Boardwalk Businesses Already Seeking Summer Help

Boardwalk Businesses Already Seeking Summer Help

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Playland's Castaway Cove is getting a jump-start on hiring summer help.

By MADDY VITALE

Here’s something to think about. In just a few short months, amusement parks and other businesses on the Ocean City Boardwalk will offer visitors family-friendly fun from rides to shopping to food.

But reliable employees, who know the products, can operate the rides and be flexible with their schedules, round out what it takes to make the experience enjoyable for the thousands and thousands of visitors who choose the resort for a getaway each year.

After a challenging end to last summer, with staffing shortages due in part to employees leaving early to start school or play sports, merchants and amusement park operators say they are getting an earlier start on their hiring for this summer than in past years.

They want to make sure that they get the right people and enough of them.

Brian Hartley, vice president of Playland’s Castaway Cove, which features 32 rides and activities at 10th Street and the Boardwalk, said the key to a successful season starts with early hiring. Playland opens April 9.

Gillian’s Wonderland Pier and Jilly’s shops are also seeking employees not only throughout the year, but now, for that push in the months leading up to the summer season to ensure there are enough qualified people to do the job.

Thrillseekers enjoy the roller-coaster at Playland’s Castaway Cove.

“Last year we struggled more at the end of the season because college kids were leaving. It was more difficult getting through the last weeks of August and September, so this year we decided to start earlier and capture some kids who are on the ball and already thinking of summer,” Hartley said in an interview Tuesday. “They are the ones you really want. They are the go-getters out there being preemptive and figuring out what to do and not just be pushed out there to get a job.”

Playland’s Castaway Cove sent out an email blast this week seeking people 16 and older who have a desire to work in a fun environment.

To visit Playland’s website, go to https://oceancityfun.com/.

Like the other businesses interviewed for this story, Playland’s is paying New Jersey’s new minimum wage of $13 an hour to start. The wages vary with experience. Ride operators are trained for six weeks and then buddy up with an experienced operator, Hartley said.

Most of all, Playland’s offers a fun work environment, he said.

“A lot of the kids become great friends and hang out offseason together,” Hartley said. “And we are very flexible with our scheduling.”

Gillian’s Wonderland Pier is seeking employees to add to their team of longtime employees.

In addition to college and sports resulting in employees leaving before the end of the summer, there were also fewer J-1 visas issued for students to come over from other countries and work last year because of the pandemic.

Hartley said he hopes to hire about a dozen J-1 workers this year. Last year, Playland’s hired only a few, because of the lack of students coming over to work.

In addition to earlier hiring, Hartley said that in February there will be job fairs Playland’s will attend. The goal is to have roughly 250 employees hired for the summer.

“We want to have everybody hired and get paperwork done before opening day, so that they could start working the first weekend,” Hartley said.

Ocean City Mayor Jay Gillian, whose family started Gillian’s Wonderland Pier in 1929, said the time to really start seeking good help for the amusement park is year-round.

“We start by going through last year’s team,” Gillian said. “And really, these days, hiring is a year-round process. So we use every process available.”

Gillian’s Wonderland Pier features entertainment for the entire family.

And, he noted, it is all about the quality of employees, many of whom have been with Gillian’s for several years at its amusement park and pizzeria complex at 6th Street and the Boardwalk.

“We do have a great return of team members. And 6th Street Pizza is open year-round,” he added. “We just closed for a few weeks now to clean the equipment and paint. Being open more gives us an advantage of retaining team members.”

To learn more about Gillian’s, visit http://www.gillians.com/.

Like Hartley and Gillian, Jody Levchuk, co-owner with his brother, Randy Levchuk, of the Jilly’s Boardwalk shops, said they are always seeking good employees. Jilly’s shops, which also include the newest one in the downtown, are open year-round.

Levchuk said the difference this year from prior years is that they are making a bigger push for summer hires to make sure they have qualified employees when the high season begins. To see Jilly’s job openings, visit Jillysocnj.com/jobs.

We are trying to rev up events and the more that we do, the more help we need,” Levchuk said. “We have our application online and all of our descriptions are listed. We will interview and hire people now, with a date in mind of July and August.”

He is anticipating a shortage in hires, he said.

“That is why we are trying to hire earlier for the summer,” he said.

Jilly’s French Fry Factory is among the Jilly’s shops that are hiring.

Jilly’s shops go from several employees during the year to up to 100 in the summer. Levchuk hopes to hire more students on J-1 visas this year than last year.

“They come here and they just want to work,” he said.

Playland’s, Gillian’s and Jilly’s businesses all put an emphasis on hiring locally.

“Everyone who lives in the community knows someone who worked at Jilly’s,” said Levchuk, who is also an Ocean City councilman.

And there are plenty of reasons for that, he pointed out.

“Priority number one is promoting a fun work environment. I personally don’t want anything less than that,” he said. “But we also work really hard and there has to be good work ethic and a good drive.”

Jilly’s Candy Factory is a newer addition to the Jilly’s shops.