August 22, 2019 | 76° F

Vintage shop brings unique, curated classics to New Brunswick

Photo by Almier McCoy |

As a college town, New Brunswick has a decent amount of fun to offer: A wide range of gourmet restaurants, lively bars and coffee shops, an art gallery here, a record shop there. If there’s one thing lacking that many students would appreciate, it’s a place to shop for trendy clothing in walking distance. Until now, the closest shopping destination is a mall nearly seven miles away from campus. By The By Vintage, a second-hand boutique owned and curated by Rutgers alumni Nicole Gifford and Gabe Chiarello, made its debut to New Brunswick this month, with the mission to stylishly and affordably outfit the Rutgers community. 

Before graduating from Rutgers-New Brunswick, Gifford and Chiarello realized that there weren’t many fun things to do in New Brunswick other than the nightlife. Although there are places where locals are allowed to relax and unwind from a long day of work and classes like Hidden Grounds Coffee, Gifford and Chiarello felt that the sources of entertainment and leisure were limited.

“While we were here, we realized there wasn’t a lot of shopping or fun things to do in the area other than going to parties,” Gifford said. 

It wasn’t until a few years after graduating in 2015 that they both realized opening their own business was something they were passionate about. And as New Brunswick housed an avenue full of booming small businesses that made so much of an impression while the two were students, it was a no-brainer that their college town was the perfect place to start. 

“We really liked Spina Records and Hidden Grounds, which are some of the smaller businesses that popped up while we were students,” Gifford said. “After graduating, a couple years on we realized that this is something we are both passionate about and it just seemed like a natural thing to come here to do it because people need this kind of thing. It doesn’t really exist.”

Located at 9 Elm Row, By The By Vintage is a tiny brownstone storefront. When you first walk in, you’re pleasantly greeted by racks of clothing that offer an array of pieces from the 60s to the 90s. There’s even a back area that offers more selection consisting of the latest trends such as plaids, stripes and vibrant prints. 

One of the best elements of this shop is that both Gifford and Chiarello personally curate the collection to provide valuable pieces that appeal to every type of customer and their individual styles. 

“I think for both of us it's kind of what we like in a lot of ways,” Gifford said as she explained their curating process. “I don’t know if I thought a ton about trends except for a couple of instances where I wouldn’t necessarily wear this, but I have a couple of friends or people in my life who probably would be into this.” 

Another great feature of By The By Vintage is that when curating the first collection, the store owners kept different body types in mind. Many people find that most on-trend stores only cater to naturally skinny people and carry a little assortment of chic, plus-size looks. 

“We’ve been trying to find pieces that are very size inclusive and make sure that we are pulling pieces that are going to suit everyone so that no one is coming in and thinking, ‘There’s nothing for me.’ That is the last thing we want,” Gifford said. “We want people to feel like that there’s at least a fighting chance that there’s something that will fit them and suit their personal taste.” 

Unless you live in New York City, the closest thing to secondhand vintage clothing may be a local Goodwill, which is affordable, but not always stocked with the most unique and fashionable pieces. Typically, the best bet is to travel into the city and spend what feels like a fortune on carefully-curated, but still secondhand clothing at retro boutiques and consignment stores. That’s why By The By Vintage is such a treat to the New Brunswick community — not only is it local, but their price points range from $15 to $40, perfect for students who are not trying to break the bank. 

“If we can provide that kind of environment for people to come in and take a load off that’s great,” Gifford said, referring to her goal for starting her own vintage shop. “We’re not trying to price gouge people so that they can buy something for themselves and feel special and has history and is important and one of a kind. They can take it home and feel like they did a nice thing for themselves."

Almier McCoy

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