Allenwood General Store
Allenwood General Store is difficult to take in with just one visit. That's because, in part, it's many things to many people.
Part luncheonette, part gift shop, it also features many antiques. It's a mom-and-pop shop taken over by a son. It's a step back in time. It's a hub for many of the locals. And occasionally, it's a bit of show-and-tell, particularly when people who have come upon it by circumstance are taken aback by its charm and want others to fall under its spell, too.
Where else can one buy bacon and eggs, a plane propeller and a set of (used) false teeth, all under one roof? One thing that remains true, however, is the fact that the Allenwood General Store is as much about atmosphere as it is about good food.
Jeffrey Herbert knows a thing or two (hundred) about the store. His parents, John and June Herbert, started the operation in 1972. Jeffrey started working at the store when he was 11 years old. He took over the store last year.
The circa 1920s building was originally owned by the Feimster family of the Allenwood section of Wall. The fact that the state decided the future path of Route 18 was headed right through the Herberts' home was, quite literally, the driving force behind their decision to purchase the building.
"You have to go to Vermont, Pennsylvania or go west, north or south to find something similar to us," said Jeffrey Herbert, 44. "People stumble upon us. We want our customers to have a good experience, enjoy good food and be happy that they came here."
The store has no waitress or laminated menus, although there are printed menus on paper for take-out orders. And the general store still operates on the honor system: Customers place their order at the counter, the food is brought to their table, and after they've eaten, they come back up to the counter and tell the cook what they had to eat and pay for it.
Since he took over the store, Jeffrey Herbert has made a few changes. He installed air conditioning and put in a deep fryer to make sweet potato fries, mozzarella sticks and chicken tenders. Peter Jost of Pierre Chocolat has set up shop in the back room and creates handmade chocolate specialties.
"We're known for our pork roll, egg and cheese sandwiches," said Jeffrey Herbert.
The store serves approximately 200 pounds of pork roll a week.
Besides serving breakfast, there are cold sandwiches, hot dogs, burgers, cheesesteaks, and tuna melts, to name a few. Most food items cost between $2 and $5.
On the weekends a lot of families visit. During the week, the store is a hub for the locals, some of whom pop in twice a day to sit and have coffee with friends. The lunch crowd ranges from hot and hungry landscapers to financial advisors.
Now that the Manasquan bike trail has extended into Allaire State Park, the store has gotten busier, Jeffrey Herbert said. The trail runs right by the store.
"We want people to get a good homey feeling," said June Herbert.
She and John Herbert visit the store at least daily, she said.
"I've been here since 1972. I'm a fixture. I have my own coffee cup," said Joe Love of Point Pleasant, as he pointed to his cup of "Joe" on the table. "John and June are good friends. I watched Jeffrey grow up. I love the homestyle breakfast and homey atmosphere."
Steve Benvennuto of Wall came to the store with his son Steven, 12, and another youngster, Connell O'Brien, who was visiting from Ireland.
Benvennuto said he wanted Connell to experience a general store.
"This is a part of where we live. It's unique. There aren't too many left. It's local flavor of a small town," said the elder Benvennuto.
James Roehm of Bucks County, Pa., bought his family into the store. The Roehms often vacation in Manasquan, and Roehm said he came upon the place during a run on the Manasquan bike trail.
"It's a quaint store. Everyone is very friendly," Roehm said.
His children, Patrick, 12, and Elizabeth, 9, toted pen and paper and jotted down the names of the states represented on the license plates hanging throughout the store.
"It's very eclectic. It reminds me of things my grandmother had in her house," said Ellen Roehm as she eyed some of the antiques.
To make the trip down memory lane especially sweet, the Allenwood General Store carries bubblegum cigars, candy cigarettes, and the dot candies that eager eaters rip off from a strip of white paper.
The store also carries souvenir gifts including T-shirts, sweat shirts and coffee mugs.
Karen Hammerdorfer Delancey