Inlet Deli Changes Hands, But Traditions Will Stay
On Monday, Feb. 27, the keys to Inlet Deli changed hands, one of only a handful of times since the late 1800s. Joe Foy sold to Jane Ebert, a buyer who shares his goal of keeping the store’s community feel, but whose culinary background will add to the menu.
Foy has owned the Barnegat Light cornerstone for 14 years, and now “it’s just time for me to slow down and focus on being a dad and a grandpop,” he said.
“I walked in the deli in June 2002 after being a customer here growing up; our family came here every summer. At that point I didn’t like where my career was heading. I bought this as a dream to get out of the corporate world and run a small business on Long Beach Island.
“I bought it as a business venture and an opportunity, and the town of Barnegat Light and the community here has given me so much more than I could have ever imagined.”
Now Ebert is the new face at the helm of Inlet Deli By Jane.
The free coffee on Mondays will continue. Foy started that to invite people in. The deli with groceries and quality Boar's Head products will still be open seven days a week, all year.
“I’m going to love it and just enhance it,” Ebert said, sitting with Foy in an alcove of 1950s diner-style tables.
The tables will stay. Situated midway in the long interior, across from the cash register, the sitting area holds people who at 6 or 7 a.m. have for years been “holding court, is what I call it,” Foy said. “They solve the world’s problems over a cup of coffee, talking and laughing. I can remember my dad sitting there.”
What’s going to be added as summer comes is takeout selections of quality prepared food – Ebert is a chef who trained in Europe. She grew up in Rockaway Beach, N.Y., worked in Manhattan and completed culinary training at Le Cordon Bleu in France and London.
“I came here 10 years ago to open up a restaurant. I fell in love with this town and wanted to stay here; the city is too crazy. This opportunity came along, and it has a lot of growth potential for me,” she said.
The prepared foods to take out and enjoy at home will be mostly Italian-based recipes, Ebert said, but will include all kinds of family-style dinners. “And at lunchtime, we’re going to expand the sandwich menu to do artisan-style sandwiches.”
Countless customers have come and gone through the front doors of the former general store that also used to be the post office and a gas station, under the beam of Barnegat Lighthouse. Its facade facing Fourth Street has changed some, but it still holds, as Foy described, “that theme of an old fishing village establishment.”
The cedar-shake-clad building was Butterworth’s General Store, and Applegate’s before Ron Spisso was the first owner under the Inlet Deli name and ran it for 18 years. Over the years, the deli was a place of employment for Foy’s siblings, nieces, nephews and “me, my mom and my dad,” said Foy, who will continue to run his consulting company after departure from the deli.
Customers will still see the same familiar faces of the staff, including manager Bridget Mikuletzky.
“I’m looking forward to learning from these girls, and to teaching them as well,” said Ebert, who also looks forward to reconnecting with area residents she has known, and to meeting new people.
“Many people were interested,” Foy said of the appeal when he decided to sell. “I wanted to keep it with somebody who had the vision and desire to operate Inlet Deli as a community-based business. Some people would have wanted to change it and make it a restaurant, close it in the winter,” he said, and by contrast, Ebert “was almost in lockstep” with how he had wanted to keep it.
“I love the interior of this building; you feel like you’re at home here,” the new owner said.
Ebert added that she is used to the bustle of a busy summer season – her parents owned The Sandbar in Rockaway Beach, a concession on the boardwalk.
As we wound up our chat for an article on the transition in ownership, Foy shouted a hello to an officer of the fire company. The outgoing owner introduced him to Ebert, as he did many others on Sunday when they did inventory together.
“Tell them my dad was a New York City fireman, so I will take care of you guys,” Ebert assured.
“It’s been an honor and a pleasure to serve the people,” Foy concluded.
— Maria Scandale