Mike Librizzi, of Linwood, took a gamble when he changed careers after working in casinos, to owning his first and only cafe.
Librizzi and his wife, Josella, had been entertaining the idea of opening their own restaurant for about four years when they took over the Great American Chicken Company in Ocean City last November, and reopened as Annie's 8th Street Cafe over Easter weekend.
"One of the first things I did was call my father out of retirement," Librizzi said, who explained that Annie's, which is named after Librizzi's mother, has turned into a full-fledged family business.
"Myself, my daughter, my wife, father, brother, and family friends all work here," Librizzi said.
Librizzi's father, also named Mike, worked in the food industry prior to helping out at Annie's. For almost 30 years Librizzi's father had a variety of different food-related jobs that include catering and Sack O' Subs in Ventnor.
"It's an adventure for sure," Librizzi said. "I made a deal with (my son) and he said, 'Yeah! You're in!" Although he did say that working at Annie's sometimes requires a seven-day-a-week work schedule with 12 or 15 hour days.
"Weekends are usually busy," the younger Librizzi said, "We've gotten a great response from repeat customers, especially workers." He did say, however, that business this season has been sporadic.
The Associated Press reported in July that the first summer after Sandy has not proven to be the best for New Jersey beaches. There is an acute drop in beachgoers this summer, and that has not been good for local businesses.
Paul Stryker, owner of Arlene's on Asbury, said that business this year has been slower than usual.
"We got a slow start in June," he said. "Overall, I think it's a slow season in general."
Stryker, an Ocean City resident, said that Arlene's was hit pretty hard during Hurricane Sandy; he stayed in Ocean City during the storm.
Librizzi remains optimistic, however, and cites his plan to keep Annie's open through First Night in January, Ocean City's New Year's Eve celebration.
In order to keep things fresh going into the off season, Annie's plans to continue to seek out the best products in terms of fresh produce and top-of-the-line condiments, as well as reevaluating of the cafe's menu.
"We try to give the people what they want. We wanted to cover the basics, but we wanted to add a couple twists," Librizzi said about the cafe's menu.
Librizzi said some of the favorites on the menu are the fried pickle chips, the Sweet Linda Mae wrap, which features shrimp with a variety of vegetables, as well as the fried chicken dinners.
Most of the items on the menu are named after family members or family friends, Librizzi said. Like the Big Ant, a wrap which is named after Librizzi's son's friend, which is an Annie's best seller.
The menu and business information is available on Facebook, with a search of "Annie's 8th Street Cafe.
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