Sands Beach Club, above, and Ship Ahoy, in the distance, were wiped out by Hurricane Sandy, but Sands will come back this summer, its owner said. Edgewater, below, is shooting to be fully operational by Memorial Day. (Photo below by Wil Fulton. Click to enlarge)


The seven beach clubs that run along Sea Bright’s Ocean Avenue – Driftwood, Edgewater, Chapel, Seabright, Sands, Surfrider and Ship Ahoy – not only own a large portion of the borough’s beachfront property, but also represent the backbone of its summer economy.

None were spared by Hurricane Sandy, which inflicted major damage to some and obliterated others.

But the owners and managers of three clubs redbankgreen spoke to this week are gearing up for the fast-approaching summer season, as well as making plans for the future.

Reconstruction is underway at Sands and Surfrider. (Click to enlarge)

Michael Stavola, owner of Driftwood Cabana Club, said the facility plans to be 100-percent operational by the time Memorial Day weekend rolls around. The club, according to Stavola, suffered damage to more than 40 percent of its building, with the monetary toll coming somewhere in the millions.

Though Stavola referred to the rebuilding process as a “monumental task,” he said his goal is to have Driftwood appear as close to normal as possible.

“We’re going to put in upgrades when the situations presents themselves during construction,” he said. “We understand that generations of families have come to Driftwood every summer, and we want to provide our members the familiar experience, while also protecting us against future storms and events.

“We’ll be here on Memorial Day, and our members will have a place to go this summer,” he added.

In the North Beach, Sands Beach Club, owned by John Chimento, was wiped out by the storm.

“It was a 90-year-old building,” Chimento said, “and frankly it wasn’t elevated and not built to modern day flood standards.”

Chimento said he intends to rebuild the club within its original footprint, creating a modern facility attuned with contemporary codes and safety regulations, while keeping the classic feel of the old club. But because of the daunting challenge of constructing an entire building in a matter of months, Sands has had to be creative, he said.

“There’s no permanent facility on the beach, so we’re going to offer our members access to several air-conditioned, high-quality trailers with bathrooms and showers,  like the kind you sometimes see at outdoor weddings and events like that, to provide our members with the basics while they enjoy the beach.”

Chimento said the club will maintain the traditional Memorial Day weekend opening, and is optimistic about not only the future of his club, but all the beach clubs in Sea Bright.

“I know that all the clubs, without exception, have a commitment to come back even better than ever,” he said. “It’s not even about the money for us. It’s about the members and holding on to a tradition that none of us want to see taken away.”

Samuel “Chubby” Marks, who runs the newly renamed Edgewater Cabana Club, owned by the Stavola Company, has been a mainstay in the world of Sea Bright beach clubs for more than 50 years, and said he was happy to report that not only would Edgewater be returning in full for the 2013 summer season, but that it would come with multiple improvements.

Edgewater – previously called Water’s Edge – added 60 new cabanas to the club during the reconstruction period, including 36 double-decker cabanas that were wiped out during the storm and 24 inside the main building. The previously existing cabanas and interiors will all be new as well, according to Marks, who puts the rebuilding cost somewhere around $5.5 million.

“Everything in the club will be completely new when our members come back,” Marks said in an interview in his temporary office trailer. “We’re revamping the pool, adding a new, very large baby pool and increasing the number of our members. Sixty-five to 70 percent of the club was destroyed during Sandy, and even though a lot of the structure remained standing, it was deemed unsafe and needed rebuilding. We stripped out everything, and now it’s all safe and brand new.”

“Edgewater has become a way of life for many families,” he added. “I’ve seen generations pass through here, with cabanas handed down from parents to their children, and so on. We’ll be back on Memorial Day, new and improved.”

Asked to mull the future of the borough’s beach clubs, Marks was optimistic.

“Sea Bright is a great little town, and the beach clubs in Sea Bright engage in very friendly competition,” he said. “There is enough business for everyone, and we make it a point to never fight or speak harshly about one another. They know if they need anything they can call us, and we would always do the same. It’s going to be a tough road, but we’ll be back and the rest of the clubs will be too.”

Attempts to reach the owners of Chapel, Seabright, Ship Ahoy and Surfrider for status updates were unsuccessful.