View Full Version : JerseyPride.com gets front page of Star Ledger

02-21-2007, 07:12 PM
I wanted to congratulate Jeff on making it on the front page of the Star Ledger. I am a bit envious - I guess I wouldn't be human if I wasn't. I've had contact with Jeff before and it's just great that the Star Ledger has acknowledged people who work to promote New Jersey. Hopefully soon AboutNewJersey.com will make it on the front page of the Star Ledger. :)

JerseyPride.com: State’s site for Shore eyes, diner denizens

Bergen County native Jeff Kauflin was in his first year of college in Vermont when it hit him: People don’t think good things about New Jersey.

The mere mention of where he was from elicited chuckles from Kauflin’s New England classmates at Middlebury College. Then came the ‘‘What exit?’’ jokes and references to the mob, big hair, toxic waste dumps and that smell along the Turnpike.

‘‘It wasn’t really until I got to college that I realized the bad rap New Jersey gets,’’ Kauflin said.

Somebody needed to defend the Garden State. Kauflin decided it should be him.

Inspired by a group of New Jersey students at his college, Kauflin decided to start a Web site devoted to defending the nation’s most maligned state.

In 2002, the Ramsey resident tracked down an investor who owned the unused domain name www.JerseyPride.com and paid him $200 for the rights. Then he started building his site, posting photos from around the state, listing famous Jerseyans and all the things he could think of that make New Jersey great.

To his surprise, people started to respond. Current and former New Jersey residents e-mailed their pent-up feelings for their home state. Folks started to send in photos of themselves wearing New Jersey T-shirts everywhere from Paris to Afghanistan.

A surprising number of people also sent in photos of their New Jersey tattoos, most of which featured the unmistakable outline of their home state permanently marked on their biceps or ankles.

‘‘There really is a lot of Jersey pride,’’ said Kauflin, 25.

JerseyPride.com recorded nearly 250,000 page views last year. Almost all the traffic comes through word of mouth, said Kauflin, who has since graduated and now works for a Manhattan marketing firm.

Kauflin shows off a stack of emails from his site’s users thanking him for giving them a place to talk about New Jersey. They wax poetic about the Shore, the diners, the weather, the food and the state’s history. They also blame New York and Philadelphia for overshadowing the state and contributing to New Jersey’s low self-esteem.

‘‘Without New Jersey inventions, modern civilization as we know it would not exist,’’ wrote one fan, who listed all of the inventors who have come from the state. ‘‘It would be a wonderful thing if the world could experience ‘a day without New Jersey.’ Perhaps then the unearned superior attitude of so many regarding New Jersey would be re-examined.’’

Even Vincent Curatola, the actor who plays Johnny Sack on ‘‘The Sopranos,’’ sent a thank you and reminisced about growing up in Englewood. He said he worked as a paperboy delivering papers to Tony Bennett, Sarah Vaughan, Dizzy Gillespie and other Jersey celebrities who inspired him to go into show business.

‘‘My wife Maureen and I love living here. New Jersey truly affords us the best of both worlds,’’ Curatola wrote.

Kauflin said most Jerseyans love their state, though they may be afraid to admit it.

‘‘I just wanted to provide an entertaining site and get people excited about New Jersey,’’ Kauflin said. ‘‘I think I’m helping people who live in the state to express themselves more — and at least be able to say they’re from New Jersey.’’

Kauflin has some competition. The Internet is littered with wellestablished anti-Jersey sites.

There is IHateNewJersey.com, which says ‘‘Everyone hates New Jersey and that’s a fact! Now tell the world why you hate New Jersey . . .’’ and offers a message board for people to vent.

There is also JerseySucks.net, where the motto is ‘‘Jersey Sucks: It Just Does.’’ The site offers ‘‘Jersey Sucks’’ T-shirts at $17 a pop and mails out a free ‘‘Jersey Sucks’’ bumper sticker with every order. (The Web also includes a similarly named JerseySucks.com site. But it is owned by a British Internet promotion company and refers to the island of Jersey in the English Channel, which apparently also has an image problem.)

JerseyPride.com occasionally gets venom-filled e-mail from Jersey haters inside and outside the state.

‘‘People are rude, you pay a ton of money to live here and get nothing special in return, car insurance is outrageous, the beaches suck and you have to pay to get on them and the weather is horrible,’’ read one recent e-mail from a Jersey native. ‘‘The state has nothing to offer.’’

Kauflin shrugs off the e-mail and the other profanity-laced messages he fields on a regular basis. He believes the Jersey jokes and criticism are actually a sign that the rest of the nation is jealous of the Garden State.

‘‘I think it’s cool. We’re important enough to be talked about. We’re important enough to be on people’s minds,’’ Kauflin said.

‘‘We’re always in the middle of the action,’’ he adds, launching into a list of the state’s assets. He admits he occasionally sounds like an ad for the New Jersey Office of Travel and Tourism.

The Garden State has no bigger cheerleader than Kauflin, who can recite obscure facts about the state, regularly wears his Jersey Pride T-shirts and sleeps with a picture of Washington crossing the Delaware over his bed.

Born in Valley Hospital in Ridgewood, he grew up in Ramsey. He was raised by his mother, who works in a doctor’s office, and his stepfather, a fifth-grade teacher.

In college, Kauflin enthusiastically joined Middlebury College’s recently revived Lovers of the Garden State club. The group, known as LOGS, was run by Michael Kirkland, a fellow student from Summit.

Composed of a few dozen New Jersey students, LOGS met weekly on campus to discuss all things Jersey . The group’s motto was ‘‘Semper Jerseus Semper Fi’’ — Latin for ‘‘Always Jersey Always Faithful.’’

‘‘We didn’t do much. We’d kind of just sit around and talk about New Jersey,’’ Kauflin said.

At the start of each meeting, members saluted the New Jersey flag and recited their pledge, which was belted out to the tune of Bon Jovi’s ‘‘Livin’ on a Prayer.’’ (‘‘I pledge allegiance to the Garden State,’’ the pledge begins, ‘‘to thy beautiful land from Mahwah to Cape May; To thy 24-hour diners and thy full-serve gas and to the Boss, of course . . .’’)

JerseyPride.com started as the college club’s online outlet. After graduation, Kauflin maintained the site as a labor of love and watched it grow.

He still sells the club’s Lovers of the Garden State sweat shirts, along with JerseyPride.com’s New Jersey T-shirts. The proceeds help pay the fees to keep the site running.

‘‘I would say I’m breaking even,’’ Kauflin said.

One day, Kauflin said he hopes to write a book about all that is good about his home state. Until then, he’s happy just to act as New Jersey’s online ambassador.

And for now, he has no plans to live anywhere else.

‘‘Unless I meet someone I really love and she refuses to move to New Jersey,’’ Kauflin said, with a smile. ‘‘Even then, I’ll probably stay around here. I love it here. I’ll probably be here forever.’’

Kelly Heyboer may be reached at kheyboer@starledger.com or (973) 392-5929.

02-22-2007, 06:53 PM
Thanks for posting the article J.D., I was going to get The Star Ledger yesterday but I passed because I didn't want to get angry at the news in it. I have that website along with this one on my favorites list. I recommend to everyone checking it out. On the front page today is an article about Donald Trump wanting to be buried at his golf course here in good old N.J. Now here is a man with GOOD taste! :D