By KELLY McCARTHY
Upon graduating from the University of Pittsburgh in 2012 with a degree in marketing and business, Ben Duncan saw a downturn in the job market. That didn’t slow him down.
“I got my real estate license,” said Duncan, who grew up spending summers in his beloved Ocean City, where his parents have owned a home for 20 years.
By fall of 2012, Duncan was relocating from West Chester, Pennsylvania to start a new job at a real estate firm in Ocean City. Hurricane Sandy loomed, but before it transitioned into an extratropical cyclone and made landfall in New Jersey, Duncan and his family evacuated.
“It was a hectic time,” he recalled.
Duncan said that once residents were permitted to go back to their homes, he returned to the real estate agency’s two-story office, which suffered water damage, and the sales staff was forced to cram into the second-floor space to be able to get back to work.
He dug in his heels, went on to learn the business of the agency’s rental division, and eventually had an epiphany that led to a new career.
“We had to say a line, ‘Bring your own linens and towels, etc.,’” Duncan recounted of those early days booking rentals and communicating with renters.
And so, in the summer of 2017 he founded South Jersey Linens in a small office space on West Avenue.
“It took three years before we broke even,” Duncan said. “You can’t just jump right away. It takes time and a lot of work.”
Once the business got off the ground, Duncan needed more space.
“We developed this building in 2021 and moved here summer of 2021,” Duncan said about South Jersey Linen’s current location in Ocean City at 231 West Avenue, which encompasses the first floor of the building.
He helped develop the property with his father, Michael Duncan, owner of Duncan Homes, a developer, builder and investor of properties in New Jersey.
Today, South Jersey Linens is a thriving business.
While South Jersey Linens works with homeowners who offer their products as part of their rental package, Duncan noted that the majority of property owners at the shore require renters to bring their own linens.
“If you are renting a four- or five-bedroom property, that can add up,” Duncan said.
Luckily, at South Jersey Linens, also known as SJ Linens, in addition to single items there are packages to fit every need, and budget.
“Linens are 90 percent of our business,” Duncan said. “We also do a lot of full-size cribs that are foldable, easy to move around, and then there’s highchairs, and beach equipment.”
With everything from mattress pads, crib sheets, pillowcases, luxurious soft pillows, all-season down alternative blankets, beach towels, beach umbrellas, beach chairs and even a Pathfinder Radio Flyer Wagon to cart the little ones, Duncan prides himself on customer service, and family values.
Duncan himself is a family man.
He is ready for a busy 2023 summer season. In addition to looking forward to spending time with his nearly 1-year-old baby girl, Cecilia, and his wife and college sweetheart, Colleen, he is geared up and ready to serve both loyal and existing customers and new clients throughout Ocean City, Sea Isle City, Avalon and Stone Harbor, which SJ Linens services.
While customers can walk into SJ Linens’ headquarters at 231 West Avenue, most orders are done online via the company’s website, sjlinens.com, which is user friendly.
People can order what they need, hit the check-out button, and head to the shore knowing that the linens and other rentals, such as beach equipment, will be delivered to their intended property, and picked up once customers check out of their vacation rental.
SJ Linens partners with a commercial, boutique laundromat that uses hotel quality detergent. Once SJ Linens receives the laundered linens from the laundromat, the linens are packaged. They are then sealed and labeled with the bed size.
“When we package up orders, we put them into tote bins. And the bins go into the trucks for delivery,” Duncan said.
In addition to running SJ Linens, Duncan is a realtor with Long & Foster, in Ocean City. And, in the off season, he is engaged in property development with his father.
“Even during COVID and when the economy slows down, people always want to come back to Ocean City,” he said.
South Jersey Linens is located at 231 West Avenue, Ocean City. For more information, call (609) 840-6539 or visit sjlinens.com.