WILDWOOD — Some Boardwalk businesses have been around for decades, but each summer new businesses crop up, making sure no real estate on the Boardwalk ever remains vacant for long.
“There is turnover, but there isn’t any lack of interest,” said Wildwood Commissioner Pete Byron, a Realtor and former Boardwalk business owner.
An estimated 9 million people roam up and down the boards each year, meaning businesses here have the chance to reach millions of people in the summer.
Byron, who operated a food business on the iconic Boardwalk, said the rental spaces along the boards fill each year with entrepreneurs hoping to draw those millions in.
“There’s always someone who thinks they have the newest, best idea,” Byron said. “But I tell them if they’re successful this summer, there will be five copycats next summer.”
Rental opportunities, however, may be hard to come by, as few Boardwalk businesses change ownership from season to season.
Andy Weiner, operating partner for Splash Zone Water Park at Schellenger Avenue, and his family are a prime example.
His grandmother, Sarah Weiner, came to Wildwood in 1918 and soon owned her first Boardwalk business in the 1920s. Since then, the family and its business partnerships have added to their real estate collection, and its members own several blocks along the boards.
Weiner said the family rents space to a variety of businesses and experiences little turnover from season to season, even though they only offer one-year leases.
They used to offer five-year leases, but Weiner said his grandmother once walked into one of those businesses and found it was a mess. She asked the tenant to clean it up, but the tenant instead became indignant with her and told her to leave.
That tenant was gone at the end of his lease and the one-year leases became standard.
The rentals range in price, which is often determined by two primary factors — the amount of Boardwalk frontage and location. “It’s governed more by front footage than it is square footage,” Weiner said.
And prime locations are at Schellenger and Oak avenues, with prices likely to drop moving north and south toward the ends of the Boardwalk.
“A few feet can make the difference,” Weiner said.
The average rental, Byron said, is about $45,000 to $50,000 a season, while larger spaces can be about $75,000.
The season can vary, but it primarily runs from mid-April through October, just after the popular Fabulous 50s & Beyond Weekend.
Byron said many operators run businesses in places like the Carolinas and Florida, then head to the Wildwoods for the summer season.
He once ran a food business, Pete’s Pork Roll, on the Boardwalk for two seasons.
Byron started the business based on his fond memories of having Taylor Pork Roll on the Boardwalk, a favorite food on the boards.
“You don’t need another pizza place. You don’t need another T-shirt place,” he said of the need to find new ways to attract customers.
Byron sold the nostalgic business because it became too much to handle, given his other work as a full-time real estate agent. The space remained a food business and most recently has become home to a Mister Softee franchise.
In addition to the product, Byron said, what drives the success of Boardwalk businesses is the cost to the consumer.
“You have to be very cost conscious to be successful on the Boardwalk,” Byron said.
Weiner advised Boardwalk business owners to “work really hard.”
“Everybody thinks you can come here and work for three months and leave. It’s just not that way,” Weiner said. “I think the people working on the Boardwalk are some of the hardest working people I know.”
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