Christa Manny stops by regularly at the Vive Day Spa & Salon in the Showboat Casinio Hotel in Atlantic City to have her hair done. In January, she made sure to make an appointment for the second week of January.
That was when the salon was offering sessions with hypnotist Dan Vitchoff. Manny, of Galloway Township, wanted the hypnotist to help her lose weight.
Gina Rosenberger, the owner of Vive Day Spa, brought the hypnotist to the spa to help bolster people's New Year's resolutions. She hoped customers coming for the hypnotist would also want a hair and makeup treatment. About 20 customers booked sessions.
"We are going to plan another one in a couple of months, maybe three months, right before the summer. We are really excited," Rosenberger said.
With the economy still limping along and the area struggling to recover from Hurricane Sandy, businesses throughout southern New Jersey are coming up with unconventional ways to bring in new customers or to get their regulars to try something new.
"Part of the story is they are trying to offer different services and more unique experiences to their existing client base. It's going to give you another reason to not just go two times a month, but you are going to pick up a third night a month because it's a special event," said Joe Molineaux, director of the Small Business Development Center at Richard Stockton College in Atlantic City. "In this time of year, it's so critical, especially for our market here at the Jersey shore, because you want to give people reasons to come out during the time that doesn't have a historically high traffic."
Chef Christopher Groome of Brownies Squared Baked Shop in Mays Landing breaks out of his comfort zone monthly with his Super Secret Supper Club. Participants make reservations to be among the 12 people seated at a long table for dinner. The participants do not know in advance what will be served during an eight- to 10-course meal nor do they know who they will be sitting with at dinner.
This month, Groome took his concept out of his restaurant to the Ram's Head Inn in Galloway Township. The number of guests expanded from 12 to 31. Groome collaborated on the eight-course meal with chef Jason Holmstrom and executive chef Elio Gracia, both of the Ram's Head.
Ian Levine, 27, of Brigantine, had never been to the Ram's Head Inn before. He was impressed with both the food and the event.
"I would gladly return every month from now until whenever to sample either of the two masters again," Levine said.
K. Afifi, Ram's Head's general manager, said the restaurant would begin hosting its own secret supper club, sometimes with Groome, sometimes without.
Kim Brownell, the general manager of Harry's Oyster Bar & Seafood, at Bally's Atlantic City is constantly trying to think of new ways to draw in new customers. Atlantic City is a tough market, Brownell said.
"I have to think outside the box and try to come up with new and different ideas to attract business," said Brownel. "Especially during the wintertime, which is the worst we all know for Atlantic City, I have just gone crazy trying to bring something new and exciting to Atlantic City."
Harry's was scheduled to host its first murder mystery dinner party on Jan. 16. Brownell started a ladies night, held on the third Thursday of every month. She is planning her biggest event ever for this May, the restaurant's second-anniversary celebration, which will be an exotic car event outside the eatery on the Boardwalk.
The Palm, a family-owned restaurant, in The Quarter at the Tropicana Casino and Resort in Atlantic City started offering dinner-theater shows in its private dining room in August. These included a "Scrooge Unplugged" show in December and a new show for Valentine's: "Killed by Cupid's Arrow." The show starts at 6 p.m. Feb. 10. The cost is $90 per person with one of the main entree courses being a 9-ounce filet mignon, said Barbara Bermel, The Palm sales manager.
"We attracted a lot of new customers. ... You have a lot of people coming down on a Sunday night and stay until Monday or Tuesday, just from tracking the visits to the Atlantic City website, the ACCVA. That's where people would say they saw our postings for the dinner theater," Bermel said.
Passion Vines Wine Bar & Spirit Company in Somers Point has gone to the Internet to attract people, said Michael Bray, the Passion Vines founder. The company has its own channel on YouTube, Passion Vines TV, where Bray will talk about wine. The business is building its own new website that will house all 100 of its videos, made during the past four years.
"I saw businesses starting to go online and starting share their passion via video, getting away from the written blog and getting more into the video blog, It just made sense," Bray said.
Passion Vines also holds two classes weekly and five to seven events per month. Bray also came up with the idea of the Passion Vines Virtual Vines six-pack. It includes six wines that have been hand selected, accompanied by a tasting mat, tasting worksheets and an invitation to a 30-minute private Skype with a Passion Vines sommelier. It is an educational, private wine tasting at home, Bray said.
Jacquie Ewing, the owner of home deco and gift shop Armadillo Ltd. in Avalon, was inspired by a trip to Florida to create a 2-foot long by 13-inch wide dog trough that is put in front of her store from late March through early November. She also gives away packs that contain two little dog biscuits.
"If they have a dog, and they see the trough out front, they are going to stop, so I get their attention for maybe 30 seconds, and really, that's all I need is 30 seconds," Ewing said. "Otherwise, if I didn't have that out there, they would be walking their dogs straight by. The way it's positioned, they stop. The dogs drink. They are looking right inside my window," Ewing said.
For the past 20 years, Mark Kulkowitz, and his wife, Pam, owners of The Mad Batter Restaurant & Bar in the Carrollvilla Hotel in Cape May, have used their restaurant as an art gallery. There are 40 to 50 pieces of art hanging in three rooms. The current exhibit is the work of Lower Cape May Regional High School students.
"I think it's been extremely successful. ... We might have 200 people walk through the doors tomorrow (Jan. 13) because of all the high school art that we have. That will be the biggest show of the year because they are going to want to show off their artwork to their parents, grandparents, boyfriends and girlfriends," Kulkowitz said. "It brings in people who maybe haven't been in the restaurant, and they say, 'Wow, look at this place.'"
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