Dominic’s Tavern in Bellmawr NJ is an iconic South Jersey Tavern that everyone knows and loves, and in any ”who has the best wings” conversation… Dominic’s is always at or near the top of the list.
And today owners Dominic and Alison officially announced they have retired, and sold the beloved restaurant/bar!
Dominic’s Tavern is one of South Jersey’s most popular and thriving bar/restaurants. The operation is very financially sound… and the sale of the Tavern is simply about Dominic and his wife Alison retiring, focusing more time on each other and the family as well as enjoying their property at the Jersey Shore!
I had a chance last week to have lunch with the new owners… and loyal customers of Dominic’s will be happy to know that the new local owners recognize that Dominic’s already has a successful and winning formula, and while they do plan on enhancing certain aspects of the business… for the most part they aren’t changing a thing!
The two new owners are Chris and Natalie Reenock of Haddonfield NJ and Nick Toronto of Marlton.
Chris and Nick met in the real estate industry, with Chris being a leading mortgage writer and Nick a successful real estate agent.
It was Chris who initially came up with the idea to move into the bar/restaurant business. Chris has had an incredibly successful career in the mortgage industry for over 25 years, which lead him into Executive Roles in the industry, including founding his own mortgage firm and being a Managing Partner.
And with that high-level of success Chris started thinking about new challenges… a new industry for him to be successful in. He reached out to Nick to see if there was an opportunity for the the two friends to partner on something completely different.
Their search which started earlier in the year, lead them to Dominic’s Tavern. At the time Dominic was really just quietly testing the waters to see what type of interest he would have in buyers for his popular restaurant and bar.
Nick explains that as a younger man he did spend several years working in South Jersey pizza shops and Chris really doesn’t have any bar or restaurant experience, which they are both very honest about.
For the fans of Dominic’s Tavern this is actually a good thing because the partners are really relying on the existing excellent staff and management team that is already in place, to continue making Dominic’s Tavern successful.
But again the new owners do have ideas to improve areas of the facility and menu… but they are not looking to shake things up.
Dominic’s Tavern – A Bellmawr Institution
For the last 10 years I’ve lived in Deptford, but the first 45 years of my life were spent in Bellmawr NJ.
I grew up in the Crescent Park section of town, went through the Bellmawr school district… and back in the early 90s when my wife and I bought our first home it was on Union Avenue in Bellmawr, where we lived for over 25 years.
I share that because Dominic’s Tavern has always been a big part of my life. It’s basically an automatic that if you lived in Bellmawr or surrounding towns, Dominic’s is a part of your life! It truly is a community restaurant, watering hole and meeting place.
Chris shared with me that when they first talked to the town about their plans to take over Dominic’s Tavern, literally everyone within the municipal building said ”you’re not changing anything are you?! Dominic’s is a Bellmawr Institution!”
My history with Dominic’s actually goes back to its prior life when it was The Woodshed!
I’m not gonna say I’m old, but I was close to the legal age when it was still the Woodshed and Dominic took over that same year in 1987. While I haven’t seen Alison in a long time, I actually remember when she was a server and Dominic’s still had the hardwood booths left over from The Woodshed!
The Woodshed was a true old man’s local bar. Younger people who visit Dominic’s Tavern today likely have no idea how significantly Dominic and Alison changed the bar.
First off, when it was the Woodshed the building was significantly smaller. The cathedral ceiling dining room at the end was not there, and all of the seating around the bar area is all a “bump-out” addition to the building… Dominic actually added several feet to the building in that area just to give additional comfortable space for people to walk around the bar, and have table seating along the front windows.
Likely one of the most character changing transformations and something I think Dominic did almost day one, is that the bar used to fill the entire original building space!
The front door entrance directly on Browning Rd… when you walked in that doorway you were literally at the corner of the Woodshed bar, which then filled the space down to the far wall!
But Dominic and Allison kept investing money into the Tavern to continuously improve it, and the customers continued to respond with their loyalty.
So for many years and likely decades, Dominic’s Tavern was a “multiple visit a month” place for me… although admittedly since moving to Deptford the frequency has dropped off.
We had large groups of friends and coworkers coming to Dominic’s all the time to hang for dinner, drinks and dancing!
Dominic’s Tavern was also one of the first South Jersey bars to jump on the Buffalo Wing phenomenon.
Yes readers, in my bar visiting lifetime there was a time when Buffalo Wings did not exist in South Jersey. And yes when we first heard about Buffalo Wings coming to South Jersey, we thought it was going to be Buffalo meat until an more knowing friend explained the Buffalo Wing history back to Buffalo NY!
So for me, Dominic’s Tavern was 100% my introduction to Buffalo Wings. Dominic’s Tavern were one of the first Taverns in South Jersey to bring wings onto the menu, and they quickly established a reputation as one of the best.
Honestly I couldn’t have had a better option for my first taste of the tangy delicious chicken wings, as thirty years later Dominic’s Tavern is still known as one of South Jersey’s number one places for Buffalo Wings.
There’s a lot of things that went into the success of Dominic’s but I think their early introduction of wings, as well as making the best wings.. likely had more to do with the growth and success of the Tavern than anything!
While I don’t know the progression of sales breakout, I feel in the early days Dominic’s was more of a bar where you could get good wings and a burger.
And while today it’s still an excellent place to grab an ice cold beer and watch the game, the Dominic’s Tavern team has successfully transformed the place to be as much an awesome restaurant as it is a bar. For most customers now, Dominic’s is a place to get a great meal, while also having a beer.
And what 30 years ago was a dark wooden “old man’s bar”… today is a place where everyone in the family can feel comfortable visiting, from the sports loving Eagles fan, to the couple out on a date, or the entire family taking Grandma out for her 70th birthday.
Congratulations to Dominic and Alison for their decades of ownership, transformation and community that they brought to Dominic’s… It’s a well deserved retirement.
Dominic’s Tavern Bellmawr – New Ownership
Another big part of the success of Dominic’s is the management team and staff. Day-to-day operations of the Tavern have been in the hands of Rob Anderson who is a regular face in the bar and restaurant.
Several months ago Rob and I chatted about the plans for Dominic’s Tavern and the upcoming sale.
Rob is a reader and fan of the 42Freeway website and I really appreciate him keeping up with me over the last few months, and then connecting me with the new owners Chris and nick.
Last week I had a chance to meet Chris and Nick at Dominic’s for lunch, and I even got to meet Chris’s daughter who was excited and surprised for her family’s new chapter. “Dad, you’re buying a what?!”
As mentioned Chris and Nick both were very successful in the real estate and mortgage industries, and both of them were interested in bringing their business skills into a new industry for them and take on new challenges.
They looked at a variety of different businesses including other Taverns, but quickly were presented Dominic’s Tavern as an option.
While Chris was absolutely aware of Dominic’s Tavern, it was Nick who immediately said… “They have the best wings in South Jersey”
While the pair looked at other bars in South Jersey, what really attracted them to Dominics was the fact that the Bellmawr Tavern is really a well-oiled machine.
Sure they absolutely want to add their own touches to the business, but they weren’t looking to take on a rebuild project…. they didn’t want a “it has great potential” business.
So the beauty of Dominic’s Tavern is, it’s already incredibly successful, and has been doing great for many years!
For the partners this is a full-time business opportunity for them. While I do not know the purchase price, it’s easy to see that this is a significant investment. Dominic’s Tavern is a large and successful bar/restaurant which includes the immediate parking area.
The acquisition also includes the large parking lot and pole barn across the street as well as the Dominic’s Tavern Food Truck!
And while they are making a big career changes, honestly the personalities of Chris and Nick are perfect for Tavern ownership
Nick is a very friendly guy, engaging in our conversation, and offering up a lot of excitement for his new business venture… but maybe a little more reserved (at least in our one lunch!)
Chris clearly is a big personality, and genuinely has a deep interest in connecting with people and hearing their story. I think the first 20 minutes or more of our lunch meeting was spent on me explain 42Freeway and my shift from the Corporate World, and Chris was genuinely interested in the story.
Chris shared that it’s an aspect of his personality that he’s always had. As a mortgage writer he would take the time to learn about the successes of his clients and what they did to be successful.
In my mind, I can see Nick jumping behind the bar to help out on busy Friday nights and engaging bar patrons with the latest Sports talk… while I feel Chris is going to be the owner that walks around to each dining table asking customers if they’ve enjoyed their meal, learning an little bit about each person, and asking if there’s anything more they can do.
So yes the pair are talking about some small enhancements they can do, to the Dominic’s Tavern business model
Chris recognizes that while Dominic’s Tavern is well known for its wings, he feels there’s even more they can do to leverage that notoriety… whether it’s additional focused marketing, promos or more.
I mentioned that Nick spent some time as a younger man working in pizza shops, and while this wasn’t a 100% set plan… we did have some conversations about how it just seems there aren’t many Taverns in the Dominic’s Category that are known for selling amazing pizza.
Another big topic of conversation was the outdoor dining situation, which at Dominic’s Tavern does not exist today.
During the pandemic, under temporary rules implemented by the State of New jersey, bars were allowed to set up temporary outdoor dining areas. Dominic’s Tavern had built an outdoor bar under a large tent, set up in the parking lot behind the building.
With the sale of the business and the changes in those temporary outdoor dining, as part of the final sale approval Dominics was required to remove that outdoor bar. That tent area still remains but it is utilized solely as an outdoor smoking area.
So Chris and Nick do not have any solid plans for an outdoor dining space, but they recognize that today outdoor dining options are something more and more important for area customers in the summertime. Having the property across the street with the extended parking lot is a huge win if they ever do decide to move forward with a permanent outdoor concept outdoor concept.
All that being said the partners have worked for most of the year on the purchase of Dominic’s Tavern and have not been in their former real estate businesses, so at this point are solely focused on learning the business and revenue model, and meeting their loyal customers.
Some smaller adjustments are likely to come, but not for a while.
Links and Location
100 E Browning Rd
Bellmawr, NJ 08031