If you read my previous blog, Happenstance then you already know where this title came from and how Pat Fasano and Pat Schiavino ended up as business partners, spearheading the redevelopment of Asbury Parks downtown. It all started in 2000, when they formed an LLC and bought their first property; 623 Cookman Avenue, (Paranormal and words! bookstores). Then they purchased 600 Cookman, (the Passion building) and then 717 Cookman, (Parlor Gallery). For the next three years, the two Pats bought up as much property as they could. Interestingly, several years earlier Pat Schiavino had the foresight to get his real estate license, so when he started buying and selling real estate in Asbury Park he was the only agent doing business in the downtown. While doing research for this piece I came across an interview that Pat Schiavino did back in 2006 with Chorus & Verse, an online music magazine. In that interview he talked about how he and his partner began buying property; flipping, turning, spinning and parlaying one property against the other; calling his partner, Pat Fasano a “true wildcat investor – with both a vision and a plan.” They were the only ones here back in 2000. Most of the downtown was boarded up and it was all for sale. What they couldn’t afford to buy themselves, Pat Schiavino would sell to other investors and broker the deal. After all was said and done the entire downtown had changed hands, and the two Pats in one way or another were involved in almost every deal. Having success with buying and selling commercial property, they decided to try their luck in Asbury Park’s night club scene. After all, it was another area they both had experience in. They started buying bars and liquor licenses. They bought the Tap Room at 203 Main Street, which they sold and later became Johnny Mac’s. Along with several other bars, they also purchased 911 Kingsley Avenue. Many of you know it today as Porta this location has a long history of night clubs and was part of ‘The Circuit’ back in Asbury Park’s heyday, but it’s most famous for being the place that Bruce Springsteen met Clarence Clemons, known back then as “The Student Prince.” They also bought a ‘pocket license’ which is a liquor license that doesn’t have a home. In the state of New Jersey, you have up to 2 years to find a home for your license or the state will take it back. As fate would have it, and it often did with this pair, the two Pats found themselves at a party one night at the Wonder Bar. Although, back then it was just called “Lance and Debbie’s,” owned and operated by two long-time insiders, Lance Larson and Debbie DeLisa. Lance, known as one of Asbury Parks “legendary” guitarists and singers, has been on the music scene for decades. Lance and Debbie were operating their business ‘dry’ as a party venue without a liquor license. The entire space was set up like a bar, it just didn’t have any liquor. The two looked at each other and instinctively knew they had found a home for their pocket license. Within a month they had purchased and closed on the building. They kept Lance and Debbie on as managers and let them run the business, which was now a full-fledged nightclub called “Lance and Debbie’s Wonder Bar.”
In the winter of 2004 Chevrolet was preparing to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Corvette. They wanted to do a photo shoot with the 1955 Stingray alongside the new 2005 Corvette, which would come to market that fall. They even hired the Goo Goo Dolls as models for the shoot. While scouting for a location, they came to Asbury Park and decided the Palace Arcade building had the perfect 50’s feel. Chevy approved it for the shoot and they planned to come back that summer. Not knowing the building was slighted for demolition they arrive on the day of the shoot with two tractor trailers carrying the corvettes, (all the way from Detroit) along with a film crew and the Goo Goo Dolls in tow, only to find themselves standing in front of a pile of rubble. As luck would have it, the photo director was an old friend of Lance Larson’s. A little while later, Pat Schiavino’s phone rings and he hears a voice at the other end of the line say, “Pat, we got a problem.” Lance went on to tell Pat the dilemma his friend was in. So Pat suggested they do the shoot at the Wonder Bar. They came to check it out but the Wonder Bar was not in good shape back then and didn’t have that 50’s feel Chevy was looking for. Lance called Pat again asking if he had another idea. Pat said, “Let them paint the building.” He showed them some vintage photos from the 1950’s and they loved it. They made some calls and within a couple of hours, there were nearly a dozen artists painting the building to make it look like it did in 1950. Pat also suggested painting the Tillie face on the monolith that towered over the building, and they did it! Within two days the building was completely transformed and Asbury Park’s famous Tillie had been reborn to a new home. The photo shoot made all the local papers and the Wonder Bar is known worldwide in print as the backdrop for the Corvette’s 50th Anniversary advertising campaign. Many of the properties the two Pats owned have been bought and sold a few times over, but they still own a considerable amount of property and continue to be real estate developers in Asbury Park. Pat Fasano’s newest venture is a triple restaurant/bar complex that encompasses three streets; Mattison Avenue, Cookman Avenue, and Bond Street, which all connect on the inside. You might not see the name, but just look for the symbols; the Eye, the Wolf, and the Mermaid.
There are many others who have played a role in the gentrification of Asbury Park; some have come and gone, and others are still here making their mark, like Carter Sackman, who has redeveloped most of the larger buildings in the downtown; the Steinbach building, 550 Cookman Avenue and the ‘House of Independents’ music and event space for starters. In summing it all up I asked, “Where is the next Asbury Park? What other town is in the early stages of a redevelopment and you could still get a good deal?” Here’s what Pat Fasano had to say, “Asbury Park’s not done yet, there’s still a lot of good deals to be had here. When it comes to redevelopment you have to look at the history, you can’t change the DNA of a city, it already knows what it wants to be, you have to see the vision and release what’s inside.”
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