American sports fans spent $14.6 billion on sports apparel in 2014. Now they can spend a bit more of that money in Verona.
Tracey Hill has just opened Academy Apparel, a store for all the fan wear that matters most in these parts. There are Hillbilly-themed shirts and sweatshirts, to be sure, but there’s also gear for Verona Eagles fans and Cedar Grove Panthers supporters. Hill has already done work for Caldwell sports fundraisers and, as friends and family milled around the store for its grand opening last Sunday, Academy Apparel was gearing up for another in Essex Fells. “There aren’t stores like this in those towns,” says Hill.
The venture is a homecoming of sorts for Hill, who graduated Verona High School with the class of 1981 and spent 20 years working for the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Service. “When I retired, I was looking for something to do and Jimmy gave me something to do,” says Hill. That’s brother Jimmy Hill, co-owner of Lakeside Deli and founder of Eight Hills Catering and the Fred Hill Sports Academy just next door. But she soon discovered that she wanted to do something apart from the other Hill family ventures and, with friend Lisbeth Trevisan-Stille, drew up the plans for Academy Apparel.
Trevisan-Stille had built her career in the fashion industry as an accessories designer and used that expertise to add several elements to the business: sports-themed fashion, accessories and jewelry, baby gifts, and custom embroidery. Academy Apparel has a row of computer-guided embroidery machines in back that can turn any design into colorful stitching and personalize or monogram any of the apparel the shop sells. “Because of Lisbeth’s creative abilities, she can envision how it could be done,” says Hill. That recently included some undisclosed “hysterical sayings” on items for a bride’s bachelorette party.
“Whatever your event is, we’re capable of handling it,” says Hill.
The Hills are a big clan with a long history in Verona and there was a lot of Hill help getting the business off the ground. The models in many of the store’s Facebook page photos are Tracey Hill’s nieces and nephews, who also occasionally pitch in to fold things for the shelves.
That family feel will carry into Academy Apparel’s interactions with its customers, says Hill. “When you come in here, you will feel the personal touch,” she says. “We’re focused on being a strong small business in this community.”
5 Fairview Avenue
Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday 10 a.m.-6 p.m.
Thursday, 10 a.m.-8 p.m.
Saturday, 10 a.m.-4 p.m.