Don't Sleep on Jersey City
Unless you live in Jersey City or know someone who does, you probably aren’t aware of the renaissance happening in the Sixth Borough. Located across the Hudson River from downtown Manhattan, new restaurants and high-end apartment buildings are popping up everywhere. There’s an energy and a buzz in the air that is usually reserved for up-and-coming parts of Brooklyn, not New Jersey. Up the hill heading away from the river on Newark Ave, a new clothing store just opened that is part of the buzz.
Last week, I sat down with Peter Koytroulis, co-owner of the fresh boutique shop Let Us Prosper in Jersey City. Koytroulis, 34, is married with 4 kids and was born and raised in JC. He has a pretty impressive résumé so far, having worked for Azzure Denim, Pro-Keds and Rocawear. He’s done sneaker collabs for Saucony, Reebok and Adidas. He is also currently the co-founder and co-owner of Unyforme, another contemporary menswear label.
Let Us Prosper opened their doors on July 1st. They sell exclusive in-store apparel like tees, knits, hoodies, sneakers and pants “built on quality without prohibitive pricing.” Typically, a tee like the Newark T-Shirt will run you $34, a button-down like the Kennedy Woven is $42, and pants like the Bergen Twill are $56. If these products were branded by a higher-end name, though, they’d most likely sell for at least double.
The concept for Let Us Prosper came to Koytroulis when he and his business partner, Antwan Freeman, were in LA after the Liberty Fashion & Lifestyle Fair in Las Vegas last year. They noticed all the small boutique shops out west that weren’t in the New York Metro area. They already had a space they used for Unyforme photo shoots in Jersey City, so they decided to convert it into a retail shop and create Let Us Prosper. “Pretty much from concept to start, we did it in about three and a half months,” said Peter.
Koytroulis understands Jersey City youth culture, and knows that sneakers are priority number one. “A kid doesn’t necessarily have $200 to spend on an outfit, especially after buying sneakers. He’ll go in his closet and find something (to wear), but the sneakers come first. It would be cool if he could buy a top and a bottom with the money he has left.” This is where Let Us Prosper comes in.
Since Koytroulis grew up in the neighborhood, he’s familiar with the community and what people are looking for. “One of the things that was important to me was that the schools are right there (by the shop). If there’s a way to offer a quality product at a better price for the kids in the community, I want to do that. “
The inspiration for the store’s name comes from the city’s slogan – “Let Jersey Prosper.” “We want Jersey City to prosper, we want our community and everybody who’s with us to prosper,” said Peter. “Jersey City is always looked at as the stepchild – it’s not Brooklyn, it’s not New York. It’s always going to be like that until something happens, until somebody does something. There’s cool little boutiques in New York, but why can’t we do that here?”
Koytroulis could have left Jersey for the greatest sportswear brand in the world. “I was offered a job at Nike. I had to decide whether to go to Portland or to stay here, (but the) timing wasn’t right. I was and still am grateful for the opportunity, and you never know what can happen in the future, but at the time it was best for me to stay with the people I love.” It’s that passion for Jersey City that will help his new shop do well in a town looking to create a unique identity.
Just because Peter didn’t head out to the Northwest to work for Nike doesn’t mean he doesn’t invest in their product. “My closet is 95% Nike and Jordan.” Some of his go-to’s include the all-white Air Force 1 Lows, Air Jordan IIIs both white and black, the Huaraches, and the Air Pythons - about 80 pairs total. Besides those, he keeps the collaborations he designed himself. “I have some Sauconys that I did with Playcloths, and the Reebok Pumps that I did for Social Status.”
One of his favorite pairs in his closet is an Adidas Roc-A-Fella Shelltop collaboration he did while at Rocawear. “That was cool, because I remember my boss was like, ‘Yo, I’m doing a collab with Adidas, hook it up.’ And that was it. I’m like, what do you want me to do? He said, ‘Make it look fly, make it look dope.’” Clearly, they came out pretty well.
Aside from fashion, and since this is a coffee blog, I wanted to know Peter’s favorite coffee shop. “Our showroom is in (New York) City, so that’s where I’d be a lot. Grumpy Café on 39th is right down the block. It’s the logo that I like, and they’ve got that little chalkboard in the front. That is the spot when I’m in the City.”
Maybe we’ll see Peter do a collab with them next – it would definitely be dope.
For more info on Let Us Prosper and to shop online, go to www.letusprosper.com