The Gables is counting its blessings this Easter

When fired ripped through The Gables in Beach Haven just after the dinner service Easter Sunday last year, some feared the devastating blaze would mean the end of the beloved Long Beach Island landmark restaurant.

But the owner persevered and restored the ornate Victorian to all its former splendor in time to reopen just before Labor Day. In addition to a fine-dining restaurant, the establishment offers five upstairs guest rooms that each features Frette linens, marble fireplaces, and luxury bathrooms. It was the second time owner Sondra Beninati had to undertake a massive restoration of what she calls her “Grand Old Lady” after purchasing it in 2006.

Then along came Sandy.

The vicious storm struck Long Beach Island hard -- very hard -- on Oct. 29. Hundreds of homes and businesses were damaged along the length of Long Beach Island. And the lovely 19th century Zagat-rated restaurant was in tatters again.

The storm sent ocean water rushing through the first floor of The Gables, destroying floors, walls, and furnishings that had just been replaced.

“I knew so many people who lost more than we did, so I really didn’t feel too sorry for myself, but I couldn’t help thinking, `Not again’,” said the interpid Beninati.

So she rounded up the troops -- contractors, painters, furniture movers, storage renters, wallpaper distributors -- and began the drill for a third time. Friends and neighbors came to the rescue, too. And by Valentine’s Day, Beninati’s labor of love reopened. This Easter will mark the anniversary of the fire and five months since Sandy struck.

“We survived a fire and a hurricane. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger…,” said Beninati, taking time from holiday dinner preparations for a special prayer.

“I’ll say a prayer of thanks that The Gables and the whole island is back and will be stronger than ever," Beninati said. “And then I’m going to pray that they're right when they say, `The third time’s the charm.' ”