SEA BRIGHT: SERVICE STATION WON’T RETURN

Dunkin’ Donuts is back in business, at right, but the adjoining Sea Bright Service Station won’t be coming back to town, its owner says. (Photo by Wil Fulton. Click to enlarge)

By WIL FULTON

Amid optimistic declarations that storm-battered Sea Bright will rise from the wreckage of Hurricane Sandy, one of its more visible businesses has quietly thrown in the towel – or the grease rag, in this case.

Sea Bright Service Station owner Rick Hennessey, who’s been operating in recent weeks out of temporary quarters in Atlantic Highlands, has decided not to return to town, he tells redbankgreen.

“The owner of the building doesn’t really want any gas sales there anymore, which is the first problem,” Hennessey said. “We also have the issues of rebuilding after the storm and this looming bridge construction.”The shop sits at the foot of the Rumson-Sea Bright Bridge, and the “looming bridge construction” is a reference not to the current five-day-a-week shutdown of the bridge that began this week, Hennessey said, but to a Monmouth County plan for a new bridge in the next decade.

The replacement span would be located 30 feet south of the current one, requiring the demolition of the gas station and conjoined Dunkin’ Donuts.

“Eight to ten years sounds like a long time, but it will be here before you know it,” Hennessey said. “We just had to move on in this case. I’m trying to make a living and run a business.”

“With all due respect to everyone there, returning to that location wouldn’t work out for us,” he said.

The closing deprives motorists of a central pit stop for gasoline and car repairs. redbankgreen was unable to immediately learn whether the Sunoco station nearby, which was badly damaged in the storm, will reopen.

While there have been rumors swirling throughout the small beachside community about the uncertain return status of other mainstays like Donovan’s Reef and Ship Ahoy beach club, several Sea Bright businesses, including Woody’s Ocean Grille, Harry’s Lobster House, Ama Ristorante and Bain’s Hardware, have returned and are toughing it out amid reconstruction efforts.

The Dunkin’ Donuts, meantime, reopened in late December. Owner Dominic Sequeira tells redbankgreen that “there’s not too much I can say – or really want to say” about the fate of the shop in light of the bridge plan.  “But I will say that I love being part of the Sea Bright community, and I’m committed to staying here as long as I can,” he said. “We’re very proud and excited to back in town.”

Sequeira said that no one has contacted him directly about possible forced relocation.

“Whatever they decided, I’m sure they’ll let me stay in Sea Bright, and that’s where I want to be, absolutely, so we’ll see what happens.”

Building owner John Regan could not be reached for comment Monday.