from the 1970s and ‘80s are making a comeback, and the palette is heavy with brown and green,” said Serpico when asked about forthcoming autumn trends. “Shoulder pads and feathers are everywhere and skinny jeans are out, replaced by boyfriend cuts and bell bottoms.”
19 Monmouth Street, Red Bank
732.430.2368 / gemsboutiquenj.com