How Stephen Decatur students help local businesses


Curtesy of Matt Ortt

Coastal Salt is one of Matt Ortt Companies’ newest restaurants

Renee Fohner, Staff Writer

Stephan Decatur alumni, Matt Ortt, is an entrepreneur who owns two restaurants and manages numerous others in the local community. Employing about 47 current Decatur students and another 30 graduates, Matt Ortt Companies employ roughly 70 past and future Decatur alumni throughout all establishments.

“These students are an untapped source,” stated Ortt when asked what some of the benefits are for hiring local student employees. “We have the ability to take students and train them our way without having to break their old habits from previous jobs,” stated Ortt.

Caroline Engle, a junior at Virginia Wesleyan University and Stephan Decatur alumni has been working for Matt Ortt Companies for two years. She was pleased to have the opportunity to work for Ortt because “my previous employer would not allow me to serve until I was 22” Engle stated.  She worked at Coastal Salt last summer and plans on working there again.

“I have always had a good experience and I have learned so much about the hospitality and customer service industry as a whole. I have learned to navigate through hardships and life threatening scenarios along with learning to work together to make the ship run smoothly throughout the process,” Engle stated.

Along with partners Ralph DeAngelous and Stu Diepold, Matt Ortt Companies has successfully opened Coastal Salt last May, located on 16th Street Atlantic Avenue, Ocean City. They recently opened their doors to their newest restaurant, Coastal Smoke, a smokehouse-style restaurant in West Ocean City.

Many businesses suffered through COVID-19, and building a new restaurant in the middle of it lead to several challenges. “Windows took almost two months to come in and the plant with our electricity materials were nearly impossible to obtain due to it closing down for safety precautions. We also have to be aware of the COVID-19 protocols, making it difficult to sit everyone,” stated Ortt.

Although it took great measures to get the supplies, “Opening night went extremely well, it was very busy and I am very excited to see this restaurant succeed,” stated Ortt.

Matt Ortt Companies also manages several other restaurant establishments including the Ocean Pines Yacht Club, Ocean Pines Clubhouse, Hooters and Ocean Pines Beach Club.

The company has been greatly resourceful in using students as employees. Providing students with these jobs gives them insight in the restaurant industry at an early age. Decatur students and alumni help Matt Ortt Companies successfully run and manage various restaurant businesses.