Wash’s has assumed several different names over the years: at its Kentucky Avenue location it was known as Wash’s; on Arctic Avenue it was called Wash’s and Sons Seafood Restaurant; and at its present location in Pleasantville goes by the name Wash’s Inn or Wash’s Café. Despite the changes in location and name, the restaurant has always been maintained by the same family, and is one of the oldest black-owned businesses in the Greater Atlantic City area.
In 1925, newly married Clifton and Alma Washington left Virginia and arrived in Atlantic City. They settled in the Northside, survived the Great Depression, and gave birth to seven children. After the Great Depression subsided, Clifton decided to become a business owner. Together, in 1937, he and Alma opened Wash’s at 35 N. Kentucky Avenue.
Though Wash’s Kentucky Avenue location was small – it only had 6 tables – it quickly became a Kentucky Avenue institution. Celebrities performing on Kentucky Avenue patronized Wash’s; Clifton would stay open late to accommodate them. Redd Foxx, Nipsey Russell, Moms Mabley, and Count Basie all ate there. Alma prepared the majority of the food at Wash’s, and her sausage sandwiches and breakfast foods were well revered.
In the 1950s, rents on Kentucky Avenue were rising and the business was outgrowing its small space. Clifton moved the restaurant to 1702 Arctic Avenue and changed its name to Wash and Son’s Seafood Restaurant. The new restaurant, with its picture front windows and seashell décor, could sit 100+ customers. By the mid-1960s, many black businesses in Atlantic City were disappearing, and by the early 1970s Wash’s closed its doors in Atlantic City. Wash’s was reborn in the early 1970s at 128 N. New Road in Pleasantville, New Jersey. It was renovated in the 1990s and was put up for sale in 2010. It is currently still owned and operated by the Washington family.
Resources in the Atlantic City Free Public Library Atlantic City Heritage Collections:
Turiya S.A. Raheem. Growing Up in the Other Atlantic City Wash’s and the Northside. Xlibris Corporation, 2009.
Richlyn F. Goddard. Three Months to Hurry and Nine Months to Worry: resort life for African Americans in Atlantic City, NJ 1850-1940. Ph.D. dissertation. Washington, DC: Howard University, 2001.
Local History Biography File: Turiya S.A. Raheem
Local History Subject File: Restaurants