(First published on Red Bank oRBit November 30, 2009)
What can we say about Marilyn Schlossbach that hasn’t been said before, in dozens of appreciative magazine profiles, hundreds of fanmails, thousands of effusive thank-yous?
An empowering role model? Doesn’t begin to scratch the surface. Woman of the Year? Almost an insult — her day beats your year hands down. Marilyn for President of the World? Well, it’s a start.
We knew her first as a restaurateur — although we only retroactively discovered that it was she who co-founded the late great Oshin in Avon, arguably the Shore’s first truly modern dining spot and source of some fond culinary memories of the neon-lit 1980s. From there it was on to several forward-thinking places in Ocean County, where she and her husband Scott Szegeski continue to operate Labrador Loungeand the original Pop’s Garage in Normandy Beach. A few years ago, she returned to Monmouth to establish Market in the Middle in downtown Asbury, where during her tenure the foodie fantasia hosted several “soup kitchens” for the local needy and the first in a series of For Life art/charity events — two concepts that would follow her to her present headquarters on the herringboned hardwoods of the city’s boardwalk.
When those boards (and boardwalk redevelopers Madison Marquette) beckoned, Marilyn and Scott homesteaded a block of surreal estate in the Third Avenue Pavilion between Ocean (Avenue) and the Ocean — creating a complex of three interconnected businesses that includes a northern outpost of Pop’s, as well as Scott’s Lightly Salted Surf Mercado and the sea-glass jewel in the crown, Langosta Lounge. It’s this casually classic purveyor of “vacation cuisine” that serves as Schlossbach’s base of operations these days; a bulwark bubble of endless summer against the offseason’s often unforgiving blasts — and a place that, with the help of veteran scenester Peter Mantas, continues to offer up music all week long (including an upcoming encore appearance by the Howlin’ great bluesguy Hubert Sumlin — check our interview with the legend here).
The boardwalk location also inspired Marilyn to join forces with VJ Carbone — her neighbor from the Bodega Shoppe and an exec at Focus Features — to establish the Asbury Park Film Initiative, a collective that’s brought Patti Smith to the Paramount, surfer-turned-singer Beau Young to the Carousel, free family movies to the beach and a series of sneak previews to venues like The Showroom andMiddlebrook Clearview Cinemas. You might even say that through her and Scott’s advocacy of surf culture and such causes as Clean Ocean Action, she’s pretty much cemented Asbury’s place as a regional capital for the burgeoning genre of the modern surf film.
This past Thursday, however, it was Marilyn the driven community activist who was in charge. As the sun poked out from the clouds on an unexpectedly mild Thanksgiving, and rough hand-painted banners on both entrances to Langosta proclaimed FREE DINNER 12:00 – 4:00, scores of volunteers converted corners of the popular restaurant into sorting stations for canned goods, winter coats, clothing donations, toiletries. The long bar became a serving sideboard for full-course holiday dinners cooked up by Chef Marilyn and her hardworking kitchen crew, while the big communal tables filled up with neighbors from all over and around the city.
All around was the industry of the people who had answered Schlossbach’s call to action — her partner volunteers from Asbury’s Trinity Episcopal Church, as well as those looking for an experience more fulfilling than a supermarket Butterball — and when we encountered Marilyn by chance (as she debated opening the Lounge’s boardwalk-side deck to her guests), she confirmed that the response from the community was nothing short of overwhelming.
“We had at least 50 people show up to work before 10am — maybe even 80,” she told us. “We must have turned away a hundred people who wanted to help.”
Those well-meaning souls will certainly get other chances to pitch in, as the Langosta will also be serving up free dinners on Christmas Day (”last Christmas was crazy, with the response we got”) — and this coming Wednesday, December 2, Langosta Lounge invites one and all to help them celebrate their one-year anniversary, by dining out and helping to contribute to a cause that’s dear to Marilyn Schlossbach’s heart.
While the first birthday of this successful restaurant venture is something to celebrate, Schlossbach will be using the occasion to foster awareness of — and give something back to — a large segment of the community to whom she credits much of the sweat equity that went into the Langosta’s success story.
Visitors to the restaurant’s bar and dining room on Wednesday will be helping to raise funds for the Asbury-based Hispanic Affairs and Resource Center of Monmouth County (HARCMC) and their various programs — counseling, leadership skills, English instruction, job training and placement — with a “fundraising fiesta” during which a special Latin-infused menu will be available, with a portion of dinner proceeds donated to the HARCMC.
The party begins at 5pm, with a two hour, $10 open charity bar featuring complimentary hors d’oeuvres. HARCMC director Eve Silver — an administrator that Schlossbach credits with “quite a few innovative pilot programs” — will speak about the Center’s mission and its positive role in the greater community, and then at 11pm another $5 charity open bar will be presented for one hour.
Also on hand will be live music by frequent Langosta flyers Maracas Latin Quartet, and complimentary sangria for diners.
“The restaurant business is on the forefront of immigration issues, and yet nobody in my industry takes it on,” says Schlossbach in discussing her support for the HARCMC.
“When I see what some of my own staff have to go through, just to have this job and to get to work, I know that we need people like Eve Silver and the Center, to be the voice of these people who aren’t always heard.”
For additional information or to attend the event, call Langosta Lounge at(732)455-3275. For information or to donate to the Hispanic Affairs and Resource Center in Asbury Park, call (732)744-3282.