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Sun, Sand & Cheese Steaks

Although Surf's Up serves 16 types of subs, the cheese steaks put it on the shoreline map. Fifty percent of its business is cheese steaks.

The Baileys' cheese steaks start with hearth-baked hoagie rolls delivered fresh daily from D'Ambrosio's Bakery in Philadelphia. The steak is wafer-thin sirloin tip that they chop finer than at Pat's and Geno's in South Philadelphia -- the mecca for cheese steak lovers. But forget the Cheez Whiz Pat's uses -- the Baileys stick with white American. Hot peppers? Surf's Up chops them. "You put the meat in first, then the veggies and seasoning, then more meat on top," confides June.

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But the secret? "It has to do with all the love that you put in it," she says.

Making pizzas, 19-year-old Patrick Howard of Poolesville, Md., is one of two dozen kids the Baileys hired this season. He started here at 14 while staying summers at his grandfather's beach house. His older brother, Andrew, worked here first. Jockeying six pies in the Baker's Pride pizza oven next to him is his twin, Cliff Howard.

Kristie Figgs, 17, stuffing subs, is working her third summer. The high school senior from Roxana, Del., says the job pays well -- for first-timers, $6.15 an hour, more for the 60 to 70 percent who return. But it's the social scene she likes: "You meet new people every year. Old friends come back. We hang out together outside of work."

All of the Bailey children cut their mustard at Surf's Up -- cleaning tables, sweeping floors, making subs. Their youngest, Danny, 24, helps run the joint and is heir apparent. Their "right-hand man," Billy Lewis, 24, in his 11th year here, is like another son and bosses the kitchen.

"You come in here on a Saturday, right? All the women come in and they're all in their bathing suits," says Billy, a Bethany Beach native, explaining why he's coming back again next summer despite starting his own construction company last year.

Running a beach biz is fun, the Baileys say, but it's not as much fun as people think. Among the chief misconceptions: that you make enough money from March through September to take off the rest of the year and that you get to hang out at the beach.

Earlier this summer, when the Baileys made a visit to the beach with their granddaughter, "that was the first time in 20 years," says Mickey.

So how many subs do they make in a season? "Oh, jeez, in a season? I don't know," says Mickey. "We don't count them. This is a ma-and-pop operation."

Maybe 200 a day? "Oh, yeah," he says, like that would be nothing. He concludes that they make more than 500 in a day, maybe close to a million over 20 years. But June interrupts: "We weren't making 500 subs a day in the beginning. It took a long time to get to where we are. And here we are."


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