TUCKERTON — In past incarnations, Seaport Plaza has been a skating rink, an Acme market and what one current occupant said reminded him of “an abandoned building in Syria.”
But now, this piece of East Main Street shows little evidence of those old identities. It’s become home to almost a dozen businesses whose owners swear by the location and say they like being part of the new kid on the block in the little town of Tuckerton.
The owner, Tony Cheng, “did a real nice job here fixing the place up,” said Steve Reckel, who moved his R&R Pet Supply to Tuckerton earlier this year after about 15 years in neighboring Little Egg Harbor Township. “It fits in with the town very nicely.”
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Seaport Plaza, where the businesses plan to get together and host a grand-opening event Saturday, was a happy landing place for Bonnie James, too.
James opened Splashes Salon 24 years ago, also in Little Egg Harbor, but realized she needed to downsize both her old space and the range of services she offered. She said the new home works for her business, in part because of the mix of other businesses it’s drawn.
For Gus Stavrides, the plaza was a spot to open a new business, Kostas Grill, although that was part of an older family dream. And Tuckerton has been a good starting place, said Stavrides, who had his eye on today’s Seaport Plaza when it was still empty.
He’s the one who said it looked like it had been caught in a war zone, even just a few years ago.
“I was looking for a place to run a restaurant and saw a sign (seeking tenants) in 2013, but that never happened. In 2014, it was boarded up, but I drove by one day and saw a car and stopped,” Stavrides said the other day.
That put him in touch with Cheng, and “when he started working on it, I saw progress,” Stavrides said. “He took it … and made it a very valuable property in this area, and he’s bringing in good businesses.”
Another one is Retro Fitness. Manager Jen Pfohl said the 12,500-square-foot gym opened around Memorial Day but continues to draw new members. She’s also happy with the merchant mix around her.
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“I think we send business to (Splashes), and they send business here,” Pfohl said.
At R&R Pet Supply, Reckel cut down on his selling space with the move to Seaport Plaza, but he sees the energy among owners growing nicely.
“There’s a little bit of everything,” said Reckel, who added that customers’ pets are welcome in his store every day, not just at grand openings. “We have a new veterinarian coming in at the other end (of the plaza), so that can only be good news for us.”
At Splashes, James has seen the transformations of the place over the years. She knew it in its past lives and even skated at the Tuckerton Skateway rink, which is mainly taken up now by Kostas Grill and Retro Fitness. Most other businesses are in a section Cheng added.
She opened first and said it’s a whole different look from the “shambles” she remembers before Seaport Plaza’s rescue.
“It’s not as big as my other place,” James said, “but it really works.”
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