Carlie and Scott Carey own a farm in Frankford, where she grew up. They also own One Coastal, an intimate 49-seat restaurant in Fenwick, where he grew up. Distance between farm and restaurant: nine miles.
“We grew up together, but we ran in different circles,” she said. “He was always the cool surfer kid, and I was like the soccer player, the band nerd, if you will.”
After traveling the country on separate career paths, they reconnected on the locals’ beach in Fenwick and married soon after. Each operated businesses in their childhood ZIP codes, and it wasn’t long before they put it together to combine them into a farm-to-table restaurant.
When Carlie leaves the farm each morning for work, she totes small plastic baskets of herbs, organic vegetables and free-range eggs to her Mini Cooper.
Both are natural-born entrepreneurs. He delayed college because he was running his own painting business. She had worked in restaurants for years, and wanted to own one.
“My thinking was that I never wanted to work for someone else,” she said. “I guess you could say I’m from a family of entrepreneurs, but, then, that makes it look like they did it on purpose,” she said. “My dad and my aunt and my uncle all worked for themselves, so I thought that was what you do.”
She was just humoring her friend and real estate agent Sarah Schifano when she agreed to look into a shopping strip location vacated by a sandwich shop in 2014 — but she fell in love with the space immediately. She glammed it up with a huge black and silver mural she painted herself and an open kitchen that works like a performance stage.
She started the business before meeting Scott. Her father, Glenn Roberts, provided a lot of help. The retired HVAC-company owner had never worked in a restaurant, but he started working seven days a week, 14 hours a day. He also put up collateral to help her get loans.
“As a parent now, I can realize the sacrifices he made to have me get what I wanted,” she said.
When she met Scott, who had previously worked as a bartender, she pressed him into service. He came in handy during her learning-curve years, too.
At one point, Carlie, an art major, fashioned a wall design out of dinner plates. Scott asked what kind of glue she used, concerned that heat might bring them down. He was proven correct, but luckily no one was hurt. “I like to say it was art in motion,” she said.
Nowadays, she works with a professional staff at the restaurant, and he takes their daughter Eamer out in the fields. He’s designed gardens, erected a wattle fence and built a pig shelter. The nine-month-old watches from her stroller as they roll past rooster, geese and ducks, 40 hens, two rescue pigs, two miniature horses, one full-size horse and three alpacas.
One Coastal started out serving three meals a day, seven days a week, but they cut back to breakfast on Sunday mornings and dinner six nights a week after Eamer was born.
“We realized you can’t be everything to everybody,” she said.
“We realized we were going to have strokes,” he said.
Great reviews buoyed them at first. They loved seeing their Sunday breakfast line wrap around the building by 8 a.m. “The first couple years, that’s what motivated us, but, eventually, the shininess wears off,” she said.
Chef Stu Weisman, formerly of SoDel, runs the kitchen now and turns Scott’s turnips into new dishes like turnip pesto pasta sauce.
Only about 10 percent of the produce comes from their farm currently, but almost all of it is
grown locally, they said.
Next up: They’d like to grow pasture-raised broilers or other proteins for the restaurant — if they can get properly permitted. They said it took almost a year to get the state Department of Agriculture to issue a permit for them to use produce from their farm at the restaurant.
Renewals are usually problematic too, they said. “We’ve been through it three times now and we still don’t know if it will work,” she said. “Every year we send something and she sends it back because we did it wrong.”
They make foods from scratch, but they said “beach menu” prices pull in enough money to still make a profit.
“We like it old school. It is ridiculously more expensive to make it that way, but we don’t care,” she said. “We’re making a profit. Every year we say there’s no possible way we can do better, and, every year, our accountant gives us a high five.”
“The trick is that everybody at the beach charges the same amount that the handmade craft restaurant charges, so they’ve set the bar,” he said. “Maybe Carlie and I don’t make as much money as them, but we don’t need that much money. It’s a bar that lets us do things our way and still make enough to support our family.”