By Josh Davis, Associate Editor
(May 24, 2018) What a difference a year makes.
After record losses at the Ocean Pines yacht and beach clubs a year ago, the former facility opened last weekend to rave reviews and the latter will reopen this Memorial Day weekend. Both are under the new management of the Matt Ortt Companies.
Ortt Companies cofounder Ralph DeAngelus said it’s been “seriously tiring,” but also very rewarding to help resurrect the yacht club.
“So far, it really has been great. Our results have been exactly what we’ve hoped for,” he said.
“Sales are strong and the Ocean Pines community came out fast and furious to see us,” DeAngelus continued. “I think we were up to the challenge and accepted those crowds.”
What’s more, DeAngelus said the dining public has been extremely warm and welcoming to the all-new yacht club staff.
“I have felt and the whole staff has felt nothing but the heartfelt desires by the people who have come in for us to succeed,” he said. “The karma that the Ocean Pines community has given to us is so positive that – not to sound ridiculous – but I think it’s actually helping us achieve our goals.
“My staff will say to me on a nightly basis … ‘people were so nice and they were so happy.’ It makes it easier for them to do their job, and I think it makes it more important for them to be successful, because everybody is so nice and so happy that they don’t want to let anybody down,” DeAngelus added.
“We’re happy with the start. The goal now is just to make it better,” he said.
The next challenge for the Ortt Companies starts on Friday with the reopening of the Ocean Pines Beach Club, on 49th Street oceanside in Ocean City.
Hours all weekend and on Memorial Day Monday are 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Deejay music runs from 1-5 p.m., starting Saturday.
DeAngelus, as of Tuesday, said he was still in the process of getting computer systems and new staffing in place.
“It’s tough to open up on Memorial Day weekend – it’s like opening up for the season with the Daytona 500. You go from zero to 60 in one minute,” he said. “We’re going to pull it off, but it’s just a little tougher.”
While the yacht club boasts a large dining area and three separate bars, much of the business at the beach club will involve the “grab and go” approach, not unlike a Wawa, DeAngelus said.
Things like slices of pizza and soft pretzels will be available immediately at a counter, while other food items will require a ticket and take maybe five minutes to prepare.
DeAngelus said the situation presents a unique set of challenges.
“The fact that you’re not dealing with servers makes it easier, but you have a lot more space,” he said. “So you’re still serving the same amount of food, only you’re doing it in a kitchen that’s a quarter of the size of what you have the yacht club with a quarter of the amount of cooks.”
What’s more, he said, “The bar at the beach club is the size of a thimble” and has to put out drinks for customers inside the club, at the pool, and on the beach.
“We’ll also have cocktail waitresses for sure,” DeAngelus said. “And if the cocktail waitress goes out to a table to a lounge table by the pool – or even out to the beach – and someone says, ‘Hey, can you get us three beers and a gin and tonic, oh, and by the way, can you grab me one of those burgers?’ she’s going to say, ‘Sure!’”
Prior to reopening the yacht club last week, Ortt Companies staff opened the doors two days early for a stress test, a kind of soft opening designed to push the staff to its limits. DeAngelus said an event was recently held at the beach club as a soft opening, and a food stress test was planned on Thursday, one day before the reopening there.
“God bless we get it right the first time!” he said with a laugh.
“The whole company – the whole crew from the busboys to the bar staff – feel the heartfelt desires of the customers that come in for us to succeed, and it feels really good to us,” DeAngelus added.