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HOAP Humans of Asbury Park by Kamelia Ani

I’m sitting with Lester and Myrene Reiff, at Corbo - their 30,000 square ft. restaurant supply showroom on Main St. in Asbury Park. Lester is wearing his signature cowboy hat and working his way through a pack of Marlboro Reds. Chain smoking, fast talking, internet hating, no crap taking 59-year-old “Crazy Lester” is as much a staple in town as his showroom is a landmark.  Tell me a little about what Asbury Park was like when you first opened Corbo.

If you could go back to 1979 and do it all over again, would you? What would you do differently?

We moved to Asbury in April of 1979, into a building across the street from where we are now. Until then we had been working out of a house and candy store. So it was a really big change for us to open our doors to the pubic for the first time. There were very few businesses on the East Side back then.

Of course I would. My only real regret is not buying this building sooner when it was up for auction for only $17,000. And I wish it hadn't taken this town so long to realize it's own capability.

There were so many closed up and abandoned buildings. It was so empty of people shopping back then. Even the waterfront would get less people in an entire summer season than what we get now on a weekend. We moved into this building in 1984 but it’s taken 30 years of waiting to see this area finally start to get developed. Are you happy with the changes you see happening around you now? We’re very happy to see young people coming in who respect the history of this town but are still trying to create a modern atmosphere to attract newcomers. The rate of development is still incredibly slow though. We are probably the only town on the ocean that hasn’t been completely developed yet pre-Sandy. And the politics are keeping the right people from doing what needs to be done. Parking is the biggest problem. Asbury is developing into an eating and drinking destination. But when people come here and have to search for parking for an hour or end up getting a $45 ticket the first time they’re here, it leaves a bad taste in their mouths.

16 I May - June 2015

I always say “don’t penalize if you have not provided". It’s been a problem for over a decade and it’s only getting worse. And taxes keep going up, making it very hard for businesses to survive and grow.

If you could leave our readers with a piece of advice, what would it be? I'm very eccentric and often times that really scares people. I don't regret who I am, but I guess I regret the way my reputation precedes me. So I'd tell people to try and understand others without placing judgement prior to any personal knowledge or interaction.

May - June 2015 issue  
May - June 2015 issue