Stories produced by St. Peter's Journalism Students
BY JESSICA HARTLAND, CLASS OF 2013 —
“We should always look what we think is our best and it starts with the clothes that we put on,” said 28-year-old Matt McKay.
However, fashion wasn’t always a priority in his busy life.
Nine times out of 10 you will see him strutting a pair of Levi’s 511 that are begging to be washed, accompanied with some sort of button up shirt, usually plaid, that may be just a little too short; but he rolls up the sleeves to the elbows where it looks less unfitting and more hip. He ends off the look with a simple pair of beat up brand-less canvas shoes. He is a self-proclaimed Urban Cowboy.
After dropping out of Drexel University, where he was studying economics, McKay found himself working many jobs to make ends meet. He worked as a full-time employee at a restaurant for five days a week. He also occupied his time by doing construction and carpentry with his father the other two days. But after the constant smell of food lingering on him and the inability to do anything without a shower in between, he thought it was time for a new chapter.
That is when retail came in. For the next six years of his life, McKay made his way from an hourly sales associate to a store manager on a salary. But he soon began to realize that it wasn’t the path for him either.
“In 2009, I began thinking that if my employer can afford to pay rent and wages for all its stores and employees, that we, as employees, must make them a lot of money. Shortly after that realization, I quit retail for good and began working on working for myself,” McKay said.
In March 2012, he opened “Very- Second-Hand Clothes and Goods.”
As with everything in McKay’s life, even the store name has a background. He and his business partner and girlfriend, Jo Hardy, chose the name from a line in the 1988 film “Heathers” featuring Christian Slater and Wynona Ryder.
“There’s a line in the movie when a girl responds to someone by saying ‘how very’. I’ve always loved that line for its open endedness. But that girl in the movie was a bitch and we, at Very, are not,” said McKay.
The store is located at 196 Morgan Street in Jersey City inside a space known as “PianoLand.” The location belongs to a friend who allows McKay to sell the merchandise. You can also shop online at krrb.com.
The central idea of “Very” is to provide consumers with a different outlook on fashion. McKay and Hardy both shop at many locations and try to agree on purchasing second-hand and thrift items that will be beneficial to their business, as well as wanted by their customers. In addition to stores, they shop at yard and garage sales and even other people’s closets. They have been invited by customers to see if some clothing they no longer want would be useful for the store’s success.
“We shop for and try to provide items for everyday wear. The bonus is that while our prices are less than half of what you’d spend at an average retail store that 10,000 other people bought that week. Our merchandise is unique,” said McKay. “I want to provide my community with the most quality and fashionable clothing at the best possible prices to allow everyone to build a wardrobe that excites them, one that they believe expresses who they are.”
Even though McKay wasn’t always a fan of fashion, he always believed in self-expression. He recalls high school where many people were wearing all of the same things, but looking very different. This is where he realized it didn’t really matter what you wore, but instead, how you wore it.
However, the creativity does not end with just the clothing and goods that are sold. Both McKay and Hardy are both fans of the visual appeal. The store is in a loft space and customers can drink and enjoy an experience with music and even a photo booth, all while shopping.
Very, which is now only open on the weekends, allows for complete customer satisfaction and an experience to remember. McKay says he values getting to know the people that he outfits and he believes the customers seem to enjoy not only the shopping but the history of the store’s beginnings.
Today, McKay has high hopes for a secure future with “Very”. It has already shown potential to be a main source of income for him, but it comes at a very time-consuming price. McKay is still working at a restaurant and doing carpentry all while putting in uncountable hours into the store. However, the only issue is, in order for the store to support the lives they would like for them, it would require the hours that are put in at his different jobs.
Risky or not, McKay is ready for the challenge.
“I’d love to wake up in the morning and roll the gates up on my own store and open for business everyday. Having a permanent store front is the ultimate goal.”