When Ocean City’s iconic Chatterbox restaurant opens its doors in April, it will do so under new ownership.
Longtime owner Marie Repici has reached an agreement with a Washington Township couple to part ways with the restaurant she’s owned and operated for 42 years.
While the Chatterbox faithful might balk at the idea of the restaurant changing hands after more than four decades, Repici said the new owners, Maria and Bob Boyer, are a good fit.
“They’ve been longing for something in town,” Repici said. “It just worked out perfectly for us. I’m really thrilled, and they’re really nice people.”
The parties are set to reach settlement on April 1 and the new owners will hold their soft opening April 10.
The 82-year-old Repici decided to sell the restaurant last year after its day-to-day operations proved too much to handle. She had entered semi-retirement years before but went back to work fulltime five years ago after the death of her son, who mostly ran the restaurant. When Hurricane Sandy forced $400,000 in repairs, she knew it was time.
Repici said interest in the property was brisk, and she fielded a high volume of calls after publicly announcing the sale in December. One month, she said, her phone bill tripled to more than $150 a month.
The Boyers are already hard at work on the restaurant, and Maria was on-scene early Wednesday morning scrubbing it down and upgrading its point-of-sale equipment. She and her husband are Ocean City dining veterans, having run similar restaurant Tory’s Ice Cream Parlor at 33rd and Asbury for eight years.
The couple brought on their head chef at Tory’s and are planning to pare down the Chatterbox’s menu while introducing more fresh meat and fish dishes. They have no plans to change the restaurant’s eye-catching pink facade.
The restaurant also will return with most of its staff intact, minus one member who graduated from college and has since taken a new job. The new owners will hold a job fair at the restaurant at noon April 5 for 20 open positions.
The couple, who currently live in Sewell, Gloucester County, plan to return to Ocean City, where they lived while running their prior restaurant.
“I can’t wait to get up and rolling,” Maria Boyer said. “I love the day-to-day activity.”
With the responsibility of running the restaurant now off her hands, Repici said she plans to spend the bulk of her time traveling. She has a home in Belize, Central America, but expects her first stop to be Florida, where her daughter lives.
Repici said it’s bittersweet to put the Chatterbox behind her, but it’s time.
“I’m going to miss it,” she said. “I’m going to miss the people, but it’s long past due.”
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