In November of 2022 I wrote about the sad news of the closing of one of the Jersey Shore’s most legendary spots. The Inkwell Coffeehouse. I knew the day would come when I would drive down Second Avenue and actually see them tearing it down, but still, it tore at my heartstrings that it actually happened.

The word on the street is that condos will go there. And of course, in this couple-blocks-from-the-beach location, that’s a smart, move business-wise. But it saddens me to know that the next generation will never understand that the Inkwell was like no other place in Monmouth County. In fact, it was like no other place in all of New Jersey.

The Inkwell was more like a throwback to a bohemian Greenwich Village spot in the '60s than NJ cafe. And it stayed that way for many, many years. I don’t think that I can express my feelings about losing the place where I spent so many of my preteen, teen and young adult years any better than I did last year. So I’m going to include some of my thoughts from that piece here.

Alberta Waingort Sutton
Alberta Waingort Sutton

No, the Inkwell wasn’t for an afternoon darjeeling. The inkwell came alive at night and stayed bustling and buzzing through the wee morning hours. It was the place you went after your first date, after a movie, after a tough college exam, after a night of drinking, to drown your sorrows, to celebrate something, or just to breathe in its very Inkwell-ness. A vibe that is impossible to describe. You just had to experience it

One of my kids described it today as the place that made him a man. I just think of it as everyone’s go-to spot. Whether you liked its famous Dutch coffee or not, it was a place where you could order the best fries in the world or, if you were in the mood, just some celery with peanut butter.

It didn’t matter. Because you weren’t really going there for the food. You were going there for the dinginess, the low rumble, the too loud music, the “I love being in this place that my parents would never step foot into” rush.

It went through some changes over the years, In 1975 it moved locations about a half a mile down from its original spot on Second Avenue. It added things over the years, a deck and outdoor garden. But the bathroom was always exactly the same. A dark, creaky affair that you only used if you absolutely had to. But if you grew up in Monmouth County you knew the Inkwell.

When they announced that they would be closing indefinitely, you heard broken hearts up and down the Jersey shore. Because it was a place that had its time, and somehow miraculously was stuck in that time. It didn’t try to modernize, it never needed to and if you ever did catch a glimpse of the inside before the sun went down you would’ve been mortified at what you saw.

Completely mismatched tables and fraying cloths. The candle on every wobbly table that served an important purpose: To shed enough light to see your friends, but not too much light where you would actually notice the details. The dingy painted walls seemed to get even dingier with every new repainting. And there was barely a space to walk between tables. But it didn’t matter.

Nothing mattered except the fact that you made it there again to revel in its unique ambiance. It was the Inkwell ... and except for a couple spots in Greenwich Village in the '60s, there was nothing else like it anywhere. And there never will be. if you knew, you knew.

Opinions expressed in the post above are those of New Jersey 101.5 talk show host Judi Franco only.

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