SEA ISLE CITY, N.J. (CBS)—Head south on the Garden State Parkway to Exit 17 and you will find the town of Sea Isle City.
The town was founded in the 1800s by Charles K. Landis.
Landis and his children developed the island–once used for cattle and grazing–into a peaceful and healthy community.
Henry Guarini, who volunteers at the Sea Isle City museum, collects the city’s memories to preserve them for the next generation.
“I don’t think I turned around more than one time. I looked at it again and it was over the fence. The water came rushing down and filled Sea Isle that high,” Guarini recounts, of the Ash Wednesday storm of 1962.
The historic nor’easter is still fresh in the memories of Sea Isle City’s oldest residents.
The system was categorized as a “100-year storm”.
Almost every beach front home or property was destroyed or damaged.
But the destruction led to development, building the town into a strong residential community.
“Everybody went high. We follow the FEMA regulations, and like today, you have to be 13 feet above sea level,” said McHale, president of the Sea Isle City Historical Society.
McHale marvels over the way his community has grown.
Before becoming mayor, serving as a local tour guide, and eventually taking over the Sea Isle City Historical Society, he was a summer regular.
He remembers Sea Isle before the storm, when his family would pack up the car and travel in from Philadelphia in the 1950s.
“We came down here the day after school ended. Never put our shoes on, except to go to church,” McHale said.
In those days, Sea Isle City was a small destination on the water, built to house and entertain those looking for warm sand and cool ocean breezes.
But the community grew up long before those family vacations, thanks to founder Landis.
Years later, the son of Landis began drudging the canals, paving the way for fishermen to start businesses in the middle of town.
It’s a town that continues to thrive, and one that continues to draw those seeking sun and serenity.
GREAT SEAFOOD ALONG “FISH ALLEY”
In Sea Isle, you’ll find many great seafood restaurants along ‘Fish Alley,’ but there’s one that’s outlasted many others.
Mike’s Seafood is more than just a popular spot, it’s part of the city’s history.
It’s a Sea Isle City mainstay that’s been serving-up delicious dishes to diners for more than 100 years!
Owner Mike Monachetti says his grandparents immigrated from Italy to Ellis Island.
They spoke no English, but made their way to a train station in New York where a ticket master pointed them in the direction of destiny.
ALL ABOUT THE ICE
Many of us enjoy chillin’ out at the beach during these warm summer months.
And there is one company — headquartered in Sea Isle — that has made it their business to help to keep us cool since 1965.
Started by his father in 1965, Joe Romano keeps the family recipe simple. It’s not just frozen water.
“It’s almost like three businesses. It’s a customer service business, a transportation business, and a manufacturing business all wrapped into one,” said Romano.
You’ve undoubtedly seen their bags throughout South Jersey. And at Sea Isle Ice, they pack about 150 bags per minute and 250 tons of ice per day. And yes, it’s freezing cold in here.
What is now a business with over 100 seasonal employees began on a whim by Joe’s father at Marie’s Restaurant, owned by the Romano’s great grandparents.
“My great-grandparents were in the fish business, and my uncle and my father both worked together with my great grandparents. And then my Uncle Joe got an idea about vending ice,” Romano said. “He said, ‘I’m going to buy an ice-maker, this way it’ll be right inside the store. And this way you guys can just put the ice in the fish case any time that you need it. And I’m going to sell the extra ice out front.’”
It has stayed in the family for a half century and they currently serve all of central and South Jersey and beyond.
HONORING THE VERTERANS
The veterans are important to this Sea Isle City community, who honor and lend to support to those who served our country.
When the sun shines along the shore, a couple blocks away on a very patriotic 50th street in Sea Isle City, visitors will find Bill Johnson.
He’s owned a home here in Sea Isle for 45 years.
“I just sit out here in the porch. So many people greet and say hi as they go by. Some I know and some I don’t know,” said Johnson, a World War II veteran. “I always like to tell people this is the best street in Sea Isle City.”
As proud as he is of his neighborhood, Johnson is even prouder to call himself a veteran.
While in the United States Army from 1942 to 1945 as a radio operator using Morse code, Johnson served in both the European and Pacific theaters during WWII.
“I did what I was assigned to do and it worked out and fortunately I came back,” he said.
Johnson earned an honorable discharge in November 11, 1945.
Now, every Veteran’s Day, and Memorial Day for that matter, Johnson comes to Sea Isle Veterans Park to lead the pledge of allegiance.
FUN ON THE WATER
From watersports to fishing trips, Sea Isle City offers plenty of fun ways to spend a summer day.
You can even fit a little fitness into that fun in the sun.
Leave any motors and sails at the dock, Paddleboard Yoga with Sea Isle’s Harbor Outfitters is the way to go.
Owner and instructor Trisha Piola guides what has become a popular water workout that eases the mind and strengthens the core.
FOOD TRUCK FESTIVAL
From fries at Phillyfry, to waffles drenched in ice cream—there’s something for everyone at the Sea Isle City Food Truck Festival.
The festival features live music, vendors, and 19 premiere food trucks from as far away as New York
“It’s a fun time, we’re having a great time, good place to come,” said Joe Raysinger, who lives in Sea Isle.