While You Were Away 22-23

A bit of breezy chat about the island’s happenings from Labor Day 2022 through Memorial Day 2023

How it all began: A wise, unknown soul once said, “A little step may be the beginning of a great journey.” We here at the Sun began our journey covering off-season news 19 years ago in 2004. Initially, we reported in detail the hundreds of demolitions that ultimately inspired The Sun’s humble beginnings, a way for us to preserve the Wildwood we feared was disappearing so rapidly. Not surprisingly, our readers often tell us this has become one of their favorite columns to read every year. Happily, step-by-step, on this great journey of ours, some things have blissfully remained the same and memories created courtesy of every inevitable ending and beautiful beginning encompass every Sun page…

From the great Summer of 2022, we cruised into a picturesque Autumn, enjoying Bonfires on the Beach alongside Trunk or Treaters (and the occasional Beach Bum). We caught up with our Irish (real and honorary) friends at the Irish Festival, extended our summer fun (thank you, Mother Nature), witnessed falling leaves and ultimately falling temperatures. We made our Christmas Wish Lists (ocean view always a popular request), attended the Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony (in search of a sandy Santa) and welcomed a new year by the sea. Road construction and Boardwalk replenishment were a much-needed “winter staple,” as we prepared for the Summer of 2023.

Before diving into all that Fun in the Sun, we invite you to find a comfortable spot (beach view suggested but not required) and catch up on all the newsworthy events that occurred While You Were Away…

North Wildwood Legal Woes

Sadly, a significant amount of beach and dune was lost again this winter. On December 6, 2022, NJDEP filed a lawsuit in the Superior Court seeking to direct the City of North Wildwood from constructing a desperately-need bulkhead to guard the City from the continuing beach erosion. In response, the City explained the imperativeness of constructing the bulkhead and included a proposal for a counterclaim asking the Court to award the city $20 million in damages resulting from NJDEP’s failure to support proper shore safety to North Wildwood’s beaches and dunes. Fortunately the city was given permission at the eleventh hour of the week leading into Memorial Weekend to regrade the dunes and eliminate the unsafe conditions and carry on with the project. Unfortunately, there has been no beach replenishment project this year. Please respect what small amount there is to share.

We all Scream for Ice Cream!

North Wildwood City Council granted its first ice cream vendor contract under a bid system to Aladdin’s Beach Enterprises LLC, of Bellmawr, NJ the highest bidder at $140,000, for the 2023 summer season. In November 2022, Mayor Patrick Rosenello said current license holders would still be able to sell ice cream until their retirement. City Clerk Scott Jett stated that the 10 licenses, restricted to military veterans and volunteer firefighters, cost between $800 and $900 each. The city was advised it could foresee a considerably higher amount of revenue by putting the license out to bid, which could be acquired as a block, and, in accordance with Ordinance 1891, required that the successful bidder be a military veteran or a member of the Anglesea Vol. Fire Co. or N. Wildwood Fire Co. Aladdin’s business partner, Jeffrey Cunningham, provided proof of military service.


Way back in 1883, the first passenger train carried travelers from the mainland onto the island, traversing a precarious bridge over the untamed marshlands. Nicknamed the “MudHen,” it battled and clawed its way through the elements; often, it was washed out during high tide. History recounts the path it blazed, opening up new worlds of opportunity for inhabitants and visitors of what would become the Wildwoods. In the very same spirit, the MudHen Brewing Company burst onto the scene in the Spring of 2018 at 127 W. Rio Grande Avenue. The brew-pub had become the jewel in the crown of the Taylor Avenue Sciarra family of businesses, which includes Kona Surf Company, Dogtooth Bar & Grill and Poppi’s Brick Oven Pizza. The growing conglomerate is the brainchild of Brendan Sciarra, whose father, Mike Sciarra, founded Kona in 1969 in a little storefront along Pacific Ave.MudHen is a complete brewing and distribution facility, full service bar and restaurant, crafted out of a the shell of a “Neo Doo Wop” building that formerly housed a Harley Davidson dealership.Today, it’s hard to believe that MudHen is already celebrating its 5th anniversary. Owners Brendan & Robin Sciarra are marking the occasion with the addition of a new division, MudHen Hospitality with their new Hen Houses at 156 E. Taylor Avenue, an enclave “micro-resort” that has completely transformed and beautified the neighborhood. With this particular project, the historic Reese/Spuhler Home was beautifully restored to its original glory and beyond, renamed Mudhen Manor. It was originally built in Classical Revival style in the 1890s by John Reese, a retired Philadelphia iron manufacturer. He worked as a ship chandler (ship supplies vendor), a highly profitable and influential career in the socioeconomics of the booming fishing industry. The house was built near the curb, but moved to the center of the property between 1949 and 1956. Between those years, it was bought by Esso Service Station owner Joe Spuhler for his family.

The construction of new features at the Byrne Community Center Complex began, with the intention of the site serving as a wellness destination for people of all ages and capabilities appealing to residents and visitors. Included in the construction is a fitness track and an outdoor exercise area with equipment stations. Mayor Pete Byron, who remarked the current track is 20 years past its life expectancy, described the track that will be installed as “truly a community track.” “This is a tremendous project that will put the Byrne Community Center Complex on the map as a premier destination for health and wellness. The City is thankful for the partnership with the County and the Open Spaces Program that is making it possible.” said Byron. The Byrne Community Center Complex project received a $2.9 million Open Spaces grant, with an added $1.19 million award to finish the development being projected in 2023.


With the vision of creating better beach access, and with the support of grant money, residents, state, county, and previous and current administrations, Phase 1a and 1b were completed, with Phase 2 of the beach access decks project, partially funded by the CMC Open space program and NJ DCA/DOT, ready to bid, with a hopeful summer completion. Amenities include: ADA showers, New decks, railings, ramps, Bike racks , Benches , Planters, and Shade pergolas. Phase 3+ awaits approval and will be north of Rambler along the bike path.  The Wildwood Crest Beach Patrol Building, located at Rambler Road, is getting a much-needed renovation. Headquarters will be in the aadjacent Information center this summer. The information center will operate out of the Arts Pavilion.

Creating in the Crest

The Borough of Wildwood Crest’s new Crest Arts Pavilion hosted a well-attended crowd-pleasing art exhibition displaying all of the entries to the Wildwood Crest Creative Arts Council on Friday, March 24th.  It was the first event in the Crest Arts Pavilion serving as a “soft opening” for the facility, which is located at 6301 Ocean Avenue (Ocean Avenue and Wisteria Road). Look for the official grand opening ceremony this summer as well as various events being held there.

The Wind and the Whales 

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), a record number of large whale deaths were reported along the coast between December ‘22 & February ’23, as pre-construction work ramped up for offshore wind farms. The wind farms, while an integral component of the nation and New Jersey’s climate change policy, raised questions about a possible connection between the whale deaths and offshore wind activities.

On January 30th, a group of 30 New Jersey mayors, including North Wildwood Mayor Patrick Rosenello, constructed a letter requesting a suspension to all offshore wind activity.

On March 16th, Congressman Jeff Van Drew held a hearing entitled “An Examination into Offshore Wind Industrialization” gathering testimonies from a panel of experts. It was livestreamed and can be found on Youtube.

More Beach Protection

After a 10-year wait, the Hereford Inlet to Cape May Inlet Dune and Beach Berm construction project is supposedly moving forward. North Wildwood, Wildwood, Wildwood Crest and Lower Township signed state aid agreements to permit the Shore Protection Project. The $82.4 million plan is funded by US Army Corps of Engineers and Dept. of Environmental Protection (DEP.)


“Everybody talks about the weather, but nobody does anything about it.”  The summer of ’22 certainly gave us plenty to talk about! If only we could special order a weather repeat, where we had gorgeous Summer Beach Days and Boardwalk Nights, with barely any rain and no heat waves. We had a beautiful Labor Day weekend until someone flipped the switch on Labor Day Monday night with several rainy days (the season’s first mini-Nor’easter) adding to that melancholy feeling of summer’s end. Luckily, it was a glorious September for all the festivals! Then October 1st arrived, and with it the remnants of Hurricane Ian, arriving in the form of a Nor’easter causing the cancellation of TROG and the Old Time Italian Festival. Only a short period of chilly rainy weather … and for the rest of “Red October” it was full of blue skies and Phillies Phever … Beach days abounded! Many humpback whales were spotted off the coast as the bountiful season provided for them. October cruised into November, welcoming a warm, sunny Indian Summer, with Phillies fans flocking to the beach! It wasn’t the ending we hoped for, but it sure made for an awesome season! The Philadelphia Eagles kept the excitement going!! It remained in the 70s through much of November. On Thanksgiving Day, beachgoers were thankful for the loveliest indian summer beach day! The Old Farmer’s Almanac, meanwhile, predicted “the tale of two winters,” meaning we would have a bad winter or none at all. Except for the occasional cold day, temperatures remained mild, with very few winter storms to report. ThankYGod! We had a very mild and warm New Year’s Day, which lasted the entire month of January, coming in and going out like a lamb (pre-March vibes). February entered the winter picture with our only snowfall (just a dusting for atmosphere) and frigid temperatures (for warming up by the fire} but settled right back into mild mode. True to its nature, March was gusting with winds, before April showers brought May flowers. 

“Cause a little bit of summer is what the whole year is about…”  We here at The Sun are all about making the most of that magical time of year between spring and fall, that time we wait for all year long. With summer branded deeply into our salt-tinged souls, we plan on making the most of every bit of it.  Naturally, we always find the best version of ourselves beneath blue skies and balmy sunshine (the ultimate elixir!). It obviously will not be all play and no work. Multitaskers we (modestly) are, we’ll be getting in summer shape at the Downtown Wildwood Fitness in the Plaza Bootcamp (working off our Boardwalk indulgences), witnessing the most glorious sights and sounds at Wildwoods Boardwalk Friday Night Fireworks, connecting with our inner thespian at Movies in the Plaza (if it’s free it’s for me!) and, in our downtime, just generally being the best beach bums we can be!  Lest you wonder, our most gratifying role is that of intrepid Sun reporters, taking notes, snapping photographs and collecting your Wildwood stories (of which we know you all have your share). The Summer of 2023 is promising the most noteworthy tales because of each of you, proving that the most newsworthy time is while you, our treasured readers and friends, are all right here with us in Wildwood by the sea…which always guarantees to steal the show!

THIS SECTION: Compiled & reported over the long winter months by Dorothy Kulisek and Meg Corcoran.

2023 NEW AND OLD BUSINESS : by Al Alven, the ‘Director of fun’ from Wildwood365

If you have followed this column over the years, you are aware of the notion that CHANGE itself has become a reliable constant in the Wildwoods.  Given the amount of the activity on the island this past offseason, along with the scope of several of the new developments in question, one has to wonder: Is 2023 the culmination of years of planning, promotion and investment in the Wildwoods, or the continuation of a trend that will see yet more large-scale projects get the green light? 
Indications seem to favor the latter, but only ONE thing is for certain – with so much going on and so many new things to talk about, we don’t have the time or space for our usual long-winded intro! So, let’s dive right into what you might have missed “While you were away”…

The BiG Developments

Mayor Pete Byron called it “the biggest and most essential construction project” he can recall in the Wildwoods. When you stop to think about it, Phase II of the Boardwalk Renovation Project directly impacted dozens of businesses, but had indirect consequences for the entire island, and beyond. This winter, the five-block stretch of Boardwalk Maple north to 26th Avenue was rehabilitated; the project started last year when the three-block stretch from Oak to Maple was addressed. The project has sought to renovate and rehab sections of the promenade that are damaged from aging, weather and wear-and-tear with bolstered concrete pillars and fresh decking, in addition to new handrails, access ramps and lighting. If all goes according to plan, per Byron, Phase III will commence south of Schellenger Avenue this fall… There can be no denying the impact Philadelphia-based investment & development firm BG Capital has made on the island since the opening of Seaport Pier in 2018. This spring, the company’s largest projects reach completion in the forms of the Seaport Suites in Downtown Wildwood and the Oasis by Seaport Stays. The 63-room Seaport Suites, one block south of Byrne Plaza, will house three different entertainment venues conceptualized by DJ Jason Weiss – FOURCAST Day Club, Vyce and Fairview Social (a nod to the legendary Fairview Club, located on the same footprint), along with an exclusive pool, two outdoor bars and the Beach Brew Coffee Shop. The Oasis, several blocks north at 2911 New Jersey Avenue, features 38 upscale condo and townhouse rentals with a central leisure and recreation area, pool, kids’ splash pool and more.

All Seaport properties offer free service to Seaport Pier and sister properties via the Seaport Shuttle… It’s hard to believe that MudHen Brewing Co. is already celebrating its 5th anniversary. Owners Brendan & Robin Sciarra are marking the occasion with the addition of a new division, MudHen Hospitality. The subsidiary’s signature project is the new Hen Houses at 156 E. Taylor Avenue, an enclave that features the rescued and renovated MudHen Manor, neighbored by six smaller, rental homes with names based on MudHen brews – Baker’s Double, Captain Doug’s, Wildwood Haze, Sea Tiger, Holly Beach and 1883… Speaking of rescues, for quite some time, the landmark Oceanview Motel in Wildwood Crest looked like a goner. The property had fallen into disrepair and was considered by many to be a lost cause before Madison Resorts arrived on the scene. The company purchased the ailing motel and promptly announced a massive, two-phase $12 million renovation project that would include the addition of a 5th floor with suites, a restaurant, room updates, a modern cafe, lounge area, firepits, infinity pool, cabana and a wedding venue. Unfortunately, the motel’s soaring mid-century lobby was deemed structurally unsound and could not be saved, but a faithful rebuild will be included in the renovation. At press time, Madison Resorts was not yet ready to announce an opening date… Similarly, though the building was not in danger of facing the wrecking ball, Hotel Cabana has dramatically renovated and reopened the building at 21st & Boardwalk. This entity, originally the King’s Inn Motel, has operated under a variety of names and identities over the past decade, including Howard Johnson, Quality Inn and Hammock Inn & Suites. The property has been completely modernized with all-new rooms and amenities, and looks to be a prime player in the island’s hotel renaissance. 


While the biggest story on the Boardwalk is the refurbished Boardwalk itself, there is once again no shortage of new businesses dotting the famous wooden way this spring. At the same time, we say “farewell” to some old favorites… We start this year on the northern end, at Montego Bay Resort, where Bar Fore Sports Simulator brings the “virtual reality” golf simulation to the island. State-of-the-art programs include additional sports and games, in a bar and lounge setting ideal for social gatherings and parties… At 22th Street, Quinn’s Original Fudge Island takes over for the Original Fudge Kitchen (which has maintained its store down at Roberts Avenue). Owner John Quinn, who worked at Fudge Kitchen for over 30 years, brings with him a wealth of experience and his own unique recipes at this completely renovated location, which he intends to operate year round… Next door, Seaport Village Shore Decor & More takes over for longtime favorite Rapunzel’s (now at 2305 New Jersey Ave), offering a variety of nautical-themed signs, candles and gifts, along with other specialty items. It is the sister store of Villa Gourmet (which opened last summer), and, yes, the name echoes the memory of the old Seaport Village Shopping Pier, which sat directly opposite, where Seaport Pier is today. At the other end of the block is the aforementioned Hotel Cabana, which puts in perspective just how much change the 2200 block has seen over the past year… Giovanna’s Hispanic Restaurant at 2416 is under new ownership and has undergone an expansion to accommodate later parties… Winterwood Christmas Shoppe, a fixture between Glenwood and Magnolia Aves, is out, replaced by a second location of beachwear shop Bikini Heaven… One of the Boardwalk’s oldest establishments, Eleanor’s Gifts at Oak Avenue, closed for the final time after the 2022 season. Owner Dan Kavounis will continue to operate his cabana and beach rentals business out of the location… Otaku House, specializing in anime and manga merchandise, has taken over the former location of Shooters Old Time Photos at 3414 Boardwalk (Pirates of the Wildwoods 3D Mini-Golf remains, with a number of improvements, next door)… Several years in the works, Capt’n Jack’s Island Grill at the Boardwalk Mall is in the process of installing a second floor balcony that will overlook the Boardwalk and wrap around the Garfield Avenue side of the building… El Pilon Criollo at Roberts Avenue is a new Latin cuisine restaurant that takes over for Seaport Kettle Corn, which lasted one season. This is the former longtime home of the Grandview Gift Shop.

Morey’s Newest Adventures

Even in years when they aren’t introducing a major new ride or attraction, Morey’s Piers always has an interesting project or two, or a surprise trick up its sleeves to WOW its guests. Last year’s most impactful addition may have been the introduction of the Sunny the Seagull plush dolls, a premium gamestand prize that quickly became a local sensation (note the plethora of “impersonators” available at Boardwalk shops this summer)…. The most obvious change this year is the completely revamped front of Adventure Pier, the first phase of a “food hall” concept introduced three years ago. Several structures and attractions were removed over the winter, including the Boat Tag game and existing Kohr Bros. building to make way for the arrival of several shipping containers. These compliments to the existing containers at artBOX and elsewhere on the pier, will serve as modules for food, games and more. At press time, containers were being prepped to house new Curley’s Fries and Kohr Bros. locations. The concept should be an interesting one to watch unfold this summer, and in the years to come… Meanwhile, on Mariner’s Pier, Jumbo’s Grub & Pub has been rebranded as Founders Grub & Pub, as a nod to the individuals “who helped build Morey’s Piers into the beloved destination it is today”… In true “outside the box” Morey’s tradition, the family’s biggest addition for 2023 isn’t on the Boardwalk – or even in the Wildwoods at all! Over the winter, the organization acquired and set out and renovated Laguna Oaks Golf Course in Cape May Court House, transforming it into Big Little 9 – “The Happiest Golf Course on Earth!”

Around the Island

“Watch the… MOTEL, please??” What’s more WILDWOOD than the Sightseer Tram Cars (which, incidentally, are celebrating their 75th anniversary season of operation this summer)? There are few contenders, though the island’s famous collection of “Doo Wop” motels would have to figure high on a list of favorites. Thus, it was fitting when the new owners of the Aruba Motel decided to retheme and decided on “The Tram Car Motel!” Yes, after a total renovation, the motel was painted in the classic yellow and blue color scheme, and outfitted with classic tram car signage… In other motel news, the former LuFran Motel at 5106 Ocean Avenue, which has sat vacant for the past few seasons, has been fully renovated and revived as the Beach House… From South Philly to the Wildwoods: Antney’s Grub was an instant hit and has garnered a loyal following since setting upshop at the aforementioned Aruba Motel in 2020. This year, owner Anthony Renzulli is expanding his operation in a big way, opening up additional eateries at 333 E. Montgomery in Wildwood (the former Bannon’s Ocean Cafe) and at the Jolly Roger Motel in Wildwood Crest (taking over the Neverland Cafe)… Another City of Brotherly Love favorite, Steve’s Prince of Steaks, will soon move into the previous home of Classic Sandwiches at 2701 New Jersey Avenue. Founded by Steven Iliescu in 1980, the original Steve’s location is still going strong at Bustleton & St. Vincent in Northeast Philly… After the closure of the legendary Shamrock Cafe on Pacific Avenue, the equally-historic Kelly’s Cafe (4400 Atlantic Ave) proudly proclaimed itself “Wildwood’s oldest bar.” That title lasted only one summer, as the venerable establishment was sold by longtime owners Victor & Patrice Namiotka over the winter. The new proprietors promptly emBARKed on a dramatic renovation of the property, transforming it into The Copper Dog. The name pays tribute to the owners’ own copper dog, Vivian; and, as you might suspect, four-legged friends are welcome at the restaurant’s outdoor dining patio… It seems that Bagel Time Cafe and its owner, Angelo Bilios, find their way into this space every year. It’s for good reason, as he’s always up to something new! Last year, Bilios and his wife, Anna, acquired the Pink Cadillac Diner, adding it as Bagel Time’s sister property. This year, they have made major changes to Bagel Time itself, including a full exterior renovation, adding a lounge area to the dining room and creating the “Bagel Yard” – colorfully revamped patio space- see photo of ‘yours truly’ peacing out by the vintage VW in the yard… Despite a fun, nostalgia-based presentation and an enthusiastic following, Nan & Pop’s Kitchen announced last fall that it was closing its doors after just two seasons. Enter Chef Stephen Quici, who has stepped out on his own and opened Stephen’s Restaurant at the location this spring. Quici, a culinary wizard with over 40 years of professional cooking experience, is perhaps best known in the Wildwoods as the head chef at Duffinetti’s Restaurant. He is now serving up his own breakfast and dinner specialties at the longtime former home of the Lobster Shack… The island’s newest brewery, Anglesea Aleworks, made its long-awaited debut in February at 3401 New Jersey Avenue. Featuring an extensive list of daily beers on tap as well as rotators/seasonals, the location immediately became a popular local gathering space for not only sampling but hanging out and discussing all things “beer”… Mallory’s Eats, an artisan baking company that has become a favorite at local events and pop-ups (including the Downtown Wildwood Farmer’s Market), now has a physical location. Owner Mallory Stetter has set up shop at 3012 Pacific Avenue, where she will craft and sell her custom desserts… The 3400 block of Pacific Avenue (directly across from Byrne Plaza) is once again at full occupancy, thanks to the addition of two new businesses and the relocation of another. Debuting on the row this year are Utterly Ice Cream, Guppi and The Panini Cafe on Pacific. They join The Cove in Wildwood, Hooked on Books, Blue Homes Real Estate, Maggie’s Boutique and The Yellow Umbrella Gift Shoppe in rounding out Downtown Wildwood’s most robust block of offerings… Utterly, the creation of local entrepreneur Danielle Aydelotte, is the the next evolution of Clipper Dipper ice cream, which operated previously at the Yankee Clipper Motel in the Crest. Aydelotte describes the businessas “Wildwood’s first cereal-infused ice cream parlor and coffee bar” … Guppi moves to a more spacious home at 3417 Pacific after a very successful first season three blocks north. It’s a fitting spot in more ways than one, as owner Abby MacQueen started her sustainable surfwear company across the street at the Downtown Wildwood Farmer’s Market in 2018… The south end of the block is now anchored by The Panini Cafe on Pacific, which takes over for the short-lived 3421 Island Grill. Co-owners Shawn McGuigan and John Deluca of Northeast Philadelphia offer a wide variety of panini options and more for the breakfast, lunch and dinner crowds… What’s “old” is new again at Old Movies By The Sea – no, we really mean it! This winter, Glenn Kingsbury and Karen Drew painstakingly revived the former Sea Theater (4005), which had several identities over the years but was originally a nickelodeon dating back to the 1910’s. The location is back in business as a working theater and event-hosting venue, playing not just “old movies,” but hosting comedy nights, sports presentations and more… Last year, the Marvis Diner expanded with a second location, transforming the former Star Diner & Cafe into the Marvis Pancake House & Diner (325 W. Spruce Ave). This year, the original diner at 4900 Pacific underwent a major renovation, adding a new outdoor dining patio and additional parking… Along with MudHen Brewing Co., Santorini and SOL have been widely acknowledged as two of the leaders of Wildwood’s recent “restaurant renaissance.” Both establishments opened in 2021 and now, interestingly, they operate under the same banner. Well, sort of. Earlier this spring, Santorini announced that SOL was being rebranded as Venezia, and would now operate as its “sister restaurant.” Similar to the Mediterranean-themed Santorini, Venezia is an “Italian BYOB,” replacing SOL’s “Latin Fusion”-inspired menu and ambiance… Before we leave Wildwood and head down to the Crest for our final stop on the “While You Were Away” tour, let’s make a quick stop at City Hall. At the parking lots directly to the north and south of the municipal building, massive new solar paneled shelters have been installed (similar to the addition at Morey’s Piers’ lot at Ocean & Juniper last year). This installation, which also includes new perimeter landscaping, is a key component of the city’s “solar initiative” according to Mayor Pete Byron: “As a community, we will all reap the benefits of this.” … The owners of Brandon’s Pancake House & Ice Cream Parlor display their mission statement on their sign: “BE KIND!” Inspired by their son Brandon, who lives with autism, Karl & Aimee Famiano have created a space where all can feel welcome, including families and those living with disabilities and other challenges. Their new eatery is located at 6200 New Jersey Avenue, at the previous home of the Doo Wop Drive-Inn. Meanwhile, the building’s former proprietor, Jason Kramer, can be found slinging up specials back at his longtime home, the Tangiers Cafe (Tangiers Motel, 6201 Atlantic Ave)… Charlie’s Sandwich Shop, a popular New York eatery with deep Italian roots, is set to breathe new life into the former Cresse Variety Store (vacant for the past five years at 5400 Pacific Ave). A staple in Brooklyn since 2016, the salumeria figures to be a unique addition to the Wildwoods’ diverse and ever-growing culinary scene… You can’t miss the BIG, vibrant new mural at 10th & New Jersey Avenue! “Raise the Bar” not only commemorates the rebranding of The Gym at 10th to Shore Fitness at 10th, but celebrates the gym’s expansion and focus on inclusion. 

Owners Stacie and Ron Tedesco purchased the longtime fitness center in 2022 and immediately implemented changes to bring it up to top industry standards. Along with continued updates, the new mural is representative of the Tedescos’ dedication to community and the essence of the Wildwoods – “the ‘Doo Wop’ legacy, the sun, the sand and summer!”  … A Little Cafe (8700 New Jersey Ave) reopened under the direction of Chef Michael Ayoub in late 2022, and will now operate year round. Ayoub has reworked the menu, which will continue to feature sandwiches, salads, “from scratch” soups and baked goods, along with a full service coffee bar and an emphasis on vegan and gluten-free options… The much-anticipated Crest Arts Pavilion opened to the public on March 24 with an exhibition sponsored by the Wildwood Crest Creative Arts Council. The mixed-use venue will soon feature functional space for meeting and local organizations, hosting options for weddings and other special events, two dedicated retail areas, and more, in addition to space for displaying some of the Crest’s historical artifacts.

Eva Basilio & Joseph Pettinelli purchased Rita’s Deli in the winter of 2022 and opened Turtle Gut in July of last summer, a new specialty coffee + food spot in Wildwood Crest. Their mission is to provide a great cafe experience with coffee served from the best specialty roasters from around the world and fresh, excellent quality food from local Jersey farms, all while enjoying an amazing view of Sunset Lake. Their historical name is derived from Turtle Gut inlet, once located where Denver and Toledo Avenues are today. The inlet was filled in, merging Five Mile and Two Mile Beaches into one. There was also the famous Revolutionary War Battle of Turtle Gut that took place there in 1776 {You may search The Sun archives to read more on Turtle Gut.} Historically speaking, Rita’s Deli originally opened as a corner delicatessen and variety store, owned and operated by Wildwood Crest Mayor Joseph & Rita Von Savage in the 50s & 60s.


Mary Clark is the owner of Vagabond Cape May and co-owner, with her college roommate Megan Murphy, of Vagabond in Philadelphia. Her background is in fine art, history, and making hand-knit sweaters and one-of-a-kind clothing. Vagabond started as a way for her to employ her artistic talents while building a small business and providing a place for local designers to sell their creations, while being committed to helping marginalized people, both locally and overseas. Vagabond first opened in 1994 on Pacific Avenue in Wildwood, across from Common Ground Coffee House. In 1997, the original Vagabond Cape May opened on the Perry Street side of Congress Hall, then moved to Carpenters Square on Perry Street. Fast forward to 2023, Mary Clark comes full circle with her all new Vagabond Cape May located at 518 rear Washington Street Mall on Carpenter’s Lane. See Mary’s Ad on page 13, and be sure to stop by to visit her!

Like the proverbial shifting sands of time, change is one of life’s few constants. Even so, it’s been a long time since we’ve seen an offseason as active as the one just passed in the Wildwoods. Each new business, every burgeoning venture detailed here will have the opportunity to place a unique footprint on our island.  Their stories are just beginning, as our grand tale of fun-by-the-sea continues to be written. Here’s to memories, old and new – Summer 2023, here we come!

                                         It’s a wrap!

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