This post was also published on the Star and Wave Newspaper’s Facebook page.
Jeff Gernitis like many entrepreneurs was facing an increasing amount of donation requests to his businesses. In response, Gernitis decided to be proactive with his popular Fins Bar and Grille on Carpenter Lane in Cape May. Gernitis reached out to area non-profits, and proposed to donate 60% of his gross receipts, on Sundays, between the hours of 10:30 A.M. and 2:30 P.M. He would include all sales of food and beverage. Anything sold on Sunday morning would be included, even sweatshirts. To a degree, his offer was met with mild skepticism and disbelief.
Gernitis and his partners, purchased the Pilot House in June of 2014. For the next six months they continued operating the Pilot House, in its original style.
Closing down in the winter of 2015, his team launched a complete building renovation and redesign into what is now Fins Bar and Grille. “I did a cold Google search for bar and restaurant design,” Jeff Gernitis said. “The first result was Raymond Haldeman Design out of Philadelphia and Cherry Hill,” he went on to explain. After a twenty-minute phone conversation he was certain he had his designer. On June 24th 2015 Gernitis reopened the doors with a brand new design concept for his Cape May restaurant.
Fast forward through its first successful season in 2015 and Fins Sunday Socials are born in January of 2016. Jeff Gernitis and the Fins family, wanted to find a meaningful way to give back to the community. Fins Bar and Grille invited Animal Outreach of Cape May, located at 600 Park Boulevard in West Cape May to be its first beneficiary of Sunday Socials. Fins provided live entertainment and offered its Sunday Brunch menu, which included a mimosa and bloody mary bar. In turn, Cape May residents and weekend visitors responded as customers, and at the end of the day, owner Jeff Gernitis handed Animal Outreach a check for $1800.00, representing 60% of the day’s sales.
“We were delighted to have been chosen for the first ever Fins Sunday Social,” said Cindy Huff, treasurer of Animal Outreach, “and even more excited with the great response we had from the community. January is normally a quiet time for fundraising, and the Sunday Social gave us a wonderful boost for the winter season.” Huff said.
In the following weeks, the Mid Atlantic Center for the Arts and Humanities, the West Cape May Christmas Parade and Family Promise of Cape May County all benefited from Fins Sunday Socials.
On February 21st, the Nature Center of Cape May and the Cape May Bird Observatory were co-recipients of the benefactor’s generosity. “In the middle of the winter when our income stream is non-existent” said Gretchen Whitman Director, New Jersey Audubon’s Nature Center of Cape May, “this boost in funds raised was a godsend. But perhaps more important than the money raised is the goodwill of bringing our supporters and new friends together,” Whitman continued.
“Cape May’s partnerships between our local entrepreneurial community and the diverse nonprofit sector cannot be overstated.” said David LaPuma, Director of Cape May Bird Observatory, “Business partners like Fins and others are the fabric of this community, and the Sunday Socials they have initiated are the newest way our tourism industry can support boots-on-the-ground conservation.” said LaPuma. The Nature Center and the Bird Observatory shared $3000.00 on their Sunday Social.
Roy Steinberg, Producing Artistic Director for Cape May Stage, accepted a check from Fins Bar and Grille this past Sunday. “Fins represents the very best of what Cape May has to offer,” Steinberg said “and for Cape May Stage or for any non-profit for that matter, this represents a symbiotic relationship.” Steinberg explained that he hoped his theater goers would soon be patrons of Fins and that the people Fins brought to Cape May would discover Cape May Stage.
“If they didn’t already, you can bet that the birdwatchers and nature enthusiasts who come to Cape May have Fins on their radar for their next visit!” added David LaPuma, speaking about the Bird Observatory.
Jeff Gernitis estimates that approximately $25,000 to date has been donated to area non-profits. The 60% donation allows the establishment to retain 40% to pay for food and payroll and entertainment. Fins in its peak season employs as many as fifty people. The highest donation was made to the Disabled American Veterans of Cape May County, on February 28, 2016 at nearly $3600. For their part, participating non-profits have little responsibility or risk. They may choose to promote and share the event as they see fit.
“It’s my favorite time of the week on Sunday. There is such a sense of community, seeing people come out to support their favorite group, I absolutely love it!” Jeff Gernitis said.