For Ocean City’s Brantley, Bradley and Brianna Cesanek, working at the Original Fudge Kitchen is family business. The same goes for Rob, Tony and Nick Roney, of Bel Air, Maryland, employees of Morey’s Piers in the Wildwoods. It’s just that the family businesses where they work are not their family businesses.
And while it is unusual to find three or more siblings working a summer job for the same employer, it does happen most often in communities such as those along the Jersey Shore, said Cliff Whithem, a professor of business at Richard Stockton College.
“The No. 1 place you’re going to find siblings working together is in family-owned businesses,” Whithem said. “The No. 2 place is the shore or a vacation community, where there is a huge influx of need in the summer and where work forces double or triple or quadruple.”
“Families working together, in part, has to do with the high number of mom-and-pop businesses,” said Diane Wieland, director of tourism in Cape May County, pointing to the dearth of large chain hotels and restaurants in the southernmost part of the state. Tourism-related employment accounts for 68 percent of jobs in the county, she said, with lodging at the county’s 2,267 hotels and bed-and-breakfasts generating $2.25 billion.
Employment levels generally peak in July in tourism-dependent Atlantic and Cape May counties, said Kerri Gatling, public information officer for the New Jersey Department of Labor. Through June, the leisure and hospitality sectors accounted for 39 percent and 34 percent, respectively, in those counties.
In Cape May County, employment levels in the private sector increased by 17,400 jobs, or 66.7 percent, between January and June, with leisure and hospitality, which includes hotels and restaurants, accounting for 12,400 of those jobs. Retail added 2,800 jobs. As a result of its seasonal nature, the county’s unemployment rate in 2013 plummeted from 19.8 percent in January to 7.5 percent in August.
In Atlantic County, the private sector added 7,100 jobs, for a 6.7 percent increase, through June 2014, with 4,600 of those jobs in the leisure and hospitality industries. Casino hotels, which supply two-thirds of the county’s leisure and hospitality jobs, added only 300 positions in the first six months of the year.
Morey’s Piers in the Wildwoods is a prime example of a business that undergoes a tremendous increase in seasonal employees. The family-owned operation, which includes three piers and two water parks, swells from 165 year-round employees to 1,500 seasonal workers. Denise Beckson, director of operations and human resources at Morey’s whose own brother and sister have previously been Morey’s employees, said employers enjoy the advantage of hiring a known commodity when they bring siblings onboard, although she stressed they are subject to the same interview process and that they have the same chance of being hired as any applicant.
“We expect we’re going to get another employee who performs well and that it will be a successful match,” she said.
Availability of jobs is just one of the reasons siblings tend to gravitate toward employment in the same places, Whithem said.
“Regardless of their feelings growing up, whatever sibling rivalry they had, they see they can be very helpful to one another,” said Whithem, whose Ph.D. in psychology adds insight in teaching such business courses as human resource management, policies and strategies, and organizational behavior. “At that age, sibling rivalry turns around and suddenly, that sibling who was an annoying little pest starts to be seen as an equal. The relationship changes when they enter the world of work.”
The business of family
Family-owned businesses also cater to families, Whithem said, and actively recruit siblings from among their employees. Often, the recruiting takes place within the family itself, as was the case with the Monaghans of West Chester, Pennsylvania.
Lori Monaghan, an elementary school teacher, was the first to find summer employment as a bartender at Morey’s Ocean Oasis three years ago. She was rapidly followed by daughter Molly, 20, an aquatic supervisor at Raging Waters and Ocean Oasis, and son Matt, 18, a maintenance supervisor and aquatic supervisor at Raging Waters.
“I felt left out,” said Mike, a high school history teacher in West Chester who works part time in maintenance for Morey’s in the summer. “They made me feel left out.”
The Monaghans, second-home owners in Wildwood Crest, continue their togetherness beyond their summer jobs. The parents teach in the same school district, and the siblings are both students at Penn State University.
Tony Roney, 20, can relate to Mike Monaghan’s experience. That’s how he wound up joining brother Rob, 22, and twin Nick, 20, as Morey’s employees.
“Last year, I was working way too much,” said Tony, who was employed at a restaurant in Avalon. “I wished I was having as great a time as they were. They raved about it, and that made me want to apply.”
“Nick got an interview online and told me how awesome it was,” said Rob, whose previous summer employment was as a camp counselor for children ages 5 to 12. “It intrigued me to apply.”
Rob and Nick are in their second year at Morey’s, working as aquatic supervisors. Tony, a first-year employee, is a lifeguard.
The siblings live with their grandmother in the Villas section of Lower Township during the summer and plan to return to Morey’s next year. Nick and Tony both said they would apply for internships with the organization.
“We’re a family business at Morey’s Piers,” Beckson said. “Our customers are families. It’s nice to have families to welcome our guest families.”
Follow the leader
Brantley Cesanek was 14 years old and looking for a summer job when he saw the Help Wanted sign in the window at the Original Fudge Kitchen on the Boardwalk in Ocean City. He was hired 12 years ago and has remained a summer employee ever since.
His brother Bradley, 20, started working for the company when he turned 14, and their sister Brianna, 18, did the same. None has ever held a different summer job.
“When siblings see how well the other one is doing, they want to get in on it, too,” Whithem said. “They’re willing to follow in the footsteps of their big brother or big sister.”
“Nowadays, working together is a good thing,” said Brantley, 26, whose employment as a Latin teacher at Cherokee High School in Marlton, Burlington County, allows him to return to his Ocean City home on a part-time basis in the summers. “With living away, I don’t get to see them very often. Working here in the summer, we get to see one another. We see one another more at work than at home.”
Joe Bogle, who has been working with his brother, Paul, for 43 years at the Original Fudge Kitchen, said getting to know the families of his employees is one of his favorite things.
“You can tell,” he said. “If it’s a good family, the kids are the best.”
And the Cesaneks, he said, are “a wonderful family.”
Brantley’s boss, Cherokee High School administrator Anthony Gallo, is a former Fudge Kitchen employee, Bogle said.
“He taught me many of my tricks in the window,” Brantley said of Gallo and the “magic” he employs in twirling the liquid fudge into ribbons before the confection reaches the proper consistency for scraping from the copper kettle into pans.
“You see them from a young boy or girl through their teenage years and their college years,” said Joanne Quinn, manager of the Original Fudge Kitchen in Ocean City, whose sons John and Patrick work at the Original Fudge Kitchen in Wildwood. “You watch them become young men and women. It’s a family. You’re with these people from the time they’re kids, and you get close.”
“Mom-and-pop places appeal to a certain segment,” Whithem said. “You get that family-type atmosphere. It’s a smaller, closer, tighter group.”
There’s another perk, too, Brantley Cesanek said.
“What kid wouldn’t want to work in a candy store?” he asked. “I couldn’t think of a better place to be.”
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