By Tim Kelly
Ocean City’s historic Bourse Building, a landmark at 761 Asbury Avenue for 123 years, has been sold.
Real estate records indicate the building, whose lead tenant, Interiors by Joann, has been operating there since 1990, was sold by local attorney Joel A. Mott III to an investment group, Bourse Building LLC, for $1.7 million.
Mott, contacted by phone in Florida just prior to leaving for a vacation, confirmed the sale Friday. He said the investment group planned to use the 6,000 square feet of street level retail space for a new women’s clothing establishment.
“Interiors by Joann is a great tenant, and Joann (Thompson) is a friend of mine,” Mott said. “A (condition of the sale) was that she would have a year’s notice (to vacate the building).”
The Bourse was designed and built in 1895 by Ocean City’s longest-tenured mayor and architect, Joseph G. Champion. The original street level businesses were a luncheonette, a real estate office and a law office.
Published reports stated those businesses moved out in the 1930s and the retail space and facade were reconfigured to accommodate G.C. Murphy, a “five and dime” chain and the first national business to locate in Ocean City. After decades in town, the store closed and was eventually replaced by Interiors by Joann.
Samantha Huck, an Interiors by Joann manager, said she was happy to discuss the sale and lay to rest rumors that the business would be closing after 28 years.
“We hope to remain on Asbury Avenue and certainly we hope to stay in Ocean City,” she said. “We aren’t thrilled to have to move, but it is an opportunity to re-think and re-brand and come back as an even better full-service interior design firm. Everything happens for a reason.”
At the time of this article’s deadline, not much was officially known about the identity of the person or persons behind Bourse Building LLC or specifics on the group’s plan for the building.
Kristina Doliszny, of Ocean City Real Estate Group, who helped broker the sale, declined to comment pending a discussion with her client.
“A big part of why we are successful is our confidentiality,” she said, noting that her client could not be reached until early next week. “I really need to inform (the buyers about this article) before I talk about it.”
“I can say this much: this group has a track record of success with mixed-use developments and investing in its properties for the benefit of all. It will be a great addition to America’s Greatest Family Resort,” Doliszny added.
Tenants on the building’s upper floors will not be affected by the sale, Mott said. Currently, Mott has his law office there, although a tenant said he was “basically retired and not here very often.”
According to a directory, the building also houses Ocean City Abstract, a title insurance company; the office of Tammi L. Grovatt-Dawkins; Christina Amey, an architect; and the offices of Kevin R. Dougherty, Ph.D, and Karen Leonard, LLC.
“The buyers were interested in the building as a rental property,” Mott said.
Most of the tenants have two or three-year leases in force and there are no plans to ask anyone to leave, he said.
An employee said there was one vacant office currently available for lease.
“Bourse” is a French term meaning “place of exchange,” according to the website of Philadelphia’s much larger Bourse Building, which thrives today as an office building and upscale food court. Located on 5th Street between Market and Chestnut, it is just steps away from the Liberty Bell and claims to be “America’s oldest” Bourse.
That claim actually might not be true. Ocean City’s Bourse has the same year, 1895, inscribed on its cornerstone, as that of its Philadelphia counterpart. Thus, depending on what month the Ocean City building was completed, the local Bourse could lay claim to that title.