NJ Family Brought a Different Kind of Nightlife Scene to Central Jersey

"We aim for a feeling of belonging": How the Rexinis brothers carry on their father's community-centric hospitality biz.

Brothers Demetri and Kosta Rexinis of their Jersey-based hospitality business R3 Ventures
Brothers Demetri (left) and Kosta Rexinis run a slew of Central Jersey clubs, bars and restaurants. Photo: Courtesy of Smart Marketing

Demetri and Kosta Rexinis, two brothers who grew up in Central Jersey, have become hospitality impresarios on their home turf. And the secret to their success? It comes down to community.

“Everything we do, we aim for a feeling of belonging,” says older brother Kosta. “We feel very connected to our two communities: New Jersey’s Greek-Americans and our customers.” Adds Demetri: “Steady business is something you have to earn from your customers.” And earn it the brothers have.

They had a head start in the hospitality business. Their father, Yianni, arrived in America from Sparta, Greece, at age 19 and went straight to Newark, where his uncle had a luncheonette. Yianni started out as a dishwasher, later becoming a waiter and then a manager. He met his future wife, also from Sparta, at a Greek dance in Newark. “He was a very motivated guy,” Demetri says. “He saved every nickel and cut a great deal, with no money down, to buy his own restaurant and bar.”

That establishment was the first of many that Yianni owned, which included Greek, Italian and steak spots in New York. On Staten Island, Buckingham House became a dining destination, especially for the Greek community. The family’s first Jersey spot was Déja Vu, a Green Brook bar and nightclub with live music—“the kind of place that was unknown in Jersey at the time,” Kosta says. Yianni also opened the family’s crown jewel, The Gramercy at Lakeside Manor, a wedding venue in Hazlet.

The brothers were brought on board early. “It’s Greek law to start pitching in to the family business at age 12 or 13,” Demetri jokes. Adds Kosta, “We began with the humble jobs. Weekends were nonstop, but we soaked it all up. We loved the team spirit and customer contact.” The family moved from Branchburg to Holmdel. After high school, Kosta took some classes at Fairleigh Dickinson University; Demetri studied at Monmouth University. “But we both felt,” Demetri says, “that the world had more to teach us.”

So did their father, who partnered with Kosta to purchase Club Abyss in Sayreville. (Demetri got in a little later.) They envisioned Club Abyss as an upscale dance club with good DJs, caring service, a VIP option and cocktails.”We made our vision for Abyss happen with our dad,” Demetri says. “He could read the market like no one else, seeing trends and sensing what people wanted. He saw the new generation of club-goers coming up. The party-hearty ’80s were over, and people wanted a more sophisticated experience, a club rather than a disco.” Club Abyss was “an occasion—a total going-out evening,” Kosta says.

One element the brothers would not allow Club Abyss to flaunt? Rejection. “Manhattan was not our inspiration,” Kosta says. “It had a well-deserved reputation for velvet-rope attitude, for rejection, and that was not us.” Their mom, Pangiota “Betty” Rexinis, also deeply involved with the family’s establishments, taught them that “true hospitality means being welcoming, with management that treats customers with respect and honesty,” Demetri says—even, or perhaps especially, at nightclubs, he adds. 

Club Abyss was a longtime breath of fresh air, providing “the warmth and community feeling” inherent to New Jerseyans, Kosta says. Patrons came from all over Monmouth and Middlesex counties, plus Staten Island.

Following Yianni’s death in 1997, and Club Abyss’s closure in 2011, the brothers have carried on their father’s legacy at their hospitality business R3 Ventures, with numerous Central Jersey establishments: Deko Lounge in Sayreville; Park East, a bar/restaurant in Hazlet; and Central Park, a sports bar/lounge in Rosedale. Over Easy Kitchen, co-owned with Frank Brusco, slings breakfast, brunch and lunch in Holmdel, Marlboro and Fair Haven. The trio also owns CG Pizza in Sayreville and, slated to open later this summer, Madison Modern Social, a supper club-style restaurant in Old Bridge.

“We’ll never stop trying to keep nightlife interesting, innovative and fun,” says Demetri. “We’re committed to being that place you go to again and again.” They’ve been focusing on the concept of “day parties”—because “people aren’t into late nights now,” Kosta says. “What they want is to put on some nice clothes and go out for a good dinner—with a cocktail or glass of wine, with connection and conversation. Real, not virtual, feelings.”

The Rexinis family legacy is already going strong with the next generation. Demetri’s 15-year-old son, Ioanni, is a server at The Gramercy. Kosta’s 10-year-old daughter, named for her grandmother, “says that our places are like home,” notes her dad. “The kids feel the family pride in what we do. They realize this business means hard work and long hours, but it gives back. Knowing that our places help people love where they live is a great feeling.”

Still in Holmdel after all these years, the Rexinises love where they live, too. “We can walk to one another’s homes, and we do. A lot,” says Kosta. Adds Demetri, “We’re running these cool clubs and restaurants, but our dinner is often us gathered at our mom’s.”

Quotes have been edited for brevity and clarity.

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