It was not quite an SOS to the world, but a simple message in a bottle.
A lyric from “Message in a Bottle” by The Police came true for Isidro García of Galicia, Spain, when a message in a bottle washed ashore on the beach in Con Cerrado, all the way from Cape May Point.
Inside of the wine bottle was a plastic bag that contained a note with the sender’s contact information, a $1 bill and a lottery ticket from David Kembel, who had thrown the bottle in the Delaware Bay.
For 20 months, the bottle made its way across the Atlantic Ocean, finally washing ashore on the small island of Illa de Arousa in March.
Kembel and his family have been vacationing in Cape May for more than 25 years. They started throwing bottles into the ocean with messages enclosed as a fun thing for his kids to do when they were younger.
“I never expected a bottle to go as far as Europe,” Kembel said. “I was really surprised to hear from someone so far away.”
He said he gets replies to his bottle messages every three years or so.
“Who knows where the rest of the bottles are floating since this one took almost two years to get to Spain,” Kembel said. “Other bottles have ended up in Cape May, the Villas and Delaware. Some hit the beaches two miles down in just a few days. The Villas takes longer because the currents in the Bay are pretty crazy.”
Kembel heard from someone who found a bottle this past week in Townbank, just a few days after sending it off.
“One year a lifeguard found a bottle in the ocean while paddling on his surfboard, it only traveled about three jetties,” Kembel said. “Last year a guy found one in Cape May and he was a talk show host. He called me for his show on the radio. To hear him talk about it and be so excited was worth it.”
Kembel said he enjoys hearing the excitement of those who find his bottles.
“The first reaction of my father when he and his friend found the bottle in the sand was to ignore it, they thought it came from a nearby village,” Cris García Santiago, García’s daughter, said. “It was my father’s friend, Juan ‘Chicho’ Manuel, who took the bottle and it was impossible to open, so they crashed it against a stone to see what was inside.”
Cris Santiago, 19, is studying translation and interpretation in college and acts as a translator between her father and Kembel.
“We have the lottery ticket and David’s letter yet,” Cris Santiago said. “It was barely readable after deteriorating in the sea. It was an awesome experience. To be honest, we did not have much hope when we contacted David because his email was nearly impossible to decipher, but we had good luck.”
The Santiagos’ lottery ticket was not a winning one. It would have been $1,000 a week for life.
“No one has won the lottery yet, by the way,” Kembel said.
The local media in Galicia picked up the Santiagos’ story and shared it over the radio, television and local newspapers.
“Keeping in touch with the finders fades over time,” Kembel said. “One year a school teacher found one and we emailed back and forth with the class for a good six or eight months. It’s usually one to two notes, a Christmas card or two and that’s it. It’s fun to see where they come from and where they come up.”
Kembel is a retired healthcare lawyer and lives in Montana.
“Even though we are in Montana, we have to come back every year to Cape May Point to get our beach fix,” Kembel said.
No one has ever accused Kembel of littering.
“Nobody has ever said that, most people are interested in what is going on,” Kembel said. “When people find them, they get a chuckle.”
Kembel has been in touch with García since the first response.
“I sent a note to one of my colleagues in Germany when I heard about this,” Kembel said. “One of them is from that part of Spain and he had heard and seen about the message in the bottle on the news. He thought it was funny because they knew about it but didn’t know it was me. It’s a small world.”
The peak of the summer is here in Cape May, with temperatures in the 80s and nary a parking spot in sight.
The massive increase in summer population has Cape May bustling with activity from out-of-town visitors.
Year after year, both newcomers and return guests find themselves back in Cape May for vacation. Stores, restaurants and motels all see repeat guests return to spend another vacation in Cape May.
Even the most adventurous of travelers have a favorite destination. Perhaps that explains the phenomenon of people returning here, summer after summer. Emotional attachments to Cape May are evident when guests return not only to the city but to the same property.
Visitors enjoy noticing what has changed around the city, including shops that have closed and the new ones that have taken their place. Finding what is new in town is always a surprise for return vacationers.
It’s not vacation until you’ve had your coffee
Coffee fanatics noted that Café Buongiorno closed at 414 Washington St. and a familiar Cape May Staple, Coffee Tyme, opened a new store in its place.
Coffee Tyme greets their return customers over the span of the summer season, especially now in its two locations.
“We have return customers for every week in the summer,” Coffee Tyme owner Jesse Lambert said. “I actually have some customers memorized.”
In addition to the new location, the flagship Coffee Tyme remains at 315 Beach Ave. Both shops have new products available.
“We just got our metal straws back in stock and they are already selling fast,” Lambert said.
Creating connections with customers is a special way to connect with people, making for a strong business and memorable experience among travelers.
A vacation in Cape May is easy, but choosing where to stay is arguably the most important aspect of a vacation.
The Victorian Motel, located at 223 Congress Place, finds that their clientele is largely repeat customers.
“Cape May is a comfort zone to a lot of people who have a nostalgic connection with returning here,” Victorian Motel Manager John Cooke said. “Many people we speak with, consistently refer to Cape May as their happy place. It might account for the 75-80 percent repeat clientele which the hotel enjoys.”
Return guests to the Victorian Motel choose it for the prime location at the end of the Washington Street Mall. The motel is one block away from the beach and has a pool. In 2017, the Victorian Motel was voted best kid-friendly accommodation by Capemay.com’s “Best of Cape May” contest.
“We’ve watched several generations meet each year for the same week,” Cooke said. “As well as watching the teenagers of many families grow up around the pool each summer. The guests refer to themselves as beach families.
A passport full of stamps is desirable to those who love to travel, but for others, beach chairs and sunblock fill the car with a familiar feel and smell of the start of vacation.
The emotional attachment to Cape May is more than love for the town, extending to the businesses and experience. Returning to the same place has benefits; it’s not just a redundant vacation. For some, summer isn’t truly done until a vacation is had in Cape May.
Editor’s note: Puzzled at seeing a number of women of the millennial age group sporting tattoos, i asked writer Rachel Shubin, a millennial, what attracted that generation to having permanent artwork on their bodies.
Tattoos are permanent, but generational ideals are subject to change. Millennials enjoy indulging in the latest trends and tattoos are no exception.
The public image of tattoos has changed in the thousands of years they have been available, surging in and out of popularity for the last hundred years.
For some millennials, their tattoos are permanent artwork forever frozen in time on their body. For others, the tattoos are a declaration of their identity.
“I have been surrounded with tattoos my entire life,” Madi Musinski said. “A lot of my loved ones have tattoos. Tattoos are like a piece of artwork. It’s an investment to get a tattoo on you forever, because a piece of artwork would fade over time.”
Musinski, 22, works at Mayer’s Tavern as a server. She has previously filled in as a barista at Magic Brain Café.
“Millennials want tattoos because of the permanence it has,” Musinski said. “Sometimes stability is rare in life and a tattoo is meaningful to you. I got the chemical structure of coffee, to represent this part of my life which is very valuable to me. It is always there to bring me nostalgia and to remind me of better times and my love of coffee.”
Perigee Moon Body Art at 301 Broadway in West Cape May, is a millennial-owned tattoo shop that Kirsten Ewing, 31, operates with a group of millennial women.
“I am so grateful for the work that I get to do every day,” Ewing said. “We have the best service job in the world because we get to sit on edge of society and have people come to us when they want to etch something that’s important to them on their skin forever. It is magical, beautiful and spiritual. For for me personally, it gives me a reason to exist and connect with people.”
Perigee Moon has been open for over three years. While their clientele ranges in age, local millennials frequent the place to get inked.
“I have been tattooing for eleven years,” Ewing said. “When we first started we had the intention to create a healing and safe space that everyone could feel comfortable getting a tattoo in and broaden the spectrum of people getting tattoos. I had previously worked in thirteen studios and I was the first female artist in half of them. We wanted a safe atmosphere where the clientele and artists were comfortable.”
The idea of creating a comfortable tattoo shop atmosphere was appealing to the millennials working at Perigee Moon. Millennials know how to cater to their age group. The harsh image that tattoo shops bring a rough crowd is anything but true of Perigee Moon.
“It’s a great thing because it changes peoples’ minds all the time,” Tattooist Destanie Pickin said. “People who never thought they would step into a tattoo come here. And they are happy when they leave, which makes us feel good that we changed their minds.
Pickin, 27, explained that the thoughts about tattoos is different for older generations. Baby boomers are often quick to criticize millennials’ choice to permanently mark their bodies. Perhaps it is because getting a tattoo is not something they were able to do when they were the same age.
“It’s a different though process that is changing. Many of the people who were ashamed to be themselves get tattoos at an older age. Millennials choose bold, positive and beautiful statement pieces. They love themselves and their tattoos are done tastefully,” Pickin said.
Pickin gets to meet clients from all different walks of life. Tattooing is a type of therapy that is healing for both the artist and the client, she said. Ewing said they connect with people on a serious level.
Some millennials opt for ink that has a strong personal meaning behind the design. It is a way to mark a time in life where they are working to establish themselves personally and professionally.
“People come to get tattoos because they want to remember something, or feel better about themselves,” Tattooist Caity Biggers, 28, said. “Sometimes they get tattoos for closure.”
Millennials getting tattoos consider the placement and size, as well as if their permanent artwork will impact their careers.
“I have been tattooed for half of my life and it’s a lot easier than it used to be,” Ewing said. “People get work with them. When I go to a fancy boutique I get followed and that’s annoying. But if that is the worst I deal with, I’ll be okay.”
The clientele of the shop includes many members of the United State Coast Guard and Lower Township Police Department, per Pickin.
“We have tattooed boutique owners here,” Ewing said. “The community has been gracious and accepting and very loving of us which is really wonderful. The town has embraced us.”
It is not uncommon for millennials to make tattooing a family affair. Biggers has often had multiple generations of a family as clients.
“I get grandmas with their daughters and granddaughters,” Biggers said. “My grandma always wanted a tattoo but never wanted to go into a tattoo shop.”
Parents who come in with their kids, but don’t chose to get a tattoo are offered a temporary tattoo.
Millennials’ parents often tend to fall in the baby boomer category. The baby boomer generation’s upbringing has them associate tattoos with the military or even on the opposite end of the spectrum, criminals. Their conservative upbringing tends to cater towards clean, non-tattooed wholesome looks.
“I think the pendulum of tattoos is swinging back to what they used to be,” Tattooist Tessy Mitchum, 30, said. “Those who get tattoos now get whatever they want and do more self-examination and self-discovery.”
Tattooed people often feel judged by non-tattooed people.
“If I get pulled over by a cop, I pull my shirt sleeve down over my tattoos,” Ewing said.
As more and more millennials get tattoos, it will be harder to find people without a tattoo.
“Tattoos all have a belief behind them,” Ewing said. “How can you discriminate against someone who is saying what they believe through their tattoos.”
The Pew Research Center estimates forty percent of millennials have at least one tattoo.
“It depends on where you are in society,” Musinski said. “There was a time when tattoos were representative of negative things. I don’t know why people of older generations look down at the younger generations and think they are doing something wrong. They were in the same position years ago. Older people care adverse to change and millennials are doing something they could not do.”
If a millennial goes for a job in a conservative setting, they might want to hide their tattoos. Employers are prohibited from discriminating against candidates based on gender, age, disability, etc. There is no federally protected class for people with tattoos.
“To me, it is like someone drawing a mustache on the Mona Lisa,” Cape May Star and Wave Newspaper Editor Jack Fichter said when he asked me to write this article.
As for the writer of this article, I am 24 and have five tattoos. I never thought I would have any permanent ink on my body because I am terrified of needles.
My parents are from the baby boomer generation and though my mom has come around to not dislike my tattoos, my dad still does not like them. Perhaps it is because my grandmother would not have approved. She did not even like pierced ears.
The Jewish culture particularly dislikes tattoos. Jews associate tattoos with the Holocaust, when they were tattooed by Nazis with an identification number in concentration camps. The Torah states “You shall not make gashes in your flesh for the dead, or incise any marks on yourselves.”
I grew up hearing that I would not be buried in a Jewish cemetery if I had tattoos on my body. It depends on whom you ask. Despite knowing that typically my religion did not approve of tattoos, my first tattoo has my Hebrew middle name, Batyam, written in Hebrew characters under an anchor. Batyam means daughter of the sea.
I got over my fear of needles by getting tattooed. There is something calming in knowing you are making a permanent change to your body that only is temporarily painful. Relinquishing control to a tattooist is scary for anyone, but the artists want you to be happy with the art that you will carry for the rest of your life.
For me, my tattoos all carry a serious meaning about my life story and each one is very personal. They should be, if I am going to live with them for the rest of my life.
Like Musinski said, my tattoos are so representative of the person I am today and strive to be in the future. And I truly believe I will still like my tattoos sixty years from now, because they will hold even less of a stigma in the future
A week ago, I started getting push news app alerts that there was a potential shooting incident in Annapolis, Md.
I closed my eyes and wished that it wasn’t another mass shooting. We are currently living in a world where mass shootings occur far too often, because (among many issues) the current administration is in bed with the NRA.
I was sitting at my desk, writing an assignment for my local newspaper. I immediately switched into investigative journalist mode and started combing Twitter to find out what kind of setting the shooting had taken place.
The shooting was probably still ongoing, but reports were pouring in that it was at the Capital Gazette newspaper office. I felt sick to my stomach.
Though I don’t work in a newsroom, I am a journalist who writes for a paper. I work in an office, a desk job at a motel. I felt like that could have been me.
It’s one thing when shootings occur at school, because school is a place that everyone should feel safe. But work is also not a place you should expect to be gunned down by a crazy person. You should not have to hide from a shooter under our desk.
The shooting today in the Capital Gazette newsroom in Annapolis, Maryland cannot reasonably be separated from the President’s mission to villainize the press as “the enemy of the American people.”
In February, Trump Tweeted that the news media is “the enemy of the American people.” He continually attacks the free press, and again on Monday he reiterated his “enemy” stance, a few days before the shooting.
I saw a Tweet from an intern at the Capital Gazette, saying there was an active shooter and to send help. I started seeing more Tweets from staff at the Gazette, revealing the details of the shooting. They were literally reporting the news while under attack.
The police confirmed they caught the perpetrator and the situation was contained.
Soon after, the news was released that five employees of the Gazette were killed. As always, the White House sent thoughts and prayers.
We’re paid for shit. We work like dogs. People, including the president, disparage us at every opportunity. Now they’re shooting us down in our newsrooms. I’ll still be back tomorrow. Because the people at the #CapitalGazette matter. My colleagues mater. Journalism matters.
No one should feel unsafe at work. But the fact of the matter is, we live in a world gone crazy. Trump continues to attack journalists and calls the media “fake news.” The only way to dispel his disregard for the First Amendment, is to continue to write.
Journalism matters. Reporters matter. We want to share the truth with the world. As the Editor of the Capital Gazette so eloquently said, “We will continue to honor our dead. But we will also remember those who remain. They were journalists. And so are we.”
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.
Millennials are alive and well in Cape May, and surviving on more than avocado toast and cold-brew coffee.
Rumor has it that their affinity for avocado toast and coffee is one of the reasons millennials cannot afford to buy their own homes. Australian millionaire and property mogul Tim Gurner said that the reason millennials are slower to buy their first home is because they are spending $19 on avocado toast and $4 on coffees.
People are quick to use trendy food as a scapegoat, when the real problem is, but not limited to student loans and the high cost of living. The generation which makes up millennials is so diverse that one statement does not encompass the entire age range.
In fact, there isn’t even a definitive agreement about what years start and end this generation. Typically, those born from 1981 to 1994 make up the group, with the oldest millennials to 24 as the youngest.
Many millennials consider themselves idealists, connected and tolerant, while others have called them narcissistic, lazy and entitled.
The county tourism office has found that millennials seem to have little interest visiting Cape May on their own, though it is suspected they are more likely to arrive here with their families.
Millennials living in Cape May break the mold of entitled, as many of them need to work multiple jobs to survive. Upon closer examination, Cape May has a well-established millennial community living and working in town.
“Working here is tough because I’m a writer,” Jennifer Post said. “I also consider job hunting a full-time job.”
Post, 28, works as a freelance writer and has a part-time job at Willow Creek Winery. Her family visited relatives in Cape May before ultimately buying a house after Post graduated high school.
“I went away for college and then moved back in with my parents after I graduated from Rowan,” Post said. “Millennials love to hang out in Cape May, but can’t afford to stay here.”
Millennials are hindered with student loans, making funds scarce for life in a seasonal vacation resort town.
“Working here is great for college kids whose parents have a house here,” Post said. “It’s hard for someone like me who is trying to save up for a car, a house, bills and student loans. The constant cycle of seasonal jobs just isn’t conducive for starting a life here.”
As a full-time resident, Post does not find a wide variety of entertainment for herself. Every millennial has different interests, and depending on their chosen career path, it can be hard to find a full-time job in their chosen career.
It’s not that millennials do not want to own their own businesses, but they lack the capital to do so.
Some Millennials defy pigeon-holing
However, a lack of capital does not stop all millennials.
Anyone who calls millennials lazy and entitled has not met 28-year-old Jesse Lambert. The fourth-generation local along with his wife, Leigha, owns Coffee Tyme on the beach and a new location, Coffee Tyme on the Washington Street Mall.
“I grew up in Cape May and the only time I left was to go to college,” Jesse Lambert said. “As soon as I was done with college, I knew I wanted to come back here. Cape May is where the heart is, I’ve always been drawn to it. I knew I wanted to spend the rest of my life here.”
Before the Lamberts opened their coffee shop businesses, they worked a variety of jobs in town.
“The Cape May hustle is juggling multiple jobs at the same time,” Jesse Lambert said. “We would work two to three jobs each to save up for rent and traveling. I worked at Sunset Beach Gifts and taught surfing lessons.”
When the Lamberts saw that Coffee Tyme was up for sale by the previous owners, they worked there for a year to make sure they wanted to buy the business.
“For a young couple like us, we were able to get a loan from Sturdy Savings Bank through the Small Business Administration,” Jesse Lambert said.
The 2008 stock market crash continues to plague millennials ten years later.
“I’ve heard that the mortgage standards are very strict because of 2008,” Jesse Lambert said. “It’s a shame because we would like to be able to buy a house but it’s tough with student and business loans. It will be a while for us.”
Slowly the demographic of visitors and locals in Cape May is changing. More millennials are being drawn to Cape May for a quieter lifestyle or more active weekend trip or summer vacation.
The Lamberts have seen increasing numbers of younger people coming into Coffee Tyme.
“It’s exciting to see younger people coming in and not just with their families,” Jesse Lambert said. “Friends of mine will come down here. Even people who have come as a child and fallen in love with Cape May are coming back as adults with their kids.”
The Lamberts opened their latest shop on the Washington Street Mall in early 2018.
“It was easier 30 years ago to have a house and a business,” Jesse Lambert said. “We are blessed to have two coffee shops.”
Cape May’s millennial appeal is evident through the activities available in town. Cape May has always been an outdoor-friendly destination for bicycle riders and beachgoers.
“There has been a push for more active events like bike tours around the island, the Escape the Cape Triathlon and the Cape May Running Company’s races,” Jesse Lambert said. “Cape May Running Co. is doing an amazing job and that is perfect for millennials.”
Liza Crawford, 26, started visiting Cape May in the summer with her family to visit her grandparents. Crawford came to Cape May every summer through college, still visiting after she graduated from Penn State.
“I worked as a nanny outside of Philly,” Crawford said. “I was already working weekends at Cape May Running Co., so when it was time to leave this past October, it was easy to come back here.”
Crawford moved in to her family’s home, so she could continue to work for Cape May Running Co. (CMRC).
“I do both retail sales and design at CMRC,” Crawford said. “I also will be teaching sailing at the yacht club this summer. I work two jobs at a time and I also dog sit and do freelance design.”
Crawford started the Mile Zero Project, a free fitness group that meets at the Cove Beach at 6:23 a.m. on Wednesday mornings.
“It is based on the free fitness group run in forty-nine cities around the world,” Crawford said. “It’s a group of people who like to work out and anybody can come, no matter what your ability. It creates a community in its own.”
Variety of attractions appeals to millennials
When asked if Cape May appeals to the millennial age group, the bar and music scene as well as the outside activities are mentioned. The Lamberts have never sought after nightlife, but find that there are options for those who enjoy outdoor activities.
“Cape May is heaven for millennials who like outdoor activities,” Jesse Lambert said. “We like to bike around the island, go surfing and even skateboarding. One day we hiked from the Canal to Reeds Beach, which took all day. We’ve always wanted to try paddle boarding around the island.”
Jesse Lambert noted that a small town like Cape May could not even support a movie theatre.
“We had the theatre for a long time, but Cape May just doesn’t have the year-round economy that it used to,” Jesse Lambert said. “It’s working to get back to where it used to be.”
There are always live music events offered in town, from Convention Hall to open mic nights at various bars.
“The music is not marketed at millennials, it’s marketed for baby boomers,” Post said. “I like going to the Rusty Nail, but every time I go to hang out there, the age group is like my parents age. The bands they bring in play that kind of music. The marketing is a miss for what you’re actually getting.”
Cape May attracts a different scene from the other shore towns, because every activity in town offers a whole experience.
“There isn’t a lot to do in the other shore towns, other than going to the beach and bars, but Cape May has so many activities,” Crawford said. “We are more hipster and that draws people in because there are so many young business owners.”
Visitors aren’t limited to spending their day on the beach or shopping, but can find different yoga studios and other opportunities.
“Cape May is an entire experience,” Crawford said. “You can go to Beach Plum Farm for entertainment. There are other wineries in West Cape May, farms to visit and so many experiences to be had.”
Millennials who live in Cape May find that the drawback to life here is how the town almost comes to a standstill in the winter. As evidenced by this past winter, that is changing as more stores and restaurants are staying open or having weekend hours.
“If you work hard enough during the summer, you can make it work in the winter,” Crawford said. “I am happier living here. I have lived in the suburbs before but I love this close-knit, small town.”
Cape May holds a power over those who grew up here. 28-year-old Kelsey Medvecky is no exception.
“I grew up in Cape May and left to go to college at the College of New Jersey,” Medvecky said.
She met her future husband, Tom Medvecky, when she was at TCNJ. After school, they moved to Plainsboro to be closer to each other and for work opportunities.
“I grew up in Piscataway and started dating Kelsey in college,” Tom Medvecky said. “We would come down here on the weekends in the summer. We knew without really knowing that Cape May was where we would end up.”
The Medveckys moved to Cape May and both work as lifeguards. He teaches sixth grade at Cape May City Elementary School, while Kelsey works as an occupational therapist at multiple schools in the area.
“Winter is the same everywhere you go because it’s cold and it gets dark early,” Tom Medvecky said. “Summers are just better by the beach and Cape May is the place to be. It’s home for Kelsey and felt like home for me. Coming here worked out nicely for us.”
Tom Medvecky takes his coffee and dog to the beach every morning before school. In the summer, Tom works as a full-time lifeguard.
“Tom has the Cape May life,” Kelsey Medvecky said. “I do lifeguarding here and there, when the college students go home. In the summer, I work in various occupational therapy jobs. Even if you’re a teacher, you need something to do in the summer. Living here, it’s like why not work on the beach.”
The Medveckys enjoy going on walks at Higbee beach with their dog, Iris.
“We also have a great restaurant and bar scene,” Kelsey Medvecky said. “You definitely cannot beat the food. We’ve traveled all over and we definitely have the best restaurants.”
She has found that more is happening in Cape May than ever before.
“Cape May is a hotspot with the music scene, open mic nights, bachelorette parties,” Kelsey Medvecky said. “There are also so many breweries, distilleries and wineries.”
The only difference between Cape May and other towns is the proximity to typical shopping.
“When we lived in the Princeton area, I had five different grocery stores within ten miles,” Kelsey Medvecky said. “People visit Cape May and are surprised the closest mall is forty-five minutes away.”
The Medveckys do similar activities to their friends who live in other places, like going to the movie theatres and out to dinner, or eating with friends.
“More things stay open in winter now,” Tom Medvecky said. “We have a closer group of friends.”
The Medveckys believe Cape May will appeal to millennials because it is a slower pace and significantly less time sitting in traffic. And visitors and locals alike can see the sun set over the beach at the end of the day.
“I think Cape May will appeal to millennials with the development of the bar and drinking scene,” Kelsey Medvecky said. “It’s a big draw for the younger people and the young professional group. More development brings more jobs that aren’t just seasonal.”
Tom Medvecky said he would take living at the beach over a Trader Joe’s any day.
Working one job doesn’t pay bills
As for me, the writer of this article, I too am a millennial. I am 24-years-old and I work a full-time job and work as a freelance journalist. I have lived in Cape May full-time for over a year and I have found that no one in Cape May works just one job. Most work at least two jobs to afford living in a beach resort town.
For the entirety of my life, I have spent at least two weeks a summer in Cape May. During my college years, I interned and worked at local businesses. All it took was a small taste of living in Cape May for me to form my plans to move here after graduation.
Once I moved to Cape May, I realized just how difficult it is to afford rent by yourself in the area. I lived with my parents for a few months before moving into a place with roommates. After nine months with roommates, I found a place to live on my own. I still find it very difficult to afford life in Cape May. Without the support of my parents, I would not be able to afford to live here on my income.
Affording rent and bills in a tourist town means the cost of living is higher and like Post said, it makes it very difficult to save up for a down payment on a house. I have never ordered avocado toast in my life, yet I am so far away from being able to own a home.
I agree with the Lamberts and Medveckys, that a life at the beach has so much to offer in terms of outdoor activities. My perfect outdoor activity is reading on the beach.
If you’re a millennial who does not like to drink, your available activities become more limited. I also agree with Post, that the music is geared towards the baby boomer generation. I have yet to find an advertised music event in town that I want to attend.
The future of tourism in Cape May lies in the hands of millennials. They make up a huge portion of the workforce and want all the same things their parents have, such as owning cars and homes.
It’s crucial that Cape May continues to think of millennials as new businesses come and go, catering towards the age range of those visiting. Millennials are starting to settle down and get married at earlier ages. Some millennials choose to have kids at a younger age than their parents’ generation.
For millennials who like to drink alcohol, with the breweries, distilleries and wineries the need is being met. Coffee shops like Coffee Tyme are hitting the mark, being run by millennials and catering towards millennials.
Owners of local shops run by millennials know how to market their target audience. Any millennial who has a dream of owning a store in Cape May should not be scared off by the finances, because Jesse and Leigha Lambert show that perseverance works.
Millennials who live in Cape May sacrifice easy access to big box stores, but with the Internet nothing is more than a few days shipping away. In fact, millennials even enjoy shopping local, because the boutique stores carry unique products that aren’t easily available elsewhere.
Cape May is a National Historic Landmark City that offers so much rich history. There are people who might think millennials will not enjoy learning the history of the town because they are selfish and entitled. With the right mindset and marketing, millennials can be interested in repeating history facts when posting a selfie on Instagram.
I urge anyone who believes stereotypes about millennials to sit down with a millennial and just talk to them (but don’t call us on our phones) and ask questions. Yes, I love a good iced coffee as much as the next millennial, but I don’t think my coffee addiction is the main problem keeping me from building up my savings.
CAPE MAY- A Villas resident is making waves by organizing a beach clean-up event. Eighteen-year-old Jill Simons has planned a clean-up event at the Cove Beach in partnership with the 1 Piece Each organization.
Simons became an ambassador for 1 Piece Each by messaging them on Instagram.
1 Piece Each is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization that believes that if every person focuses on picking up one piece each, they can make a serious impact on the quality of the future as a whole. 1 Piece Each was founded in New Smyrna, Fla. in May 2017.
“If I were to be an ambassador, I wanted to be physically involved,” Simons said. “You can do anything for them, like a beach clean-up.”
Simons had participated in beach clean-ups while she attended Lower Cape May Regional High School, but wanted to get involved on her own plan incorporating local businesses.
“I went to Coffee Tyme, Magic Brain and Big Wave Burritos and got them to offer free coffee or chips and salsa,” Simons said. “I also talked to the manager at Home Depot and they donated buckets and gloves for the clean-up, which was cool.”
Social media and the internet make it easier for younger generations to spread messages and raise concern over important issues. Simons wanted to use the reach of small town social media to make a difference.
“My main idea is that Cape May is so small, that everyone knows each other because we live in the Cape May bubble,” Simons said. “It’s not that people don’t know how to get involved. But I want to get everyone talking and to know each other and then participate in the clean-up. Hopefully they will think and talk about the event afterwards.”
Simons said she believes the clean-up will remind people the importance of recycling and local comradery.
“I want to give everyone knowledge and insight to take home,” Simons said. “It will bring people together and they can have a good day while doing a good thing.”
Simons said she encourages people to stop using plastic straws, because they often end up in the ocean.
“Plastic straws are really lightweight and they can miss the trash can and end up on the beach,” Simons said. “Take trash with you because if it doesn’t grow, it’s got to go. Keep trash with you and do not throw it on the beach. Put it in your pocket or even your shoe. People don’t realize that the trash you throw out tends to end up back out in the environment.”
Simons said she enjoys being out in nature and Cox Hall Creek in the Villas is her favorite spot in town.
“I’m always at the beach and I skateboard a lot,” Simons said. “I just enjoy being in Cape May in general.”
The event will take place at the Cove on Saturday May 12 at 10 a.m.
Participants can enjoy a free cup of coffee from Coffee Tyme or Magic Brain or free chips and salsa from Big Wave Burritos.
“They have to post a picture of the clean up on Instagram,” Simons said. “They can tag the shop they’re going to, tag myself and 1 Piece Each.”