new season brings some changes to Ocracoke businesses
By CONNIE LEINBACH
sounds of spring—hammering and sawing—are in the air on Ocracoke, and
visitors will notice some changes in island businesses.
and Janille Turner have been busy the last couple of months giving a
facelift to their new restaurant, the Topless Oyster, along Irvin
Garrish Highway in the former Jimmy’s Buffet, which had been Captain
Ben’s for many years before that.
of all types will be a featured part of the menu, as well as some new
foods to the island, says George, including low-country boil, authentic
North Carolina barbecue, and George’s “killer Mexican salsa,” and his
famous crab cakes, for which he has won “The Taste of the Bayou”
also bringing back prime rib because people have asked for it,” George
says. “And we’ll have some of the items that used to be on
Captain Ben’s menu.”
Turners are happy to be back in Ocracoke, where they lived for many
years before moving to Dauphin Island, Ala., in 2007. It is
island almost exactly like Ocracoke, Janille said as she added a coat
of fresh paint to cabinet doors in the bar.
Island, however, does have a bridge as well as ferry access.
they longed to return to Ocracoke, and about a month before the BP oil
spill, they put their Topless Oyster Raw Bar and Grill on the market.
spill took all the oysters away,” Janille says. “Businesses were
dropping like flies.”
returned to Ocracoke to manage the Jolly Roger while Janille stayed in
Alabama for 11 months. When Jimmy’s Buffet closed, they found
their chance to fulfill their dream of owning a restaurant on Ocracoke.
colorful new sign out front depicts local oyster catcher, Rex O’Neal.
a pillar of the community,” Janille says with a laugh, adding that the
blue color they are painting the bar area is the color of Rex’s jacket.
Topless Oyster Restaurant expects to be open any day now, as does the
revamped Ocracoke Coffee Co., under new management by the
husband-and-wife team of Justin and Joelle LeBlanc.
LeBlancs, along with building owners Garrick and Jacqui Kalna, also
have been busy the last several weeks giving a facelift to the popular
gathering spot at Back Road and Sunset Drive.
are new ceiling fans, a new ceiling, fresh paint, redone floors, and a
new bathroom, among other improvements and personal touches.
we’ll have the same menu and the same crew” notes Justin between the
myriad tasks of renovation, and they will be open the same hours.
are excited to be here,” said Joelle, noting it is a dream come true
for them, too. They had met the Kalnas several years ago and became
spending more vacation time on Ocracoke, the the LeBlancs, from
Bethesda, Md., wanted to move to the island.
was serendipitous,” Justin says. “Garrick and Jacqui knew we
itching to get here. Over a couple of beers we agreed that
elementary school learning specialist, Joelle said they moved to the
island last June.
school ended, we packed up and drove down,” she said.
will keep their island home but are heading to Aspen, Colo., before
school starts to spend the year there.
going to see how the year plays out,” says Jacqui. “It will
be an adventure.”
are disappointed that the Community Store closed in February after
having been reopened in 2008 by Susan and James Paul.
will concentrate on their ice cream shop across the parking lot.
the meantime, David Senseney, owner of Community Square , and the
Ocracoke Foundation, to whom Senseney signed a letter of intent to sell
the entire square, will work together to get the store up and running.
want it to be a store,” notes Robin Payne, executive director of the
Ocracoke Foundation. “I worry about the village down here
its human vitality.”
stores, locals and tourists connect, she says. That’s what she wants to
Community Center Project, everything’s about the waterfront and the
store,” she said.
of the Silver Lake Motel and Inn has transferred to Ocracoke Island
Realty, noted owner Peggy Wrobleski.
lodging is undergoing a spring facelift and cleaning to be ready for
opening before Easter. The Jolly Roger, which she also owns,
open mid-April as weather permits. Most other island businesses should
be open by Easter.
Death, who has worked at the Ocracoke gas station for the last five
years, is now managing the business as of Feb. 1.
has extended the store’s open hours, added an arcade game, some lunch
specials, WiFi, and adopted the cappuccino machine from the Community
Store. The station also will offer “offshore box lunches” for
charter fishing folks and anyone else.
trying some new things,” she said.