CAPE MAY — The day after Memorial Day, Tammy Gomez started her morning by cleaning up a coffee pot that had overflowed before she was able to fill up her pink and cream-colored cup for herself.
After her first sip, Gomez found out one of her employees had called in sick. To fill the gap, she jumped behind one of the half-dozen stations where campers were checking out after a sold-out holiday weekend at Beachcomber Camping Resort.
“It was a beautiful weekend,” she said before turning to explain to another employee that Red Bull doesn’t really sell in the general store next to the reception area but that they need to order more water ice.
Tammy, along with her husband, Ken, are co-owners of the 100-acre camping resort, and responsible for making sure that summer fun happens for thousands of campers through their Memorial Day to Labor Day season. The day after their season opener, they were busy moving from task to task, getting the sites ready for the next round of campers, who were just days away from checking in.
“Whatever has to be done here at the campground, we’re involved with,” Ken said. “Whether it’s directing somebody to do it or it’s doing it ourselves.”
And, with 500 seasonal guests who make the campground their summer home in addition to those the Gomezs’ call transient campers, who plan short stays at tent sites or cabins, tiny homes or rental trailers on the property, it’s a lot with which to keep up.
“It’s the feeling of community,” Ken said. “And we’ve had some of these people for 43 years. The same people have come back.”
There was grass to mow, repairs to make and more. Ken described it as a small municipality, as the campground has its own sewer, wells, streets, beach, lake and even its own trash days.
They cut their own firewood and make their own ice.
“That’s exactly what it is — it’s a city,” Ken said, turning to Tammy. “We’re the mayor; we share that job.”
As Tammy moved behind the check-out desk that morning, her blonde hair clipped back, she held her cell phone in her hand, using the text-to-speech feature to rapid-fire communicate with employees around the grounds.
A lifeguard had vacuumed out all three of the resorts pools and was picking up stray litter, but Tammy was considering sending him home as the rain pelted against the ceiling and thunder rumbled. She pointed to the large white board behind the desk and explained that it displayed the winners of the charity 5K race from the weekend, as well as details about a golf cart parade.
She looked at a customer standing on the opposite side of the counter and asked if he’d been helped and how he enjoyed his stay.
“Wet,” he replied, deadpan, then smiling. “Otherwise, it’s good.”
Wearing a purple windbreaker and denim shorts, a walkie-talkie clipped to his belt in the middle of his back, Ken drove the stone streets of the grounds, pointing out the cabins that the employees built themselves over the years.
He had just finished grading the roads, spreading out 15 to 18 truckloads of stone, before the holiday, he said.
“Just like a city, we take care of our streets,” he said. “It’s a process. The seasonal campers, they get trash pickup on certain days, just like a city. Leaf pickup is once a week and they’re scheduled to do that today.”
He checked in on the maintenance team, who were repairing a handful of golf carts that had “took a front-end beating” over the weekend.
“If they have a beer in them, (the roads) get even tighter,” Ken said. “It’s not like asphalt. You can’t stop as quick.”
Generally, the couple work 16 or 17 hours a day on a busy holiday weekend, Ken said. During the days after, they may only put in 12 hours.
“Hopefully tomorrow, the beginning of the next day, you won’t be able to tell there was a Memorial Day celebration,” Ken said. “It’s all cleaned up and all ready for the next thing.”