By Michele J. Kuhn
Red Bank restaurant begins rebuilding
RED BANK – After a bit of hell and a lot of high water, Kelly Ryan expects Boondocks to be back in operation in May.
Ryan is determined to reopen her popular seasonal riverside restaurant on May 14 and she – and others – are working to ensure that happens.
A fundraiser is in the works for Thursday, April 11, at the Oyster Point Hotel, the only other Red Bank business to have to close for a period of time from damage inflicted by Super Storm Sandy’s devastating tidal surge. The event will celebrate the hotel’s recent reopening and raise the funds – $30,000 – Ryan needs to renovate, refurbish and totally re-equip her business.
Her rebuilding process is just beginning.
“They finally got into my building [on Monday, Feb. 18] and they ripped down all the walls and floors. Now the whole building is gutted. We are getting heaters in there to dry out and in a couple of weeks, we’ll go back in there and put the walls up, the tile up, put everything back up, get new equipment. I’m shooting for May 14 to reopen, no matter what,” she said.
Boondocks was already closed for the season when Sandy smashed into New Jersey on Oct. 29 and sent a 5-foot wall of water into the dockside restaurant, rendering all its contents unsalvageable.
Prior to the storm, Ryan moved refrigeration equipment to the top of the hill behind the restaurant and stored the rest – fryers, stove, grill and the like – in a garage at Irwin Marine, which is her landlord. She felt she was safe storing the equipment there because during the 1992 storm “they only got an inch of water in the garage.” The walk-in storage box was left at the restaurant “because who would have ever expected 5 feet of water there? It was just crazy,” she said.
The day after the storm, Ryan, a Highlands resident, first walked to Sea Bright to check on Donavan’s Reef because she knew that borough had taken a severe hit from the storm. Donavan’s was destroyed.
“When I saw the devastation there, I knew we had to get to Boondocks,” she said. Ryan then went to Red Bank to check on her waterfront restaurant.
“When I got to the top of the hill, I was, like, the building’s there! Everything is fine,” she said. “Then I couldn’t get into the building because it had separated from the dock and I couldn’t get in the doors.
“Then I realized there was all this water shooting out of one of the windows. The hot water heater and all the piping under the building had broken and all this water was just everywhere,” she said.
Ryan’s boyfriend was able to climb into a window and shut off the water.
“Then we saw what happened. We went into the garages and everything there was tossed around like little buoys. Things were everywhere. There was gasoline, oil, grease and mud … There were boats in there too,” she said. “It was disgusting.
“At the time, you just go into overdrive. You don’t know what to do,” she said with emotion.
The next day the people at Irwin Marine had a Dumpster available. Helpful friends and staff members threw everything that had been part of the Boondocks operation into the trash.
Ryan then turned her attention to the devastation at Sea Bright where she pitched in with the Sea Bright Rising effort.
After helping others in Sea Bright for a while, Ilene Winters of Sea Bright Rising told Ryan she needed to begin thinking about herself. Winters helped her get an effort to restore Boondocks off the ground on a website called Indiegogo. Her fundraising webpage can be found at www.indiegogo.com/boondocks. So far, the page has generated about $6,800 in donations, she said.
When members of the Navesink Business Group learned of her plight and fundraising efforts, they decided they could assist and the April 11 event, which will be held from 6 to 9 p.m. at the Oyster Point Hotel, was created.
Tickets for the event will be $50 and organizers are hoping to get 350 to 400 people to attend. There will be a cash bar and food supplied by members of Red Bank Flavour, an alliance of Red Bank restaurants. Donations will be accepted at the event, said Robert Lowe, founder of Navesink Business Group.
Ryan “has always donated her services to others and she has done a lot for Sea Bright Rising,” Lowe said. “We felt we needed to help her.”
Though she is grateful for the help, Ryan said she was having a little trouble getting used to accepting an assist from others.
“It’s overwhelming,” she said. “I guess because I’m the one always trying to do everything for everybody, now I’m awkward because people are trying to do things for me and I don’t know how to react to it.”
Ryan expects Boondocks to remain much the same for its upcoming fifth season as it was pre-storm except she hopes to be able to put more of an emphasis on her lunch business and maybe offer delivery to area offices and homes.
Meanwhile, Ryan appeared Monday, Feb. 18, on WCBS TV. She made lobster mac and cheese during a 4 ½-minute segment on CBS 2 This Morning’s “2 In The Kitchen” featured at 6:45 a.m. and had a “really fun time.”