Ocean City’s iconic Chatterbox is for sale

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Ann Richardson / The Chatterbox, which has been a fixture on Ninth Street since it was built in the 1920s, is now for sale. The iconic pink restaurant has been in the Repici family for 42 years, but owner Marie Repici says it's time for a new family to be a part of the building's storied history. Ann Richardson / The Chatterbox, which has been a fixture on Ninth Street since it was built in the 1920s, is now for sale. The iconic pink restaurant has been in the Repici family for 42 years, but owner Marie Repici says it's time for a new family to be a part of the building's storied history.

OCEAN CITY — The Chatterbox, which has been a fixture at the corner of Ninth Street and Central Avenue since it was built in the 1920s, is for sale.

The iconic pink restaurant has been in the Repici family for 42 years, but owner Marie Repici says it's time for a new family to be a part of the building's storied history.

After flooding during Hurricane Sandy last year, the Repici family renovated the inside of the restaurant. The building is Spanish Mission Revival style and has been “where the town meets” since 1937, offering classics like homemade Chatterbox chowder, thick milkshakes and freshly-ground, hand-pounded burgers.

“It’s time. It’s for sale,” said Repici, who bought The Chatterbox with her husband, the late Tom Repici Sr., in 1970.

“It’s been 42 years, 42 wonderful years, but it’s time for a change,” she said. “I’m ready to make a change.”

The property has not been formally listed for sale and there is no advertised asking price. According to the Ocean City tax assessor’s office, the property, located at 500 E 9th St., is valued at $977,600. 

Repici said she would like to call it a day and enjoy the next chapter of her life. Other factors played in her decision, she said.

“Sandy took a lot out of us,” Repici said. “We’re tired.”

She runs the restaurant with her daughter-in-law, Aimee Repici.

In 2009, Marie Repici’s son and Aimee’s husband, Tom Repici Jr., died at age 53 after a long battle with cancer. Tom and Aimee’s four sons, Tommy, Mikey, Matthew and Jon, have worked in the restaurant in various capacities over the years.

Five years later, Repici said her son’s death took a toll.

“There’s a lot involved in running a restaurant,” she said.

Generations of families have enjoyed a meal at The Chatterbox, she said.

“I love the people,” she said. “I will miss the families that come back, year after year. I have always enjoyed the restaurant business. It’s a great business, but you have to get up every day and do it, and then you have to get up the next day and do it again. After a while, it takes a toll; 42 years is enough.”

The building, which includes three upstairs apartments, was designed in the 1920s by Vivian Smith, a local architect who also designed historic City Hall, the Music Pier, the old Central Avenue School, which now houses the police department, and The Flanders Hotel.

Jean Campbell was the original owner of The Chatterbox building; she owned it for 30 years.

The building, which had been pink since it was built, has had several owners. Bob Becotte owned it for about three years and painted the building green. Tom and Marie Repici bought it in 1972. Before long, it was pink again.

“We owned a custard stand in Cape May Court House and we were looking to expand to selling pizza,” Repici said. “So we saw a mixer for sale in Ocean City and Tom noticed that The Chatterbox was for sale.”

They passed on the pizza mixer, but not on The Chatterbox.

“I thought it was a little too big, I didn’t want it,” she said.

The couple owned a neighboring four-unit apartment, but this, she said, was a lot to take on. They did it anyway.
“For 10 years, we ate well, but we didn’t make any money,” she said. “We had to pay the money back. It took a while, but in the end, it was a good move for us.”

Marie Repici grew up in Swainton, where her family owned a farm. Tom Repici Sr. grew up in Belleplain.

“I met Tom at a movie in Woodbine,” she said. “My girlfriend was there and she introduced me to him. That was it.”

The couple married in 1948 and they worked in a clothing factory. When her father passed away, they bought Marie’s parent’s roadside farm stand.

“From there we bought some other businesses and that got us started,” said Repici.

The younger Tom graduated high school at the same time his parents bought The Chatterbox. He started his restaurant career washing dishes and worked his way up to co-owner.

Aimee Repici entered the picture in 1976. She was a summer waitress who caught Tom Jr.’s eye; before long she became a permanent fixture.

Over the years, the Repici family renovated and redesigned the restaurant.

In the 1980s, the family looked for new challenges. Marie Repici and her son went to a seminar on how to sell a business in 10 days. The family passed the torch and two new couples shared the responsibility of managing the restaurant, but it didn’t last long. The Repici family ended up getting The Chatterbox back in 1991 and they’ve been there ever since.

“Not many restaurants last with one family for 42 years, that’s a very long time. Between my husband and my son, there are just too many memories, here,” Marie Repici said. “Tom was a wonderful, loving, son, husband and father. I lost a husband, brothers, sisters and my parents. I never, ever, ever thought I’d lose my son, too. You’re not supposed to bury your children.”

Repici said she relied on her son when her husband passed.

“I made him my partner, I couldn’t do it without him,” she said. “Tom learned about business growing up, it was what we did.”

Repici said she will miss the restaurant.

“The restaurant has a wonderful history, but it’s time, time to move forward,” she said. “It’s time for another family to be a part of the history.”

Anyone interested in purchasing The Chatterbox should call Marie Repici at 609-398-4800.

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