O.C. seasonal store finds  success in toys

Andrew Pessano, 35, of Egg Harbor Township, is the third-generation owner of Pessano’s Variety in Ocean City.

OCEAN CITY - Andrew Pessano, the owner of a third-generation seasonal business in Ocean City, says his retired father repeats this line to him often: "There is a time to fish and a time to dry nets."

The business' season - which stretches from May through October - brings long days during the hectic tourist months when seasonal shops have to make a year's worth of revenue.

Handling this hustle/downtime cycle is part of the business and is what Pessano, 35, takes from his father's advice. "You're working in the summer. In the winter, you're fishing," he said.

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With locations on Third Street and on the Boardwalk, Pessano's Variety is in its 67th season, opening as a seasonal corner drug store by pharmacist William Pessano.

The offerings changed when his son, Dave Pessano, now retired and 75, took over the business and concentrated on over-the-counter medicines and a variety store with beach items and toys, said Dave, of Ocean City.

Andrew, who bought the business from his parents in 2001, said the variety store has been focusing more on toys catering to young families vacationing in Ocean City.

Toys make up nearly 80 percent of the business at the Boardwalk location, and nearly half at the Third Street one, he said.

"It's becoming more and more of a toy store catering to young families," said Andrew Pessano, who lives in Egg Harbor Township with his wife and two young children. "Here, being located in a high rental area, this is the first store kids can walk to. They come to the store for a week, they live in rural Westchester or Delaware County," he said.

He continued: "(Parents) will give the kid a certain allowance. They'll say, 'You get $10.' They'll go through the store for an hour picking out $10 worth of stuff," he said. "A lot of them go over, and the dad's always pulling into his pocket for another dollar or two, because they never count the tax."

Selecting the right toys to sell can make a big difference to the store's bottom line. This year, Andrew Pessano said, one of the hot toys was a "rainbow loom," which makes rubber band bracelets.

Pessano, a graduate of La Salle University who studied marketing, initially had shown little interest in taking over the family business in Ocean City.

His parents were going to put the business up for sale before their son started showing interest in it, Dave Pessano said.

"I grew up around the business but didn't really know the business," Andrew said. "I didn't work a whole lot in the business growing up - I had jobs away from here. It was a challenge that first summer. Going from not having a lot of responsibility to all this responsibility the first year was rough, but you get better at it every year."

Contact Brian Ianieri:


Pessano's Variety

Locations: 801 Third St. and 1130 Boardwalk in Ocean City

Owner: Andrew Pessano, 35, of Egg Harbor Township

Started: 1946

Employees: About 15, seasonally

Phone: 609-399-1889

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