Pop Culture: Jersey girls, best in the world
Published in the Asbury Park Press 3/26/04
Pork roll, toll booths and traffic circles are pop-culture gold for Spring Lake storeownersBy KELLY-JANE COTTER
We navigate traffic circles with ease.
We like pork roll. (And some of us call it Taylor Ham).
We have sand between our toes.
We can toss change into a toll booth while going 40 mph.
We have great tomatoes (Um, the kind we grow in the backyard garden).
And, perhaps most importantly, we do NOT pump our own gas.
We are Jersey Girls, hear us roar, from Exit 155-P to Exit 4.
Lee and Barbara Rozell know the species well. Since 1990, the husband and wife team has been catering to Jersey Girls of all ages with their own "Jersey Girl USA" brand of merchandise.
Jersey Girls T-shirts, sweat shirts, shorts, caps, bumper stickers, license-plate frames, dolls and knickknacks galore can be found at Teddy Bears by the Seashore in Spring Lake. The Rozells have two stores, a children's-wear location at 317 Morris Ave., and an adult's store at 1306 Third Ave.
Merchandise is also available through www.teddybearsbytheseashore.com or www.jerseygirlusa.com.
Before starting his Jersey Girl line, Rozell was warned by a friend to steer clear of using the Garden State as a promotional tool. The friend felt people only associated New Jersey with its industrial side and its gritty, troubled cities. Rozell took that advice, for a while.
A Jersey Girl Easter egg ornament.
But when he began to follow his instincts and created humorous Jersey Girl proclamations for his products ("Jersey Girl: Navigates Traffic Circles, Likes Pork Roll"), he discovered an untapped demographic: ex-patriate New Jerseyans.
"Everybody who moves out misses it, whether or not they liked it while they were here," Rozell said. "People buy these houses in South Carolina for $200,000 and then they're miserable and can't afford to come back."
Rozell said he does sell plenty of Jersey Girl stuff to the locals, including one barefoot pre-teen who arrived on skateboard. But the people who buy in bulk are usually former New Jerseyans, nostalgic for their true identity, or for those who want to boast about their roots while on vacation.
"I sold a bunch of Jersey Grandma shirts to a group of women who then wore them all through Europe," Rozell said. "And they told me that everywhere they went, people asked them where they got the shirts."
What New Jersey Christmas tree would be complete without this pork roll tree ornament?
The Jersey Grandma ("Avoids Traffic Circles, Known to Fly South") and Jersey Boys ("Have Sand in Their Sheets") products are among the latest to be introduced.
Noteworthy are the pork roll-and-cheese Christmas ornament and refrigerator magnet, sure conversation pieces. A line of dolls created by Ty and dressed to Jersey Girl perfection is also popular.
There are also Tillie T-shirts for men and oversize coffee mugs depicting Palace Amusements in true Asbury green.
New this season are egg-shaped Jersey Girl Easter ornaments.
A Jersey Girl doll sports the Jersey Girl USA logo.
"Sometimes people think Jersey Girl has something to do with Springsteen," Rozell said, "but it doesn't."
Rozell did not get his inspiration from the Tom Waits song that was a hit for Bruce Springsteen, nor from the Kevin Smith movie that opens today, nor from the early '90s "Jersey Girl" movie.
Jersey Girl, it seems, is a tag that belongs to all who would claim it.
One afternoon in Teddy Bears on Third Avenue, Sue Sambatoro of Spring Lake Heights came in with a shopping list.
A teddy bear and a baby model sweat shirts sporting Jersey Girl slogans.
"I have a friend who moved to Port St. Lucie," Sambatoro said, "and I'm going down to Disney World and meeting her there."
The friend's request? Please bring lots of Jersey Girl stuff, because you can take the girl outta Jersey, but you can't take the Jersey outta the girl.
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