If you’re lucky, life presents a few passions along your journey. For me, one of those passions has included long lazy days spent at the beach with family and friends. I grew up up going to the Jersey shore each summer and vividly remember those trips as being a time of presence. We sat in our well-worn beach chairs for hours and once the lifeguards blew the final whistle for the day, headed back to the rented shore house just a few blocks from the beach. We’d shower, put on some comfy clothes, and munch on snacks and beverages while preparing dinner. After dinner, there was always either a bike ride, board games, ice cream, or any combination of the three. For me, it was the only time I felt truly present.
When I had kids of my own, I wanted them to have a similar experience of making friendships that are sacred to the shore, time to unplug with their families, and getting to feel the benefit of the sand and sea if only for a week or two each summer.
Brian and I rented Jersey “shore” houses for years. We’d comb through pictures of rentals up and down the coast; zooming in on nearly every last detail. Is it clean? Does it have the right layout? What do all the reviews say? Is there a hidden message in these reviews…is this place actually really dirty, unkept, super small, dated…..? Maybe I should look it up on Google Earth…? It’s clear I went a bit over the top trying to find the PERFECT vacation rental for our week down the shore. The process was wash, rinse, repeat for nearly six years. Sometimes we’d get our dream property only to book again the following year and find out the price increase was outside our budget. Other years, we realized the location was just not ideal for our family.
And then came one rental in 2014. I will never forget walking in to dirt, dog hair, black mold, and a ferocious odor. Our younger daughter was one at the time and had just started crawling. All I could think was not letting her touch the floor, let alone crawl on it. We immediately contacted our rental agency, who weren’t much help. Suffice to say, we spent the next seven days miserable and decided that would be our last shore house rental–we would now make a definitive plan to purchase our own.
In 2017, when we were in the early stages of shore house hunting, I remembered that sleepy shore town of Brigantine. I had briefly visited there as a teenager and didn’t know much about the island. One night while perusing my usual selection of shore towns (LBI, Ocean City, North Wildwood and sometimes even Stone Harbor–hey, a girl can dream, right?), I decided to search Brigantine real estate and was pleasantly surprised to find several homes within our budget. I’ll spare the agonizing details, but three years, over 20 houses, at least a dozen contracts, and one very patient realtor later, we finally found our beach house! That first summer I was immediately smitten. We had everything we hoped for both with the house we selected and that beautiful island.
One night, as I was riding my bike home from picking up dinner, I was overcome with the feeling that we needed to purchase another property to rent out so that others could have the same experience we had each weekend driving over the bridge to Brigantine. I just knew it had to happen.
A year after that bike ride, Brian and I found ourselves looking at three condos within the Islander in Brigantine. Selecting Coastal Haven was an easy decision. The layout and most of the furnishings fit our needs and style. We closed quickly and by March were set up for renters.
As we embarked on becoming hosts, I dove in head first and knew I wanted to create a unique and special experience for our guests that they couldn’t get at most summer rentals. My goal was to provide the extras typically reserved for high-end properties. Everything from sheets, towels, and beach gear to welcome gifts and wine and even decorations or other ‘extras’ for guests celebrating something special. I also wanted Coastal Haven to feel like ‘your’ shore house. I wanted each of our guests to open the door each summer and know they were ‘home’.
Three years in and I feel like what I envisioned has become a realty. When guests send me pictures of their kids playing on the beach or leave a note in our guest book detailing all those moments of presence they were able to experience during their trip, my heart is full. And THAT is our why.