Special to the Star and Wave
Millennials are becoming a significant part of the modern workforce. Recently there has been an influx of millennial business owners following their passion in Cape May.
This cohort makes up a big portion of the modern-day workforce, by applying their thoughts, passion and creativity to fuel the economy.
Cape May’s well established millennial population is hard at work in town. Millennials often seek city life in New York or Los Angeles, leaving Cape May as an exceptional or unusual destination for this age group.
Corinne Rietheimer, 27, dispels the rumors that millennials do not fare well in the workforce. Rietheimer owns Shore Soaps at 658 Washington St.
“There are misconceptions about millennials’ work ethic,” Rietheimer said. “People think millennials are lazy, entitled brats who expect everything to be handed to them.”
For the uninitiated, millennials are those born loosely from 1981 to 1994, with the oldest millennials being around 37 and the youngest 24.
Born and raised in Cape May, Rietheimer’s family always owned their own business.
“While growing up, my family had a house and nice cars, but my parents never gave me anything from the time I wanted a cell phone to buying my own car. They wanted me to earn it.”
Rietheimer did not set out to open a soap store. She started her career as a waitress in Cape May at the age of 16.
“My parents taught me the value of a dollar and getting ahead in life by doing something meaningful and having a career,” Rietheimer said.
In 2008, Rietheimer moved to Los Angeles for college to pursue a degree in fashion.
“I was seeing employment issues in 2008, when my friends with college degrees struggling to find jobs,” Rietheimer said. “It was hard to see them hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt, working waitressing jobs because they couldn’t find a job in their field.”
Rietheimer did not want to graduate with a vast debt, so she headed back to the east coast. She helped run her family’s business and worked as a restaurant manager before testing out a move to Philadelphia.
While living in Philadelphia, Rietheimer’s skin started breaking out.
“People told me the air and water quality is different in Philly,” Rietheimer said. “Any number of things could make my skin flare up. I was looking on YouTube for something to help my skin that was not store bought and full of chemicals, which is how I came up with making soap from scratch.”
That siple step led to something much bigger.
“I started making my own soap out of necessity for myself,” Rietheimer said. “I made four different kinds of soap. I realized this is so creative, mixing different scents and making colors out of clay and botanicals for different skin ailments. I then thought that I can turn the soap into a business and help other people with their skin problems.”
Rietheimer started out small, with an online Etsy shop selling six different products. She moved back to Cape May and started selling her products at the West Cape May Farmer’s Market.
“It was a slow process,” Rietheimer said. “I literally started from nothing.”
Rietheimer sells her products in her own store, online and in other Cape May shops. Visitors to her store are often surprised to find that the 27-year-old is the owner.
“It’s funny that sometimes people think I am too young to own anything,” Rietheimer said. “Or they talk about my dog Cecelia and say that it’s nice my boss lets me bring my dog to work. When they realize I’m the owner, they look at me differently. Even ask if it is my parents’ business or if it was handed down to me. It’s eye opening when they realize that I’m the owner.”
Rietheimer’s website analytics shows that 65 percent of her shoppers are between 21 to 35-years-old, proving that millennials know how to sell products to their generation.
AREA APPEALS TO GENERATION
Millennials want to thrive in Cape May. If an opportunity is available to work and live in Cape May, they will take the chance to live a vacation lifestyle.
Morgan Sacken, 23, graduated from Stockton University with a bachelor’s degree in communications and double minors in business and writing. She grew up in Bergen County, but fell in love with South Jersey while in college.
“I grew up nearby New York City, so I wanted to take a break from the crowds of impatient people,” Sacken said. “It is very relaxed down here and I love the people. I grew up coming to Cape May for vacation. It blew my mind that people grew up near the ocean and live this vacation lifestyle. It infatuates me.”
Many millennials in the communications field feel pressured to work in New York City, where it is a hub of journalism opportunities as well as being a walkable city with a desirable, active nightlife. The corporate life in North Jersey or New York City did not appeal to Sacken.
“After graduating college, I worked at a photography studio,” Sacken said. “It did not pay well and there was no room for me to grow. I felt like my only option was to work in New York City, but that world is not for me.”
Sacken took a gamble to live at the beach and find a job in photography. She now works at Cape May Magazine as a photographer and web assistant.
“Photography is my passion and it is what I want to do,” Sacken said. “I take the photo of the day for CapeMay.com on Friday and I keep the event calendar on the website up to date.”
Sacken lives with her boyfriend in Cape May County.
“I commute to Cape May from Corbin City,” Sacken said. “It is working well for the summer, but it’s an hour and a half commute total. I would move closer if I could find something reasonable rent wise. I would love to cut that commute in half.”
The question many people find themselves asking is how Cape May can continue to draw millennials to the area. With the baby boomer generation increasing in age, millennials are the next wave of tourism in Cape May County.
For some, Cape May offers a quiet lifestyle that is perfect for young families raising children.
Laura Goodavage, 35, spent summers and offseason weekends in Cape May while growing up.
“I grew up here in an unusual way and was accepted as a local in my circle of friends at a young age,” Goodavage said. “The day I would get out of school in Westchester, Pennsylvania, I would stay with my grandmother until school restarted. I grew up down here and my entire social life was here.”
Goodavage is on the older side of the millennial spectrum, being born in 1983.
“The other day was the first day I figured out that I’m a millennial,” Goodavage said. “At 35, I wondered if I associate myself with millennials. I was a bit crushed. We need to have an earlier millennial range.”
Goodavage started working in Cape May alongside friends and her future husband.
“I started working at a really young age,” Goodavage said. “I worked at Zoe’s Beachfront Eatery from 12 years old to 18 years old. It was like a family, there were the same girls every year and it was a real family.”
In 2006, Goodavage married her husband and they moved in California. Goodavage has two sons, Bronson, 11 and Liam, 8.
“California wasn’t the place for us to raise our children,” Goodavage said. “We wanted the close bonds we had in Cape May. We moved to Florida next but it was still too far away from our family in Cape May.”
The Goodavages eventually moved back and settled down in West Cape May.
“We are surrounded by families that we grew up with and our kids our growing up with our friends’ kids,” Goodavage said. “We are like aunts and uncles to their kids and that is the epitome of what Cape May offers. You have a community base where kids can be kids again. Everybody watches out for everybody else and I haven’t found that anywhere else.”
The close connections the Goodavages sought were vital when Laura was diagnosed with chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy.
“I would not have survived my illness if I did not have the community and support that Cape May offered me,” Goodavage said. “To this day, the disease I have is a chronic illness and sometimes I wake up and am paralyzed. I have a list of people who will be there for us and that is incredible.”
Goodavage is a family wellness coach and owns a private practice. She is currently studying to become a doctor of Ayurvedic medicine.
“Ayurveda is a common-sense medicine that bridges holistic and western medicine,” Goodavage said. “I was on a pre-med path after high school. In college I realized I would not be able to be the pediatrician I wanted to be, so I shifted directions and ended up in business administration.”
Life in Cape May helped Goodavage realize the career path that she wanted and would ultimately allow her to be involved in the local community.
“Millennials get out of high school and go straight to college, where they are expected to pick a major immediately and get a job,” Goodavage said. “Life didn’t work that way for me. I was doing what I was doing because I thought I was good at it. But it wasn’t fulfilling my life. When we moved back to Cape May, I realized that I wanted to work with families in the area.”
Cape May is a unique area for millennials and a great area to settle down and place roots.
“It is so easy to do anything and everything you want to do here with transportation and the internet,” Goodavage said. “You can have a livelihood here and do whatever you want to do. You can have a Mayberry-type upbringing for your family and have the support of a community so you’re not alone. That is crucial from a parent perspective. It’s an easier way of life with the eclectic environment of agriculture, restaurants, the art and history scene and the diverse population of professionals. We have it all. It’s kind of a no-brainer to live here.”
LOCALS SUPPORT LOCAL BUSINESSES
Members of the community really support local businesses.
“Cape May is so focused on local supports and the local businesses are such a great part of Cape May,” Sacken said. “I love the coffee shops on the mall, especially Magic Brain. It is nice to have decently priced coffee shops around. For the millennial generation to take over the scene here in a few years, more averagely priced places are needed. Not every store has to be, but one store with a decent price where you’re not spending $50 on one shirt would appeal to our generation. We’re not trying to burn a hole in our pockets.”
Every summer season, new businesses open and visitors and locals alike notice that the owners trend on the younger side.
“The younger people who open businesses will bring millennials here,” Rietheimer said. “I see a lot of businesses in cities like escape rooms, which are interactive and becoming popular. They’ve started to come to Cape May and they are geared towards younger people. Other places have had them for a while but they are just coming down here. Same with businesses like Muddy Paws, the self-service dog wash in North Cape May, and the bubble tea shop at the Akroteria.”
Many believe as trendy businesses and activities trickle across the country and land in Cape May, it will drive millennials to the area for opportunities and activities.
The millennial workforce in Cape May continues to progress and grow with the changing seasons.
Millennials like Rietheimer, Sacken and Goodavage have unique jobs, that aren’t your everyday professions. They are following their passions, which is trending to be the millennial way. They get to live their lives in a community that they grew up in – Rietheimer and Goodavage – or the community they experienced and grew to love – Sacken and myself.
As for myself, the more time I spend in Cape May I realize that millennials are the future of both tourism and full time residency. When the resident snowbirds head south to Florida for the winter, millennials enjoy the quieter pace of life that is Cape May in the winter.
Rietheimer had winter hours for shore soaps, which is a smart move because Cape May does not come to a standstill in the offseason as it has in the past.
Tourists often ask me if I live in Cape May year-round and whether I enjoy it when it quiets down.
My answer often surprises them when I tell them that winter is my favorite season in Cape May. I moved to Cape May for a quieter pace of life than my suburban upbringing, and a short commute to work. But above all, I moved here to, as Sacken says, live a vacation lifestyle while pursuing my passion for journalism.
Millennials such as Rietheimer, Sacken and Goodavage dispel the myths and stereotypes of the average millennial – those who live in Cape May are anything but average.