News: Montreal in Cape May sold to new LLC
Written by Bill Barlow, Reporter, The Press of Atlantic City
CAPE MAY — An incredible family story continues in this Victorian seaside city, but for the first time in 55 years, that story will not include The Montreal Beach Resort at 1025 Beach Ave.
The property has been sold to Madison Resorts, which plans to continue to operate it as a beach resort. The deal closed at the end of 2021.
The sale price has not been disclosed. The assessed value of the property is just over $10 million, according to city records.
The Hirsch family has owned the property for 55 years, since Harry and Sophie Hirsch went from chicken farmers in Vineland and Corbin City to the hospitality industry in Cape May.
They both survived the Holocaust, said Jonathan Hirsch, their grandson. His grandfather survived the concentration camp at Auschwitz-Birkenau, the notorious Nazi death camp in occupied Poland that was a major center of the genocide of Jews and others during World War II.
His grandmother survived the war with a resistance group, Hirsch said. They came to America after the war.
“They really had a hell of an upbringing,” he said this week. “They used all that sadness and difficulty to work hard and to build a life for their family.”
He described their family stories as both unbelievable and awe-inspiring.
“It’s a pretty amazing story. Having one grandparent as a survivor and another with the resistance, it really makes me proud of what they did,” Hirsch said.
According to Hirsch, Harry and Sophie saw an opportunity in hospitality. At the time, there was an economic boom in The Wildwoods, he said.
They saw the potential in Cape May, which in 1966 was a quiet beach town while Wildwood drew the big summer crowds.
They purchased a vacant property at Madison and Beach avenues.
Their Montreal Motel — three stories, 27 rooms, pull-in parking and a pool across from the ocean — was similar to the design of the Wildwood motels, later to be described as “doo-wop.” Today, there are 69 rooms at the Montreal Beach Resort, a restaurant, a pool and the city’s only beachfront liquor store, The Wine Cellar.
Because of the large numbers of French-speaking Canadians who came to Cape May County each summer, they named the motel after the largest city in the province of Quebec. Hirsch described it as his grandfather’s marketing idea.
It worked, Hirsch said. Canadian vacationers were a considerable percentage of the summer visitors for years. Some still come, although it is not as significant a portion as it once was. Now 37, Hirsch said the Canadian visitors were a big part of his family’s history.
“The hotel’s been a part of my life since I was a little kid. I had birthday parties there, worked jobs at the pool,” he said.
His father, Larry Hirsch, served as general manager for years, operating the resort with his brother, Joe. In a notice to visitors and Cape May residents, Larry, Joe and Jonathan said they felt fortunate to have operated for more than five decades.
“We are grateful to the generations of guests who called the Montreal their summer home. We watched your families grow, as you watched ours. We are humbled that you kept joining us year after year, generation after generation,” the statement reads.
The Hirsch family continues to operate its other businesses in town, including The Boarding House, a pet-friendly, surf-themed hotel on Lafayette Street. The 11-room hotel opened in 2019.
“It’s been a really fun project,” Hirsch said of the Boarding House.
The family business also has commercial real estate investments on the Washington Street Mall, the beachfront of Cape May and the Ocean City Boardwalk, he said.
“And to be sure, our Cape May story doesn’t end here. This city is part of us, and we are part of this city,” the statement reads.
The property sold to Madison Resorts LLC, a new company apparently named for the cross street of the Montreal.
The sale includes Harry’s, a bar and grille with rooftop dining and ocean views, and The Wine Cellar.
The family’s statement wished Madison Resorts great success.
Dan Alicea, the primary owner of Madison Resorts, said Friday that plans are to keep the name and the existing staff. Work is underway on upgrades to the rooms and the lobby, and he also plans upgrades to Harry’s Ocean Bar & Grille, including new menu items and more live music.
The place will retain its identity, he said.
Madison Resorts is also a family company, Alicea said, adding that when they were in negotiations with the Hirsch family, they seemed to be as much interviewing him on his intentions as he was looking at the property.
“The legacy of the Hirsch family was always and continues to be at the top of our minds,” he said.
Alicea is the former vice president of Vivamee, the parent company of Renault Winery in Egg Harbor City. He lives in Egg Harbor Township. He described operating a piece of Cape May history as a dream come true for himself and his family.
“We are humbled and honored to the Hirsch family for putting their trust in Madison Resorts,” he said. “We are committed to delivering exceptional service and holding the community to our hearts.”
The Hirsch family thanked the teams at the property.
“From guest services to housekeeping, to maintenance and administration, to everyone at Harry’s, The Wine Cellar and the Beach Club, all became members of our extended family,” the statement reads. “We take with us all the memories we’ve made, the lessons we learned working together, and all the friendship we have grown.”