~There used to be a time when I worried about the future of Cape May. It’s a city that owes much to the efforts of a generation of hardworking pioneers who preserved many of the beautiful buildings that grace our streets and who opened up the B&Bs, hotels, restaurants and shops that continue to give this town a good name. I used to worry what would happen when these folks were ready to retire because I couldn’t see a new breed ready to take over the reins.
But I’ve changed my mind over the last year or so as I’ve seen a new generation of talented, hardworking young people start to open businesses and make their mark in this town. I’m thinking of people like Ryan Platzer, who opened a spectacular men’s store called Galvanic on the Washington Street Mall; of Tai and Julie Menz, who opened Cape May Market, a health food store on Park Boulevard (and Julie also runs the Pink clothing store); of Doug and Andi Marandino, who opened Cape May Honey Farm just next door to the Exit Zero Store and Gallery; of Brooke Dodds, who recently opened Empanada Mama’s; and Ryan Krill and Chris Heinke, whose Cape May Brewing Company has been a ridiculous success story. They will be joined soon by Deena DiBacco, who just took over Bliss Organic Ice Cream from Mike Boschen and Nicole Pense, and by Will Riccio, who next week reopens Louisa’s, that iconic little restaurant on Jackson Street.
Louisa Hull and Doug Dietsch were two of the original pioneers I mentioned earlier — they opened Louisa’s in 1980 with an artisanal, farm-to-table philosophy that was 30 years ahead of its time. Now they’re handing over the reins to a guy who waited tables and cooked at Louisa’s for seven years. Will is a good friend of mine and I couldn’t be more excited for him, or for Cape May. I’m excited that an energetic young guy who’s full of ideas is going to be running one of the city’s most beloved restaurants, with the help of his younger sister, Honna Riccio (great news that she’s returned to town) and Karen Roth, who has been a mainstay at Louisa’s for years.
Will has been renovating ever since taking over the business on March 17 and is planning to be open on April 4. For those people who have always loved the simple food and vibe of Louisa’s, worry not — Will is making some cool changes but shares the same philosophy and aesthetic as Louisa and Doug.
“Will is ready to run the show,” Louisa told me. “Our stars have been aligned for many years. Will and Honna have both logged in hours and hours at our stove and in our dining room. It is exciting to see a young person with so many ideas and mad skills taking over our business. Will is one of the most fun and creative and conscientious people we ever worked with.
“Their new energy and ideas are going to be great for Cape May,” Louisa said of Will and Honna. “It is time to turn things over to a new generation. Visitors to Cape May are excited to see young people bringing fun, fresh and creative energy to our town.”
Louisa paid tribute to the people who backed them as they prepared to open Louisa’s — Chuck and Hilary Pritchard, whose Whale’s Tale store turns 40 this year; and Harry Kulkowitz, founder of the Mad Batter. “All three of these people were super-supportive and gave us a lot of courage to take a chance on Cape May,” said Louisa.
And there’s more good news — Louisa will continue to run her fantastic little chocolate store, next door to the restaurant.
~Speaking of successful young people, I’m delighted for Evan Hirsch, whose parents, Larry and Miriam, own the Montreal Inn. Evan is moving on from his job as a producer for the CBS 3 6pm news show in Philadelphia to take a sexy new gig as line producer for CBS’s This Morning show in Manhattan. Last week, the show’s anchors, Charlie Rose and Norah O’Donnell, gave Evan an on-air shoutout.
“It was time for a new job, new people, new experiences,” said Evan, who graduated from Syracuse in 2004 with a dual degree in Broadcast Journalism and Political Science.
And although he’s going to be living, as a single man, in the most exciting city on earth, Evan won’t be forgetting about Cape May. “I’m keeping the car so I can still plan to be here every weekend in the summer,” says Evan. He also added that he likes the new format of Exit Zero (a debate that continues to tilt in either direction).
~Speaking of job changes in media world, there’s been a power shift in Cape May. Both Cape May magazine and the Star and Wave have parted company with their editors. Susan Tischler left Cape May magazine, which she started in 2006 with publisher and owner Bernie Haas. “I am grateful for the opportunity I had to write about the town I love for the past nine years and to cultivate writers who share that love,” Susan told me. “I am also looking forward to moving onto new opportunities, among them writing for Exit Zero.” And she’s right! Susan has taken over the reins of The Answer Lady column (see page 41) and her interview with the aforementioned Chuck and Hilary Pritchard will appear in the April color issue of Exit Zero.
Susan will be replaced by Kate Chadwick, a former staffer at Exit Zero.
Meanwhile, Chris South is leaving the Star and Wave on April 2. I had called Chris because a source had told me they’d heard the newspaper was closing. Chris said it wasn’t but that he was moving on. He didn’t want to be quoted while he’s still in the editor’s chair, but the paper’s publisher David Nahan wrote in an email to me that, “The Cape May Star and Wave and Ocean City Sentinel are realigning their editorial staffs in March and April to work together to improve the content and design of all six Sample Media newspapers.
“A new editor/page designer has been added to the staff and a new editor will be taking the helm in Cape May in April as part of that realignment. Periodically it is good to shake things up and figure out how to use our writers, editors and photographers to provide the best newspapers that we can for our readers and advertisers.”
~Finally, this weekend, March 28-29, will see the arrival of one of my favorite events — Singer Songwriter Cape May. Around 150 musicians will be playing at 14 bars and restaurants around town. And all but the two showcase performances at Congress Hall are FREE. It’s an amazing festival. Kudos once again to organizer John Harris for pulling it all together. See you out there!
And now, here’s the latest from BIRD, created by Rosemary Dery…..