WALL – For Ellen Bodnovich, owner of Ocean Brew Coffeethere’s something special to come to her shop every day and be a part of something awesome.
“I walk through that front door at 5 a.m. every morning,” Bodnovich said. “Before I open the store, I look around me and I don’t just see the espresso machines and all this fancy equipment. I see my family and all the people who make this business possible. Here, everyone is part family and that doesn’t just include my loved ones, it includes everyone from our employees to our customers It’s a perfect example of dreams coming true.
From an early age, Bodnovich knew she had aspirations of becoming an entrepreneur, but she didn’t know in what field. Her father owned an extermination business when she was little and she wanted to replicate that experience.
“I saw him go out every day, work hard and come home tired and dirty, but always make time for our family,” Bodnovich said. “He made it a point to have dinner together every night and that mentality really got to me and stuck with me.”
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Bodnovich’s grandfather, Howard Fischoff, started the business, and his father, Gary, took over the business after Howard’s death in 1988.
“I paid a lot of attention to my dad,” Bodnovich said. “He took over all of Deal, along with all of the ocean houses on Ocean Avenue that runs up and down the Jersey Shore. I knew just by watching him grow the business into something special like he did that I wanted to follow in his footsteps and do something as fulfilling.
Sometimes Bodnovich accompanied his father and had hands-on experience of not only how hard his father worked, but how to go above and beyond to please the customer.
“I constantly saw the way he interacted with customers and loved that about him,” Bodnovich said. “It was a pleasure for me to watch the relationship he built and I knew I would be able to use those same skills for myself later in life with my own business. His work ethic m really inspired.”
“I just loved the customer service”
When Bodnovich was in high school, she got her first job at a Dunkin’ Donuts in Ocean Township.
“I loved the customer service and being around people,” Bodnovich said. “I really enjoyed talking to customers, so I struck up a little conversation with every customer that came through the door. The next time they come, I will remember them. You don’t see much of that in most Dunkin’ Donuts these days, but I tried to give that experience to every customer I came in contact with. Ever since I was young, I’ve been all about the experience, whatever job I’ve had.
As she got older, Bodnovich met her husband, David, married at 22, and moved to Chicago in 2011. She had a daughter, Elizabeth, and two more boys, Jacob and Asher. Her husband is a pilot for United Airlines. During her nine-year life in Chicago, Bodnovich settled down, bought a house, raised a family, and became a stay-at-home mom.
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“I realized that I wanted to contribute more to my family and follow my dreams,” Bodnovich said. “I’ve always loved coffee and thought about it more and more since the days of Dunkin’ Donuts. I just wanted to do something my dad did with the customer service part as the anchor of my inspiration. One day I told my husband that I wanted to open a coffee shop, but not in Chicago.
David was well situated in his job and suggested that it might be a few more years before this dream could be fully realized, so they put it on the back burner.
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Launched by the pandemic
“It wasn’t long before the pandemic hit and everything started to shut down,” Bodnovich said. “After careful consideration, we have decided to accept a severance package for David’s job and have agreed to return to New Jersey in 2020. My father also passed away in May 2019 and my mother was often alone. It seemed like the right decision to make at the time and we accepted it.
Bodnovich and her husband sold their house and moved back to New Jersey in 2020. “It saved David from having to find a job right away and he could be there by my side when I started the company,” Bodnovich said.
“During this time, David and I first had to look for a location for the business,” she said. “David’s parents knew a man named Mike Ayars, owner of Turnstile Coffee Roasters in Belmar. We arranged a meeting to talk to him and see what the coffee industry was like. I told him about my dad and of my dream of owning my own business.
“He loved my idea and my excitement to get it all started,” Bodnovich said. “We hired him as a consultant and he taught us all about specialty coffee, including how the bean is harvested, roasted, ground and made into a beverage. He gave us all the information we needed to educate ourselves and be informed for our customers.
Ayars also helped her find a location. Bodnovich found his home in February 2021 in a freestanding building on New Bedford Road, just off Route 35 in Wall, despite having a Spring Lake mailing address. After some minor site work, she opened Ocean Brew Coffee in May 2021.
“A lot of the places we visited were in strip malls, but I didn’t want to go that route,” Bodnovich said. “I wanted to have a real feel of home because that was the concept of the business and I really wanted to bring that idea to life. I walked by the place we have now in Spring Lake and I immediately fell in love and before long we met the real estate agent and closed the deal.
“Since opening in May of last year, we’ve done a really good job and have such an abundance of amazing local people coming and patronizing our business,” Bodnovich said. “Every day, they come to support us. We cannot say how grateful we are to be here. This city is amazing.
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Bodnovich offers a few different coffee flavors, as well as espresso-based drinks like lattes and cappuccinos. The store offers hot and cold teas and non-coffee kids drinks like hot chocolate. She also sells yogurt parfaits, coconut granola bowls, and other healthy items.
“We try to keep it ‘grab and go’ because we have somewhat limited space inside,” Bodnovich said. “In the spring and summer, we have an outdoor setting where people can come and sit outside and enjoy their coffee.”
But moving the business forward isn’t the end for her.
“I still have big hopes and big dreams,” Bodnovich said. “I want to keep watching this grow and see where it takes us. In a few years we want to have a second location a little closer to the beach. We would like to see the sand and this is next on our list.
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Ocean Brew Coffee
Owner: Ellen Bodnovich
Location: 2024 New Bedford Road, wall
Hours: 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. daily