For decades the building in front of the Sea Grape Plaza at 2815 Estero Boulevard has been a bank, most recently Wells Fargo. Around the time COVID hit the bank shut down and never re-opened.
A company called Himmelstein Associates purchased the building in January for $1.75 million. Himmelstein owns two furniture stores in New Jersey, one in Manahawkin, the other in Somers Point, called Surfside Casual Furniture.
Surfside Casual Furniture was started in 1981 in Ocean City by Larry Himmelstein as a mom and pop corner furniture store. Robert, Larry’s son, runs the business which carries indoor and outdoor furniture.
According to local attorney Beverly Grady who represented Robert Himmelstein at the LPA meeting this week, Himmelstein wants to open a furniture and design facility inside the building with patio furniture in the outdoor area.
Here’s where the story gets a little interesting.
When Wells Fargo sold the building to Himmelstein there was a clause in the contract that stated it could not be used again as a bank. Not a big deal to a furniture retailer but interesting nonetheless.
When the town wrote it’s zoning regulations, for whatever reason, it was written that this building could only be used as a bank. However, the building sits in a “Commercial Boulevard” district. That type of zoning means that parcels in a CB district, if they change hands, can only be what they were at the time of the sale (in this case a bank) or anything it had been in the past, which is broken down parcel by parcel in CB district regulations in the town code. There was retail in that Commercial Boulevard location.
So, what needs to be clarified is whether a bank is considered to be retail. That’s not addressed in the town code. To try to put an end to the confusion the LPA has recommended that the town council acknowledge or identify a financial institution as a retail business.