After Superstorm Sandy destroyed the boardwalk business she ran for 30 years, Patty Hershey is reopening with a bigger and better facility that will offer both some familiar fare and a unique interactive exhibit.
Hershey renovated her Big Top Arcade to unveil on Monday the Shake Shoppe Arcade on the upper level and just below it, she is on the verge of also opening a unique educational facility revolving around the storm that left a devastating footprint on the Jersey Shore in October.
Hershey is working with Rutgers University's Institute of Marine and Coastal Science to give the public a fun, interactive way to learn about Sandy and learn from it.
"It's a good education opportunity," Hershey told the Asbury Park Press of Neptune. "Instead of being in the classroom hearing verbiage, they'll have a visual, hands-on way to learn about marine life and how it relates to this area."
The idea for an educational center surfaced shortly after the storm as Hershey was speaking with friends Carol Kane of Seaside Park and Melissa Nick, who just graduated from Rutgers as a marine biology major, about how to come back from the devastation. But first, she needed to rebuild her livelihood.
In conjunction with PrimeTime Amusements, a South Florida-based international gaming company, she created the Shake Shoppe Arcade. It includes 85 game machines, though more are on the way next week, Martha's Sweets candy store, Hershey's Ice Cream Shake Shoppe and the Snack Shop, which offers burgers and fries, Hershey said.
Those features still leave an open lower level that used to hold storage, antiques, computers for an eBay business and a wood shop until Sandy destroyed it all.
Hershey, Kane and Nick were brainstorming how to make the best use of the space and derived the idea of an interactive educational facility.
"We just thought, wouldn't it be nice if kids around here learned about what happened during the storm," Hershey said. "We pitched it to Rutgers and they were very interested."
Hershey also is discussing with Rutgers about using another one of her boardwalk properties to create a coastal research field station.
As a student getting to stand alongside some of her professors for the planning of both ventures, Nick, 24, said she is excited to help create opportunities for future generations to learn the importance of the ocean and environmental awareness.
"I would love to see the destruction and suffering caused from Hurricane Sandy be made into a positive venture," Nick said.
Michael Kennish, a research professor for the Institute with expertise in estuarine and marine ecology, said the group of Rutgers and borough officials involved have been meeting to discuss the project, which is preliminary, and are seeking grants to get it moving.
Kennish said the idea is to open an educational outreach facility with science-based interactive exhibits and materials focused on subjects like Sandy, the problems it created, weather conditions at the Shore, and shore protection. Run by Rutgers, they could put on display marine robotics and image technology that the Institute — ranked fourth nationwide — uses for its research and forecasts, he said.
Eventually, the facility would run summer camps, Kennish said.
"Sandy was such a historical storm," he said. "It put in place a context and need to have information for people and it's good to have it at the Shore where Sandy had such an impact on people's lives."