By Donald Wittkowski
One Groovy Girlz customer wanted to know whether a pair of silver earrings she was holding up would look good with the outfit she was wearing.
“Perfect,” store owner Colleen Buch assured her.
Another customer couldn’t quite make up her mind whether the summer dress she was trying on would fit her properly. Buch came to the rescue again.
“Does it feel comfortable?” Buch asked her. “It is confining? It looks super on you, but if you’re not comfortable, you’re not going to wear it.”
After nodding her head in agreement with Buch, the customer marched back to the dressing room to try on some more clothes.
Buch dishes out fashion advice all the time at Groovy Girlz, a women’s clothing and accessories store at 3814 Landis Ave., in the heart of downtown Sea Isle City. She relishes her role as the store’s resident fashion maven as much as she does being the owner.
“I love clothes. I love making people happy,” she said. “Our whole goal is to make people feel happy and pretty.”
Groovy Girlz markets itself as a funky, affordable boutique that appeals to female customers of virtually all ages and sizes. “Whether you are 5 or 95 years young, there is a Groovy Girl inside all of us waiting to come out,” the store says on its website.
Buch opened the Groovy Girlz business in 2008. For those who might do a double take at the store name and wonder whether it is misspelled, the answer is no.
“I was trying to come up with a name and I wanted something different. I was looking for something catchy,” Buch explained of her decision to substitute a “z” for an “s” in “Girlz.”
One day, Buch was hanging out with one her friends, who joked that the two of them “were just a bunch of groovy girls.” That inspired the store’s name, with the attention-getting “z” thrown in as a marketing gimmick.
Although this is Buch’s 10th summer season in business with Groovy Girlz, she didn’t move into the current location until 2015. She created it by merging a smaller Groovy Girlz shop with another store that she once owned in Sea Isle but was washed out by Hurricane Sandy in 2012. There is also a satellite Groovy Girlz location at the Dance Dynamics studio on Route 9 in Ocean View.
Buch, 49, often has family members working at the store, including her 75-year-old mother, Eileen Sulpazo, who takes care of the bookkeeping.
Buch said she is proud of the store’s reputation for selling high-quality clothes and accessories at affordable prices. She noted that she scours the garment district in Los Angeles, as well as smaller clothing manufacturers in Miami and Atlanta, to find merchandise she can pass on to her customers at a low cost.
“Great trends, great quality, but affordable,” she said. “You want to show people that you can be trendy and fashion-forward without spending a lot of money.”
Although Buch does carry a few well-known labels, most of the clothing in the store is non-brand names, a key for keeping her prices low.
In addition to clothing, Groovy Girlz also sells shoes, hats, jewelry, sunglasses and hair accessories. It also has a henna and glitter artist for intricate body art that, unlike a tattoo, is only temporary.
Groovy Girlz taps the tourist market during Sea Isle’s peak summer vacation months, but largely depends on local customers during the slower shoulder season, Buch said.
“We have a big local following, but we also ship merchandise all over the country through sales on our website,” she said.
Buch supplements her walk-in business with extensive use of social media to market the store and reach customers across the country. In addition to the Groovy Girlz website, she has two Facebook pages and also is active on Snapchat, Instagram and Twitter.
“I built up my business using Facebook when I first opened,” she said. “I was a teeny-weeny, little store and I had to find a way to distinguish myself.”
As the store’s reputation began to grow, so did its customer base. These days, it’s not surprising to find shoppers at Groovy Girlz who are from other states. Monica McAfee, of Charlotte, N.C., stopped in on a recent day to buy some jewelry. It was McAfee’s first time in Groovy Girlz.
“I love it. McAfee said. “I really like the mix of things. It’s fun.”
During Sea Isle’s annual “Girls Weekend” event this spring, Buch received a Facebook message from four women in Connecticut who said they were leaving that morning and would be at Groovy Girlz by the afternoon. Sure enough, they strolled into the store around lunchtime.
“We have people from Connecticut and other states,” Buch said of her customers. “They come in to see us while visiting relatives in Sea Isle or they fly in.”
Eight years ago, Buch conceived of Girls Weekend, along with fellow businesswoman Jamie Heritage, of Heritage Surf & Sport, to draw scores of out-of-towners to Sea Isle during what would normally be a quiet time at the Jersey Shore.
Held in both the fall and spring, Girls Weekend has become a popular attraction that caters to women who want to do some shopping, dining and partying while the guys stay at home.
It all sounds like a pretty groovy time for the girls. Correction. That would be Groovy Girlz.