It may not surprise you to learn that long before Carly’z Craze’s Alene Brodsky-Bloom began outfitting Bergen County’s yeshiva girls in the latest styles, she had a fabulous career in the garment industry for almost 20 years.
But you might be surprised to learn that she never thought she’d end up as the proprietor of one of the most successful small businesses in Teaneck—or that she’d end up in Teaneck at all.
“My whole background is in here, and if that isn’t a great direction for your life, then I don’t know what is,” she said. “Looking back there is no way I could have predicted this. But here we are.”
During college she worked in a clothing boutique in New York; she then went on to a successful career in the garment industry where she worked in many different roles and capacities.
She got married and by the time she became pregnant with their third child, Alene and her husband made the decision that it was time to move out of Manhattan, and their first stop was Riverdale. Realizing that it was not possible to work full-time in Manhattan, and also wanting to be home to raise her family, she made the difficult decision to leave her career.
But Alene always loved to work, so with two toddlers and an infant in tow, she managed to find all kinds of interesting part-time jobs. She worked as an office assistant for a speech therapist, she explained, because it worked for her at the time. Unable to venture too far from home at the time, the job nourished her as she worked among women who had careers.
When her youngest child was 10 years, she realized she could now return to full-time work and started thinking about what she wanted to do.
By then she had started painting hats, yarmulkes and challah covers that she sold at synagogue and school boutiques. One day a message popped up on the Teaneck Shuls website. Kosher Casual was looking for someone to sell school skirts at a boutique. With her background in the garment industry, Alene’s curiosity was piqued.
She wrote back and explained that although she already had a table reserved for her merchandise, she would be happy to assist the person the company would hire. She subsequently started selling Kosher Casual for the next three years, which got her back into the biz.
Alene and her friend Wendy Borodkin had been chatting at the time when Wendy casually suggested that the two of them open a store together where Alene could sell her apparel and Wendy could sell jewelry imported from Israel, something she loved and had always wanted to do.
Wendy had previously worked as a professional fundraiser and had an impressive business background. Together with Alene’s extensive background and experience in the garment industry, the two women officially opened the doors to Carly’z Craze in 2011.
“This worked for both of us because here we were in Teaneck growing a business, said Arlene. “We both had kids in school, we both had each other’s backs … because we were right in the neighborhood and we could help each other out … so that we were able to start our business.”
In just a couple of years, Carly’z Craze exploded and the space they were renting was no longer sufficient to handle the traffic that came through the store.
One day Alene and Wendy saw a sign in the store where Carly’z Craze stands today and went to check it out. “This place was way bigger than anything we were looking for,” Arlene remembered. “There was no way we thought we could do this store. But we met with the landlord, Carl Mellone Jr., and he was such a wonderful man—I can’t even tell you how wonderful he was (sadly, he passed away shortly after the lease was signed). But he worked with us and he made this doable.
“He made a plan for us because he believed in us, and he knew that we were already a successful clothing company right up the block. And he made it work for us. It was the only way that this would have ever happened. And we came in here, and it has been going like gangbusters.”
Alene’s advice to women who are either trying to pivot careers or relaunch themselves is to embrace the fact they are full-grown adults. “We’ve had a lot of life and a lot of life experiences, and all of that is part of your package now of what you have to work with to look for another avenue for your life—whether it be a career or just something you’ve been wanting to do.
“We’ve all developed a lot of different passions—they might be on the back burner but there is so much to us now. Getting older just means there is so much more to you.”
Alene also advised that whatever someone decides to do, it’s important to make it work within their current life. For someone looking to simply rejoin the workforce, pick a field you like. Sometimes it’s just about getting a foot in the door.
Wendy has since made aliyah. “So it’s just me now. Carly’z Craze is over 10 years old, and we’ve been in this space for eight years. We are part of the community and the community is part of us; we made it happen.”
Alene wanted to add that it was such a sweet gesture how her son, Meir, wrote to the Link to feature his mom for this column. “I was honored,” she said.
Check out Carly’z Craze at https://www.carlyzcraze.com/ or visit the store located at 472 Cedar Lane Teaneck, New Jersey 076665 or call 201-342-3398.
By Ronit Mershon