SEA BRIGHT: MAINSTAY HELPS CLUB REBUILD

Chubby Marks at the rebuilt Edgewater Cabana Club, above, and working in a construction trailer at the club this winter, below. (Photo by Wil Fulton. Click to enlarge)

By WIL FULTON

Standing beside a freshly installed, jumbo-sized kiddie pool at the newly renovated Edgewater Cabana Club in Sea Bright on a sun-drenched June afternoon, Chubby Marks can barely go a second without being greeted by passersby.

With a seasoned politician’s flair, the 83-year-old beach club manager shakes hands, coos to small children and remembers everyone’s name – without exception.

Samuel “Chubby” Marks has been general manager of Edgewater Cabana Club – formerly Water’s Edge – for 18 years, and the lively, personable 83-year-old Sea Bright mainstay said that he has no plans of slowing down anytime soon after playing a pivotal role in the reopening of the club, which held a ribbon-cutting ceremony this weekend to celebrate its first full week of operation.

“As long as I’m healthy and happy, I’m not going to retire,” he told redbankgreen. “When you retire, you risk turning into a couch potato. For me, only God will determine when I stop working.”

Marks said that Edgewater, owned by a branch of the Stavola family, worked hard to come back bigger and better after the devastating effects of Hurricane Sandy, with 60 new cabanas added to a club that was nearly 70-percent destroyed.

“The winter was supposed to be my downtime,” Marks said. “When you work beach clubs, from April til October you work seven days a week, 12 hours a day usually – you basically do a year’s work over those few months. The winter months are supposed to be your time off.

“With our rebuilding, we were back on seven-day weeks. But we had to get the place done for our members, new and old.”

Marks, a Korean War veteran, was born and raised in Long Branch, and came into a career in Sea Bright in 1962, when he and his father-in-law bought Surfrider Beach Club.

“Nineteen-sixty-two was a big year for me,” he said. “I earned my college degree [from what was then called Monmouth College], bought Surfrider Beach Club, was elected to the Long Branch City Council and also, I got married.”

“During those years, I would park my car in a garage at the club at the beginning of summer and not touch it once during the whole season. I would stay in Sea Bright at the club. It’s where I worked, it’s where my family was – I never had a reason to leave.”

Marks owned and ran Surfrider until 1986, when he sold it to the LoBiondo family, and went into a semi-retirement phase, in which he concentrated mainly on his golf game.

“I played golf about four or five times a week, traveled with my wife,” he said. “But after about four years it got to be old, and even golf stopped being alluring anymore.”

Marks came back to the beach club scene in the mid ’90s to help Merrimakers, which at the time was leasing Water’s Edge from the Stavola family, run and maintain their beach club. When the Stavola family took back the reins of the club this tumultuous off-season, Marks stayed onboard as club manager, even though he said he knew the rebuilding job would be an arduous one.

Though Marks continually spoke of how much he loves and enjoys the gig, he said he recognizes the difficulty of the work, and that he wouldn’t recommend it to just anyone.

“Most people don’t have the vaguest idea of what goes into running a beach club,” he said. “To manage a beach club, you’re a sanitary engineer, a water expert, a public relations man, a father confessor – people always come to you with problems – and you need to be a salesman and a businessman,” he said.

“When I came here, the club was at 50 percent of its capacity, after one year of me being there, I filled the place,” he said. “And for 17 years, I never had a vacancy in all the years I’ve been here,” he added.

Marks said that he is happy with how the renovated club turned out, calling it bigger and better than ever before. He also said that response from the members of Edgewater had been overwhelmingly positive.

“If they don’t like what we did here, this offseason,” Marks said, “I don’t know what to say, because I’m not sure we could have done anything more.”

Marks said he has a passion for his job that few people share, and considers himself lucky to do something that he truly loves.

“Whatever you do in life, do something that you like to do,” he said. “If you’re fortunate enough to get a job doing something that you like to do, you’re a lucky person, and if you get a job that you love to do, you’re a very lucky person.

“Now, if you get a job that you love to do that makes good money, then you’re extremely lucky,” he added, “and that’s where I am.”

“Most importantly though you need a good family, especially a good wife and partner,” Marks said. “I’ve been married 51 years to my wife Annette, and we’re still together. She deserves all the credit.”