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Businesses Seek Summer Help in Ocean City

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Summer help is a top priority for Boardwalk merchants when the tourists come to town.

By MADDY VITALE

The Boardwalk and downtown merchants are ready to welcome back the throngs of visitors that make Ocean City their summer vacation destination, not to mention the second homeowners who come year-round.

And in welcoming back visitors, merchants are filling their inventory, amusement rides are ready to go, and the hiring of summer help continues.

Merchants said Tuesday that the majority of their summer help is hired, but more employees are always needed. Some hires are unreliable. During the height of the busy season, when the number of Ocean City visitors swells to around 150,000, it is paramount to have enough seasonal help, which can be tricky, they said.

“Summer help is always one of the most challenging parts of what we do and this year is no different,” said Wes Kazmarck, president of the Boardwalk Merchants Association, which has roughly 130 merchants.

A job fair at the Ocean City Music Pier hosted by the Ocean City Regional Chamber of Commerce on Saturday, March 16, was a positive event for the merchants interested in hiring additional summer help, Kazmarck said. The event took the place of a job fair that was formerly hosted at the high school.

“I thought all around, it was a productive and positive thing. I know people outside of Philly came down for it,” he said. “The business turnout was good. You had a lot of opportunities with a wide variety of job options out there.”

Wes Kazmarck, right, co-owner of Surf Mall, pictured at the job fair with surf mall manager Kyle Howey. (Photo courtesy of the Chamber of Commerce)

Kazmarck, who owns Surf Mall in Ocean City, as well as shops in Sea Isle City and Stone Harbor, said he was able to hire eight employees through the job fair. Anyone interested in applying can visit surfmallocnj.com.

Kazmarck and other merchants who spoke about seasonal help said they are paying summer employees minimum wage, which is currently $15.13 an hour and greater, such as $15.25, with incentives for higher wages.

“Starting at over $15 an hour isn’t so bad for a first job. It is a great way to get your employment career started,” Kazmarck said.

Working on the Ocean City Boardwalk is exciting and never boring, he said.

“It is a concentrated season. The shifts go by real fast and it’s really busy,” Kazmarck said. “My employees say they love working for us because it’s fast-paced, busy and fun.”

Gillian’s Wonderland Pier is looking for ride operators among other openings.

Gillian’s Wonderland Pier, owned by Mayor Jay Gillian, is advertising for cashiers, ride operators and food and beverage employees.

The amusement park offers $15.25 an hour, with flexible schedules, team member rewards program and free ride wristbands.

Like most of the jobs on the Boardwalk, applicants need to be at least 16 years old. Applicants may apply online at Gillians.com.

“We are looking for team members with great guest services skills of all ages,” Gillian said.

Like the other merchants, Jody Levchuk, co-owner of Jilly’s Boardwalk and downtown shops, said Jilly’s really puts an emphasis on hiring year-round.

He said many applications come through the Jilly’s website. Jilly’s has a “Join our Team” button on the website jillysocnj.com.

“Since we hire year-round, the good news is we pretty much have the staff we need lined up. We have a lot of repeat staff. We have a strong team,” Levchuk, who is also an Ocean City councilman, noted.

Most of the Jilly’s shops are open year-round. Jilly’s employs anywhere from 35 employees to around 75 workers at the height of the summer season, Levchuk said.

“We get a lot of people who apply at the end of the summer for the following year,” he pointed out. “We line up a lot of people from early on. That’s what we like to do.”

Jilly’s T-Shirt Factory is one of the Jilly’s shops in Ocean City.

While many of the businesses hire several to around 100 employees, Playland’s Castaway Cove, which starts employees at $15.25 an hour, needs roughly 275 to 300 employees at the height of the season.

The amusement park, like Gillian’s, starts its hiring process early on to get the most qualified applicants.

“We started hiring in December. What we do is we invite all of our employees back. We send out a message to them that if they have a friend who would like to apply, they can apply,” said Brian Hartley, vice president of Playland’s Castaway Cove. “We get 30 or 40 employees this way. The benefit is the new employees know what to expect.”

Of the new hires so far for the season, Hartley said about half of them were through referrals.

While Hartley said the Chamber of Commerce job fair did not yield great results for the amusement park, the referral system and applicants applying online generated a lot of new hires.

“The job fair was a good idea, but it needs to be earlier in the year,” Hartley added.

Currently, Playland’s Castaway Cove has most of the employees needed to start the summer out.

Playland’s Castaway Cove has a host of jobs to apply for.

But with worker reliability sometimes an issue, the amusement park is happy to take new applications, Hartley said.

“We will always take applications,” he said. “I am looking through them now. Kids go through the training sometimes and change their mind.”

To apply online applicants can go to oceancityfun.com.

Unlike the Boardwalk, where merchants rely heavily on the summer tourism season for most of the sales, the roughly 100 downtown shops operate year-round.

Caitlin Quirk, president of the Downtown Merchants Association, said that the Chamber’s job fair “definitely helped merchants with their summer hiring.”

“Hiring is obviously a challenge every year, but this year, with the change to the job fair, we saw a big increase in candidates,” said Quirk, who owns Bowfish Kids, a boutique-style children’s shop on Asbury Avenue. “We were able to hire six people from the job fair.”

She also noted that the job fair brought a wider range of candidates for employers of all ages to choose from.

Overall, she said that the downtown merchants are doing well with hiring summer help so far. For more information about Bowfish Kids visit bowfishkids.com.

“The merchants are happy. A lot of the businesses bring on additional help for the summer,” Quirk said. “I find my best help is from hiring a high school freshman and sophomore because they are available to work in the summer and also over the holidays.”

Bowfish Kids is at 956 Asbury Ave. and is a boutique-style clothing shop for children. (Photo courtesy of Caitlin Quirk)