During the cold, dark winter along the lonely shore, there are precious few holidays that cities and businesses can build campaigns around to draw visitors.
While Valentine’s Day is one of the most notable dates on the calendar, it isn’t one of the bigger events for many shore towns — though that hasn’t stopped a few from trying.
“It’s hard when it’s in the middle of winter,” said Michele Gillian, executive director of the Greater Ocean City Chamber of Commerce. “(But) it is one of those holidays that Ocean City has decided to work on.”
Gillian pointed to the Greater Ocean City Theater Company’s “An Evening of Love Songs and Desserts” on Saturday, featuring, well, you know.
“Holding a special event is one way, and getting the business community to be open to having all the stores decorated is a possibility,” Gillian said. “It’s all about the weather. If there’s a nice forecast for the weekend, all the people in the Pennsylvania area will come down, walk the Boardwalk, see the birds, watch the waves break, do the things they can’t see every day. One of the most beautiful things is to walk the Boardwalk in the middle of winter.”
As usual, it’s the candy stores, such as Rauhauser’s, and the jewelry stores, including Artisan’s Outcove, both on Asbury Avenue in Ocean City, that see the biggest boost for the holiday — not to mention florists. At Spinning Wheel Florist, owner Mark Videtto said that besides the usual business during one of his biggest periods — “Men really don’t want to forget that day,” he said — there are deliveries to hotels offering Valentine’s Day packages.
The Port-o-Call Hotel, for example, has placed big orders for its package of a rose to go with chocolate strawberries and sparkling cider for Valentine’s guests.
“There’s no better way of saying ‘I love you’ than with flowers,” said the florist.
In Wildwood, while a giant heart looms over the Boardwalk from the Morey’s Ferris Wheel and several inns offer specials, Greater Wildwood Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Tracy DuFault said of Valentine’s being a key holiday for the island that “at this point, it’s probably not.”
“We definitely have a shoulder season, starting in April and May and into September and October, and we have special events (we promote),” DuFault said. “But to try and jump into February? ... We’re really trying to get things ready for the upcoming shoulder season, and to try to be quiet for a couple of months, (focus) on one weekend, then be quiet again for a couple of months, I’m not quite sure.”
For Atlantic City, the fact that this year Valentine’s Day falls on a Friday — and the Friday before the long President’s Day weekend — makes it more important.
“So from that standpoint, I know a lot of casinos are having special Valentine’s Day packages,” said Joe Kelly, president of the Greater Atlantic City Chamber. “I think the key is, anytime you get an extended weekend, certainly that is a great strategy.”
For Atlantic City, “A lot of it is about being a destination marketplace,” Kelly said. “Having said that, 80 percent of our members are small businesses. I still think a lot of the promotions around Valentine’s Day depend on the business. You see a lot of members being as creative as possible. ... Especially this time of the season, and how important it is to take advantage of any opportunity to promote business.”
At the Absecon Lighthouse, Director Jean Muchanic agreed with the importance of timing when it came to Valentine’s Day.
Events such as a special Valentine’s Day climb complete with “aphrodisiacs” — chocolate and wine — worked well on the weekends, she said.
“(But) we found out the hard way, that as soon as Valentine’s Day is on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, we actually lost money putting everything together,” Muchanic said. “People didn’t want to venture too far from home.”
This year, as the holiday returns to the weekend, the lighthouse will host a group vow-renewal ceremony at 7 p.m. Friday, complete with a tower climb and champagne toast, and hours will be extended for everyone until 7:30 p.m.
Then there’s Cape May, which has a sort of romantic Valentine’s feel all year long. Chamber marketing director Doreen Talley said that Valentine’s — when bed-and-breakfasts are in highest demand during the winter — acts as a “kickoff” to their own shoulder season.
“A lot of B&Bs and restaurants open for that one weekend,” she said. “And a lot of people check out vacation rentals they want to look at.”
Some towns, meanwhile, say they need to do more.
Many Margate businesses are busy for Valentine’s Day every year, but there’s been no citywide promotion. Yet.
“This is a super-busy time of year for planning for events during the season,” said Margate Business Association head Ed Berger. “But it’s a great idea. I wish I thought of it. Between Jagielky's candy store and the Margate Card Shop and so many fine restaurants, I believe we could rally something together (for 2015).”
With all that talk of Valentine’s and candy, though, Berger was reminded of something.
“If I don’t come up with some chocolate-covered marshmallows,” Berger said. “I’m in trouble.”
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