Dorcas of Bay Head, the iconic restaurant and ice cream parlor in downtown Bay Head, is closing, according to an announcement on the establishment’s Facebook page.
Owner Caroline Berry Manogue delivered the news this afternoon.
“It is with great emotion that we announce Dorcas of Bay Head will not be opening this summer,” she wrote. “After nearly 50 years of holding down our beloved corner of Bridge and Lake avenues in the center of Bay Head, we have decided to hang up our aprons and lease the space out.”
Housed in a historic 1880s Victorian structure with green and white striped awnings two blocks from the beach, founder Dorcas Cotsworth purchased the building and opened the family-friendly business in the mid-1960s.
“My grandmother was always so happy when she thought about what an enterprise and institution she had built,” Berry Manogue wrote in the Facebook posting.
According to a 1999 New York Times profile, Cotsworth purchased the building after her husband, a steel magnate, passed away, forcing her to take over his business.
From the article:
But steel left her cold, as did playing bridge with her Short Hills neighbors. So, one summer day in 1964, while her company’s boat was docked in Bay Head, she slipped away to the rooming house and restaurant she had eyed for years. ”Please,” Mrs. Cotsworth recalled pleading with the owners, ”won’t you sell me this place?”
The owners, a local police officer and his wife, had turned her down twice before. But that day, they said yes. Mrs. Cotsworth returned to the boat to share the news with her reveling cronies. ”They’d been drinking all day,” Mrs. Cotsworth recalled, ”and they looked at me and said, ‘What do you know about running a restaurant?’ Nobody seemed to think it was odd that I was running a steel company.”
The business ran uninterrupted until Hurricane Irene in August 2011 and then later Superstorm Sandy in October 2012, according to a Fox Business article. The building suffered significant damage from Sandy, eventually leading the family to leasing the space.
After spending this winter renovating the kitchen, the landmark spot will reopen as the Dune Grass Café in the coming weeks, serving ice cream on Memorial Day and breakfast and lunch by June, according to Berry Manogue.
And perhaps most importantly for the Bay Head community, she says the tenants will keep the ice cream parlor open during the evenings.
Berry Manogue summed up the announcement by discussing the important role her grandmother served in the community.
“She worked hard to serve delicious food and provide a welcoming spot to sit in the center of town. She also loved giving kids summer jobs (often their first jobs) and then staying in touch as they moved beyond dishwashing and waitressing to bigger and better careers and exciting lives,” she wrote.