A casual stroll down 83rd Street in Stone Harbor brings a tourist face to face with Smugglers Cove at 370 83rd Street on the bay. Peeking into the storefront windows, the tourist views shark jaws and seafaring memorabilia – nets, buoys and floats, fishing poles, lures, and what appears to be pirate treasure. Turning the corner of the building, the tourist walks back onto the dock, views the North Basin (now officially known as Smugglers Cove Basin according to Stone Harbor Borough Council’s January 16, 2007 Resolution), and enters the tackle shop, where Louis Bachmann, also known as Doctor of Reelology or Smuggler, holds court from his gray chair in front of the bait freezer and bloodworm refrigerator. The tourist asks how Smugglers Cove got its name and is told a tale about pirates and treasure hunters. Story finished and with a twinkle in his eye, the Smuggler has the tourist believing the yarn. “Really,” he says, “we were brainstorming names for the new business and Smugglers Cove was the name we liked best.”
The North Basin property upon which the business is located was shown on the Plan of Stone Harbor filed in the Cape May County, New Jersey, Clerk’s Office by South Jersey Realty Company. It was known as Plan “G” on North Basin. The corner lots on 83rd Street and Sunset Drive were shown on Section Plan c made by R. L. Goff, Engineer, duly filed in 1908. The entire property includes four tracts of land. Joseph and Florence C. Guyon sold the North Basin Tracts 1-3 to Jean B. and Ellen Edwards in 1959 (October 26, 1959, recorded in Cape May County Recorder’s Office in Deed Book Volume 1004, page 455). Mr. and Mrs. Edwards acquired Tract 4 (83rd Street and Sunset Drive) August 22, 1969 (Cape May County Recorder’s Office Deed Book Volume 1219, page 150). Jean B. and Ellen Edwards sold the entire property (Tracts 1-4) to Smugglers Cove, Inc. on January 31, 1973. The Clerk’s Office of Cape May County recorded the transaction on February 6, 1973, in Deed Book Volume 1300, page 218.
Smugglers Cove opened for business the summer season of 1973. Eighty-Third Street looked very different that year. J and J Marina took up the space on Third Avenue and 83rd Street where the condos are now. The south side of 83rd Street and the north side of the street were lined with small homes or duplexes, not the condos seen today. There was a small bait shop located on the west side of Smugglers Cove closer to the fishing pier. During its first five or so years of operation many changes took place as Smugglers Cove established its place in Stone Harbor’s business community and the town’s history. In 1973, the first dock personnel included Bob Giesecke, Ed Miersch, and John Rosser. The tackle shop ran the length of the west side of the building. The fixed gas dock on the bay was replaced by a floating dock. Two dockside studio apartments were renovated and became Ruth Fowler’s Knit Wit Yarn Shop. The luncheonette on the street side of the building existed through 1977 and then became an office for a canvas business before Len Helbig took it over for his tackle supply business. When the yarn shop moved to The Wharf on 96th Street, the tackle shop moved to its present location on the dock. In 1977, a fresh seafood store opened in the old tackle shop which had been renovated for that purpose. When the fish store closed at the end of the 1982 season, the space became a storage area for the growing tackle shop. Rental boats were available to explore the back bay area in search of fish, crabs, or the sights of the area. Small sailboats were available for rental for a short period of time as well. Harriet Young, the next door neighbor on the bay side of the building tended to the flowers she planted each year along the west side of the building.
Business continued to grow and to meet the needs of the community and its tourists, boaters, and fishermen. As the North Basin businesses and homeowners sold their properties to companies who were part of the 80’s construction boom in Stone Harbor, soon only Smugglers Cove remained as a fuel dock, boat rental concession, and one of the few remaining tackle shops in the community. Dock personnel, store personnel, and suppliers came and went, but the business continued on seamlessly from year to year. The tackle shop expanded to its current size in 1990. Soon the next generation of customers came of age and continued to patronize Smugglers Cove. There were storms that caused flooding in the summer, winter ice and snow that had to be dealt with, but, for the most part, things ran smoothly for Smugglers Cove.
Summer activities sponsored by Smugglers Cove included Kids’ Fishing Tournament, Mako Shark Tournament, Small Boat Tournament, and, later on, a fall Happy Crabbers Tournament. Smugglers Cove was also an official weigh station for other area tournaments and continues to participate in the American Legion Tournament each year. Over the years, many people visited the dock to see the fish weighed in by the fishermen who were offshore in search of “the big one.”
Throughout the years, Louis Bachmann has contributed in many ways to the community of Stone Harbor. He received the Chamber of Commerce Pat Fitzpatrick Award, marched in Stone Harbor’s 75th Anniversary Parade (marching as the Smuggler), and participated in Christmas events for Stone Harbor Elementary School, Stone Harbor Volunteer Fire Department, and Christmas Parade. Employees, customers, friends, and others over the years have a treasure trove of memories, good times, and stories to tell. Smugglers Cove, for 40 plus years, has been a place that many hold close to their hearts.