SNACK ATTACK IN ALLENHURST: SMALL BIZ OWNER’S 17 SEASON STORY + 3 OF THE MOST POPULAR BEACH CONCESSIONS
Gavin DeCapua’s day starts at 5 am, when he analyzes the weather forecast and prepares for another day at the beach in Allenhurst.
But DeCapua is not luxuriating in the Allenhurst Beach Club’s saltwater pool or perched on a royal blue and white lounge chair dreamily soaking up the ocean air. For 17 seasons he has managed the club’s concessions stand like a machine, satiating hundreds each day when snack attacks strike like circling sharks.
I spoke with DeCapua, a lifelong Wayside resident and high school business teacher, about his 80-hour summer work weeks at the beach.
TBP: This is the 40th anniversary of your family being in the beach concession business.
DeCapua: It started with my grandparents selling five things at a north Long Branch beach. Over time, from Belmar to Long Branch, we have had multiple seasonal stands. In 1996, I started Gavy De Concessions and came to the Allenhurst Beach Club.
TBP: This is your 17th season in Allenhurst, with consideration to a year off after Superstorm Sandy.
DeCapua: Sandy took my original stand out to sea but I was fortunate enough to have the support and encouragement of the community. Because of them, today, we keep going like Sandy never happened. We have the same team and philosophy of customer service as we always have just in a new structure.
We are a family run business and we work like a machine to make customers happy. In beach concessions, you are only as good as your team and I have the best, most competent staff of kids. Kyle, Jenna, Jess, Talia, Shannon, Mike, Joe, Brenna, Dave, Gianni, Angel, Nick and Matt – they work hard to meet my commitment to offering great food, quickly and
in a clean and friendly environment.
TBP: Mission accomplished. My five second review is the following: You have the best stand ever; your attention to detail is impressive. I love your home made tuna salad and your fries are perfection – just perfectly crispy; all worth the calories. You never let your customers down.
DeCapua: I take pride in my product. I get up every morning ready to make my customers happy.
I know how important French fries are when people come to the Jersey shore. I buy classic-style crinkle cut potatoes and change the frying oil every three days. It costs me more, but over and over with everything, my customers tell me they appreciate the attention to detail.
I make the tuna – one of the most popular things on the menu – every morning and serve it on fresh bread. The grilled chicken is prepared on-demand. I don’t own a (food) heat lamp.
I wouldn’t sell breakfast sandwiches until I could find the rolls I thought were the best. Now I have people stopping by for breakfast on their way to work.
Presentation (of the food) is just as important to me – which is something most concession stands don’t think about. I use the freshest ingredients and clear containers. Nothing is covered up with styrafoam or thick paper. Every plate, every time, what we serve has to taste and look good.
TBP: You can probably forecast the weather and what it will mean to beachgoers better than Al Roker. I feel like we should create an App.
DeCapua: It is in my DNA now to be able to look at the weather forecast and know precisely how much we will need of a certain item for the day. I make a game out of it for myself. And if I miscalculate, I get rid of the extra.
People say to me, “You spend the whole summer at the beach why are you pale?” I love and take pride in what I do. For me, a happy customer is more rewarding than any day sitting at the beach.