It's late April, and the sheets of plywood that cover the windows of the Dolfin Dock bait-and-tackle shop on Bay Avenue in Somers Point every winter are still up.
The shop is closed for good. Dolfin Dock owner Rob Barrett has sold the property, which reportedly will be developed into a waterfront restaurant.
"It's been a good run - a great run," Barrett recently told Press staff writer Elisa Lala. "But life goes on."
Easy for him to say. But his customers have to be wondering where they are going to buy their next pint of minnows.
Barrett's mother and father opened the shop and marina in 1968, and it's been in the Barrett family ever since. You could buy a fishing rod or an anchor there, rent a small boat or keep your own boat docked out back. It was a charmingly ramshackle place with crudely lettered signs - "Drive Slow Kids + Dogs in Area," one read - and a chalkboard out front where Barrett let fishermen know where the action was. "They're laying on the bottom like shingles on a roof," the board would tell fishermen looking for fluke. Until Barrett's old Lab died a few years ago, the dog would lie peacefully out in front of the store, unleashed but going nowhere.
Every day, there are fewer places like this left at the Jersey Shore. Now there will be one less. What will we do when there are none?
This is not the kind of change that it makes much sense to rail about. They aren't making anymore waterfront land. And ultimately, the market decides what's on that land. You certainly can't blame individual landowners like Barrett and his wife, Joan. The decision when or if to sell is a personal one.
Nor is it the kind of thing that government can do much about. Municipalities and the state can try to encourage bait shops and marinas like Dolfin Dock, which provide access to the water for people of all economic straits. This kind of change, though, isn't really something that public policy can stop.
But none of that means we have to like it.
And a South Jersey where there is no place left to fuel your boat, no place to rent a garvey and no place to get your picture taken weighing that doormat you just caught will be a sad place indeed.
The shore isn't there yet. Dolfin Dock wasn't the last remaining small marina and tackle shop. But nor is it the last one that will close to make way for more condos and restaurants.
And when they all are gone, coastal South Jersey will have become an entirely different place from the one so many of us have loved for so long.