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Brick Motel Owner Vows He Won't Give Up On Dream

His plan to reopen Mantoloking Road motel delayed by Sandy, but not deterred

When Rich Weber was a kid, in the 1950s, he spent his summers working at a small beach on the Barnegat Peninsula and dreamed of becoming a professional surfer.

"The beach people would come over to the beach, but at night they would stay at this motel," he said, motioning to the building behind him, at the end of the small gravel driveway on Mantoloking Road.

The surfing dream gave way to a stint in the Marines -- Weber was drafted -- but he never let go of that connection to the Jersey Shore and to Brick, buying a home in Cherry Quay that functioned as his family's summer home for a while, until he and his wife moved to Brick permanently from Far Hills about eight years ago.

Weber remembered that motel, too -- known to most people as the Swanson Motel -- and was nostalgic for those summers of his youth. So in 2010, he bought the old place, along with the accompanying house.

The property was in disrepair, but that didn't deter Weber. He and his wife, Judith, set to work, cleaning and repairing and restoring. They painted, and Weber even carved and painted sailboats that he attached to rustic shutters on the house.

"We even put in the gravel driveway ourselves," he said.

"I had it (the motel) all ready to open," Weber said. "I just had some paperwork to complete with the town."

Then Hurricane Sandy struck.

Like so many structures along the stretch of road in the eastern portion of Brick, Weber's motel -- and the home on the property that he and Judith rent to a tenant -- flooded.

"The water was up about midway on the basement windows" of the house, he said. The upper floors were spared, but the electrical system and heating had to be replaced. The motel, which sits at ground level, took on water as well, ruining much of the work Weber had done to restore it.

"I was doing it with a 1950s theme," Weber said. "Old Dixie cup dispensers, Kleenex dispensers on the wall. I even thought about getting an old-style Coke machine and gas pump, just for decoration."

The damage at the motel isn't the only thing the Webers are dealing with, however; their modest Cherry Quay ranch-style home was rendered uninhabitable by the storm as well and they have been staying with his brother. And Judith has been fighting stage 4 breast cancer for a year and a half.

"I'm probably luckier than most because I have a place to stay," Weber said. "I can't imagine what it's like for those who have nowhere to go."

Since the storm, he has been going to the motel and the rental house daily so his tenant can return to the house soon, doing most of the work himself or with the help of his son.

He has had some help from others, however.

"There was a church group from Missouri who came in," he said. He'd heard about it through someone at the Brick PAL, where he and Judith have gone for hot meals -- "They've been great," he said -- and put his name on a list for help.

The next day, Weber was working by himself when five cars pulled up.

"Nine people got out," he said, his voice catching as he choked up. They stayed all day, helping him pull out damaged furnishing and clean up as much as they could. "There is a lot of good out there."

In the days since the storm -- the storm surge flooded Mantoloking Road a mile and a half inland, all the way to the Spanish Potato Grill, a Portuguese restaurant on Mantoloking a block past Adamston Road -- Weber said he has seen a steady flow of trucks and workers going out to repair the damage to Mantoloking as well as a steady flow of township workers, removing debris.

"I've been critical in the past of the town because of the taxes, but the public works department has really been outstanding," he said.

All the activity gives him hope and keeps him pushing forward.

"It sets you back, but you gotta hang tough," he said. "Like I tell my wife, you have to stay positive."

"We'll be back. One day this will say 'The Surfrider' with me in neon surfing," he said with a laugh.

Joan Swanson November 30, 2012 at 05:39 PM
This was my Grandmothers motel growing up so i spent many summers (and winters) there. I hope that Mr Webber can rebuilt and open this summer, best of luck to you Mr. Webber!
Xavier November 30, 2012 at 06:50 PM
Rich Weber. One of the nicest, friendliest, most positive people I've ever met. I hope everything works out for him.
Glo November 30, 2012 at 07:59 PM
Nostalgia is so needed in todays world. I've lived in Brick for 30 years and spent summer vacations with Mom & Dad in the 70's & 80's in Cherry Quay. Your motel is one of the landmarks in Brick and I wish you the best of luck with it and your home! God Bless you and all the workers and volunteers who are trying to put "Our Little Piece of Heaven" back together!!!!
Joan Swanson December 01, 2012 at 07:56 PM
Wms826, you must be confusing this motel with another as we never rented to "trash" and it had been closed since about 1986 when my grandmothers health began to fail. I would love to see it open again, perhaps next summer I will come back to the Jersey shore and spend a night there :)
Robert December 02, 2012 at 04:07 AM
Best of luck Mr. Weber this would be a great place to stay for a quiet weekend anniversary or birthday I have lived in Brick all my life and it makes me proud the way we all came together in these trying times.

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