After the storm: As Jersey Shore recover, a new Main Street comes into focus

Located along the west shore of Lake Metuchen, a quiet area where people live and make a living all year, Long Branch is one of the Jersey Shore’s dwindling communities. But this former Ocean County suburb has been reborn as a popular summer destination, as the new report New Jersey is set to transform its once-obscure seaside town into a ’21st century mega-mall.’

“It’s a small town with a small-town attitude,” says Pat Armstrong, co-owner of Tomato City, a cookie-cutter restaurant that serves Irish-inspired food. “People come to the beach and come home and talk. We are one of the last small places on the East Coast to not have a huge fast-food place. There are restaurants and restaurants everywhere.”

There’s a distinct Irish flavor, particularly when you go to

the village’s legendary

T.C. Quinn’s Irish Pub, one of the busiest bars in the metropolitan area. It is hard to believe that four decades ago, this modest bar with just a few tables was renamed the “Irish Castle” after the masthead on the street sign was restored back to its original glory, following a fire.

There’s more to the story, even though this bar isn’t even a giant in the realm of the New Jersey Shore’s famous row of shore towns where competitors quickly cultivate a reputation for over-the-top fun – Belmar, Asbury Park, Bay Head, Seaside Heights, Point Pleasant Beach. Long Branch is actually riding a wave, and it is being propelled by innovation and a revitalized tourism industry that complements the wave’s rollover and subsequent retreat.

“Business went down dramatically after Sept. 11, but it has been coming back slowly and steadily,” says resident and Long Branch native, Joe Rosetti.

A 27-year-old Long Branch native, Rosetti works in the hospitality industry. Now, he’s working to build on Long Branch’s small-town atmosphere to build what he sees as a more vibrant and exciting city.

“I love Long Branch and am proud to be a part of the community,” he says. “New businesses are popping up, and long overdue. We deserve it. We’re just a mix of style and we’re trying to bring that into one of the busiest tourist destinations on the east coast.”

Indeed, the revival of Long Branch’s downtown that began in 2001 is truly remarkable.

“Everything here revolves around the beach,” Armstrong says. “If there is a restaurant that is not on the beach, then it’s a non-factor. People come in here and just relax, not so much as surfers but as people that just want to go to the beach.”

Around the water, Long Branch hotels, restaurants and pubs cater to the annual influx of thousands of beach-goers and other vacationers.

And there’s a revival, too, when it comes to Long Branch’s downtown. Four years ago, the PFA Building Corporation began to repair long-neglected facades and eventually opened two new modern hotels, the Cordica and the Clift.

“The Jersey Shore as a whole is seeing an upswing because of a downturn in the economy,” says PFA Building Corporation President, Robert Derosier. “It is being stabilized and is on a strong rebound.”

Of the many restaurants in Long Branch, Corrigan’s Irish Pub has carved out its own niche as a Jersey Shore favorite, serving everything from New England seafood to pan-seared tuna, all in an old Italian restaurant.

“I knew it was unique,” says Corrigan’s co-owner, Mike Libman. “New Jersey beaches have real character, and we like to add that New England style to what is here.

“It’s all about a place where people can have a good time,” he adds. “It’s become a destination on the beach and in a bustling, urban setting.”

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