A Man’s Love For His Business Is A ‘Tru Fit’
By Maryanne Christiano-Mistretta
Millburn resident Jerry Occhiuzzi was in training to become an entrepreneur at a very young age working with his dad, Nunzio Occhiuzzi, at his shoe store, Tru Fit, on Millburn Avenue, which moved to Main Street in 1972.
Tru Fit has been in business since 1944. Nunzio began the business as a shoe repair store, which grew to shoe sales. Nunzio left his mother in Italy at the age of 17, moving to France to work in the vineyards. When he made enough money, he came to the United States, knowing that he’d want to be his own boss.
“That was the catalyst for the business,” Jerry said.
An early memory for Jerry was watching mothers come to the store with their kids who attended St. Rose’s Church and had to wear saddle shoes.
“Everyone hated those shoes,” Jerry said. “The mother would come in with the kids. They’d be crying. The mother would say, ‘Sit down! This is what you’re getting.’ My father would give them comic books to placate them. She said, ‘No thank you. If my children want to read, they could go to the library.’ I remember so vividly … an Irish Catholic family with eight kids. One minute they were running all over the store. She [the mother] gave them a look and they scurried into the seats.”
In addition to helping his dad at Tru Fit, Jerry also swept hair off the floor at a barber shop at the age of nine.
“I was getting ten cents a week,” he said. “I thought I was getting ripped off. On Saturdays, all day my friends would be playing at the park, but I was working.” Jerry also worked in restaurants as a dish washer and busing tables.
By the time Jerry graduated college, he started working in corporate in New York City. “Commuting wasn’t for me,” he said. “I hated it.”
Jerry also disliked office politics and personality clashes and felt he didn’t really have job security. Like his dad, Jerry wanted to be his own boss. However, Nunzio didn’t like that idea. Jerry said, “Like every parent, he wanted a doctor or a lawyer [for a son]. I said, ‘I tried that, I’d rather be my own boss.’”
Since 1980, Jerry’s been running Tru Fit and it hasn’t changed much. He said, “The equipment got more powerful and quieter. It’s basically what it was then – now. Materials are a lot more expensive. When you buy quality, it’s never cheap. You’re not getting people coming back and complaining. I have a fabulous clientele. I can’t say it’s changed all that much. ”
Jerry looks back and wonders, after 30 years, “Where did the time go? I look around and see the tools my father used. When I first started [working] I wanted to give it a shot. I knew I’d be young enough to bounce back. I wouldn’t have done it if I didn’t love it.”
When Jerry retires, he plans to turn the business over to his 13-year-old daughter. But, in the meantime, Jerry said, “I’m 62; I’ll be here for awhile.”
For more information visit: https://www.trufitmillburn.com/.