ATLANTIC CITY — Some things in the White House Sub Shop were different when it reopened Thursday morning.
The floor was completely new. The walk-in refrigerator was rebuilt. And, they served fountain drinks rather than cans of soda.
Everything else seemed just as it had been since 1946, un-changed by Hurrcane Sandy, which closed the famous eatery for almost nine weeks.
“All the grills are identical,” co-owner Gen Basile said. “Nothing’s changing.”
That’s just the way the first returning customers wanted it.
“It’s a time warp here,” said Jerry Marks, of Linwood, as he sat on one of the orange, old-fashioned bar stools. “That’s what’s neat about it. It’s like, some things never change, you know?”
There was no shortage of businesses closed at the coast after Sandy. Some remain closed, and others may never reopen.
White House’s reopening was good news for locals and visitors who have long made it part of their routine. Its walls are lined with photographs of celebrities and plaques demonstrating its longevity and fame.
“When I was a little girl, my father used to bring me here,” said Jane Jarvis, of South Philadelphia, an area that is home to more than a few of its own famous sandwiches. “This was always a treat.”
While important to visitors, the smell of cheesesteaks wafting out of the corner of Arctic and Mississippi avenues meant another step toward normalcy.
Similarly, when Spanky and Son sub shop in the nearby Chelsea Heights section reopened Nov. 26 it was a symbol of hope for the community.
Brian “Spanky” Lowe Sr. opened the business in 1976. During Sandy, the shop lost thousands of dollars worth of equipment. He had no flood insurance, because he never saw that level of flooding on the corner of Porter and Trenton avenues.
“People were depressed here,” Lowe’s wife, Carmen, said. “They thought we weren’t going to come back.”
When they did, they were packed with locals happy to return to their old habits.
Those looks of relief were evident on people’s faces when they walked into White House on Thursday.
What delayed the opening was replacing the entire floor, Basile said. On Wednesday, the White House received a conditional OK from the city to reopen, and there remain some minor improvements needed.
Overall, it looked as if not much had happened when it finally reopened.
Leticia de los Santos, of Pleasantville, was a regular there before it closed. She came back Thursday morning for the usual, which waitress Terrie Merendino knew before she was done ordering: coffee with a cheesesteak.
“The one in the Taj just isn’t the same,” said de los Santos, referring to the restaurant’s second location in the Trump Taj Mahal Casino Resort.
The shop gets its bread from Formica Bros. Bakery just across the street. As a welcome-back present, it provided bags of cookies to every patron at White House.
The sub shop also handed out calenders to customers, as it has for years.
“This one’s going to Berlin, Germany, for my son,” said Marks, who said his family has collected the calendars for years.
A lot of the people who arrived early Thursday came to congratulate the owners on the recovery. Some were surprised it was closed at all.
Justin Adcock, of Virginia Beach, Va., and Jason Bowman, of Norfolk, Va., were the first two people in line. When told it was the first time the restaurant had opened since October, they conceded they were lucky.
“He kept talking about it all morning,” Bowman said about Adcock.
“I can’t go back without a few subs,” Adcock said. He said he stops every time he is driving by Atlantic City. “You can’t get a sandwich like this just anywhere.”
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