Ocean City is welcoming its guests back on Memorial Day weekend in ways that make it possible, in the time of social distancing, to still enjoy your favorite shops without leaving home.
While Gov. Phil Murphy is easing restrictions on some retail stores, and restaurants have been allowed to do curbside takeout and delivery for weeks, Ocean City is offering a Virtual Summer Kick-Off Memorial Day Weekend online at https://www.facebook.com/events/s/downtown-virtual-summer-kick-o/523697138326879/. Shoppers may also visit the blog at www.oceancityvacation.com/blog/summerkickoff.
Customers can enjoy a host of specials, discounts, and live virtual events to view and make selections throughout the weekend.
Michele Gillian, executive director of the Ocean City Regional Chamber of Commerce, said the mom-and-pop shops that fill the downtown and delight residents and visitors throughout the year, need their customers back – even if it is virtually.
Stores, other than those that offer food and other essential goods, have been shut down in the state amid the COVID-19 pandemic since March.
“Now, more than ever, it is so important that we are supporting local businesses. Even with curbside pickup, that only accounts for 10 percent of the business,” Gillian stressed Friday. “We thought the virtual event was a great way for people who are in town, or outside of town, to shop downtown Ocean City. We do need the support of the downtown if we want to see those businesses in 2021.”
She added that more than Superstorm Sandy, which hit in October of 2012, the pandemic has really hurt the local businesses.
“We really need the support of the Ocean City resident, the second homeowner, the guest,” Gillian noted. “We really need it because the future of small business is in danger.”
The virtual shopping event brings many of the downtown businesses together to offer a variety of merchandise. It also serves as a reminder that what makes Ocean City special has not changed.
“This event is so important because it keeps you in touch with your favorite downtown store. If you aren’t in the downtown or on the Boardwalk, go online and shop,” Gillian said.
Gillian said like the success of the area restaurants, she hopes the event will prove to be a hit.
“Hopefully, all of our attractions will be open again in the near future,” she said.
Candice Kolins, co-owner of Cruise Control Gear, in Stainton’s Gallery of Shops, with her sister, Kristen Vogelbacher, said they are thrilled with another virtual event.
Back in April, they enjoyed success selling their elite activewear, as did other downtown merchants, with the Virtual Girls Weekend.
“We are very excited to do a virtual event for Memorial Day weekend. We are such a strong country. We will get through this, but I think it is so important to support our small businesses by shopping online,” Kolins said Friday.
She added that Cruise Control Gear is offering 30 percent off and a Father’s Day giveaway of a men’s performance polo and shorts.
There are several ways to purchase from Cruise Control, either by visiting the online store at Cruisecontrolgear.com or on Instagram as well as on Facebook.
Kolins said they miss customers coming into the store and she hopes that things will change in the near future. But shopping online from home is safe, and also fun, she added.
“We are good retail therapy,” she said with a laugh.
Jody Levchuk, co-owner of the Jilly’s Boardwalk shops with his brother, Randy, said Memorial Day Weekend is a bit different for merchants on the boards because many of them do not have online stores.
Merchants selling essential items such as food may allow customers in their stores. But other business owners have to take customers’ orders whether online or in front of the store.
For Levchuk, who was elected to City Council this month, he and his brother got a bit creative.
All arcades and amusements are still shuttered until the governor decides to reopen them.
But that does not mean people can’t buy Jilly’s Fun Cards for Jilly’s Arcade at 12th and Boardwalk, Levchuk explained.
Customers can go right to the front of the store, where there is an ATM-type of display for the Fun Cards. Shoppers may also visit ShopJillys.com to purchase an array of items from Jilly’s stores without leaving home.
Levchuk said, similar to restaurants offering curbside pickup, the Boardwalk merchants are able to open the doors and without allowing anyone in, people may place their orders with the employees.
While it makes for some inventive and at times cumbersome ways to shop, Levchuk said, it appears the business community is doing its part to follow the restrictions the governor has in place.
“The stores are all complying with the governor’s orders. We are being open to the extent we can,” Levchuk said. “The city is doing its part to enforce the laws and my hat’s off to the mayor. There is a plan in Ocean City for the safe reopening of all businesses here and I hope all of the business community knows that.”