Team Attitude Drives Assateague Island Oasis Owner
BERLIN - Just out of reach of Ocean City and all that takes place in the resort is the relatively new establishment serving up big meals from its little kitchen alongside a vast selection of brews capable of making any lager lover weak in the knees.
Since its doors opened in June of last year, Assateague Island Oasis, located on Stephen Decatur Highway and just four miles from the Assateague Island National Seashore, has been plugging away to make a name for itself.
Mike Sand, who owns and operates the restaurant, said he is looking forward to completing his first year in business and hopes to capitalize on the first, full summer season.
Growing up in Philadelphia, Sand moved to the area almost 18 years ago. Always wanting to have his own restaurant, Sand said he has put 17 years into the hospitality industry, an investment that stems back to college when he worked in his school's cafeteria. Along the way, jobs at Shenanigans, Phillips Crab House, The Shark, and even Chili's for a little corporate experience, have constantly prepared Sand for the last year.
'I had always made it a point that whatever restaurant I worked in to work in every area of that restaurant so that I understood it and so if I ever was a manager then I could feel comfortable asking someone to do a job that I knew I had done myself,' he said.
This type of mentality allows Sand to wear numerous hats with ease but it also brings with it a group of people who have seen that mentality in action. Sand said most of his success so far stems from his staff, many of which all hail from the same area and have worked under him before.
'It's not often that a person can start a business and bring on a trained staff that's works well together, that's as trustworthy, loyal and dedicated as the staff I have,' he said.
Sand said his style of management is like that of a coach for s sports team.
'You have your players and your team captains and you know what they can do and you give them the plays,' he said. 'You have your weekly meetings, you say this is what I expect to accomplish and then you let them run with the ball.'
Inside, the restaurant has an air of familiarity and comfort that lends itself to the quiet, back roads of Berlin and boasts a classic Eastern Shore décor. Its menu focuses mostly on seafood that ranges from specialty sandwiches and wraps to fresh fish and crab cake dinners.
But seafood isn't the only thing Sand specializes in. When an owner has a hunger for hops, only the sky is the limit when it comes to the types of brews to be served. According to Sand, with the help of the attached packaging store, Assateague Island Oasis boasts approximately 250 different types of beer.
'I always said if I ever had my own place I'd try and have the most beer I could have,' he said. 'I like a lot of different kinds of beer.'
Having so many beers allows Sand to stand out in the sea of seafood restaurants that litter the shore. Already the establishment has held two successful nights of beer pairings where a five- to six-course meal is served alongside brews chosen specifically for each platter and one manager even has plans for a beer club for returning patrons.
As with any establishment still getting their feet wet, ideas for future plans are always on the mind of Sand and his managers, but will have to wait for the time being until Sand is happy where he is.
'I'm a big fan of getting what you do right first before you expand,' he said. 'I had a lot of plans this year and I couldn't justify bringing any of them to fruition until we got other things under control.'
Like previous eateries that held their own here in the past, Sand is looking at bringing breakfast back. However, that is something that will come over time. More immediate plans include developing more on what Sand said he already has and expanding on the dining experience outside.
As of now, Sand said he prefers the off-season a bit more since it allows him and his staff more time to reflect on everything they have done as well as be more personable with the guests, comprised mostly of locals who he says are always the toughest critics.
'I tell my staff, if you can convince the customer they're enjoying themselves and they don't see any problems you're doing your job,' he said. 'If they hear your complaints and see the bumps in the road, then we aren't doing our job and then we got to figure out what to do to make that better.'
By doing this, Sand said this allows is restaurant to be a low-key place where families can come to escape the hustle and bustle of Ocean City and the traffic that comes along with it.'Even when we're full we're not a loud, hectic place,' he said. 'I'm not trying to be a theme park here, I'm trying to be a place where you can go and get a good, quality meal and enjoy yourself.'