I’ve barely gotten out of my car when Sophie Colle apologizes for her English.” Even zo I half bean leaving in Jersey Ceety for sirty years, I half zees accent,” she says sheepishly. A native of Marseille, France, Colle came to Jersey City in 1993 after a short stopover in Brooklyn. But indeed, she still sounds very much the francophone.

Colle’s husband, Daveed Turek, joins us. “Yeah, she has a problem with the word ‘allied’.” “Yeah,” says Colle. “I say ‘alleed’.” They laugh.

I’m there to meet the charismatic husband-and-wife team behind “Soda Deco,” a “design, decoration, and fabrication business … with a focus on van conversions and home decor.”

Turek wears a tool belt and has a respirator hanging from his neck as if he’s just stepped out of a dusty workshop. I’m not sure if it’s for show, but if it is, it’s an effective prop. He looks every bit the skilled artisan.

I’ve come to their meticulously renovated Fairmount Avenue home to see one of their vans in the flesh. Colle had sent me some photos, and I was impressed enough to happily tear myself away from the City Hall beat.

The couple met in 2012 during a photo shoot. Colle was the wardrobe stylist, an occupation she’s had for years. Turek, a photographer from San Francisco, was working in production. Colle describes meeting “this California guy.”

Turek is quick to point out his Jersey City roots. His father was born in Margaret Hague Hospital. “He left here at 18, and he never came back.”

“When my father learned that I met a French girl and I was moving here, my father said, ‘Never in a million years did I think my son would move to f***** Jersey City.'”

Colle brought her two daughters from a prior marriage to the union. “I call them my biological stepchildren,” says Turek. “There’s no way we’re not related.”

The van business got going during the depths of the pandemic. Covid-19 hit just as Turek and one of his “biological stepdaughters” were battling back from life-threatening substance abuse. “We almost lost her” says Turek wistfully. Both are doing well now they say.

“I needed to do something to stay busy,” Turek says. As it happened, he had bought a new tall van to replace his old one. He decided to see if he could convert it to a camper.

While Turek handles construction, Colle gets involved in the design elements. She points out clothing hooks she sourced in France.

Turek had no formal training in carpentry. “In San Francisco, I had a crash course in renovating when a friend said I could stay in his basement of his Victorian house if I renovated it. It’s always stayed with me.”

How did he learn to build out a camper van? “I borrowed some design aspects from other builders. We all do,” he explained.

Inside, one can’t help but be impressed. Colle proudly demonstrates how the platform bed can be electronically raised to the ceiling where it’s out of the way; she points out the built-in fridge that should be “filled with champagne.” There is an induction range and a composting toilet that slide out from a different cabinet. Meticulously crafted wood surfaces give the van a decidedly hip Scandinavian aesthetic.

Such bells and whistles don’t come cheap, though. Colle and Turek have listed the van for $168,000.

Compared to a house in Jersey City however, it’s a bargain.

In this video I dig deeper into the van’s features with Sophie and Daveed.

YouTube video

Aaron is a writer, musician and lawyer. Aaron attended Berklee College of Music and the State University of New York at Purchase. Aaron served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Ecuador. He received a J.D....