CAPE MAY — Richard Meyers dropped out of high school in Collingswood to help his father run the family’s retail store on the Washington Street Mall.
Meyers, 49, of Lower Township, said he never regretted that decision.
“Everything played out the way I would have wanted it,” he said. “I had a calling for this business.”
Meyers’ late father, Bill Meyers, started the store when the mall was in its infancy. The early start in part explains the store’s size — about three times larger than most others on the mall.
“My father started by selling things at flea markets. He did very well in Cape May and decided to look for a permanent location,” he said.
Meyers’ mother, Gloria Meyers, of Lower Township, still helps out at the store, he said.
Import Bazaar has 300 varieties of garden and yard flags, ranging from the patriotic to sports to seasonal. It also sells handbags, wind chimes and humorous signs for backyards or basement bars.
The store’s flags are so popular that Meyers dedicated an entire online store to them, with free shipping on orders over $20.
The store’s inventory is constantly changing to suit evolving tastes, he said. Meyers attends annual retail conventions in Las Vegas and New York to select his merchandise.
“We offer a little of everything, from 99-cent keychains to stained-glass windows for $300,” he said. “Some things are my taste. Some things are not. ... If it doesn’t sell, you have to move it out. Space is more valuable than inventory.”
The pedestrian mall has more than 70 stores spread out across three city blocks surrounded by metered on-street parking.
Merchants at the Washington Street Mall often compare notes about business and pay a fee so the mall can offer promotions and market its restaurants and shops.
“Our goal is the same, to get people to come down here,” he said.
Meyers said he has seen less foot traffic in his store so far this summer.
The retail industry is still recovering from the recession in 2007, when New Jersey had 34,544 businesses that employed 466,715 people. As of 2011, four years later, the state has still not recovered in either jobs or businesses, according to the latest numbers from the U.S. Census Bureau.
“It’s gotten harder the last few years. The economy hasn’t helped,” he said.
Hurricane Sandy seems to have cut into tourism numbers even in Cape May, which was largely spared physical damage from the storm, Meyers said.
“I don’t know if people aren’t coming down because they’re still fixing up their own damaged homes,” he said.
Kelly Windell, of Souderton, Pa., bought a garden flag for her home.
“It’s to remind me of the beach,” she said.
Laura Garner, of Washington, D.C., bought a summer flag to fly outside her home.
“I’ve come here many times before,” Garner said. “They have better prices than back home.”
Meyers said the best part about running his own business is being his own boss.
“That’s the worst part, too,” he said.
But Meyers said he intends for his own son, Alexander, 17, to go to college before making any decision about joining the family business.
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