A passion for antique hemp and linen textiles inspired Barbara Pisch to open her beautiful shop, Patriæ, in Asbury Park, New Jersey. Barbara, a collector of antique textiles from her native Slovakia, has been building her collection for decades. A move back to her childhood home, Asbury Park in New Jersey, led to her opening her own studio and shop, Patriæ. This lovely space, Patriæ, is filled with her impressive collection of antique textiles, products made in-house from those antique textiles, new and antique home goods, vintage clothing, and handmade objects. I spent a lovely day in Asbury Park. Barbara shared her story, inspirations and gave me a tour of her favorite destinations in Asbury Park
What motivated you to open a shop? I never thought I would be a shopkeeper! But after moving back to the Jersey shore after many years of living in NYC, the desire to consolidate my brand, my textile collection, and my manufacturing all in one space led me to finding a storefront I fell in love with. I was initially looking for a private work space to do all that in, but when I found this space, it all made sense.
Did you have prior retail experience? During my last years living in NYC, I worked at the BDDW showroom for a few years, and at Patrick Parrish gallery for a year.
Why did you chose the name, Patriæ? Patriæ means “fatherlands” in Latin, which is relevant to my brand because the whole project began with my nostalgia for my own homeland and history, as a teenager visiting Slovakia. I wanted to bring back souvenirs of the culture that I was taken away from as a kid, and since textiles were in my blood I continued the family tradition and started collecting antique handwoven hemp and linen. Twenty five years later I have a whole brand built around those Eastern European textiles, sourced in and around my “fatherland”.
Who designed the shop? I did! The space was a disaster when I found it, and I had to start from absolute scratch including putting in floors, taking out a drop ceiling, etc. I incorporated antique pieces that I had collected over the years and others I found at a local salvage place, and I designed and built others.
What are you best known for? Patriæ tote bags made from antique handwoven hemp textiles. They make perfect beach bags.
Where are your products made? I make Patriæ products in-house in my sewing studio from antique hemp and linen textiles that I source in Eastern and Central Europe at flea markets, small villages, word-of-mouth, etc. Other products are a compilation of objects crafted by talented friends, antique and vintage pieces I collect while traveling and at flea markets and estate sales, and items that I’ve loved for a long time before I had my shop like Japanese stationery, blockprinted bandanas, porcelain, and art by friends and artists I admire.
What makes your shop unique? The fact that a good part of my inventory is made in-house in the sewing studio portion of my store. While I am minding the shop, my tailor and I are constantly creating new pieces.
Who are your customers? As my shop is in a popular beach town, it’s a mix of tourists and locals, and predominantly women with an eye for high-quality craftsmanship.
Barbara Pisch, The Shopkeeper at Patriae
What inspires you: Sunshine, the beach, the Grateful Dead, travel, expert craftsmanship, and most of all beautiful antique textiles – which is how this whole journey began so many years ago.
Before I was a shopkeeper, I…. was unhappy working for others (in fashion in my 20s, then in design galleries and showrooms later, after grad school). I always knew that I needed to be self-employed but it was a long path to get there. I have no regrets about that, however, as it allowed me to gain experience, develop my eye, learn about myself and others, and ultimately get to a point where I felt certain about what I had to do and how I wanted to do it.
What task do you like to delegate? Cleaning! I hate cleaning.
Your advice for anyone wanting to open a shop? Follow an aesthetic that is true to you, your history, your life, your heart, your path. Don’t dilute your vision by attempting to be like any other retailer.
Which famous person would you like to visit your shop? My store is in Asbury Park, NJ, so the Boss himself, Bruce Springsteen.
If you weren’t a shopkeeper you would be? A linguist or neuroscientist.
What is your perfect day off? A full day on a hot, sunny beach.
Take a video tour of Barbara’s favorite Asbury Park shops on IGTV.
713 Bangs Avenue, Asbury Park