If Kelly Whalen had a redemption ticket for every time someone has remarked about how lucky Lucky Leo’s arcade was to survive superstorm Sandy, she’d be well on her way to the 3 million points needed to claim an autographed Derek Jeter jersey.
Whether luck had anything to do with it, who can say? But parking a pickup truck inside the building to brace the ocean-facing storm doors and having a well-built foundation (courtesy of her grandfather, Leo Whalen, who founded the Seaside Heights business in 1953) probably helped, she says.
In any case, Lucky Leo’s, which has been open for several weeks now, stands as a blinking neon oasis of normalcy amid the wreckage that once was the world-famous Seaside Heights Boardwalk. At the moment, there are no boards upon which to walk, which lends a surreal quality to the view of the beach from inside the arcade.
Kelly Whalen, 32, is the third generation of her family to manage Lucky Leo’s. She went away to college and gave acting a try in California for a while before deciding she wanted the kind of life, rooted at the Shore, that her parents and grandparents enjoyed. With all the years they’ve spent on the boardwalk, the Whalens figured they’d just about seen it all. Now, after Sandy, maybe they have.