PIEHOLE: BRINGING WARMTH TO A COLD WEEK

Gail Doherty from Good Karma Cafe in Red Bank Good Karma Cafe’s Gail Doherty transports PieHole readers to the south of France. (Photo by Jim Willis. Click to enlarge)

PIEHOLE logoredbankgreen’s PieHole is all about local food and drink. If you haven’t liked us on Facebook yet or followed us on Twitter, you may have missed some of these recent stories . . .

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    SEA BRIGHT PIZZA RETURNS

    Sea Bright Pizza five days after the hurricane, above, and back in business, below. (Photo below by Colby Wilson. Click to enlarge)

    By COLBY WILSON

    Going eight months without the best pizza in town was no easy task, said Sea Bright Pizza customer Wyatt Mulheren.

    “I was miserable with out it,” he said.

    With each passing month, the hurricane-walloped town of Sea Bright is getting its bite back, as businesses gradually continue to reopen.

    Locals are now relishing in the return of their favorite slice of “grandma pie.”

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    SEA BRIGHT: COUNCIL WAIVES PERMIT FEES

    Members of the borough council at Tuesday night’s meeting. (Photo by Wil Fulton. Click to enlarge)

    By WIL FULTON

    Amid complaints by residents about unresolved insurance claims and other rebuilding delays, the Sea Bright borough council rolled out several measures aimed at getting them back into their homes with less hassle and cost Tuesday night.

    Among the moves: a moratorium on construction permit fees for all work related to Hurricane Sandy-related rebuilding and repairs.

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    SEA BRIGHT: EATING, REFLECTING AND RISING

    Chris Wood, as seen in a video, above, and Mayor Dina Long, below, at Saturday night’s event, which raised $130,000 for Sea Bright Rising. (Photo by Wil Fulton. Click to enlarge)

    By WIL FULTON

    A hotel in Long Branch was transformed into a showcase of the area’s best culinary talents Saturday night, courtesy of the charity organization Sea Bright Rising and the generosity of local vendors and restaurant owners.

    Complete with a live band, charity auction and a video showcasing the relief effort, the sold-out gala, dubbed “The Big Beach Bash,” raised almost $130,000 for Sea Bright’s recovery from Hurricane Sandy, according to the charity group’s Facebook page.

    But the real story of the event was perhaps best told by the restaurateurs and merchants whose tables lined the walls of the ballroom of the Ocean Place Resort and Spa. Many were Sea Bright business owners trying to help rebuild their broken beach community joined by owners from neighboring towns looking to lend a hand to friends in need.

    Over the lively the noise and, redbankgreen spoke with some of these participating businesses, and here’s what they had to say:

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    SEA BRIGHT: CHRISTIE TOUTS FOCUS ON BIZ

    Joined by Mayor Dina Long and business owners, Governor Chris Christie unveiled a new cabinet-level office to focus on post-storm rebuilding efforts. (Photo by Wil Fulton. Click to enlarge)

    By WIL FULTON

    Governor Chris Christie came to Sea Bright Friday afternoon, making his second visit to the storm-ravaged community since Hurricane Sandy struck. But while his first visit was a gesture of support to the beachside borough, this trip was all business.

    At a news conference in the borough firehouse, Christie stood in front of a signs from local businesses including Bain’s Hardware, Woody’s Oceanfront Grille and Sea Bright Pizza to announce and lay out plans to help businesses that were affected by the hurricane. These include, he said, the creation of a new cabinet-level position – the Office of Recovery and Rebuilding – and the formation of a business impact assessment group, designed to aid businesses on a personal level.

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    SEA BRIGHT: BAIN’S IS BACK IN THE PAINT

    Frank Bain working the phone and the computer in the freshly restored paint section of his hardware store. (Photos by Wil Fulton. Click to enlarge)

    By WIL FULTON

    The rebuilding process in Sea Bright took a big step forward this week when Ocean Avenue mainstay Bain’s Hardware reopened its doors to the public for the first time since Hurricane Sandy hit.

    “We opened at noon on 12/12/12 – why go to some concert when you could come down here, right?” owner Frank Bain told redbankgreen Thursday in his newly renovated shop.

    Less than seven weeks ago, Bain’s store and every piece of inventory inside of it was destroyed. Now, the half of the store that is currently open looks as though it was never touched by the storm.

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    HOT DOG CART AND CHIC EATERY BACK IN BIZ

    Hot dog seller Frances Rooney poses for a photo with admirers, including Councilwoman Peggy Bills, at right above. Below, Pat Trama in his restored restaurant. (Photo by Wil Fulton. Click to enlarge)

    By WIL FULTON

    One of Sea Bright’s oldest food businesses reopened this week, and one of its newest was scheduled to do so Friday night, two signs that the storm-battered town is cooking up a recovery.

    Frances Rooney, affectionately known as “Grandma Hot Dog,”  fired up the gas on her cart this week and was soon attracting lines of hungry and loyal customers.

    “My son was the one who really encouraged me to come back out here and start serving people again – sooner rather than later,” she told redbankgreen, “He thought it would be a comforting sight for everyone to see me back in business, up on my feet.”

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    RUMSON TEEN’S STORM VIDEO DRAWS TRAIN

    A 33-minute video about Hurricane Sandy by a Rumson-Fair Haven Regional student caught the attention of the rock band Train, which will play an acoustic show in Sea Bright as a result, NJ.com reported Wednesday.

    Sixteen-year-old Charlotte Nagy videotaped conditions in Sea Bright and Rumson before, during and after the October 29 storm, and folded the band’s music into her production. Now, the San Francisco-based band is planning to play a private show for residents, first responders and their families next week, with the performance to be aired on on VH1 Christmas Day, the website of the Star-Ledger reports.

    The effort will spotlight the efforts of Sea Bright Rising, a nonprofit devoted to the general recovery of the town of Sea Bright and care for its residents in the interim.

    From the story:

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    SEA BRIGHT: BAIN’S PAINTS ITS OWN FUTURE

    Frank Bain outside his Ocean Avenue hardware store, where all the inventory was destroyed in Hurricane Sandy. (Photo by Wil Fulton. Click to enlarge)

    By WIL FULTON

    “This isn’t a competition,” said a stone-faced Frank Bain, when asked if his would be the first business to reopen in Sea Bright after Hurricane Sandy.

    But checking in on recent activity at Bain’s Hardware, a visitor might conclude that not only was Bain in a race, but one that his life depended on winning.

    One late afternoon last week, the Ocean Avenue storefront was a swarm of dust-encrusted laborers, some installing new subflooring even as others continued with interior demolition work. At one point, an impromptu crew, Bain included, picked up and hustled the pieces of a shattered street lamp from the sidewalk out front to the side of the building.

    Make no mistake about it: Bain is in a major hurry. With no flood insurance and every item in his 65,000-SKU shop destroyed, his economic life hangs in the balance, he’s the first to admit. “Getting that register ringing again is paramount,” he told redbankgreen.

    But he’s driven just as much, he said, by the importance of his store to other businesses and homeowners who themselves are faced with rebuilding challenges. “We are out here working so that we can get back on our feet and help this town as soon as humanly possible,” he said.

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    SEA BRIGHT: ON TOP OF MOUNT SANDY

    Rachel Pedersen and Carolyn Rigby on the Sea Bright sandpile, which attracts dog-walkers and other sightseers. (Click to enlarge)

    By JOHN T. WARD

    The beach clubs and bars may be temporarily gone, but Sea Bright appears to have a new, if temporary attraction: ‘Mount Sandy.’

    Rising perhaps 40 feet above the ocean beach on which it was built, a giant pile of sand reclaimed from the storm-tossed borough’s streets has been luring sightseers willing to climb its soft face, rewarding them with a bird’s-eye view of Hurricane Sandy’s devastation.

    Just yards away, in fact, is a another mountain rising, this one made of discarded appliances, furniture and building materials.

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    SEA BRIGHT MOVES MEETING TO THE BASIE

    The mayor and council of Sea Bright took to the stage of the Count Basie Theatre in Red Bank Monday night to accommodate a crowd that would not have fit into the town’s borough hall. (Photo by Wil Fulton. Click to enlarge)

    By WIL FULTON

    It was anything but business as usual for Sea Bright residents as they gathered for their borough council’s bimonthly  meeting Monday night.

    Stoked by concerns that their homes and businesses might not be rebuilt in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy’s extensive damage, dozens filled seats near the stage at Red Bank’s Count Basie Theatre to pepper elected officials with questions about everything from stray transformers to the fate of their town.

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    SEA BRIGHT: MERCHANTS PLAN NEW STARTS

    Cono Trezza in his newly built pizzeria last February, and as it appeared five days after the storm, below. (Photo below by Peter Lindner. Click to enlarge)

    By WIL FULTON

    For owners of Sea Bright businesses damaged by Hurricane Sandy, the rebuilding process has just begun. As they assess the damages and take steps toward the recovery of their livelihoods, each has his or her own distinct post-Sandy tale to tell. redbankgreen spoke to four of them this week about their plans in the aftermath of the cataclysmic events that ravaged through their beach community. Here are their stories.

    Sea Bright Pizza:
    Cono Trezza faces an uphill battle, like most property owners in Sea Bright, though he is meeting it with spirit and vigor that some might find surprising, given the state of his business.

    “I want to get back as soon as possible,” Trezza said. “If my ovens were working right now I’d start cooking pizzas for everyone that’s out here.”

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