ATLANTIC CITY — When the sun appeared Sunday, people came out to Gardner’s Basin to walk near the water, get a bite to eat, visit the aquarium and pop in to several sheds that make up Crafters Village, a summer attraction closing forever after Monday.
“We’ve been here for eight years, and we love it,” Helena Sauer said of the Beads and Things business she has with her husband. “Some of the same people come here every year, and we’ve had to tell them that they are shutting us down.”
She and Bob Sauer sell handmade jewelry from one of 10 rented sheds along a walking pavilion at the basin. The city won’t allow the village to reopen after Labor Day because of environmental regulations.
Officials from the state Department of Environmental Protection said in April the village and crafters don’t comply with requirements attached to state and federal grants the city received in the 1970s.
The city received more than $500,000 from the state’s Green Acres program and from the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund when the park was established with requirements that businesses support conservation, recreation and open space.
Crafters said they were told a few weeks before they were set to open at the village this summer that they would not be able to sell at all this season.
Mayor Don Guardian told The Press in May the DEP told him the National Park Service would allow the crafters to sell items through Monday. A July reminder notice said crafters had until Sept. 30 to remove their items from the sheds.
Sauer, who lives in Atlantic City in summer and Florida in the winter, said the news of the closing “was a shock” and at first thought it was a joke. Sauer said she and her husband returned this summer to sell jewelry, even if it is for the last time.
“I still remember seeing them for the first time,” she said. “We came here with a friend from Brigantine for breakfast one day, and I walked over here when I saw all the sellers. I turned to her and said, ‘How can I get one of those?’ And then I did.”
People stopped in and out of the crafters’ sheds Sunday after they docked their boats at the basin or came from eating lunch at one of the nearby restaurants.
Dennis Forte, of Brigantine, said he has been to the village many times and didn’t want to see the crafters go.
“They talk about trying to build the city back up, and they’re going to close this down?” he asked. “It doesn’t make any sense.”
Tim Hanley, who was visiting Forte from Boca Raton, Florida, said the crafters had great appeal and seemed like they were in a good location.
Kenneth Oreggio, of Atlantic City, sold several sculpture pieces and items Sunday from his SIS Designs. Oreggio and other crafters said they were disappointed their season is cut short. They usually sell until mid-October, they said.
“I’ve built a business around this location,” he said. “They destroyed my business, and we had to fight to reopen this year. I’m going to try to sell as much as I can in the next 48 hours. I don’t have anywhere else to sell right now.”
As shoppers stopped by Kimberly Cantrell’s boutique, Kimmie’s Knick Knack Shack, they signed a “Save the Crafters” petition that will be presented to the City Council at its meeting Wednesday.
The council is expected to vote on a resolution to approve a developer’s plan to renovate and expand in the area.
“It has been a dream of mine to have a store like this,” Cantrell said. “I’m able to connect with people, and a lot of people really love it down here. We’ve sort of become ambassadors to the city and show a different part of its culture.”