Sexy mermaids can find ‘hidden treasure’ jewelry at this Ocean Grove boutique

OCEAN GROVE – Growing up in Knoxville, Tennessee, Ellie Mathias was a free-spirited romantic who loved jewelry and accessories.

And she successfully channeled her creative energy and skill in jewelry design into her 2017 launch of The Mermaid Haberdashery, an Ocean Grove-based boutique offering vintage reproduction jewelry that helps transport its wearers to a simpler, more elegant time.

“I loved art, textiles and fashions from a very young age,” recalled Mathias (aka “Miss Ellie”), 49, a Long Branch resident who worked in clothing and jewelry stores all through her high school years. At 18, Mathias left her hometown and the constraints of her self-described “puritanical upbringing” for art school at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, and graduated with big dreams.

“I’ve always been rebellious and a risk-taker, so after art school, I moved to New York City to make my mark on the jewelry and accessories world,” said Mathias, who worked as everything from a “gal Friday” at an athletic apparel firm to an assistant designer for a handbag company.

Mermaid Haberdashery is an Ocean Grove boutique that's been specializing in handmade, romantic and vintage jewelry and accessories since 2017. Owner Ellie Mathias creates jewelry under the name Miss Ellie NYC.  Ocean Grove, NJTuesday, February 21, 2023

Mermaid Haberdashery is an Ocean Grove boutique that’s been specializing in handmade, romantic and vintage jewelry and accessories since 2017. Owner Ellie Mathias creates jewelry under the name Miss Ellie NYC. Ocean Grove, NJTuesday, February 21, 2023

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“In 1998, I started my own business with other partners making private-label jewelry and hair ornaments for Bloomingdale’s, Nordstrom, David’s Bridal and other top brands,” Mathias said. But while the experience enabled her to build her network of industry contacts, hone her design skills and travel, “the commercial pressure to meet certain price points ended up stripping away the creative aspect for me and got me further and further away from why I wanted to be a jewelry designer in the first place.

“I always want to make things that everyone can afford because I’m just a regular gal too, but the industry emphasis on trends and bottom lines whittled away all of the creativity,” she said of the factor that led her to dissolve the partnership nearly a decade later.

After relocating to New Jersey with her husband in 2007 and having daughter Charlotte in 2009, Mathias continued working with her industry contacts, traveling to trade shows nationwide, and providing her specialty antique reproduction jewelry to boutiques and retail outlets such as Anthropologie and Victorian Trading Company. But she longed for a more settled lifestyle and opportunities beyond the mass market.

“I’d learned all about big business and huge production over the years and realized that I could have a great little business without all of the headaches,” Mathias said. “I wanted to lay roots in New Jersey, serve customers and enjoy more personal interactions with the people who actually buy and wear my pieces.”

Mermaid Haberdashery is an Ocean Grove boutique that's been specializing in handmade, romantic and vintage jewelry and accessories since 2017. Owner Ellie Mathias creates jewelry under the name Miss Ellie NYC.  Ocean Grove, NJTuesday, February 21, 2023

Mermaid Haberdashery is an Ocean Grove boutique that’s been specializing in handmade, romantic and vintage jewelry and accessories since 2017. Owner Ellie Mathias creates jewelry under the name Miss Ellie NYC. Ocean Grove, NJTuesday, February 21, 2023

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Mathias proceeded to open The Mermaid Haberdashery on the Asbury Park boardwalk in 2017, moving to a larger space “located off the beaten path — just how I like it” in Ocean Grove a year later.

“I’ve always been behind the scenes making jewelry with someone else’s name on it and I love a hidden treasure,” she said of her quaint shop. “It’s like finding a pearl in the ocean or stumbling on something that’s secret and unspoiled.”

‘Romantic with a capital R’

Today, in Mathias’ 400-square-foot store featuring high tin ceilings, sumptuous gold and ivory décor, and a name that celebrates her love of mermaids — “they’re fun, wild, sexy and fantastical, like my jewelry,” she said — Victorian-era trinkets abound.

“Ocean Grove is a magical, historic village where you step back in time, and my shop embodies that,” she said. “We have antique counter fixtures, Victorian mercantile cases and no electronic cash registers. I give people more than ‘stuff,’ because stuff isn’t what makes people feel good — experiences are. I want them to step back to a slower, more relaxed and more romantic time period.”

“I design all of the jewelry I offer and it’s all soldered, casted and electroplated in New York City’s garment district,” Mathias said of her unique rings priced from $20 to $60, earrings priced from $28 to $200, and wide variety of necklaces, bracelets, hair ornaments and headbands.

The look and feel of Victorian-era jewelry tends to be heavy, intricate and ornate and often involves faces, cameos and Gibson Girl portraits or other damsel-like figures, Mathias said.

But “not everyone wants a statement necklace, so we have rings and things that are smaller versions of bigger pieces,” she said. “I also use vintage gemstones, beads, baroque pearls and century-old Czech glass in some pieces and love being able to make limited production runs that incorporate these one-of-a-kind treasures.” which she also sells to other boutiques, museum exhibits and gift shops nationwide.

Mermaid Haberdashery is an Ocean Grove boutique that's been specializing in handmade, romantic and vintage jewelry and accessories since 2017. Owner Ellie Mathias creates jewelry under the name Miss Ellie NYC.  Ocean Grove, NJTuesday, February 21, 2023

Mermaid Haberdashery is an Ocean Grove boutique that’s been specializing in handmade, romantic and vintage jewelry and accessories since 2017. Owner Ellie Mathias creates jewelry under the name Miss Ellie NYC. Ocean Grove, NJTuesday, February 21, 2023

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Along with her jewelry, “our shop offers some apparel and supports a number of other New Jersey-based artisans, including Kathy Jeanne Millinery, which makes quality hats the old-fashioned way out of their shop in Fairfield,” Mathias said.

“Ultimately, our products are romantic with a capital R because we all want the dream and more romance,” she said. “We offer high-quality but well-priced items and I love that our store can take people back in time to a beautiful, romantic era.”

Her customers include a large local following, but added that “people call me from Manhattan to make things for them and have come from Philadelphia to have me make their grandmother’s brooch into a necklace or several single earrings into a charm bracelet.”

According to Mathias, that skill in transforming old things into new pieces has gotten her through the challenges of the past three years.

“I’m able to make small lots of things, which saved me during the pandemic,” she said. “It’s hard to find people who do what I do. I trim hats and make custom jewelry for weddings and brides in clip-on formats, which very few providers do anymore. At the same time, antique jewelry has become harder and harder to find and can be very expensive among those who sell it, so being able to replicate it in a quality way here in the U.S. is rare and something I’m very proud of.”

‘A hidden jewel’

Supported by several full and part-time employees (as well as her beloved husband John, whose original paintings are available for sale in her shop), Mathias said that online competition can be tough, but she’s happy staying in her lane.

“I don’t feel the need to be on those platforms — I prefer being a hidden jewel that you’ll stumble on and come back to because you can’t get it out of your head,” she said. “My business model allows me to be free and creative, to serve every person individually, and to offer people an experience they can’t get anywhere else.”

Mermaid Haberdashery is an Ocean Grove boutique that's been specializing in handmade, romantic and vintage jewelry and accessories since 2017. Owner Ellie Mathias creates jewelry under the name Miss Ellie NYC.  Ocean Grove, NJTuesday, February 21, 2023

Mermaid Haberdashery is an Ocean Grove boutique that’s been specializing in handmade, romantic and vintage jewelry and accessories since 2017. Owner Ellie Mathias creates jewelry under the name Miss Ellie NYC. Ocean Grove, NJTuesday, February 21, 2023

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Based on her success, Mathias opened a second, 200-square-foot shop in Red Bank this past December (a grand opening event with live music is scheduled for March 25) and is excited to continue expanding access to her products, concept and signature brand of customer service.

“After my experience with the mass market, I hope to continue making smaller quantities of better quality but affordable pieces and serving customers in the best way possible in a place that’s unlike any other,” she said. “I’d love to be the most ‘unprofessional’ success in Monmouth County and to keep being the area’s best-kept secret.”

As for her favorite part of the job, “I love giving people an escape and a refuge where they can step back in time and everything is right in the world,” she said of The Mermaid Haberdashery. “We offer homegrown antique flavor that harks back to a gentler era and leaves people with special memories.”

Mermaid Haberdashery is an Ocean Grove boutique that's been specializing in handmade, romantic and vintage jewelry and accessories since 2017. Owner Ellie Mathias creates jewelry under the name Miss Ellie NYC.  Ocean Grove, NJTuesday, February 21, 2023

Mermaid Haberdashery is an Ocean Grove boutique that’s been specializing in handmade, romantic and vintage jewelry and accessories since 2017. Owner Ellie Mathias creates jewelry under the name Miss Ellie NYC. Ocean Grove, NJTuesday, February 21, 2023

The Mermaid Haberdashery

Locations: 45 Pilgrim Pathway, Ocean Grove, and 30 Monmouth Str., Red Bank

Phone: 848-246-8000

Owner: Ellie Mathias

Opened: 2017

Website: mermaidhaberdashery.com

This article originally appeared on Asbury Park Press: Mermaid Haberdashery in Ocean Grove NJ offers ‘hidden treasure’

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