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Barnegat Light Landscaping, Garden Center and Gift Shop

Sep 08, 2017

For 25 years, one landscaping and construction contractor has had a stronghold on LBI’s north end, with regard to the needs of property owners from North Beach to the lighthouse.

“We have 15 customers on 11th Street alone,” Steven Fall said. He has had his business at the corner of Fifth Street and Broadway in Barnegat Light, at the site of the borough’s first gas station and post office, since 2008, in a long-term lease arrangement. “We’ll be here another 10 years,” he said.

The partnership of Fall and Liz Callanan of Brant Beach (proprietor of the now-closed Beach Threads shop of handmade clothing, sailcloth bags and home décor) has taken the business to new heights. He lives in Barnegat Light, she in Brant Beach. Both are Island residents of several decades.

Fall fixed up the historic building (“It was falling down,” he said), leaving the original roofline intact. He worked on it from 2008 to 2010 and was using it for storage of landscaping tools and materials, and also a gift shop, until Callanan got involved in early 2016 and it became a treasure-filled retail destination they jokingly refer to as “the secret store.”

“It’s been a quiet progression,” Fall said.

Now it’s the Barnegat Light Landscaping, Garden Center and Gift Shop. Fall handles the off-site business with a crew of 12 employees while Callanan runs the store. Together they do the buying and the handcrafting to populate the space with objects of wonder and delight – e.g., the stunning wildlife carvings of Surf City artist Lance Lichtensteiger, packages of notecards by local artist Sandy Kennedy, antique and reupholstered furniture, curiosities old and new, signs, collectibles, bibelots and other gifts, American-made all.

“We’re shooting for ‘eclectic,’” Fall said.

Last winter they got away for a 90-day cross-country road trip and stopped in Tucson, Ariz., to attend the International Gem and Mineral Show, where they stocked up on some ammonites, fossilized shells and other “cool beach things.”

“We know what we like,” Fall said. “This is our taste, but multiplied by 100.”

Callanan’s handmade sailcloth wine bottle totes are especially popular, she said. “We can’t keep them on the shelves.” The material is durable, practical and fun, and she uses international sail letters to spell out LBI or other local identifiers. For other items she collects fabrics to make throw pillows and pouches or to jazz up existing furnishings with Fall’s carpentry assistance.

“We call this the ‘bedench,’” she said, pointing out a child-sized bed they turned into a seat for an entryway.

The winters are for working on building up inventory, and the summer is for selling it all, she explained.

For a while, they have considered naming the store something different, more distinctive, but with a fairly loyal following, the need hasn’t seemed pressing. Likewise the loyal client base that has kept Fall busy for 25 years perpetuates itself by referral. In the backyard is where he keeps piles of soil, mulch and stone; a significant aspect of his business is property maintenance (shutdowns, makeovers, fences, irrigation).

“The secret store” will be open for long weekends through October.

— Victoria Ford

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