Thursday, March 28, 2024

Ever-growing Mystic Lobster Roll Company expanding to Wildwood this spring

One of the fastest-growing seafood restaurant chains on the East Coast is coming to Wildwood.

This spring, New Jersey-based Mystic Lobster Roll Company will open its 33rd location at 3115 Pacific Avenue, previously home to Krispy Krunchy Chicken (and for many years before that, Center City Video Outlet).

Owners Philip & Renee Tretola opened the first Mystic-branded location at their marketplace in Ship Bottom, Long Beach Island in 2020. An overnight sensation, its success has spurred an expansion to nearly three dozen restaurants in four states, in just four years’ time.

“It’s been an incredible ride so far, but we feel like we’re just getting started,” said Philip Tretola. “This one is extra special to me because Wildwood is so near and dear to my heart. When this opportunity arose, I couldn’t wait to take it.”

Tretola, 52, born and raised in North Jersey, noted that his family has been vacationing in Wildwood since 1974. 

“It’s like coming home again,” he explained. “I have so many incredible memories made in Wildwood over the years. I learned to swim in the pool at the Pan American [Hotel]. To be able to bring our business to town is a dream come true.”

This is shaping up to be quite the year for the Tretolas, who began franchising Mystic restaurants in 2021 (since expanding at a rate of 7 to 10 new stores each year). In addition to Wildwood, they will be opening locations in Egg Harbor Township, Key West, Florida and Las Vegas (yes - VEGAS!) in the coming weeks.

The catalyst of this growth, of course, is Mystic’s “MAINE Event” - its signature lobster rolls.

“The key to what we do, honestly, is we keep it simple,” explained Tretola. “We have three ingredients in our main roll and three ingredients in our Connecticut roll: toasted bread, butter, and true, cold water Maine lobster. That’s it. We don’t try to reinvent the wheel.

“Now, what separates us, I believe, is our creativity. We’re the only lobster restaurant I know of that offers specialized variety to take our product to another level. We have nine specialty rolls on the menu, including prosciutto, fresh mozzarella, avocado and coconut. Along with top quality and service, this has become our trademark.”

Tretola confirmed that the Wildwood entry will be a corporate store, rather than a franchised location. Its interior will be outfitted with a beach theme and will include an additional concept called Chicken King.

“It’s basically an expansion of our menu to include more options, more variety,” Tretola explained. “We think about the family on vacation. Maybe mom and dad want to go out and enjoy a lobster roll, but a 7-year-old might not be into that. With Chicken King, we’ll do honey-dipped fried chicken, chicken fingers, sandwiches and meals. We tried the concept out in Seaside last year and it was a big hit.”

Mystic Lobster Roll Company’s Wildwood location is set to open in early May, with a specific date still pending.

Tretola said that, while his other New Jersey coastal locations operate on a seasonal basis, he will consider keeping the Wildwood store open year-round if the demand warrants it.

“We plan to operate nine months a year, like we do in Brigantine, Seaside and LBI,” he said. “At minimum, we’ll close for January, February and the beginning of March, but we’ll give it the old college try for the first year and see what happens. I’d be more than happy to stay open and serve the community all year.”

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