HOSTESS WITH THE MOSTEST: The greeter at Blackdog is, fittingly, a happy black lab named Lulu. (Picture by Ryan Morrill)
The Tuckerton area’s coziest dive bar, Blackdog – 7 Stools, is undergoing a renaissance, and, following a yr spent in quarantine, locals have been thrilled to get back to their community hangout and get pleasure from new offerings each week.
The company, previously known as Pine Bay Liquors – 7 Stools, found at 1510 Route 539, Suite 3, in Tiny Egg Harbor Township, appears from the outdoors as just a freeway stop-off liquor store. But nestled inside is a charming bar accommodating – that’s suitable – seven stools … and a couple tables. The company was operated by the Mathis relatives right up until its most latest proprietor, Donna Mathis, handed the baton off to a new relatives.
“Donna was great throughout the sale,” shared present operator Cortney Hotchkin. “We turned rapid pals, and now she’s a great buyer.” Hotchkin co-owns the company with her companion, Chris Rampone.
Hotchkin and Rampone are from Manasquan, and although they at this time commute to the small business seven days a 7 days, their intention is to stay listed here permanently.
Having had family and good friends in the marketplace, the couple determined to choose on their possess company in South Jersey. Their broker released them to 7 Stools, so they traveled down for a date night (pre-pandemic) to verify out the scene.
Not realizing what to count on, Hotchkin, noticing the clientele largely consisted of community staff, quite a few who just stopped in after do the job, quickly felt pretty overdressed for the venue. Would they be banished back again to North Jersey, she wondered? In just minutes of sitting down, on the other hand, she was pleasantly stunned when they ended up engaged by a community just a person stool above.
“We have been listed here for a few hrs possessing the best conversation,” she stated. “We just fell in adore with the camaraderie in the place.”
As she was ending her sentence, she was interrupted by Dave Woodhead of Legitimate Delta Mechanical LLC, from West Creek, who arrived in to support an appliance. “Speak of the devil,” she explained, noting Woodhead was the 1st patron she and Rampone ever shared a conversation with at 7 Stools. In addition to becoming a common shopper, he is now a very good pal and trustworthy contractor.
For the reason that the local community is the cornerstone of the company, it was very essential for the partnership to employ and supply as domestically as probable. For illustration, “Our bartenders are superb,” stated Hotchkin. “We inherited two and introduced in two.”
The two new bartenders, even so, are well proven on the Minor Egg Harbor scene. “We sourced all regional,” she elaborated. “Refrigeration, flooring, symptoms … We have terrific associations with Pinelands Brewing Co. and Little Water Distillery.”
Rampone and Hotchkin are a significant existence in the building. “Chris and I are in here each day,” she reported. “The consumers recognize that – seeing our faces. We’re pouring their beers.”
COZY CORNERS: Blackdog, better identified as 7 Stools, has gotten artistic in including more seating choices. (Photograph by Ryan Morrill)
But what sets the bar apart is the ever-loving existence of man’s very best friend.
“We registered the business enterprise as 7 Stools,” discussed Hotchkin, who emphasized the worth of trying to keep the 7 Stools legacy alive. The regulars, of system, appreciated the tribute to their longtime favourite haunt. “But we work as Blackdog,” she claimed. In simple fact, the small business mascot is a black Lab named Lulu.
“Lulu is our greeter,” Hotchkin said, laughing. “Every working day she walks shoppers down to the beer cooler.” Hotchkin and Rampone also have a red Lab named Rooney, who places in her time at Blackdog, “but Lulu ‘works’ the most hours. She loves website visitors!”
In particular after the last yr, locals seem forward to kicking back at a area they experience welcome, and there is no creature extra suited to the task than a pet!
“It’s super fun with the canines,” she mentioned. “It improvements the entire ambiance.” Sometimes prospects will deliver their furry friends in for some socializing. “We’re a doggy friendly bar,” Hotchkin affirmed, “as extended as your pet dog is pleasant.”
They harmony organization management with boosting four little ones among them both of those — quite the enterprise when assuming ownership of a bar in the center of a pandemic. “We took over in November 2020,” she shared. While the experience has been rife with challenges, Hotchkin is optimistic about the long term they are constructing. “The fact is, if we can succeed by this, when we come out we’ll be über profitable.”
The pair experienced grand aspirations for constructing renovations and a food items menu, which they had to scale back according to the pandemic-associated limitations they even now face. They have greater selection powering the bar and included a confined menu, which consists of 9- and 12-inch bar pies “with a boat load of toppings,” and huge 10-inch Bavarian pretzels. They also element weekly food items specials, and every single Sunday, patrons can get pleasure from “The Breakfast Club” from 9 a.m. to noon, which features Bloody Marys, mimosas and bagels. The food items menu will probably see an enlargement appear summer.
With the regulars in mind, they did not want to transform too a lot. Instead, they centered on making the house a lot more inviting. Maintaining with the industrial search, they merely freshened it up with a paint job and new flooring. The exterior will see a minor facelift by way of paint to accompany a model new indicator and emblem.
Rather than renovate beloved “7 Stools” into a thing it is not, the work has been to foster the neighborly spirit by supplying new methods to engage.
“We’re group folks,” explained Hotchkin, “and people like range, primarily in a little city.” The vision is for Blackdog to be a location where by clients can arrive particularly as they are and get pleasure from a little something a minor out-of-the-box.
This is the place the proprietors have excelled, giving live music various instances a week in addition to a wide array of functions, this sort of as, most lately, their to start with chili cook-off. Wine and whiskey tastings and craft nights are also on the very long listing of offerings. Locals seem ahead to “The Monday Night time Factor,” which is an invitational jam session amongst a rotating selection of area musicians. After a thirty day period, Blackdog celebrates “Sunday Funday,” with a food items truck (each individual month, some thing new!) and reside tunes.
HOUND’S TOOTH Thoroughly clean: The longtime regional bar is obtaining some TLC on all its ‘dog-eared’ pieces. A new signal and fresh new coat of paint will do the trick! (Picture by Ryan Morrill)
In addition, Blackdog looks forward to internet hosting fundraisers for community nonprofits. “We’re quite a lot into the giving spirit, in particular in a neighborhood like this.” Even though they familiarize themselves with volunteer companies, they have partnered with Tito’s Vodka by way of the thirty day period of April. “For each individual (Tito’s) consume offered, $2 goes to the Eleventh Hour Rescue,” which is a principally volunteer-run, no-kill rescue, with the mission of saving animals from large-destroy shelters.
Like most other folks in the hospitality business enterprise, Hotchkin suspects COVID-19 has eternally modified the way things are performed. With a identify like “7 Stools” it’s tricky to picture becoming equipped to flip a gain with the present-day restrictions, which is why “we are super keen to get outside,” she mentioned, sharing designs to install a 20- by 30-foot tent, adjacent to an open up location and an outside stage, where patrons can consume, consume, dance and be merry in a safe, yet lively environment. Most importantly, there will be water bowls for all those on 4 legs.
Take a look at Facebook: @Blackdog – 7 Stools, or Instagram: @BD7Stools to continue to be up to day with Blackdog’s at any time-modifying events and specials.
— Monique M. Demopoulos