A little history on the Braca family…
The Braca family has contributed much to Sea Isle. Lou and Madelena Braca settled here in 1901 and opened a barber shop at 41st Street and Landis Avenue, which had stuffed animals hanging on the walls. It was called a Tonsorial Parlor that did men and ladies hair and also face massages.
Around 1909, the Bracas built a home and business at 18 41st Street, where the Braca Cafe stands today and is still operated by members of the Braca family. It contained a barber shop, cafe and grocery store. Madelena operated the grocery store, which became a news agency in 1914. Many remember her tending the store in her wheelchair, as she was an invalid. The Braca Real Estate was established in 1910 and in 1916 the Braca Theatre was built. The silent movies were run manually by John and Louis Braca, while Philomena “Minnie” played the piano for the 7 and 9 shows, Thursday was “Bargain Night” — two movies, cartoons and free dishes! By 1925, the movies were run by machine and around 1935, the “talkies” came in. Mary Braca Gibson mentions how wonderful it was to “see movies and hear sound”. The serials were in vogue. Mary was cashier at the Braca Theatre and Arthur, Henrietta’s husband, was the projectionist.
In 1939, the family bought property at 41st and the Beach and opened an ice cream store. It was first called the Sea Spray, then later the Donut Bar. Charles Dalrymple and Harry Tracey were the managers. Do you remember the giant glass machine which made donuts right in the window and all the local teenagers who stopped in for a soda and a dance? The bowling alley (purchased in 1924 from Mrs. DeBow) and pool room were run by Angela Braca Dalrymple. Many of the boys in town worked as “pin boys”.
In 1940, the Braca’s bought the Madelyn Theatre and fishing pier for a corporation of which Mr. Cini was a member. Gar Gibbson bought and selected films and managed both theatres. Rita Braca Tracey was cashier of the Madelyn Theatre and operated the Candy Box. The movie on the pier was rebuilt twice after the hurricanes of 1944 and 1956, and the fishing pier was rebuilt three times. The storm of ’62 destroyed all the beachfront property, including the bowling alley, Penny Lynn Shop, the Pier and Popcorn Store operated by Jack and Jeanette Braca Gibson.
The Braca Cafe was operated by Louis Braca Jr., Angela Braca Dalrymple, Hennrietta Braca Gibson and Lena Braca Castaldi. One of our contributors remembers delivering papers for the news agency while his father worked as a bartender in the Cafe. He sold so many papers he was allowed in the movies free! Many mentioned Lou Braca Jr. making his deliveries in his Jeep, accompanied by his St. Bernard Dog. Lou Jr’s son, Louis III, worked with his father from an early age delivering papers, minding the store and running the movies at the Braca and Madelyn theatres.
In 1941, the Plaza at 43rd and Landis was purchased. Rooms were rented and a store run by Anna Schmidt and Mazie Delaney was opened on the first floor. In 1964, this property was sold by Mary and Gar Gibson to the First National Bank. After the 1962 storm, Angela Braca Dalrymple rebuilt the card and gift shop, which is still run by her family.
Although many of the enterprises built by Louis and Madelena Braca have been destroyed by storms, their numerous descendants continue to play an important role in Sea Isle.