OCEAN CITY — As people enjoy the spring today, Ocean City businesses will try to reach their customers where they are this weekend: outside.
Downtown and Boardwalk merchants will sponsor their own version of the city’s popular Block Party weekend with booths and tables set up outside their Boardwalk and Asbury Avenue stores.
Unlike the twice-annual Block Parties, though, local businesses have a monopoly on customers. No outside vendors are invited.
“When the weather cooperates, it gives people on the Boardwalk a chance to put their merchandise outside,” said Michele Gillian, director of the Ocean City Regional Chamber of Commerce.
“It really makes a good outing for people to get outside and do some retail-therapy shopping after such a cold early spring,” she said.
The annual table sale also gives residents a chance to reacquaint themselves with the downtown’s newest shops and services, including a new paddleboard shop and a massage center on Asbury Avenue.
Costas Zervoudis, of Ocean City, owns Christina’s Butterfly Boutique, a toy store named after his late daughter. He set up a small tent with a display of toys, kites and puzzles.
“There will be a lot of good bargains,” he said. “People often will keep walking by if you don’t have a table set up to entice them inside.”
City resident Winnie Piriano said she is a fan of the city’s downtown. Her wardrobe Friday from her boots to her jacket was purchased at local stores.
The downtown’s special events, particularly next week’s Block Party, are an important draw for local businesses, she said.
“From my porch, I can see thousands of people on the avenue. It’s a great sight to see that sea of people shopping downtown,” she said. “Merchants in Ocean City are really extraordinary.”
Skip Tolomeo, president of Ocean City’s Retail Merchants Association, said the city typically prevents businesses, especially Boardwalk merchants, from setting up outdoor tables the rest of the year.
“If it’s a beautiful day, people will take advantage of it. It gives merchants a chance to show their wares without requiring people to come inside. It’s a lot of exposure,” he said.
And these special events draw out-of-town bargain hunters, too, he said.
“It’s prospecting. You get some people who didn’t realize Ocean City had a downtown with 110 different shops,” he said.
Deborah Guerriero, of Ocean City, owns five shops on Asbury Avenue. She said merchants are eager to see the summer season get under way.
“We’ll be participating,” she said. “It brings people outside into the sunshine. When people see merchandise outside, it drives them into the stores.”
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