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Downtown and Boardwalk Merchants 'Going All In' for 2014

Ocean City Council approves a $344,000 budget for Special Improvement Districts.

Downtown Ocean City lit up for the holidays.
Downtown Ocean City lit up for the holidays.
City Council approved a $343,588 budget for Ocean City's three Special Improvement Districts on Thursday, and business leaders vowed to make the most of the funding.

"We're going all in this year, keeping the momentum going," said Wes Kazmarck, president of the Boardwalk Merchants Association.

Kazmarck said merchants saw a slow start to summer 2013 but picked up business in August and the fall.

He said his group will sponsor fireworks on Father's Day Weekend and in the third week of July. Merchants will measure revenue as the group experiments with the new marketing opportunities. The Boardwalk Merchants will continue themed promotions such as the weekly Family Nights, Mummers Nights and Character Nights.

At the same time, two downtown business groups — the Retail Merchants Association and Main Street Ocean City — will merge on Jan. 1 into a single organization called the Downtown Merchants Association.

RMA President Skip Tolomeo and Main Street President Paul Cunningham will serve as co-chairs of the new association.

Cunningham reported to City Council on Thursday that the Downtown Merchants will use money formerly budgeted for a part-time director for purposes more directly related to marketing downtown businesses.

He said the group will remain associated with the Main Street New Jersey program at the associate level (which doesn't require a full-time director).

The downtown SID budget includes $5,000 for the Ocean City Regional Chamber of Commerce to provide social media marketing, to help plan events and to provide other services. (See Downtown OCNJ on Facebook.)

Cunningham said one goal of the new group will be to work collaboratively and to stop duplicating the efforts of other groups in town.

Ocean City's Special Improvement Districts include the retail section of the Ocean City Boardwalk, the downtown section of Asbury Avenue and the gateway section of Ninth Street. The budget is funded by assessments on businesses in the districts (based on storefront footage) and by revenue from events.. The budget goes to marketing, beautification and promoting special events.

City Council must vote again on the budget (after 28 days) before it becomes final. The budget currently includes $17,455 as part of an annual loan repayment, but City Council in past years has voted to include that payment in its own budget.

Karen Bolden December 13, 2013 at 10:49 AM
To the merchants: STAY OPEN PAST 5:00........and how about this concept........stay open all year for the locals.......this money is all well and good but honestly, it's so annoying when you go downtown and see a sign......."be back in 15 minutes" or closed......on a sunday or after 5:00 and god for bid you are a local who would like to go out to eat on a week night in the winter (past 5, that is)
Joe S. December 13, 2013 at 11:31 AM
I applaud City Counsel and the retail groups for their hard work trying to make Ocean City a better place to live and visit. We just spent a week vacationing here for our anniversary. The reason here, We love Ocean City. We were disappointed that not many places were open, but we were thrilled with the ones that were. As a small business person I understand why so many are closed. The stores open on the boards were supported by visitors and diehard boardwalk lovers. In town businesses were supported by regulars and the same visitors. Went to the Deauville Inn on Friday night and the dining hall was empty. Hard to stay open with the staff that is needed but so few customers. Thanks to those that welcomed us and gave us a great week! Support small business!
Joe S. December 13, 2013 at 11:37 AM
City Hall and the entire town look amazing with the lights and music. Turn it up!
Bob Taylor December 13, 2013 at 11:49 AM
Does the Boardwalk really need dedicated money just for themselves? Everyone knows where the boardwalk is. How about spending the money for the city as a whole, promoting the entire town instead of targeting the richest group of merchants. When Cape May promotes Victorian Weekend it's for the whole town, not just the mall or promenade. We should take a lesson.
Eleanor December 13, 2013 at 01:18 PM
I want to support small business and think we have some very good shops downtown. But the irregular hours, closing on weekdays or for a few months in winter is not very inviting. One reason people go to malls is because they set regular hours and all of the shops have to stick to them, so you don't make the trip only to find that a few places you wanted to go are closed. And IMHO we need some rejuvenation of the events and marketing. A parade on Asbury does nothing to bring people into the stores - it is a talent to plan events that will have 'spillover' into the local businesses and that takes more than putting your calendar up on Facebook.
holly buck December 13, 2013 at 01:49 PM
as a store owner on asbury ave - i couldn't agree more with complaints about inconsistent hours and not being open. our store is open DAILY 10-6 YEAR ROUND. it is difficult to sell anything when you are not open and even more difficult to maintain a customer base with wishy washy hours. granted- our hours are longer in the summer. Oddly enough I feel most complaints about the downtown are from store owners themselves. if all the stores were open daily and held true to the store hours, more people would shop bc they would know more than one store was open. i tried to shop at one store downtown on a thurs last week around noon to be greeted w a post it on the door that said to "call for hours- open most mornings and some saturdays". that's just embarrassing. it also helps to keep your store clean, well stocked and fresh looking- move stuff around!! oh- and when someone comes into the store- it should be understood to put your cigarette out and come in too - its a potential customer - don't assume they aren't going to buy anything so you might as well not bother trying. There are so many unique and adorable stores with tons of great items available. it would be nice if some people stop waiting for someone to "help" them and they just help themselves.
Karen Bolden December 13, 2013 at 02:59 PM
Holly...............you are so right. Most of the stores make it really difficult to spend my money in OC. What is the name of your store? I will make sure I come to it when I need something. I don't even bother anymore with most of the others for the very reasons you stated.
holly buck December 13, 2013 at 03:11 PM
I proudly own Sting Ray @ 854 Asbury Ave. Please don't get me wrong - I love the Ave and love Ocean City. I also own Old Salt @ 13th and Boardwalk so I see both sides of shopping in Ocean City.
Anonymous Guy December 13, 2013 at 04:20 PM
Asbury is great. But you can't buy anything after work.. I may as well hit the mall.... sorry.

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