SEA BRIGHT: PUTTING A BUILDING BACK IN BIZ

christina galinos 052014Christina Galinas outside the Ocean Avenue building she brought back to life. Below, Katy Fraggos, who’s opening a dance-based workout studio on the third floor. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

katy fraggos 052014 2There’s been no shortage of notable comebacks from Hurricane Sandy in Sea Bright, starting with the front-end loaders that tackled six feet of sand on Ocean Avenue a day after the storm.

The recovery marked a milestone six weeks later with the lightning-fast reopening of Bain’s Hardware, which like every other store and restaurant in this oceanfront town was knocked offline by Sandy. And since then, more than a dozen businesses, some of them new, have added to the downtown’s revival.

Nineteen months later, the saga continues, with the reopening in coming weeks of a three-story building that has lined up two tenants brand new to town: a seafood restaurant and a fitness studio.

BONUS: SEE THE PHOTO TOUR OF A BLOCK IN RECOVERY AT THE END OF THIS ARTICLE

The building, with crisp metal awnings over the windows, is at 1054 Ocean Avenue, the former home of the Adrenaline gym. The tenants are Sea Bright Fish Company, an eat-in (minus table service) and take-out restaurant, which has leased the first floor, and Perspirology, a dance-based fitness studio on the third floor. Both are within weeks of opening, their owners say.

Overseeing its revival is Christina Galinos, a Montreal native and former social worker in New York who has lived with her husband, John, and their two children in Rumson for six years.

The couple bought the building at auction last July, plopping down $720,000 despite the fact that the first floor had been inundated by about five feet of water, had no tenants, and was on a block that appeared to have seen its best days. The last owner had paid $1.2 million for it in 2006.

Why did they buy it?

“I just thought it was an opportunity,” Christina told redbankgreen earlier this month. “I love the building, I love the views.

“Short-term, it’s a little scary, but I thought, long-term, the town will do well,” Galinos said. “There have been days I was like, ‘What was I thinking?’ But at the same time, you can’t live your life that way.”

The Galinoses have since sunk tens of thousands more into the structure, replacing the rotted out wood floors with concrete, elevating the utilities above the high-water mark, and planning for the installation of flood gates for the almost inevitable return of the ocean and/or Shrewsbury River to their doorstep.

Now, 10 months later, Galinos has two floors rented and interest in the vacant second floor. “Two out of three ain’t bad,” she said.

The building’s recovery occurs just as the town itself appears to be turning a corner, entering its second post-Sandy summer with a fresh coat of paint, a new parking lot and a battalion of reopened shops and eateries.

Both tenants, too, said a big part of the attraction to the site was the chance to be part of the recovery.

“The town is in a state of rebuilding. It needs new life, and we want to help,” said Perspirology owner Katy Fraggos, 32, whose 1,450-square-foot studio temperature will be dialed up to make clients sweat enroute to a full-body, cardio-intensive, one-hour workout.

Sea Food Fish Company is owned by Paul Diomede, who spent 25 years running restaurants for others – Tim McLoone  – before he came upon a for-rent sign at Galinos’ building.

“I stood in front of it and said, ‘this is the place,'” Diomede told redbankgreen. “Sea Bright fits what we’re trying to do,” which he said is “to take the old New England clam shack and put a modern twist on it.”

Here’s a quick tour of the block, starting from the southern end, at River Street:

SB Century 21 052014Toni Pecoraro’s Century 21 Real Estate office was back in business 11 months after the storm. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

SB Dive 052014Dive! Bar, still closed. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

SB Anjelica's 052014Anjelica’s restaurant, which reopened days before Sandy’s first anniversary. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

sb pizza 052014Cono Trezza’s Sea Bright Pizza, which had been open in its new space – it previously occupied what’s now a vacant lot next door  for only nine months when Sandy struck. It reopened last July (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

sb beach burgers 052014Beach Burgers and Grille, owned by Pecoraro’s son, Antonio, was part of a wave of new businesses opening in the aftermath of the storm. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

sb gracie dudes 052014The delightfully named Gracie and the Dudes, and Sadie Too ice cream parlor reopened in late April.  (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

sb seabreeze 052014Jonathan Huang’s Seabreeze Wine & Spirits is also among the newcomers. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

sb 1056 ocean 052014A vacant building owned by a former mayor is the subject of much grumbling on the block by neighbors who consider it an eyesore and a hazard.  (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

sb bfit 052014BFit, a fitness studio that’s new to the block. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

sb nova 052014Nova Boutique, another new face on the block, held its grand opening on the first anniversary of the hurricane.  (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)