Down the Shore: Here’s Why This Attorney Quit His Job to Buy a Run-Down Hotel
Growing up, New Jersey native Kevin Reardon spent his summers at the Jersey shore. Now, the 30-year-old former attorney is the mastermind behind The Shore House, a trendy new boutique property in a restored motel in North Wildwood.
Inspired by his own travels, Reardon had a plan when he purchased a run-down motel. He envisioned restoring the apartments into Instagram-worthy accommodations. He pictured groups of friends and families congregating in the courtyard. He dreamt of an entirely mobile-driven experience, foregoing the traditional hassle of front desks, key exchanges and check-in lines.
And in time, Reardon made every last one of those visions a reality. But the journey to get The Shore House off the ground wasn’t a day at the beach.
Years of persistence, hard work, sweat and tears went into the creation of The Shore House, which officially opened earlier this summer.
Here’s Reardon’s story — and why he thinks the concept of The Shore House could be the next big trend in the hospitality industry.
From Lawyer to Modern-Day Hotelier
After Reardon graduated from law school at the University of Pennsylvania, he moved to New York City to work for one of the biggest legal firms representing Wall Street and investment banks.
“I’ve always been into business, real estate and finance,” Reardon explains. “I worked on the cutting edge of real estate finance, helping to rebuild the mortgage markets after the financial crisis of 2008.”
Despite enjoying the years he spent as a lawyer, Reardon knew he was destined for something different. “I felt like I had more talents and areas I wanted to explore that weren’t necessarily connected to the legal world,” Reardon explains. “I wanted to be creative and try new things.”
Around the time he started itching for a change, Reardon became enamored with travel and developed an interest in the fast-paced hospitality industry. In particular, he was fascinated by the rise of the short-term rental community (e.g. Airbnb).
By word of mouth, Reardon heard about a property potentially coming onto the market in the Wildwoods, a popular resort city off the New Jersey coast. The property was run down — a 12-unit apartment building from the early 1960s that hadn’t received much TLC throughout the years. Reardon described the property as “a real eyesore in the community.”
So what caught Reardon’s eye? The amazing location — prime real estate right off the beach and boardwalk. Reardon saw potential and decided he wanted to purchase the property to create something new.
That’s where he hit roadblock No. 1: Money.
“What a lot of people don’t know is that I needed to save a lot of money to start this business,” Reardon explains. Two months before he quit his job as a lawyer, his lease at his New York City apartment ended. He spent the next several weeks working 18 hours a day, seven days a week, sleeping on friends couches to save up the money he needed to purchase the property.
“I still didn’t know if I’d even be able to buy the building, but I was obsessed with the idea of trying something with it,” says Reardon. “Nothing was going to stop me.”
When Reardon felt like he had enough cash saved, he quit his job, moved back to Philadelphia where the cost of living is lower and went all-in on his dream.
No Such Thing as An Overnight Success
And then, Reardon ran into roadblock No. 2: Getting the owner of the building to agree to sell.
After Reardon learned about the property, he spent months calling the property owner to see if he could make the purchase. The owner repeatedly ignored Reardon’s calls.
After months of persistent follow-up, the two finally connected, and Reardon and the building’s owner came to an agreement: He’d allow Reardon to rent the building for the summer of 2017.
While renting the building wasn’t Reardon’s ultimate goal, it was a step in the right direction.
A New Kind of Summer Vacation
Reardon, who grew up vacationing in the Wildwoods and Ocean City, New Jersey, remembers what it was like to prepare to “go down the shore.” (That’s what people from Pennsylvania and New Jersey call vacationing at the beach.)
“First, your parents would visit the shore point during the winter to look at several houses. They’d pick one and rent it from Saturday to Saturday for a specific week that upcoming summer. Then we’d lug down our linens and towels. It was always a huge ordeal, and maybe the house was nice, maybe it wasn’t, but it was always an adventure,” recalls Reardon.
Reardon’s goal in renting the building that would become The Shore House for the summer of 2017 was to test his hypothesis about the changing world of travel and vacationing.
“People, especially millennials, don’t necessarily want to take a week or two-week long vacation anymore,” Reardon says. “They want to take more vacations each year for a shorter period of time, like three to five nights.”
Research supports Reardon’s theory. A study from the AARP says millennials anticipate taking six trips in 2018. The same study also found that millennials are far more open to alternate accommodations, like home rentals and bed-and-breakfasts, than boomers.
“Times have changed,” Reardon says. “Looking toward the millennial demographic we’re targeting, The Shore House gives you the ability to come with a group of friends or family and know that everything is going to be sparkling clean and ready when you get there. It’s an experience that’s different than how I grew up going to the shore.”
And that’s only a small part of what makes The Shore House different. Other perks include pet-friendly accommodations, complimentary beach gear, free access to bikes and more. Plus, the business is run entirely off of mobile phones. Your stay is booked online instantly and all interactions, including check-in, check-out and concierge, are done through mobile.
As Reardon says, “Everything is 24/7 at your fingertips.”
So that summer, Reardon put his hypothesis to the test: He spent the money he had saved to rent the building and fix it up as much as possible before the season began.
Dealing With Doubters
Starting a business is never easy, but the experience becomes doubly challenging without support. Enter roadblock No. 3.
Reardon asked friends and family if they’d like to invest in the project, but he was quickly met with “no” after “no.” The people closest to Reardon didn’t understand his vision and definitely didn’t understand why he left a great job to pursue a wild dream.
“Everyone thought I lost my mind,” Reardon recalls. “I went from working with huge clients as an attorney in New York City to doing something that everyone thought was crazy. No one supported my vision — it was just me. And I spent everything I had saved.”
Reardon says it was hard to pursue a dream when so many people around him didn’t believe in what he was trying to accomplish.
“I felt like one man on an island,” Reardon remembers. “For most people, that’s too much pressure. But for me, while it was hard at times, I trusted in my instincts, and that has always driven me.”
After Reardon quit his job, he started practicing yoga and meditation. “That was one of the calming forces that helped me gain clarity and be confident in myself and what I was building,” he says.”
Proving The Naysayers Wrong
As it turns out, Reardon’s instincts were correct.
Renting the building in the summer of 2017 was a smashing success. Every rental in the building sold out in a matter of weeks.
“I knew I was onto something,” Reardon says. “That’s when I really started to conceptualize how I could make this bigger — there’s a huge market for these alternative boutique accommodations, and no one is doing it, particularly at the Jersey shore.”
Reardon decided he wanted to attempt to buy the building again.
“So many entrepreneurs go out and raise a ton of money from private investors, but that wasn’t at all what I wanted to do. I was doing this on a shoestring,” Reardon explains.
After years of persistence, Reardon had developed a personal connection and relationship with the original owner of the building. The owner agreed to sell and finance the building, which gave Reardon the green light to fully develop his vision for what would become The Shore House.
The Shore House: A Timeline
Getting The Shore House off the ground was a process that spanned more than two years.
“A lot of people think these things happen overnight and that you just have a great idea and you do it and it happens,” says Reardon.
Check out this timeline to see how The Shore House finally came to be.
June 2016: Reardon learns about the building for sale and starts dreaming about what a career as a hotelier might look like. He has his first conversation with the owner of the building but still has a long way to go before the owner agrees to work with him.
September 2016: In an effort to save money, Reardon moves out of his NYC apartment and spends two months sleeping on couches while working 18-hour days as a lawyer.
November 2016: Reardon officially quits his job as a lawyer and moves back home to the Philadelphia area.
April 2017: Reardon rents the building to test his concept with the money he saved. He renovates the units and rents them on Airbnb, becoming one of the first down the shore to use the popular short-term rental website.
December 2017: Reardon negotiates buying the building without having to take on debt. He purchases the building for $765,000 and now owns the property that will become The Shore House.
January 2018 to May 2018: Reardon is busy renovating and designing The Shore House. The design blends Reardon’s personal style from his years of travel and an homage to the heyday of the Wildwoods in the 50s and 60s. He describes The Shore House as modern, clean, bright and fun.
June 2018: The Shore House officially opens for the 2018 season.
The Shore House Comes to Life
The Shore House opened earlier this summer to much fanfare and buzz around the area.
“The feedback has been tremendous,” Reardon says.
As of mid-July, when we spoke with Reardon for this story, weekends for summer 2018 were already sold out, with select weekday dates still open. Reardon says people are already trying to book their dates for 2019. The Shore House has already become a seven-figure business.
Reardon says he’s taking things one day at a time, but he’s already looking at ways to expand on The Shore House concept. He hopes to bring the idea to other shore points and markets throughout the country.
Make Your Own Crazy Dream Come True
Reardon’s best advice for those with a crazy dream of their own is to listen to, and respect, the opinions of others. But be able to understand how that feedback fits into your vision.
Reardon remembers a moment where all the roadblocks he had encountered felt worth it. At the opening weekend party for The Shore House, Reardon’s mom turned to him and said, “Oh, I get it now. This is really cool.”
Reardon says he’s trying to keep his head above water as he navigates through peak season.
“It’s easy to go back to working long hours when at the end of the day you have people really enjoying themselves, and now I get to do something where I’m having an impact on people’s lives, celebrations and family vacations.”
Jessica Lawlor is the president and CEO of Jessica Lawlor & Company (JL&Co), a specialty communications agency. She’s an Ocean City, New Jersey kinda gal, but after seeing photos of The Shore House, she definitely wants to plan a trip to Wildwood.