It is with a grateful heart that I reflect on the humble beginnings of The Sun by-the-sea, a nostalgic love letter to the town of Wildwood, NJ, begun by two people who loved the seaside town they called home. The Sun’s modest start was made possible in part by my husband and star salesman Bobby, who believed in its existence from the start. While this story speaks of both our contributions to the newspaper, my dream became a reality because of his dedication and support. For that I am eternally thankful.
Here is our story. . .
Dorothy, who owns her very own pair of ruby red slippers, ironically wasn’t wearing them when she set out to find her own Land of Oz.
Dorothy is Dorothy Kulisek and her Oz has been this very newspaper — this creative, comfortable, intensely-community paper known to one and all as simply The Sun, but fully titled on its front page as “The Five Mile Beach SUN by-the-sea.”
Her publishing journey began in the fall of 2003 on a treadmill at the Gym at 10th Street in North Wildwood.
Before the seawall was put in place (which Dorothy likes to walk in the early morning), she was a member of the Gym, where she would get a lot of inspiration from while walking the treadmill. One fortuitous day, a light bulb went off, and after a quick work out, she hurried home to her husband, Bobby with a life-changing idea that they could accomplish together.
It was clear in Dorothy’s mind that they could start their own newspaper. Wildwood was undergoing a big building boom at the time and The Leader newspaper had moved off island, and it just seemed like the right thing to do. Dorothy was also out of work at that time. She had left a graphic design job through a combination of boredom and the seven-year itch, and was at the loosest of ends. A faithful Christian – along with her husband Bobby and son, Robert – she remembers asking the Lord to give her a sign as to what she should do.
Trained as a fine artist at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, she had entered a craft show to sell her driftwood paintings. She prayed that if she wasn’t meant to pursue that kind of a venture then she wouldn’t sell anything – which she didn’t.
This, naturally, led to the previously-mentioned “light bulb moment,” when she knew she had received her sign from God and should pursue starting The Sun.
Before taking the big step, Bobby suggested they seek wise counsel. They retained a Wildwood attorney, got advice from their accountant, and, most important, consulted with minister (as well as Bobby’s life-long friend) Joe Trombetta, who said, “It’s either risk or rust!” So, they took the risk.
Dorothy credits Bobby with being one of those people who could sell snowcones in Alaska. He took a leave of absence from his job as a Union Cement Finisher that winter of 2003-04, and with a 4-page dummy mock-up of The Sun, he put on his salesman hat and hit the streets of his much-loved hometown. He knew and loved everyone here in the Wildwoods, and the feelings were mutual. Bobby’s natural charm, combined with his love for his family, made his new position as salesman for The Sun an easy job at which to excel. Bobby would not just sell an ad, but help the customers put it together, then return home to Dorothy’s office (which consisted of a laptop on the sofa) and help her get started designing their ads for the first issue. Yogi Kurtz and Jim Salasin at Big Fish Restaurant Group were so bowled over by Dorothy’s unique artwork that they decided to advertise in a paper that didn’t even exist yet, and paying half the money down to go towards printing costs. The Kuliseks had also targeted for the center spread the Hoffman Real Estate Agency with the help of friend Joan Morey, who introduced them to Carole Pantalone, Broker of the agency. She also introduced them to Ben Rose at the Wildwoods Convention Center as well as Jack Morey of Morey’s Piers. These prominent Wildwood players came on board and have been a part of the original family of advertisers that Bobby sold from the first issue. Also in The Sun’s sights for advertising (and who have been in nearly all 60 issues) were J Byrne Agency, Jewelry Studio of Stone Harbor, Ravioli House, Alfe’s, Bayview, Rick’s Seafood, Sam’s Pizza, Anglesea Pub, Casey’s, Owen’s, Westy’s, Echos, GoodNight Irene’s, Michael’s Fabricare, Maries Flowers, Total Image, Colleen Sowers, Vegas, Surfside West & Star Diners, Duffers, Gia, Douglass Candies, Laura’s, and so many more, (please forgive us for not being able to mention you all) … all of whom were welcomed additions to The Sun family of advertisers and have been faithful supporters ever since its inception.
In those early days, Bobby & Dorothy would go out together and share with business owners their vision for The Sun. It was going to be a ‘people paper’ and they were going to feature nostalgia, homegrown stories and photos galore. Their passion for Wildwood inspired much of the paper. Because Wildwood can sometimes get a bad rap, they wanted to bring out the best about the town they both loved… its rich history, its people, and focus on all the positive.
Even Donald Trump was in on the birth of The Sun – sort of. One night while watching The Apprentice, Donald Trump said, “You gotta go to the boss” and the next day Bobby got dressed to sell and walked in to Tucker’s Pub for about the fifth time and Art Mee, who was Bob Villone’s manager, told him, “Oh, he’s not here,” and Bobby said,”I want to see the boss and I’m not leaving here until I do” and Bobby just waited until he saw Bob Villone. Bob was so impressed with how Bobby put Trump’s advice to work, that he became a steady advertiser, as well as a friend.
The first issue hit the streets on April 1st, 2004 with 36 pages and nearly 40 advertisers. The Sun was out and shining bright! Bobby Kulisek had come up with The Sun name, and – lo and behold – in doing research, Dorothy found out that there was a Sun newspaper in Wildwood a hundred years ago, a benign coincidence and a good omen, as far as they were concerned. Actually, The Sun’s front page masthead is the original lithograph used from 1900 to 1915 by the Five-Mile Beach Sun, which was found in the Wildwood Museum.
Since the first issue came out on April Fool’s Day, it was son Robert’s idea to put a little April Fool’s joke on the cover and put, ‘Cost: 5¢ underneath ‘April Fools!’ Their friend Mary from Wawa in North Wildwood reported that people were coming up to the counter with nickels to pay for it! Many hidden talents rose to the top for Bobby when he got into doing the paper. He was incredibly gifted. He wrote a couple of funny stories, including the first cover story about an alien bunny that landed on the beach. A bunch of local cops were mentioned in the story… It was so much fun! They all loved it!
Bob Ingram appeared in the first issue of The Sun with a story called “Easter Bonnet Blues” and has had a story in many issues since. The way it came about says something about the Kuliseks’ resourcefulness in recruiting for The Sun. While Ingram was out on a daily stroll along Kennedy Drive in North Wildwood, a Jeep SUV pulled up with Dorothy and then-14 year old son Robert, who told him about their plans to start a newspaper. He immediately and happily volunteered. Robert had seen the documentary film, “Boardwalk: Greetings From Wildwood By-the-Sea,” that Bob had narrated, co-wrote, and co-produced and suggested to his parents that he would be a great asset to The Sun.
Serendipity had something to do with finding one of The Sun’s key writers after that first issue. When The Sun got their official post office box, the first piece of mail to arrive had a zip code that was the same as where Dorothy grew up in Philadelphia, leaving her a bit confused and thinking her mother had given the paper to a neighbor, only to discover the package was from Meg Corcoran, who lived a block from where she grew up (although they had never met). Meg sent some samples of her work; she’d been specializing in movie guides and asked if she could do that for The Sun. Her ‘Meg the Movie Buff’ column has been in every issue since. She has taken on the role of assistant editor as they work with great synergy on many stories and the favored ‘While You Were Away’ column every year, a recap of what’s happened since the last season. It’s quite an undertaking. Meg’s assistance in The Sun’s editorial content has been a real blessing.
The Sun doesn’t come by its signature hand-crafted look and feel easily. Dorothy continually works on it, like putting a puzzle together with a thousand pieces, moving things around and seeing what goes well together so that it’s pleasing to the eye and makes for an enjoyable reading experience. The layout consists of working on one page at a time and, before it goes to the printer, days are spent finding just the right quotes to put at the top of each page from a lot of different sources. The quotes are said to be a favorite of many readers.
People have often commented how they hold onto the paper for the whole two months between issues because it takes them that long to get through it. To Dorothy, it’s a labor of love and wouldn’t want it any other way.
The Sun has a loyal and vocal fan base. Its website, www.sunbythesea.com, and social media pages on Facebook at The Wildwood Sun by the Sea Magazine and Instagram @Sunbythesea, are brimming with compliments about the paper. Regular correspondences from Sun readers flow in via email and snail mail and help to make The Sun a source of endearment with a continual flow of contributions of old nostalgic photos and stories.
Dorothy Kulisek is very cognizant of the impact The Sun has on its readers. She prays alot over her work, knowing that if she stops to think about what she’s doing, she won’t be able to grasp the huge responsibility she has happily undertaken. She believes that God has given her that task and she has to make sure it’s all pleasing to Him, too. That speaks to her true philosophy; Her talent is God-given, and what she does with it is her gift back to him.
The Kulisek family’s goal was always to bring out the best the island has to offer. As a result of their hard work and dedication, The Sun is family friendly, and loved by people of all ages… a nostalgic love letter to the town of Wildwood, NJ.
from the Editor: This story was first published and written by Bob Ingram based on an interview he did with me in 2007. It has been revised in order to bring it up to date and to look back nostalgically to the sweet time when I started The Sun with my son Robert, and my husband Bobby Kulisek. Bobby’s work was complete here in this world when God called him home on July 9, 2015. This paper will forever carry a part of his legacy.
Bobby’s hard work ethic was his defining characteristic, and perhaps the highlight of his working career came when his hidden talents were revealed the winter that he & I, together with our 14 year old son, Rob, joined creative forces to launch Wildwood’s original nostalgic magazine called The Sun. If not for him, there would be no Sun basically. He was like the butter to my bread, that helped turn my bright idea into the start of a successful business, now in its 12th season. I’ve always been an artist, but it was my husband Bobby who taught me how to be a businesswoman and to dress for success.
Because of some of his bright ideas, just about everyone who reads The Sun, turns directly to one of their favorite features, the High School Yearbook photos. Since Bobby was a Wildwood High graduate himself (1976), he always knew which locals would make a big splash for the feature. I continue to think back on those early days each time I flip through old yearbooks in the Wildwood Museum to find just the right faces for the still favorite column.
It was also his insightfulness that knew if we filled the paper to overflowing with photos of people, that it would fly off the shelves. In the early years, we would mark our calendars for special events, and he, Robert & I would get dressed up and pack our camera with a notepad and pen for taking names with, and head out on the town. It wasn’t long, before people were jumping in front of our camera so they could get in The Sun! Bobby was right.
I could reminisce with you about so many of the fun little things in the paper that we would brainstorm together on, but I believe the best way to honor the man who made it all possible for me, is to continue on this sunny journey and invite all of you, our Sun family, to enjoy every issue of The Sun and remember how it all began.