By John Burton
RED BANK – The end of 2012 saw the closing of a long-standing borough business.
Wayne’s Market, 21 West Front St., closed its doors on Dec. 31, after 37 years in business and after the death of Wayne Fisler, earlier in the year.
Diane Fisler, the market’s owner who is Wayne’s widow, said the decision she and her family made to close the business after nearly four decades was a difficult one. But, it was one they agreed upon, following Wayne’s death on May 20 at age 58.
“It was heart wrenching. It was difficult,” said Diane who was married to Wayne for 34 years.
Wayne succumbed to a particularly aggressive form of prostate cancer after battling the disease for nine years.
“With Wayne at the helm for all those years, it was wonderful,” Diane Fisler said. “But, you know what? With him not there our hearts just weren’t in it anymore.”
Wayne was just 20 and a student at Brookdale Community College when his uncle approached him to run the business that would become the gourmet specialty store. The store became known for its catering, wine and variety of foods, including frozen prepared selections. It was arguably most noted for its gift baskets.
Diane, who was 19 when she started dating Wayne and married him when she was 20, said, “I always thought he invented the first basket.”
After thinking about it for a moment, she said, “And maybe in many ways he did because I have never seen gift baskets the way he did them,” with their eclectic selection, wonderfully arranged.
Wayne first opened the market in 1975 at the West Front Street shop now occupied by Front Street Trattoria, then relocated four doors east about four years later. Over the years, the business developed a loyal clientele, which was due as much to Wayne’s strong personality as the services the market provided, Diane said.
A testament to Wayne’s lasting impact was when Diane, family members, employees and quite a few friends and customers came by in December for the traditional Christmas Eve eggnog toast. “The customers were crying,” she recalled. “We were all crying.”
Wayne was also one of the original organizers of what would become RiverFest, the annual food and music festival held at the borough’s Marine Park, overlooking the Navesink River.
“He never could sit still. He was always looking for a project,” she recalled.
“Honestly, he was our fearless leader and without our fearless leader it just wasn’t meant to be,” Diane said.
The storefront with the distinctive green sign now has a real estate sign in the window and a handwritten note on the door. “Thank you for your patronage. We are closed,” it says.