By MADDY VITALE
In just a few short months, summer will be here and visitors will be heading to Ocean City to enjoy the beaches, Boardwalk and downtown.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic, however, merchants on the boards have had their share of difficulty finding seasonal help to operate the rides at the amusement parks, make and serve food and sell merchandise.
The Boardwalk Merchants Association participated in a couple of job fairs at area high schools over the past few years. But the majority of applicants didn’t bother to come in for interviews, merchants said.
Some merchants decided to hold a job fair at one of their locations.
On Friday from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday from 9 a.m. to noon, merchants will be available to speak with prospective employees during the Boardwalk Merchants 2023 Summer and Fall Job Fair at Manco and Manco Pizza’s Ninth Street and Boardwalk location.
“The big difference between the job fairs in the past and this one is people will be coming looking for work,” explained Wes Kazmarck, president of the Boardwalk Merchants Association. “I don’t think that has been the definite case at the high school job fairs. The results haven’t been great, so we are trying this.”
He noted that the timing of the two-day job fair also coincided with spring break for a lot of colleges.
“College kids on spring break can shoot down to Ocean City, lock down their summer jobs, go back to school and be all set for summer,” Kazmarck added.
The job fair also gives kids a variety of ways to make money over the summer into the fall, he said.
“I think the job fair really allows kids to see what they want to do,” Kazmarck said. “They could work retail, or the rides. It also allows us, as the merchants, to see where people best fit.”
Kazmarck, co-owner of Surf Mall, said he is always looking for good candidates to join his team.
“I always have spots open for awesome kids who want to work,” he said. “If they are great, we will find a fit.”
Of the 70 to 80 Boardwalk merchants, a lot of them offer pay of $15 an hour, he pointed out.
Playland’s Castaway Cove Vice President Brian Hartley said the job fairs at the schools had poor results for his team.
“We have all left the job fairs feeling confident and then when we get back only about 10 percent of the applications we give out (are returned),” he said, noting that the problems began during the pandemic. “COVID changed everything.”
But he is optimistic that the job fair this coming weekend will help some of the Boardwalk merchants find good help for the coming season.
“We are hoping to get people who want to work and are available April through October,” Hartley said. “We are looking for anyone over 16 years of age who wants to work in a good, fun environment and make a lot of friends.”
He continued, “They have the chance to make lifelong friends working here and the pay starts at $15 an hour.”
Between all of Playland’s properties, there are about 340 employees. Currently, there are about 40 openings.
Gillian’s Wonderland Pier is advertising for cashiers, ride operators and food and beverage employees. The amusement park offers $15 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 to apply.
While Jody Levchuk, co-owner of the Jilly’s Boardwalk and downtown shops, is not involved in the upcoming job fair, he said that they may need fill-ins during the season to join the Jilly’s team.
“We are actually sitting pretty good with our help situation for now,” Levchuk said. “Lots of kids are coming back from prior years, as well as adults who are seasonal. I’m sure we will be looking for fill-ins as the season approaches.”