- Associated Press - Sunday, November 27, 2016

OCEAN CITY, N.J. (AP) - Winter at the beach can look gloomy, with empty boardwalks, beaches and parking lots. Population decreases dramatically after Labor Day, but shore business owners say special events, a consistent market and products that are in demand make it feasible for some to stay open all year long.

To Rosalyn Lifshin, co-owner of Sun Rose Words and Music on Asbury Avenue in Ocean City, she and Nancy Miller are providing a service for tourists and year-round residents.

“We want to serve the community, because we offer a convenience in our books and our office supplies,” Lifshin told The Press of Atlantic City (https://bit.ly/2flewmm).

Lifshin and Miller purchased the store in 1997 and moved it from Sixth Street to its current location at 756 Asbury Ave. The 40-year-old bookstore operates seven days a week, nearly 365 days a year, with the exception of holidays.

Books are still a big draw, Lifshin said, but the store also caters to residents who have home offices. She said she sees a spike in business after the new year as tax season begins.

“So we get people coming in for files and paper,” she said. “It’s so much easier to just stop in to Sun Rose than to go offshore.”

Lifshin said the Ocean City Chamber of Commerce has been instrumental in marketing the downtown as a year-round shopping destination, coordinating special events, which helps year-round businesses like hers.

“They’ve brought a lot of structure to our merchants association. They’ve really been an asset to us,” she said.

Chamber Executive Director Michele Gillian said businesses have to figure out whether it is financially viable for them to stay open through the winter.

“It does take a lot,” she said. “It is difficult because our traffic is not as active as it is in the summer, and they do sacrifice to be open.”

Gillian said that, over the years, the downtown and Boardwalk merchants and the chamber have developed events that draw tourists and second-home owners back to the island in the coldest months.

“We have a calendar of events that goes out weekly to about 65,000 of our friends and neighbors to keep people engaged and let them know what’s going on,” she said.

The chamber coordinates events like Earlier than the Bird shopping the Saturday before Thanksgiving, Our Miracle on Asbury Avenue on Black Friday, First Night on New Year’s Eve and First Day on the Beach on New Year’s Day.

“Now with the internet, you’re definitely competing, but that shopping experience, people still want to shop. They want to see their product,” Gillian said.

Ed Berger, president of the Margate Business Association, said 90 percent of local businesses in the Downbeach community are year-round due to a lack of transient accommodations in the city.

“We’re pretty much a year-round community. I think that Ocean City and Wildwood and some of these other cities, they’re more tourist towns,” Berger said. “There are no hotel rooms in Margate.”

He said save for a few businesses - ice cream parlors and bathing suit shops - the retailers and restaurants find a year-round customer base for their services.

Tracey DuFault, executive director of the Greater Wildwood Chamber of Commerce, said year-round business in the four towns that encompass the Wildwoods is bolstered by weekend conventions.

“You obviously need the customers to stay open year-round,” DuFault said. “We are fortunate that we do have the Wildwoods Convention Center. On the weekends, they do a tremendous job of offering big events.”

She said about 98 percent of Boardwalk businesses close during the winter. Some hotels and motels, as well as a handful of restaurants and businesses along Pacific Avenue, stay open through the winter.

“And that’s because they can offer the amenities that clients want,” DuFault said.

She said that lately, businesses are extending their operating season later into the fall.

“Back 25 years ago, you really could just roll up the whole town at the end of Labor Day. And you’re seeing that businesses are staying open later and later,” she said.

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Information from: The Press of Atlantic City (N.J.), https://www.pressofatlanticcity.com

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