In 2011, Laura Idell took over T&M Monkey Bread, a bakery and snack shop and "Ocean City staple" for over 13 years, from former owner Mary Wright. She was 22 years old and a senior at Rowan University.
Now, at 25, Idell has coordinated the opening of Monkey Bread's second location on Asbury Avenue in Ocean City.
"I wanted to come down on Asbury Avenue because this is Ocean City's shopping district," Idell said, citing the city's Halloween parade and Christmas events that involve Asbury Avenue, which the shop on the boardwalk misses out on during the off season. "There is so much during the fall and spring that it's hard to be a part of on the boardwalk."
During her undergraduate years at Rowan University, Idell worked at Monkey Bread. Her family had vacationed for years in Ocean City during the summer months, but they didn't become full-time residents until about 2004.
When her family moved, Idell retained residence in Winslow Township until she completed her time at Rowan. While she was in school, Idell said, she always knew she wanted to own her own business - she dual majored in business management and human resources - but she never considered that she would one day take over Monkey Bread.
"I would work for the other owners, but I never thought I would take over their business," Idell said.
Back in 2011, during the sale of Monkey Bread's original location, Wright told the Press of Atlantic City, "People have told me they would have bought it for double the price, but it's not about money. I was searching for a person with the creativity to take it to the next level, someone with an idea, someone driven and inspired by it," adding, "Laura has enough guts to pull this off."
Being a full-time business owner, Idell said, is challenging, yet incredibly satisfying. Although she's no stranger to seeing a 14 to 16 hour day during the summer, she said her staff and family are a strong support system.
"I honestly love what I do, and I have a great staff and a lot of family and friend support," Idell said.
The Monkey Bread owner said her entire family is great at helping her with different aspects of the business.
Her mother, she said, is an outstanding cook, her father is excels in sales, her brother is a successful marketer, and her sister is a fantastic innovator and product developer.
Since the Asbury Avenue store's grand opening on April 1, Idell said business has been strong. The shop saw traffic over Easter weekend, and the crew is now gearing up for the Ocean City block party on May 3.
With a new location, Monkey Bread brings with it a bundle of new products.
The new location boasts a full coffee bar with espresso and lattes, fruit smoothies, milkshakes, and ice cream.
The Monkey Bread menu is also growing, with the addition of a Nutella-infused Monkey Bread flavor and Monkey Bread breakfast sandwiches, which consist of bacon, egg, and cheese options between a halved slice of gooey-sweet Monkey Bread. The catering menu has also been expanded.
Idell also doesn't rule out expanding her business again, although she does want to test out juggling two Monkey Bread locations first.
"I definitely think (expanding) is a possibility. It depends on finding the perfect location," Idell said. "Maybe I'd do one more in Ocean City then look at different shore towns."
In the summer, Idell will split her time between the Asbury Avenue location and the original one on the boardwalk.
"My image for (the new shop) was to have a nice place for people to come and relax. We have the cozy leather chairs and outdoor seating," Idell said.
She also said she was thinking about making the shop dog-friendly, with the addition of homemade dog treats and a drinking bowl out front.
Despite the long days and the challenges of owning two budding business, Idell isn't complaining.
"The view on the boardwalk is not a bad office view," Idell laughed. "It's really hard to complain about being in Ocean City."
Monkey Bread can be found at 955 Asbury Ave. and 972 Boardwalk in Ocean City.
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