On Third Avenue

Oceans Seafood at 601 E. Third Ave. in New Smyrna Beach has closed and the rumor is the owners of The Garlic plan to do something with it.

In the world of small business, it is a given that many will fail, although not always because of their own fault.

Risk-taking is what entrepreneurs do. Small Business Administration data indicates that merely half of all small businesses get to the five-year mark while slightly more than a third celebrate their 10-year anniversary, which makes former small business owner Robert Rutkowski’s feat of 25 years running Ocean’s Seafoods rather impressive.

Yes, Mr. Rutkowski is now a former small business owner. Ocean’s Seafoods on Third Avenue in New Smyrna Beach closed July 30. A sign on the front door notified customers, “Our lease has run out and the landlord has sold the building.”

Relocating is not an option. Mr. Rutkowski explained the expected cost to open a new facility in another location is roughly $150,000. That is too steep a price to pay at this time as he has financial obligations to meet.

He explained that after 25 years, he is not retiring but has already begun interviewing for a new job. “(I’m) carrying business debt I need to pay off. I didn’t get any portion of the (property sales).” He has interviewed with Lombardi’s Seafood in Winter Park, a Publix, “and a couple of others,” he said.

Mr. Rutkowski was cordial when speaking about what was next for him. He went silent when asked if the landlord raised the rent to a number that was too high for his business to handle. He did indicate that speaking about the issue might get him into legal trouble.

The lead up to Mr. Rutkowski readying to close his business came with the word that his business neighbors, the owners of The Garlic and the owners of Beachside Tavern, were buying up property along New Smyrna Beach’s Third Ave.

Beachside Tavern is directly across the street from Ocean’s Seafoods on Third Avenue. Mark Dam, co-owner of Beachside Tavern with his wife, Heather Dam, confirmed they are not opening another location, nor are they expanding the current location. In fact, they recently sold a nearby parcel to Jeff and Paige Gehris, the owners of The Garlic. The Garlic is also on Third Avenue, just down the road a piece from Beachside Tavern.

Social media is buzzing with word the Gehris’ have bought the property occupied by Ocean’s Seafoods. The Gehris’ were not available for comment as they were out of town.

The city clerk's office of New Smyrna Beach could not find any paperwork indicating a sale to the Gehris’ nor a site development plan.

The Volusia County Clerk of Court's records show Beachside Tavern owners flipped a vacant commercial lot next to Ocean's Seafood on the southside of Third Avenue in New Smyrna Beach to the owners of The Garlic for $1.35 million. But the Ocean's Seafood property is still owned by the Linda M. Samek Trust, county records show.

Ms. Dam believes, “Whatever they (Mr. & Ms. Gehris) do, they do it with great ambiance, great food, it can only bring more charm (to Third Avenue).” Mr. Dam concurred, “Whatever they do, we suspect it will be very nice.”

Kerry Kelly, a frequent shopper at Ocean’s Seafoods, said the store closing is “a terrible thing.” Facebook posts paid tribute to Ocean’s Seafoods and wished them well.

The sign on the door of Ocean’s Seafoods reflected that sentiment back to their loyal customers. Thanking the community for their support, it reads, “Each and everyone of you will be missed dearly as we close this chapter, it was our pleasure to serve you all.”

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