Just down the street from Thomas Edison’s historic laboratory, City Workshop Men’s Supply Co. also began as a lab where owners Roger Stevens and Josefina Ruiz experimented with ideas to start their own retail shop.
“I worked in corporate America as an analyst for a big financial company, but knew in my heart that I couldn’t stay there for the long haul,” says Stevens. “So I looked for a business idea based on something that we could feel passionate about. I’ve always had a strong sense of style, so we decided to open a men’s clothing business.”
Stevens says launching the business was a sprint rather than a marathon. “We had to educate ourselves very quickly to learn the preferences of our clients and tap into that niche.”
Together, this husband-and-wife team wasted no time placing orders for Stevens’s go-to looks—curated, casual menswear from traditional clothing labels like Woolrich and 100-year-old boot maker Red Wing, plus some hipster labels and imports from Italy and Japan.
“Roger and I stocked our shelves with denim jeans as our core items, along with flannel shirts, socks, boots and other men’s accessories,” says Ruiz. “Then we took a deep breath and waited. Would New Jersey guys like our merchandise enough to buy it and wear it?”
“I’m happy to say that our first year has been a big success,” says Stevens. “The store has great curb appeal, and a lot of people drive past and stop in.”
Ruiz notes that customers aged 15 to 75 frequent the store. Fathers and sons shop together, moms bring college-age kids, and boyfriends and girlfriends come in to check out the clothes. “We’re fortunate because customers think of our store as an extension of their own closets,” she says. “They try it, like it and sometimes wear it right out of the store.”