Charles “Skip” Conover Jr. loved being an Atlantic City firefighter, like his father, and retired as a battalion chief in 1991 after 26 years on the job.
He fought many of the fires that took out famous restaurants and landmarks, including one in December 1969 that shortened the old Steel Pier by one-third, and the 1982 fire that destroyed the rest of it. He was there when Paul “Skinny” D’Amato’s 500 Club burned in 1973.
But in his heart, Conover was always an entrepreneur.
First, he ran a beach-chair rental business from South Carolina Avenue to Central Pier, started before he became a firefighter. Then he ran Dairy Delight at Iowa and Arctic avenues, he said.
He kept each business about four years before selling, he said.
In 1979, he renovated Ken Allen’s old clam shack to open the Flying Cloud restaurant on the water in Gardner’s Basin. By its third year, it was a year-round operation with live entertainment and a two- to three-hour wait for tables, he said.
After that came Executive Limousines in Atlantic City; then he bought a struggling Pip Printing in Atlantic City and built it up with a Northfield location.
In Florida, after retiring from the Fire Department, he bought a Dollar Store, ran it for nine years — his longest single business tenure — then changed it into a souvenir shop.
Now he spends half the year in Florida, where two of his daughters live; and half in Smithville, Galloway Township, to be close to his other two daughters, one in Philadelphia and one in South Jersey.
But he spends winters in South Jersey.
“I’m a reverse snowbird,” he said. “I root for the snow.”
Daughter Jeanine, a teacher, lives in Galloway with husband, Brian Wiener, an Atlantic City firefighter. Their son, Collin, will enter West Point in June; and daughter Briana, a junior in Absegami, excels in music, Conover said.
Conover sees opportunities everywhere, but when he talks about them, his wife Pat, a former Atlantic City police officer, “punches me,” he said.
For families of mentally ill
Fern Fine, of Ventnor, is organizing another free, 12-week course for family members of the mentally ill, through the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) of Atlantic County.
Classes will be held from 7 to 9:30 p.m. Wednesdays starting April 2 and ending June 18 at Jordan Road Elementary School in Somers Point.
The curriculum covers bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and major depression, she said. It presents the knowledge and skills family members need. For more information, call Fine at 215-850-1730.
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