SOMERS POINT — Dolfin Dock has sold its last lure.
After nearly 50 years of business, the family-owned marina and tackle shop on Bay Avenue has closed for good and the property is being sold, with a settlement date set for April 15. The new buyer, Gene Mitchell, has plans to turn the building into a restaurant, said Rob Barrett, owner of Dolfin Dock.
Barrett, better known as Captain Rob, said he’s sad to see the business close, but not as sad as his customers are.
“It’s disheartening,” said Mike O’Neill, an Ocean City fisherman and Barrett’s friend. “He was one of the last of the last. He was the real deal, and to see him close is a reminder that the days of filling the cooler and bringing home fish for the winter are long gone. It’s now all catch and release.”
“At least I’m alive,” Barrett said. “Everywhere I go people come up to me crying about it. I’m not dying. It’s been a good run — a great run — but life goes on.”
Dolfin Dock has been in the Barrett family since 1968. It was opened by his parents, Rosemarie and Win Brady, and passed down to Barrett and his wife, Joan, in 1980. Barrett’s son Ryan, 28, and daughter Kassie, 21, also were involved in the business, as well as Barrett’s bothers John Jay and Paul.
“It started out with two rental boats, 50 slips and the store, and through the ’80s everything was good,” Barrett said. “The early-’90s were OK. We expanded to 18 rental boats, but the last decade, we went downhill, just like a bell curve.”
Barrett attributes the decline to stricter fishing regulations and rising fuel costs, coupled with high taxes and rental boat insurance, plus an unpaid inheritance tax with interest compounded daily.
He said his most cherished memories will be watching generations of fishermen come through his doors.
“Grandfathers would bring in their grandsons and then years later, those grandsons would bring in their own sons,” Barrett said.
Locals will remember the red building for its chalkboard sign posted on its exterior, on which Barrett would write witty fishing comments.
“I originally put the chalkboard up to make things easier for the fishermen. A lot of people were coming in from out of town and I wanted to tell them where the fish were that day. This was before Facebook,” he said. “So I’d write info on the chalkboard like, ‘The fluke are as thick as fleas on a dog today’ or ‘They’re laying on the bottom like shingles on a roof,’ things like that. But over time it became a sort of attraction. People would drive by and stop to read the sign, and the line of cars would be down the street.”
“You didn’t even have to get out of the car, you could just drive by and see where they were biting. You just knew where to go, what to do and you get there and the water would be filled with boats,” O’Neill said.
“I moved away from the area some years ago and there are closer bait shops I could go to, but Dolfin Dock was worth the drive,” said Tommy D’Angelo, a recreational fishermen based in Egg Harbor Township.
Barrett said he’s honored to have been a fixture in the community, and he’s thankful for the support.
“I’ve had many friends over the years who helped me maintain the business, through hurricanes, storms, all for free, in a moment’s whistle,“ he said.
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