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RED BANK: REFLOATING A LOBSTER SHACK

Kelly Ryan at her storm-damaged Red Bank restaurant on Tuesday. (Photo by Wil Fulton. Click to enlarge)

By WIL FULTON

“When people think of Sandy’s impact on Red Bank, most will say that the town didn’t get it so bad,” says Kelly Ryan, owner of the Boondocks Fishery, a summer-only, open-air eatery that’s been serving lobsters and scallops adjacent to the Navesink River and Marine Park for the past four years. “But I guess they haven’t seen this place.”

“We came back here the day after the storm, and my first reaction was ‘Oh my God, the building is still standing,'” she said. “But once we looked inside, we understood that even though the structure was still up, the insides were completely devastated.”

Through the windows that day, Ryan saw burst pipes spraying water in every direction. When she tried to open the door, she realized that the wood had been warped and the locks had absorbed so much saltwater from the surging river that they ceased to work, forcing her to crawl through a window to get inside.

“Who could have expected this?” she said. “When Irene hit, we had about a half-inch of water inside, and had to replace our floors. With Sandy, we had over four feet of storm surges wash through here.”

While landord Irwin Marine will cover most construction costs, including new walls, flooring, doors and portions of the docks, Ryan is left to foot the bill on her kitchen equipment, all of which was lost or damaged beyond repair –including a pricey compressor for a walk-in refrigerator and the nearby garages where she stores food.

Ryan also ran the kitchen at Donovan’s Reef in Sea Bright, which was leveled by the hurricane. Unlike Boondocks, however, Donovan’s has no plans to return, its owners having recently reached a verbal agreement to sell the beachside bar and restaurant, according to Ryan.

“It’s too bad, but in a way it may be good for Boondocks,” she said. “Now I can dedicate more time and effort to making Boondocks even bigger and better than it was before.”

Aiding her in this mission are her loyal customers and fans, who have been contributing money via the fundraising website indiegogo.

Ilene Winters, a major force behind the Sea Bright Rising charity and a close friend of Ryan, helped her set up an indiegogo account that allows people to contribute money to specific items that Boondocks needs, including buoys, lobster crackers, tables and even cooking equipment, according to Ryan. As of  Tuesday, more than $6,500 of a target $30,000 had been raised.

“It’s heartwarming to see how many people want to reach out and help me,” Ryan said. “And it gives me so much hope and inspiration to read the comments that customers and friends leave when they donate. It’s just unbelievable how much people care.”

Ryan plans to bring Boondocks back for the summer season on schedule, with a planned reopening on May 15, and greater emphasis on lunch hours, the outdoor patio area, and a revitalized spirit overall.

“You need to come back in the summertime,” she told redbankgreen with overflowing optimism, “when the umbrellas are out and there’s live music out here on the patio. It’s a great place to be, and like I said, we’ll be back, better than ever.”

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