All in the Family
At Beach House Café in Sunset Beach, one family runs the whole tasty show.
When Laura Fiorenza and Seamus Cuddy moved from Westchester County, New York, to Brunswick County, they brought their love of the restaurant business with them.
Married for 20 years, Fiorenza and Cuddy had operated three restaurants in New York State as partners in places such as Cafe Fresco and Baja Grill in Larchmont, New York, and they loved every aspect of it. Cuddy also worked as an executive chef/food and beverage director for a number of large resort hotels.
Cuddy moved to Calabash eight years ago, and Fiorenza stayed in New York with their daughter, Abigail Cuddy, who graduated from SUNY at Purchase three years ago. When COVID-19 hit in early 2020, like many people Fiorenza thought about relocating to a rural area. After moving to Sunset Beach, she was brainstorming one day with Cuddy, Abigail and Abigail’s fiancé, Luciano Toledo, and they thought, “Why not open a restaurant?”
“That’s what we know best and that’s what we like doing,” Fiorenza says. “Abigail and Luciano wanted to help out, so they joined us as full-time employees. What’s great about having the four of us in this restaurant is it’s all in the family. At any given time one of us is here to greet customers and answer any questions they might have. On busy Saturdays a couple of high school students work part-time as servers, and that really helps.”
Cuddy and Fiorenza ran the three different restaurants in their 20s, 30s and 40s, so between them they have a wealth of experience in the restaurant business.
“We know the ins and outs of running a restaurant,” Fiorenza says. “Our goal was to make the dining experience a unique one for our customers, and at the Beach House Café we think we’re meeting our goal.”
Open six days a week, they serve breakfast, lunch and snacks. They just recently got their beer and wine license. Several months ago they started offering live jazz at dinnertime on two Friday nights a month. It’s been so popular they had to start taking reservations and are booked months in advance.
When they opened the Beach House Café in January 2021 in The Village at Sunset Beach, there was an exciting ribbon-cutting ceremony complete with several chamber of commerce representatives, politicians, family and friends.
“It’s a local, family business with fresh food, smoothies, specialty coffee and espresso, acai bowls, options for vegans and much more,” Cuddy says.
The space used to be occupied by the Back Street Café, but when that business left, Fiorenza and Cuddy knew it was meant for them. Working together the four family members cover all the shifts and do everything — food preparation, serving tables, the ordering of inventory, handling large dinner parties, catering, takeout food, curbside pickups, varying the menu, etc.
“All of us multi-task, and we complement each other’s skills,” Fiorenza says. “The four of us are organized and flexible because one thing about the food-service industry is that things change constantly. Working with our daughter and Luciano is great because they give us the younger generation’s take on things — on what our younger customers want to see and experience when dining out.”
The team is committed to meeting their customers’ needs.
“Each week Seamus and I sit down to go over the menu and switch things up,” Fiorenza says. “We think about what exciting things we can offer our customers. We’re in a unique position here at Sunset Beach. We’re roughly half-way between Myrtle Beach and Wilmington, and the locals say they want some good food and entertainment close to home.”
Being restaurant owners in Sunset Beach is a dream come true for Fiorenza and Cuddy.
“We enjoyed our time in New York, but we’re also liking our time in coastal Brunswick County,” Fiorenza says. “It’s more laid-back here, the people are friendly, and at the restaurant our customers aren’t shy about telling us what they like in their dining experience.”
Fiorenza knows that anticipating trends is a major key to growing a successful business.
“The Friday night live jazz dinners have been a big hit and we’ve got lots of other ideas coming down the pike,” she says. “Making our customers happy is our priority.”
Open Monday to Saturday, 9 am to 3 pm