An iconic Ocean City restaurant could be headed to the auction block.
The Chatterbox at Ninth Street and Central Avenue has for decades stayed true to its slogan "where the town meets." But owner Marie Repici said running the popular pink-walled eatery has simply become too much of a strain.
"It's been so many years. I'll miss it," Repici said. "And yet at the same time, I'll breathe a sigh of relief that I don't have that responsibility any longer."
Repici bought the property 42 years ago with her husband, who passed away in 1986. She then took on her son as a partner until his death four years ago.
"Now it's getting very hard for me and I just want to get out of it," Repici said. "It's been a wonderful ride but it's time to move on. I've become 82 years old during all that time - I was young when I started."
Repici said her decision primarily stemmed from her age and the loss of her husband and son. But The Chatterbox was also dealt a harsh blow by Hurricane Sandy.
The restaurant was flooded with 12 to 14 inches of water and required extensive renovations. All of the booths and kitchen equipment had to be replaced and some of the walls were gutted. "I spent over $400,000, between insurance and my own money," Repici said. "I took out all my IRA money and some other money, so it was quite a lot. But [the restaurant] is in great shape right now."
Repici said she's already received some interest in the property. She has no plans to formally list with a realtor — a process she feels will take too long — and is hoping to sell The Chatterbox quickly by word of mouth. "If not, I'm going to put it up for auction in the middle of February," she said. "I'll have a minimum bid on it at that time and go from there."
But Repici's not completely ruling out reopening for yet another season.
"If I don't sell it, who knows," she said. "We might still be here next year."