Special to the Star and Wave
by Rachel Shubin
The snowbirds have migrated south for winter, but Cape May is not without a small population in the heart of the season. Many stores in the city stay open as a warm place for locals and visitors to shop.
The best way to find out the hours for local stores is to call them, check their social media pages and websites. Around town, there are stores that are still open but only on the weekends.
Up on the Promenade at 714 Beach Ave., Pete Smith’s Surf Shop is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays, weather permitting. The store will be open full time starting April 1.
Pete Smith’s stays open during the winter for consistency and to try to keep Cape May a year-round community, according to store manager Meghan Protasi.
“We want people to know that we are up here and open, with core items in stock,” Protasi said. “We keep in mind the smaller audience, so people can buy what they need to.”
In the winter, Protasi sees more homeowners who take their time to vacation in the offseason.
“They really appreciate the stores being open and taking advantage of what’s going on in town,” Protasi said. “Rather than just being focused on a beach community, visitors can fill an entire weekend with shopping, winery and brewery tours and happy hours.”
Protasi said winter is also time for her to spend more time with customers.
“When the weather is chillier in winter, visitors spend more time in the stores which is nice,” Protasi said.
Protasi also takes time in the winter to do research on products for the upcoming season. Pete Smith also has art shows in the winter. They post all the events on their Facebook and Instagram pages.
“I get to spend time exploring new brands and writing up different orders based on inventory,” Protasi said. “I also send emails and work on social media, which is something I don’t have a ton of time for in the summer.”
Protasi said she loves when visitors to the store notice and acknowledge products that the shop did not have the previous season.
“Memorial Day is like having a big family coming to visit, where you have so much work to do to prepare but you’re so excited,” Protasi said.
Shop Pete Smith Surf Shop online at www.shoppetesmiths.com.
Shore Soaps re-opens Presidents Day Weekend and will be open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Fridays and Saturays, and they will re-open seven days a week in April. Shore Soaps owner Corinne Rietheimer said the store is currently in the process of being renovated.
“We are building some new, bigger displays and rearranging,” Rietheimer said. “We are touching up the paint, rearranging and making room for new inventory. It’s normal upkeep that needs to be done every year but we can’t do it while we are open.”
She said her choice to stay open during the winter season comes from wanting to keep the doors open for locals.
“Our mentality is that we are here anyway producing our inventory for the season,” she said. “We make all of our products in house and our handmade soaps take six weeks to cure. We always have to be thinking at least two months ahead.”
It seems far away, but the soaps that Shore Soaps makes during January will be the first ones on the shelves in March and April.
“Even though we consider this time our ‘off season,’ this is actually our crunch time for 2018 production,” she said.
Rietheimer gets to view her store at a slower speed in the winter. The quieter time gives her opportunities such as down time to make necessary improvements.
“By the summer we are a well-oiled machine,” she said.
Visitors will find different music played than in the summer, especially when it is the time for Christmas music.
“After listening to Christmas carols for a month straight, we need to regain our sanity with normal tunes,” she said. “We get to listen to our personal taste in music in the offseason.”
Sore Soaps is a dog friendly shop. Rietheimer’s husky Cecilia is the store’s official greeter and is in the store every single day, both in winter and summer.
“Cecilia has a lot of visitors throughout the day,” Rietheimer said. “She has lots of dog friends in town that stop by and even people that don’t have dogs or know me by name stop in and ask, ‘Is Cecilia here today?’ She’s a local celebrity.”
Tourists stop by Shore Soaps every year to see Cecilia. Many recognize her from the West Cape May Farmer’s Market, where she spends every summer under the soap booth’s table.
“We welcome all friendly dogs in the front of the store, as Cecilia is very friendly,” Rietheimer said. “We do have a sign outside of the store just letting guests know that she is inside in case they have a dog with them or are afraid of dogs. We never like anyone to be caught off guard and fully understand that not everyone likes dogs.”
Shore Soaps is located at 658 Washington Street and online www.shoresoapscapemay.com
At the corner of Perry Street and Carpenters Lane, is Cash and Clive, which carries premium denim, women’s clothing and apparel. The shop is open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturdays, Sundays and holiday Mondays.
Owner Jessica Cicchitti stays open to encourage Cape May’s year-round community.
“So many people live here and we want to be available for the people who live here year-round,” Cicchitti said. “Being across the street from Congress Hall, there is always someone around between the hotel guests and weddings.”
In the past when Cicchitti shopped in town, she found herself disappointed when she visited stores and they were not open in the winter.
“I hated having them not be open, so I will never be that store,” Cicchitti said. “Being open in the off season means people are excited when they find out we are open. I get to spend more time talking to customers.”
Cicchitti does inventory during the day while she is open. In the summertime, she waits until the evening. Cicchitti also takes the time to reorganize furniture during the day as well.
“I am looking forward to the arrival of our spring and summer fashions,” Cicchitti said. “I’m super excited for Misa Los Angeles. I just placed my order and the line has really cute dresses.”