Ocean City —
"You can dream dreams, but it really doesn't mean anything until you take the risk of making your dream come true," said Mary Bromhead. "You put yourself out there and you try it."
Bromhead and her husband, Timothy, are the owners of the Monkey Bread, with locations on the Boardwalk, 34th Street and downtown. After making the sweet, pull-apart bread for years in their home, the Bromheads thought about opening a shop.
"This was a product we thought would make it. It was one of those things we would dream about, but never thought we'd really do," said Bromhead.
After growing up around adults who talked about big dreams but never followed through, Bromhead decided it was time she and her husband took action. Monkey Bread opened on the Boardwalk in February 2001.
"We started from scratch. We didn't know what we were doing," said Bromhead with a smile.
They must have been doing something right. Monkey Bread has grown to be a popular staple in Ocean City. Two more locations have opened, including a Monkey Bread Café boasting a full breakfast and lunch menu at 34th Street and another café at 342 Central Ave.
"What I love is being on the Boardwalk and hearing people say they've been wanting Monkey Bread all week," said Bromhead. "I love being a part of that, of what people come to Ocean City for."
Each location is a little different. They all, of course, serve up the icing-covered namesake.
"We have breakfast, lunch and 32 flavors of ice cream," Bromhead said of her 34th Street location. "At Eighth Street we have cigars, cappuccino and pastry."
Bromhead is looking to expand beyond the current locations. She is considering putting a store in Stone Harbor or Avalon. She is wholesaling to a store in Pennsylvania and has considered franchising.
"Our hopes are to be up and down the coast with our Boardwalk style," said Bromhead. "Franchising is in the works, but there's a lot of hoops to jump through. We want to keep ownership and expand it ourselves and see where it takes us."
The Bromheads have five children - Hope, 12, Noah, 11, Hannah, 9, Grace, 7, and Titus, 2. When she started having children, Bromhead knew she wanted to make a living but still be around to take care of them. She always loved baking, from her early days making cookies for 4-H and giving fudge to friends at Christmas time. She started baking cookies and selling out of local restaurants. Monkey Bread came a few years later.
"It was all about how do you make money without having to be away from your family," she said.
Opening in Ocean City was never a question. The Bromheads were born and raised in town, and Timothy is a police officer with the Ocean City Police Department.
"I think it was just that we knew the town. I like the family resort feeling. You get a mixture of clientele from high-schoolers to seniors," said Bromhead. "Plus, we knew so many people."
Monkey Bread is open from Memorial Day to Labor Day, plus a few extra weekends in the fall and spring. Many locals and visitors alike cannot wait for the sweet treat to become available in season. It's evident by the steady flow of customers that the Bromhead's dream of Monkey Bread is now shared by many.
"What was the worst that could happen?" asked Bromhead. "It was a risk worth taking."
Monkey Bread is located at 972 Boardwalk, 34th Street and 342 Central Avenue. The Boardwalk location can be reached at (609) 391-0113.