WILDWOOD — The summer for the Gorbatow brothers, owners of Hankins’ Fudge on Pacific Avenue, means making lots of fudge for four months, selling to the visitors who frequent the shore and closing seasonally at the end of September.
But this summer has been different than most, as co-owner Tony Gorbatow said the economy and Wildwood tourism have been off this year, which for Gorbatow means sales are down less than 25 percent.
The backbone to the local economy, tourism was a $5 billion industry in Cape May County last year.
Gorbatow joins other merchants throughout the summer who have said sales have been off.
But the Wildwood business made some significant changes this year, which improved profit margins and kept Gorbatow on pace for profits similar to last year’s, he said.
One of the biggest moves, which Gorbatow said he was planning to implement anyway, was cutting back on purchasing candy, such as licorice, from suppliers and doesn’t make itself.
“We’ve cut costs. We cut all the fat from our advertising budget. We actually got rid of our low profit-margin items. I used to carry a bunch of stuff that was low profit that I didn’t make myself,” said Gorbatow, 59, of Wildwood.
“Now, we sell basically only the products we make, which are fudge, taffy and chocolate-covered taffy,” he said.
Gorbatow owns the business with his brother, Karnili, who makes the fudge.
Geographically speaking, Hankins’ Fudge is a rarity in the Wildwoods — a fudge shop without a presence on the Boardwalk.
Hankins, which Gorbatow said makes about 1,000 pounds of fudge a week, said the shoulder seasons — in his case May and September — have become a key part of business.
North Wildwood’s popular Irish Festival in September has been a major boost to his business.
“I do great. It’s like the middle of summer,” he said.
Senior-citizen bus trips helped. The trip packages targeted Atlantic City and included Wildwood and his fudge shop, he said.
“I’ve had buses spend $600 on one bus,” he said. “What’s kept me in the business is the senior citizen busloads.”
Hankins Fudge has been a longtime name in the Wildwoods. Tony Gorbatow bought the business in 1976 from owner George Hankins.
Gorbatow said he found success early, particularly with “buy one, get one free” promotions for fudge.
“My hunch is next year will be a little better, and the year after, we’ll be back to normal,” he said.
“Certainly, I think the economy is the biggest reason,” he said.
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