Off-Season Business

Local Businesses Make Conscious Effort to Extend Island Season

Year-Round Businesses Thriving and Others Expanding Season
By JON COEN | Oct 11, 2017
File Photo by: Jack Reynolds The Local in Ship Bottom.

The deli counter is hopping, folks peruse specialty groceries, a few women work on laptops in one corner, and there is always a line for the fresh roasted coffee. It’s a typical scene in the summer, but it’s not uncommon to see The Local Market and Kitchen on the corner of Central Avenue and Sixth Street in Ship Bottom full of life even after Labor Day.

Ray and Lisa Hughes, longtime owners of Raimondo’s, also in Ship Bottom, opened the Local in 2016. They have shown beyond a doubt that commerce can thrive on Long Beach Island in the off season, despite the Wawas in Ship Bottom and Beach Haven Terrace that have made it a tough go for locally owned businesses. The key has been staying open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. every day of the week, without closing early or shutting down unexpectedly.

“When we first talked about it, people would just kind of look at me and say, ‘Really? You’re going to stay open all year?’ They were so surprised. But when you actually go seven days all year, people get really excited,” said Ray Hughes.

He said this fall the Local will host events such as pumpkin painting, twilight yoga, wine by the fire pit and Monday Night Football.

“We talked to one woman who was in town for the kite festival. She looked at our schedule of events and said that she just wants a reason to come to the Island in the off-season. We did well our first winter; I expect we’ll be just as busy if not busier,” he added.

“I love what the Local is doing. They’ve done an incredible job of filling a gap,” raved Toby Sweeney, owner of the Terrace Tavern and Delaware Avenue Oyster House and Bar, in Beach Haven Terrace.

The Local may be the shining example, but shops and restaurants all over LBI are making efforts to extend the season and maintain commerce on the Island long into the off season. Sweeney and her husband, Michael, are shooting to keep the oyster house open seven days a week all through the year.

“It’s not just about doing the business. It’s about a younger crowd that wants to go to a bar. It’s about keeping our staff working. It’s about restaurants staying open because this is where we gather to eat, drink and talk about local issues – that’s especially true of the Oyster Bar because it’s so intimate – as opposed to just calling it quits at the end of the season.”

This year, the Black Whale Bar & Fish House in Beach Haven, which has traditionally closed Thanksgiving weekend, will keep the lights on six days a week through New Year’s Eve.

“We’ve talked about doing it for a while now,” explained Melanie Magaziner, a co-owner of Mud City Crab House, Parker’s Garage, and the Old Causeway Steak & Oyster House, which is open year ’round. “It’s been five years since Sandy, and I think a lot of people have redone their homes to be more winterized. Maybe in those older homes people didn’t come down during the colder months. But as long as we have decent weather, I think we’re going to stay busy.”

Magaziner touched on a good point about the weather. September and October have always been a decent “shoulder season” for businesses, but the last six weeks have brought summerlike conditions and very little rain. That’s been an absolute boon to the local economy.

Adding to the off-season momentum is the Southern Ocean County Chamber of Commerce’s Holiday Shopping Redefined program, which launched last July, to keep shops and businesses open on the Island through the holiday shopping season.

The campaign puts a spotlight on businesses on LBI that sell unique gifts, and restaurants that will be open to sell gift certificates or offer shoppers a meal. Anyone who visits any five participating restaurants and any five participating shops can get a card validated and return the card to the chamber office to be entered into a raffle. The prize consists of a 2018 Chowderfest gift certificate, vintage T-shirt and mug.

As of the start of October, shops such as Artifacts and Co., YuleTIDE, Morrison’s Marina & Ship’s Store, Spice It Up and Surflight Theatre, all in Beach Haven, as well as the Bywatyr Gift Shop in Beach Haven Terrace, The Good Life Boutique in Surf City, and the Tuckerton Seaport in Tuckerton will be open and hosting happenings.

“I used to shut down right after Chowderfest, but I’ve learned. I went from a spotty schedule to being consistent. I am a big believer in the philosophy that if you’re open, they will come,” reported Amy Haeberlein, owner of Artifacts and Co.

This year, the shop will extend its hours to 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday through Monday. Haeberlein’s daughter has opened a coffee bar within the store called The Coffee Nest ,and they plan to do a pop-up art market for Small Business Saturday on Nov. 25.

Such restaurants as Daymark in Barnegat Light, the Arlington and Gateway in Ship Bottom, the Union Market and Gallery in Tuckerton, and the Delaware Avenue Oyster House and Bar will extend the season and are planning holiday-themed events.

“Inconsistent hours in any business will drown you,” said Sweeney. “I remember asking Don Brown, who was the head chef at the Terrace Tavern and now owns the Greenhouse Café, how he stays open in the winter. He said he didn’t always make money on a winter day, but he knows his customers are there and they have to know that he’s open.”

This winter, the Delaware Avenue Oyster House will workshop some new dishes that might become staples at the Terrace Tavern and launch new beers with Manafirkin Brewery.

“We’re going to be working on a menu for all the guys who are building and remodeling all the homes in this area, so they don’t have to go to Wawa and eat lunch in their truck. There’s no reason these guys shouldn’t sit down and have real food, so we’re adding steak sandwiches, duck wings and soft pretzels. They can be back to work in 25 minutes.”

There are a good number of trade trucks and vans outside the Local and Union Market as tradesmen are looking for better coffee and quick lunch options.

“It’s just so good for the Island to not totally shut down,” Sweeney said. “If people come down one time in the off-season and everything is closed, it puts a bad taste in their mouth.”

joncoen@thesandpaper.net

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