WILDWOOD — When the announcement came that President Donald Trump and U.S. Rep. Jeff Van Drew were holding a rally in town, Mike Mattera and Dennis Flynn, owners of JB&P Marketing, got to work.
The “two old-timers” made buttons promoting Trump when he ran in 2016, Mattera said.
They have buttons featuring Trump in a yellow tram car (“Watch the Trump Car Please!”), buttons showing Trump flying a plane dragging a “Keep America Great!” banner, buttons featuring a “Trump Train” and pins showing Trump as Superman flying over the Wildwood beach ball sign at Rio Grande and Ocean avenues.
“I said, ‘Well, this is a great time to get involved to try to promote our little business that we have,’” Mattera said, “and at the same time get some pins out there.”
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They’ve sold about 1,000 buttons so far through Zippy’s Bikes, Italian Kitchen Express and Holly Beach Train Depot, as well as Facebook Marketplace. They have interest from Coho Brewing Company in Cape May Court House as well. Mattera and Flynn took a break from churning out buttons Tuesday and turned their attention to shop-specific novelty button ideas: Trump on a bike for Zippy’s; Trump tossing a pie for Italian Kitchen Express, etc.
Zippy’s alone has sold more than 500 buttons. On Monday, owner Scott Chambers arrived at the shop to find a line of people waiting for it to open. Other people have gotten their “feathers up” about him selling political items, Chambers said.
“But I’m not making a political statement,” he said. “I’m just offering a product to the clientele.”
Businesses in the Wildwoods and throughout Cape May County are doing just that. A likely influx of tens of thousands of out-of-towners could mean serious money for businesses twiddling their thumbs in the dead of winter . Owners say they are looking to capitalize.
Mayor Pete Byron said January and February are usually slow for commerce in general. But more than 100,000 tickets have been issued for Tuesday’s rally, according to Van Drew, R-2nd, and Byron expects a minimum of 35,000 to 45,000 out-of-towners. Those crowds will provide an “economic shot in the arm,” not just for Wildwood eateries, bars and motels, but for the county as a whole, he said.
The Wildwoods Convention Center fits only 7,500 people “on a good day,” Byron said. The overflow will need to eat and might want to drink.
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“A whole lot of people are going to be coming to town who are not going to physically be able to enter the Convention Center. But they want to be part of the experience,” Byron said. “To me, this is going to be like an Eagles tailgate, where people crowd around their cars in the parking lots, never expecting to go in, but they’re going to have their TVs and radios on.”
Pine Haven Camping Resort in Ocean View, typically closed for the offseason, is opening for RVs and campers next week after fielding a number of requests, said office manager Danielle Klinger.
“We noticed that (motels and hotels) are kind of raising prices in Wildwood for their typical stays offseason,” Klinger said, “so we’re keeping our prices the same and hoping that people will take advantage of it for the short drive away.”
Got a ticket to the Trump rally at the Wildwoods Convention Center next Tuesday?
A bit closer, the Oceanic Hotel, situated directly across from the Convention Center parking lot on Ocean Avenue, is not renting rooms for the event, said general manager Mike DiDomenico.
Workers, even so, were installing red, white and blue lights on the building Wednesday morning.
The Oceanic will be open for food and drinks. And they’ll make “Trump Toddies” in the hotel’s Barefoot Bar, which was draped with “Keep America Great” banners Wednesday.
Renting rooms for a day or two in the middle of the offseason would have been too much of an undertaking, DiDomenico said.
LOCATION: Wildwoods Convention Center, 4501 Boardwalk
“A lot of my regulars ... they called up, ‘Hey, are you guys gonna be open?’” DiDomenico said. “It’s tough because around here it’s not easy to get the water on for something this big. It takes a couple days, and it takes a couple days to shut it off. (It could be) $5,000, all told.”
That might put them in the red, he said, especially if the pipes were to freeze in the process of turning the water on or off.
Next door, all the rooms in the Days Inn & Suites — which remains open year-round — are booked. It’s been that way since the morning after the rally was announced, said manager Jacquelyn Haas.
She couldn’t think of a time they filled up that quickly in the offseason.
“That quickly? On a Tuesday? Never,” Haas said.
Zippy’s owner Chambers, beyond selling buttons, is hoping to take advantage of the fact that authorities will likely close the blocks around the Convention Center to traffic.
“I am anticipating, or expecting people to rent bikes so they can get close to the event and afterwards get to their car,” Chambers said, “Or, people that are coming down for the weekend rent the bikes so that they can ride down, don’t have to worry about (traffic).”
Zippy’s is open in the offseason six days a week, but it is a rarity that they have this many potential customers in the winter, he said. He’s heard talk of people coming in late Monday night to stand in line.
“I think it’s crazy,” Chambers said. “I have tickets. I’ll try to get in the last couple hours, but other than that I’m not leaving when I have a business to run.”