STAFFORD – It is just shy of one week since the tragic passing of a beloved local restaurant owner, and the community is still in mourning.
Members of the community came out to celebrate the short, but very full life of 36-year-old Timothy Kohlheim at the Stafford Township Firehouse on August 20. The event was meant to celebrate the life lost and honor his memory among friends – and the community did not disappoint.
The memorial began at 11 a.m., filling up quickly with dozens of supporters. Kohlheim’s wife Samantha greeted the many guests, who gave her hugs and kind words. The two little Kohlheim girls ran circles around their mother and the room, filling it with laughter and a bit of light-heartedness on such a heavy occasion.
Members of “Tim’s Tribe,” the Shore Fire Grille family, showed up in droves in their matching t-shirts.
When you walked in the firehouse, a large portrait of the Kohlheim family was on display. Opposite that was a table boasting “Tim’s Tribe” pins for the taking as well as small donation cups.
Shortly after 11 a.m., the donation cups were already halfway full.
The event continued until 7 p.m.
A Lasting Legacy
Kohlheim, owner of the local eatery Shore Fire Grille, fell victim to a devastating car accident on August 15. According to Stafford Police, Kohlheim was traveling westbound on Route 72 when he fatally collided with an attenuator vehicle that was going to be used to close the lane for nighttime construction.
Kohlheim leaves behind his wife, Samantha, and two young daughters, Avalon and Addison. Kohlheim was the owner of Shore Fire Grille restaurant with locations in both Manahawkin and Surf City.
Since the news of his passing, Kohlheim’s memory has been continuously praised and honored by family, friends, and even competitor businesses, as a great guy who met a tragic and untimely fate.
Local donut shop Shore Good Donuts in Ship Bottom posted the following sentiments the day after Kohlheim’s passing: “Absolutely heartbroken after hearing the news on the passing of our friend Tim from Shore Fire Grille. Praying for his family.”
Another Long Beach Island spot, Scojo’s Restaurant in Surf City, posted the following: “As fellow restaurant owners we know how much the financial cost is and we have decided that though we cannot lessen the pain – we would like to help ease the burden on his family and his restaurant family.” Scojo’s donated 20 percent of all sales on August 16 to Kohlheim’s family.
In neighboring Barnegat Township, Vinnie’s Italian Restaurant & Pizzeria followed suit and donated 20 percent of sales on August 17 to the family.
“I did not know Tim from Shore Fire Grill, but I cannot dismiss the kind and selfless legacy that he left behind. My hope is that all of us who are touched by this tragedy directly or indirectly (such as us at Vinnies) try to perpetuate kindness in our everyday lives. Instead of looking down on the less fortunate let us build them up…My hope is that the outpouring of love and well wishes may bring your hearts some comfort,” read a post from the restaurant on August 17.
Kohlheim’s legacy stretched even further throughout Ocean County, receiving condolences even from Wallach’s Farm Market & Deli in Toms River.
Wallach’s posted on August 16: “The Wallach’s Farms family was devastated to hear about the passing of Tim Kohlheim from Shore Fire Grille. Tim was always one of our biggest supporters, more than just a customer but a friend as well. Tim’s work & generosity made both Stafford Township & Long Beach Island better communities. Our thoughts and prayers are with his wife Samantha and their daughters.”
The community is not only mourning the loss of Kohlheim, but some are also looking back on precious moments shared with the restaurateur over the last few years.
Stafford Township EMS shared a memory from one day in November 2018, when the squad decided to have lunch at the Manahawkin Shore Fire Grille location. Not only did a random resident offer them a $50 gift card, but Kohlheim picked up their entire bill that day.
“He was always taking care of us,” Stafford EMS members reminisced.
Stafford EMS also changed their Facebook profile to the logo now attributed to Kohlheim’s legacy. Donning the signature blue flame of the Shore Fire Grille sign, the logo coins them members of “Tim’s Tribe.”
Many other locals have taken to posting this logo as their profile photo in honor of Kohlheim as well.
A frequenter of the Jersey Shore and big-time celeb Ray Romano even showed his support for Tim’s Tribe on August 19 on Long Beach Island. A photo of Romano and the Shore Fire Grille staff can be found on the Tim’s Tribe Facebook page.
On August 17, the community came together for a candlelight vigil in Kohlheim’s honor at the Ocean Acres Park. Dozens of people came out in support, including EMS and law enforcement personnel.
“Tim and his family are friends of our department. They have been very supportive and generous to us and the entire community. He will be missed. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his young family and friends,” wrote Stafford Police.
“Our community tragically lost a local business owner and good friend. Tim Kohlheim, owner of the Shore Fire Grille II here in Surf City, was a man who supported his community and always extended a helping hand to those in need. Our thoughts are with his family, his friends, the staff at Shore Fire Grille, and everyone in the community who was lucky enough to know Tim,” wrote Surf City Police.
Ever since his tragic passing, there has been a continuous outpouring of support for his wife, daughters and business, and an excess of kind words about his life. There has even been a GoFundMe page started, called “Gone Too Soon.” As of August 19, the GoFundMe has raised $60,175 by a whopping 850 donors.
“This man was one of a kind; no matter what someone needed he would come up with this well thought out plan within minutes, no matter how complex or simple it was to pull off he would perfect it and always have a success. Whether it was helping a sick friend make it to the top of old Barney or plan something like the house tour with the PTO. This man was willing to do anything for this amazing community we call home,” wrote Chris Laba, creator of the GoFundMe and close friend to Kohlheim.
“The outpouring of comments on the internet is amazing this man was truly loved by all,” he added.
Laba put it nicely, stating that Kohlheim’s presence would require at least three people to replace. While he may have meant that in a business-sense, it seems undeniably true in a community-sense as well.
In the wake of the heartfelt comments and extraordinarily generous donations, Kohlheim’s wife Samantha took to social media on August 19 to say thank you to the community.
“I can not begin to thank everyone enough for your outpouring of love and support through this very tragic time. Feeling the love and support from our community truly makes me believe that I can do this!” she wrote.
She noted that, despite the devastating loss, the Shore Fire Grille family continues to “crush it” at the Surf City location. The Manahawkin location will remain closed until further notice.
A Life Lived Well
Tim Kohlheim may be gone, but he is certainly not forgotten.
Kohlheim was embedded in the Stafford and LBI communities his whole life. He was born in Toms River in 1982 and graduated from Southern Regional High School in 2001. Taking a brief break from New Jersey, Kohlheim studied culinary arts in Florida before making his way back to New Jersey to set down his roots.
He and Samantha married on October 8, 2011 and later welcomed two beautiful girls, Avalon and Addison, into the world.
“Tim had a passion for food. Whether it was creating a new burger of the month, or creating specials week after week, and always nailed it. Tim also had a passion for helping people and making Manahawkin, better one way or another. Tim had a knack of having an idea and turning it into reality,” read his obituary.
Not only this, but he was a huge Philadelphia Eagles fan; one lucky enough to see them win the Super Bowl.
While services may be over, the Kohlheim family continues on. To help the family with expenses and support Kohlheim’s local business, you can donate at the GoFundMe page at gofundme.com/f/79a85d-gone-to-soon.