Did Superman save Salty’s, the landmark ice cream parlor in Lavallette that was wrecked by superstorm Sandy?
Brick and Britta Wenzel, owners of Salty’s, credited the hero with at least giving their business a fighting chance to come back.
The plight of Salty’s, and the discovery of a valuable comic book collection that eased the pain, are the subject of the Feb. 23 episode of “Strange Inheritance,” a new series that airs at 9 p.m., Mondays through Thursdays, on FOX Business Network.
The makers of “Strange Inheritance” learned about the Wenzels through a story and video in the Asbury Park Press by staff writer Michael Diamond, which ran May 7, 2013.
“I know people often wonder how you end up on these TV shows,” Brick Wenzel said. “And I’ll tell you, it’s because of the Asbury Park Press. That story went national, and that’s how they found us.”
FOX bills “Strange Inheritance” as a reality show, but that does the series a disservice. It has more in common with the PBS phenomenon “Antiques Roadshow” than with any of the bickering, back-stabbing reality shows out there.
Hosted by the likable and smart Jamie Colby, “Strange Inheritance” treats its subjects with respect and empathy, while still marveling at the situation. Other episodes follow people who have inherited live alligators, dead insect collections, rusty cars, and unreleased music by Roy Orbison.
Colby, who grew up in Queens, N.Y., said she’d never visited Lavallette before taping the show. She is seen on the program hauling bluefish with Brick Wenzel, who is also a commercial fisherman.
“I found it truly charming and picturesque,” Colby said, responding to questions by e-mail. “It was also clear it had seen plenty of damage and destruction from Superstorm Sandy.”
When Sandy slammed the Jersey Shore on Oct. 29, 2012, Lavallette was among the hardest-hit towns. Salty’s, which Brick Wenzel described on the program as “the anchor for our whole community and the people who come to the Jersey Shore” was severely damaged. The Wenzels had dropped their flood insurance, due to escalating premiums, and feared they would not be able to re-build.
Then, they remembered the cache of nearly 1,200 comic books collected by Brick’s grandfather, Gustav. They had discovered the collection years ago while renovating a family property, and had stored them in the attic.
“Definitely the condition of these comic books (surprised me), given how much was lost by this family when the storm hit,” Colby said. “The fact that it sat in the attic, that there were so many valuable comics and that the family needed the funds so desperately was most compelling. I’m not sure some divine intervention wasn’t at play.”
Brick Wenzel made a hopeful visit to Asbury Park’s Comic Con, where he met Vincent Zurzolo of Metropolis Collectibles, a renowned dealer of vintage comics who agreed to auction the collection in May 2013. Brick Wenzel told “Strange Inheritance” that proceeds of $300,000 provided “seed money for the process of re-building from Sandy.”
Brick Wenzel, who was named after the comic-book hero Brick Bradford, and Britta Wenzel, who is executive director of Save Barnegat Bay, come across as determined and unflappable on “Strange Inheritance.”
“They are a team,” Colby said. “Despite all the obstacles and sadness they’ve refused to let their loss get the better of them! They are a love story and they also love their community they’ve literally served for so many years. They are fiercely determined to re-open and when they do I really look forward to visiting.”