Change in Course

Suddenly alone, Nancy Gallimore converted her gritty LBI fishing business into the Sand Castle, an elegant B&B.

Amenities such as an exercise room, a heated pool, and individual dining tables contribute to Sand Castle’s success.
Photo by Colin Archer/Agency New Jersey.

Nancy Gallimore found herself at a crossroads in 1992. She had spent 17 years building a successful commercial fishing business with her husband, Richard, in Barnegat Light, at the northern end of Long Beach Island. She handled the administrative details and planned for growth, while he supervised the boat fleet and the fishing. They lived with their two children in quarters above their combination store, office and workshop.

What took years to build took just a few months to destroy. “One day my husband went out, caught another fish and threw me back,” Gallimore says. Divorce followed, and her ex-husband moved to Hawaii.

With the fishing business gone, Gallimore had to figure out her next move. She had been a teacher years before but knew it would not be easy to get back into the field. She took on bookkeeping for some local contractors, but always with the idea that her true calling had yet to reveal itself.

Meanwhile, the interconnected buildings that were her residence and former business were stretching her finances. Eventually, she concluded it was time to pull up stakes and start anew in Florida. She put the property on the market despite misgivings about uprooting her son, Greg, and daughter, Kelly, at the time 18 and 11, respectively.

Hoping to interest skittish buyers in a tough market, Gallimore’s realtor, Benee Scola, suggested the house could be described as having several alternative uses, including conversion to a bed and breakfast. For Gallimore, this sparked what at first struck her as an outrageous impulse: Why not do that herself? After all, the buildings had an appealing seashore-contemporary look, a priceless view of Barnegat Bay and an ideal location—just a short walk from the beach, the tourist-friendly Viking Village fishing and shopping pier, and Old Barney, the beloved Barnegat lighthouse.

Gallimore began staying in various inns to get a sense of what she did and didn’t like. “My idea was to create something where I could treat people the way I wanted to be treated and provide a more upscale experience for couples that was  difficult to find on Long Beach Island.”

By 1999, her goal was nothing less than to reinvent herself and transform her home into an upscale B&B. She had her work cut out for her, but also the advantage of having solid roots on LBI.

“One of the local banks had faith in me and gave me a sizable loan, despite being a single mom with somewhat limited resources,” she says. “The loan officer told me that if I thought I could make it work, it would, based on how determined and responsible he knew me to be. That meant an awful lot.”

The area tradesmen showed similar faith. “I had kept the books for a local plumber as well as several contractors, and in the process had streamlined their businesses by getting them onto computers and organizing their offices. They were all very happy with the results, so when needed they dropped everything and worked on my project at cost,” Gallimore says.

“Nancy has an amazing focus,” says electrical contractor George Warr, who remains a good friend. “When she sets her mind to do something, she finds a way to make it happen.”  Another friend, graphic artist Robert DuBay, also describes that ability to home in on a goal. “She was absolutely meticulous about getting every detail just right.”

The buildings’ L-shaped configuration, located directly across from Barnegat Bay, lent itself nicely to the transition. The former store became two bedrooms. The former office became two more bedrooms. A huge ground-floor garage became the new office and a bedroom. Doors from the new bedrooms to the outside were added. Gallimore stained the cedar shakes a lighter gray and added English-style flower beds and stone planters. The cedar-shake roof was replaced with heavy-duty, wind- and storm-resistant asphalt shingles.

The Sand Castle Bed and Breakfast (sandcastlelbi.com) opened in April 2000 and has grown into a popular destination, notable for its elegance, personal service and lavish breakfasts (voted best breakfast in the Northeast by Inn Traveler magazine).

With all the renovations, Gallimore created a luxurious environment much different from most B&Bs she had seen. Each of the five guest rooms and two suites has a private outside entrance. The walls are thick enough to make the rooms sufficiently soundproof. Instead of one table where all have to sit for breakfast, Gallimore offers the option of separate tables where couples have privacy—as well as a community table.

The entire place is centrally air conditioned. There is even a heated outdoor pool and an exercise room—rarities at a B&B. In-season rates range from $325 per night for a room to $475 for a suite.
   
The transformation from fish business to B&B amazes Gallimore. “We didn’t process fish on the premises, so there was no smell to get rid of,” she says. “Still, it’s incredible when I think that the exercise room once housed 20,000 pounds of frozen squid I sold as bait.” 

Gallimore, now 61, has herself been transformed. No one knows this better than daughter Kelly, now 26, who has worked summers with her mother since the business opened. “She has shown me what real strength is,” Kelly says, “how to keep a smile on your face and treat people nicely even when they’re not being nice, and how to push ahead even when everything seems stacked against you.”

Emilio Dabul is a freelance writer based in South Plainfield.
 


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