Deauville Inn’s New Owner Plans Facelift

Deauville Inn’s New Owner Plans Facelift

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A makeover will freshen up both the inside and exterior of the landmark Deauville Inn in Strathmere.

By DONALD WITTKOWSKI

The new owner of the Deauville Inn plans to undertake extensive renovations to recapture the historic Strathmere restaurant’s old-time atmosphere dating back to its Roaring Twenties and Prohibition era heyday.

Tim Fox, a Strathmere resident and founder of the healthcare company Fox Rehabilitation, bought the bayfront restaurant in October for an undisclosed price.

While outlining his plans for the restaurant’s restoration, he likened the Deauville to a treasured artwork in need of a touch-up.

“It’s a great piece of artwork to build on,” he said in an interview Friday.

The makeover will freshen up both the exterior and interior of the building, including recreating parts of the Deauville’s storied past.

“We’ll take it back to the 1930s. My goal is to reflect the Deauville from the 1920s to 1950s,” Fox noted.

Deauville Inn’s new owner Tim Fox and his partner Robyn Kjar stand inside the dining room a day before renovations were completed on Saturday.

According to historical accounts, the Deauville flourished in the 1920s and later as a speakeasy and illicit casino during Prohibition.

Renovation plans also include placing the iconic Deauville Inn sign on the roof again and bringing back the distinctive green awnings to return the building to its vintage look, Fox said.

Fox wants to blend the Deauville’s historic charms with modern upgrades to create a more upscale experience for customers.

“We’ll save the legacy and the history of this building,” he said.

The building dates to the 1880s and originally operated as the Whelen Hotel before becoming the Deauville Inn, according to the historic website Strathmere.net.

The Deauville was popular during the 1920s and ’30s, including the Prohibition era. It was able to attract famous entertainers of the day, such as Eddie Cantor, Sophie Tucker and Jimmy Durante, the website says.

The restaurant’s facelift will include placing the iconic Deauville Inn sign back on the roof and bringing back the distinctive greening awnings, as seen in this old painting. (Courtesy of Deauville Inn website)

For the past 40 years, the restaurant was owned by the Carpenter family. Fox praised the Carpenters for their stewardship of the property and for giving him the opportunity to buy it. The matriarch of the family, 94-year-old Gloria Carpenter, still makes cakes for the Deauville, he said.

“I am honored and privileged to have the opportunity to be the author of a new and exciting chapter of the Inn. We have a tremendous opportunity to build on the foundation of what the Carpenters have created,” Fox said in a press release announcing the sale.

Updates to the building’s interior under Fox’s ownership will include a remodeled dining room and bar. The grand patio overlooking the bay will be given a new 40-foot-long bar where customers will be seated for drinks and meals.

There will also be a new 50-foot-long patio bar allowing patrons to stand and savor the water views.

Outside, a revamped beach bar with new amenities will operate during the peak summer tourism season. The weather-beaten boat docks will be replaced to add to the summer ambiance.

The restaurant will take advantage of its bayfront location by having an upgraded beach bar for the summer season.

Longer-range plans may include renovations to the three-story building’s upper floors, including the possibility of using some of the rooms on the second level for B&B-style lodging, Fox explained.

He noted there are five to seven spacious rooms on the second floor. There is no specific timetable for possibly converting them into lodging. Although the Deauville is called an inn, no rooms are currently rented to guests.

According to Strathmere.net, the Deauville once offered 22 guest rooms on the top two floors.

The third floor most recently served as a five-bedroom apartment for members of the Carpenter family under their ownership of the Deauville, Fox said.

In the short term, Fox plans to turn the Deauville Inn into a year-round restaurant operating seven days a week. Currently, it is closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.

Fox, who credited the Deauville’s staff for their long-time dedication and service, said the employees are universally excited about the restaurant’s future.

“They’re an amazing group of loyal employees,” he said.

Izzy Kharasch, vice president of operations for the hospitality consulting firm Taffer Dynamics Inc., joins Tim Fox and Robyn Kjar at the Deauville Inn’s bar.

Helping Fox oversee the renovation project is Taffer Dynamics Inc., a hospitality company headed by Jon Taffer, the celebrity entrepreneur best known as the host of the reality TV show “Bar Rescue.”

“Bar Rescue” focuses on Taffer’s attempt to save distressed bars and restaurants. However, Fox stressed that Taffer’s consulting company is simply helping to upgrade the Deauville Inn’s menu, operations and amenities.

“This is not a ‘Bar Rescue,”’ Fox said. “It’s not broken. It just needs improvement.”

Izzy Kharasch, vice president of operations for Taffer Dynamics, said his company is concentrating on upgrading the Deauville’s menu and dining service.

Both the menu and dining service will be improved without a corresponding price increase, he added.

“We don’t want to mix things up with a price increase,” Kharasch said. “We want people to feel comfortable with the old Deauville’s upgraded menu.”

Brittany Bock, in green dress, and her mother, Mary Ann Bock, at far right, celebrate with friends at Brittany’s baby shower at the Deauville Inn.

The remodeled dining room hosted its first special event on Saturday, a baby shower for Brittany Bock, of Dennisville.

Her mother, Petersburg resident Mary Ann Bock, said she has enjoyed the Deauville’s waterfront views for years and was anxious to have her daughter’s baby shower in the renovated dining room.

“They have been absolutely wonderful. They worked so hard to get everything ready for us,” Mary Ann Bock said of the Deauville’s staff.

Fox emphasized that he wants the Deauville to excel in customer service. The British-born Fox said he began appreciating the importance of customer service in the restaurant business after he came to the United States with his now-deceased parents and began working as a bus boy and waiter.

While growing up, the 48-year-old Fox developed a passion for helping senior citizens and that led to his creation of Cherry Hill-based Fox Rehabilitation, a healthcare company that specializes in physical and occupational therapy for older adults. Fox has a doctorate in physical therapy and has his board certification in geriatrics.

Since purchasing the Deauville Inn, Fox said he is often asked whether there are any similarities between the healthcare industry and the restaurant business. He believes there are similarities in at least one key area.

“At the end of the day, it’s all about customer service,” he said.

New Deauville Inn logo.