Ocean City's Chatterbox sold

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Repici family sells to Boyers of Sewell, name to stay the same

 The iconic Chatterbox has been “where the town meets,” an Ocean City tradition since 1937. On April 1, owner Marie Repici will pass the baton to new restaurateurs. The iconic Chatterbox has been “where the town meets,” an Ocean City tradition since 1937. On April 1, owner Marie Repici will pass the baton to new restaurateurs.

OCEAN CITY — The iconic Chatterbox on the corner of Ninth and Central has been “where the town meets,” an Ocean City tradition since 1937. On April 1, owner Marie Repici will pass the baton to new restaurateurs.

“I’m so thrilled,” said Repici, who is busy moving out of one of three upstairs apartments that are included in the sale. “I am very happy about how things worked out.”

The new owners, Marie and Bob Boyer of Sewell, plan to open in early April and keep the Chatterbox name, she said. They don’t plan to make many changes in the restaurant that has built its reputation on nostalgia.

“That was important to me,” Repici said, adding that she wanted to sell the business to someone who would appreciate the tradition.

She said she had a good feeling when she met them.

“They are the nicest people,” Repici said.

“They used to own Tory’s Ice Cream,” she said. “They sold Tory’s and then after a few years they were looking to buy something else. When they heard about The Chatterbox, they contacted me. They knew the place, they had been here before.

“They have a lot of experience in this business and that made me feel very good about selling the business. They can’t wait to get started. They are very anxious to get opened up.”

The Boyers are “ambitious,” she said.

“Like I used to be in the old days,” Repici said with a smile, recalling when she and her late husband, Tom Repici Sr. bought the Chatterbox in 1972.  

They owned a custard stand in Cape May Court House and we were looking to expand to selling pizza.

“So we saw a mixer for sale in Ocean City and Tom noticed that The Chatterbox was for sale,” she said.

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 on Central Avenue, 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.”

Every dollar, she said, went back into the restaurant.

The building, which includes three upstairs apartments, was designed in the 1920s by Vivian Smith, a local Ocean City High School 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 building, and she owned it for 30 years.  

The building tumbled through several owners. After the Repici family bought it, they painted it pink again.

The Repici family built a loyal clientele with staples such as Chatterbox chowder, thick milkshakes and freshly-ground, hand-pounded burgers.

“The Boyer’s are going to keep a lot of the same things, but pare the menu down a little bit, which is a good thing, our menu was too big,” she said. “They’re going to update it.”

Repici decided to sell the Chatterbox a few months ago.

“It was time for a change. We had 42 wonderful years, but it was time for me to move on,” she said.

Other factors played in her decision, Repici said. Hurricane Sandy flooded the downtown, including The Chatterbox, requiring extensive renovations.

“It was exhausting, and we’re tired,” said Repici, who ran the restaurant with her daughter-in-law, Aimee. “We had a brand new restaurant, but Sandy took a lot out of us, we just couldn’t do it anymore.”

In 2009, Repici’s son, Tom Repici Jr., died at 53 after a long battle with cancer. Her husband died in 1986.

“There’s a lot involved in running a restaurant,” she said. “Renovating the restaurant without my husband or my son was difficult.

“It just wasn’t the same after they were both gone, and it never will be,” she said. “Aimee was a big help, she was great, but we couldn’t do it anymore. It was all the little stuff, it just added up.”

Repici said she plans to spend more time relaxing, and is heading south.

“Where it’s warm,” she said. “I can’t stand this cold weather. Last year, we had the flood after Hurricane Sandy and then this year we had the sale, so I’m looking forward to getting away.”

Repici does not plan to leave Ocean City for good. She owns a neighboring building and plans to make that her home for at least part of the year.

Repici said she will miss The Chatterbox. Generations of families have enjoyed a meal and she enjoyed getting to know them, she said.

“I will miss the families that come back, year after year, I loved the people,” she said.

Aimee Repici, who plans to work with the new owners for a while, said the transition should be seamless.

“I’m so excited for the Boyers,” Aimee Repici said. “At the first meeting we had, we were all hugging each other. They are going to hire some of the people we had working here, which is awesome.

“It’s everything we could have wanted, for a new family to come in and carry on the tradition,” she said. I have a great feeling about it.”

According to the Ocean City tax assessor’s office, the property, located at 500 E 9th St., is valued at $977,600. The sale price was not immediately available.

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