Millennials offer mixed outlooks on living in Cape May

Special to the Star and Wave

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.


Jennifer Post. 


“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.


Jesse & Leigha Lambert.

“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.”


Tom & Kelsey Medvecky. Photo provided.

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.

Cove Beach clean-up starts with picking up one piece of trash

by Rachel Shubin

Special to the Cape May Star & Wave Newspaper

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.”

Instagram handles are @jilliannannee, @1pieceeach, @magicbraincafe, @coffee_tyme and @bigwaveburritos.

Couple shares love of alpacas at Lower Twp. farm

Special to the Star and Wave Newspaper

by Rachel Shubin

The plants were moved out of the green house so the alpacas could move in at 542 New England Road. And almost 20 years later, the farm, and the alpacas have become an instution in the Cape May area.

Barbara and Warren Nuessle are the owners of Bay Springs Farm Alpacas. The couple lives on the sprawling 10-acre farm with their 31 alpacas. The Nuessles, who purchased the land in 1993, started boarding their alpacas on the land in 1999, just before they opened the farm to the public.

The farm is open to visitors on Saturdays and Sundays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., year-round. Visitors to the farm enjoy taking pictures of the alpacas who have free range of their fenced in areas.

Visitors can feed the alpacas carrots, if they put a donation in a jar the Nuessles donate to Animal Outreach of Cape May County. Last year they raised $2,500 in carrot money.

Over the years, the Nuessles have bred some of the alpacas and taken them to shows. During their breeding years, the female alpacas, called hembras, produced 50 babies, called crias.

“All of our animals have all won ribbons in shows,” Barbara Nuessle said. “We aren’t currently breeding alpacas, we stopped around 2008 when the economy tanked and they stopped being easy to sell. Cash wasn’t available and people became risk-adverse and reluctant to spending money.”

Every animal on the Nuessles’ farm has a name and Barbara Nuessle can tell stories about each one.

“We started with the beginning of the Alphabet with Alejandro,” Barbara Nuessle said. “We worked down to M with Moxie, which was my last one five years ago.”

One of their first alpacas came from Chile, one of the three South American countries where alpacas originate from.

“Alpacas come from Peru, Bolivia and Chile,” Barbara Nuessle said. “I had a Chilean import initially, but it needed a four-month quarantine in Florida. After that, they all descended from imports.”

Best Alpaca Shot.JPG

Alpacas prefer temperatures ranging from 45 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit. When Cape May summers reach the upper 80-degree to 90-degree mark, the Nuessles will hose off the alpacas to keep them cool.

“They are adaptable animals,” Barbara Nuessle said. “Down here we have hot summers, so we have fans running in the barns. It gets hot when you consider they have a fleece coat.They have trouble in the heat and they don’t like wind, rain or hurricanes.”

When Cape May faces hurricane season, the Nuessles know their animals are smart enough to go in the barn, which stays locked until after the storm passes. Barbara Nuessle said she worries more about the barn roof blowing off.

Alpacas are used to rough terrain in South America in comparison to Cape May County’s soft, sandy soil. Barbara Nuessle estimates there are 4.5 million alpacas in Peru, but they have shorter life spans due to the harsher conditions.

“Their average life span is 15 or less,” Barbara Nuessle said. “A lot of our animals are getting to be geriatric. I have a lot of 16 to 18-year-olds. They live a really long life in Cape May, which is abnormal.”

The alpacas get their fur sheared once a year. It takes 25 minutes per animal for a  shearing. The pprocess begins in early May, and then the Nuessles will send the fleece to the mill during May to early August.

“When they get sheared they look like skinny deer,” Barbara Nuessle said.

It takes four months to spin the yarn, so they get it back around for the Christmas holidays.

“I have two helpers come down and divide the fleece, which we sell to spinners,” Barbara Nuessle said. “I also sell it on eBay, because you can reach a lot of people on the Internet.”

While the alpacas get sheared, they also get their toenails clipped and receive various vaccinations. The animals get yearly rabies vaccines and the Nuessles give injections every six weeks to ward off worms and parasites.

In 2001, the Nuessles opened their shop, which occupies the green house and breakfast nook of their home. The shop carries a variety of products made with alpaca fleece and most notably some of the yarn is made from the Nuessles’ alpaca herd.

“Alpaca yarn is the best because it is so soft and it’s hypoallergenic,” Barbara Nuessle said. “You can even hand-wash it in lukewarm water with a mild detergent.”

Barbara Nuessle pointed to a basket on her table, which she said was yarn entirely from her animals. It can come in 22 varieties of natural colors. Other yarn Nuessle has available comes from Peru and is hand dyed a variety of colors including purple, green and blue.

“We have had the farm store open for about 16 years,” Barbara Nuessle said. “My first sale was actually on September 11, 2001. It was a terrible day and we had been watching the news all morning. We were tired of the news so we sat on the porch watching the animals and drinking iced tea. An older fellow came by and purchased some fleece we had for sale.”

Their first sale of fleece happened on a fateful day, but a friendship with the man who purchased the fleece continued over time. He would return occasionally to purchase fleece, Barbara said.

“When we opened our store, by 2002 we had dedicated the green house to the farm business,” Barbara Nuessle said. “The yarn sprawled into the breakfast room and soon became the yarn room. The alpacas have taken over.”

One of the most popular items in the store is Barbara’s yarn dryer balls. She followed tutorials on YouTube to learn how to make them.

“I knit hats, shawls, ear warmers and dryer balls,” Barbara Nuessle said. “The dryer balls are very popular and the help dry clothes faster.”

A woman in the shop said she purchased the dryer balls last year and they still looked brand new. She brought her friends to the farm and after visiting the alpacas, they all purchased multiple bags of dryer balls.

“The dryer balls last forever,” Barbara Nuessle said. “I tell people five years because they don’t believe forever. But they do and I have twenty in my dryer right now.”

Another popular item found in the store is soap wrapped with alpaca fleece.

“The soaps are made by a friend who teaches knitting classes at Fiber Arts Yarn Shop and Cape May County Technical School,” Barbara Nuessle said. “I give her a roving, which is a long sliver of fleece that has been washed and combed. I give her yarn and she knits whatever she wants. One of her popular item is beaded mitts.”

Alpacas are often confused with llamas, but Barbara Nuessle is quick to tell visitors their vast differences.

“Llamas are pack animals and are much bigger, at 400 plus pounds,” Barbara Nuessle said. “Alpacas are half the size, around 200 pounds. Alpacas are too flighty to be pack animals.”

Peruvian alpacas are quite different than the ones in Cape May.

“Our alpacas are like pets,” Barbara Nuessle said. “We do a lot of things that they wouldn’t do in Peru.”

The Nuessles have found taking care of their alpacas easier than dogs. Barbara Nuessle said having one boxer dog was more work than 30 alpacas.

“Alpacas come and go as they please in the barn, they are simple,” Barbara Nuessle said. “Alpaca manure is wonderful for the garden. People call us in the spring for manure to put in their gardens. We put out 20-30 buckets of manure a week, which people come in droves for. It has no weed seeds in it.”

The alpaca’s diets include grass, hay and a special grain formula. In the wintertime they get alfalfa.

“They get a lot of treats from visitors,” Barbara Nuessle said.

Appointments can be made to visit the farm, 609-884-0563. Visit their website

So I moved…again

In March, I moved for the third time in a year. That is a funny realization for someone who had previously spent 23 years living in the same home.

From birth through February 2017, I lived in Fairfax, Virginia and had only known one house as my home. I had always felt like Cape May was another version of home, so moving here felt weird but exciting.

Fairfax home
Where I grew up in Fairfax, Virginia. Winter 2016. Cape May Rachel ©.

.That was the first move, from Virginia to New Jersey. Which continued every time that I went visiting from state to state, home to home.

Flash forward to June 2017, when I moved into a house with roommates – so I could continue to live and work in Cape May, while my parents’ house was rented for the summer.

That move was only supposed to be for four months, but I really liked living “on the farm” and decided to stay.

The farm. Cape May Rachel ©.

Good things come to an end and after nine months, it was time to move again. You’d think I’d have a system and certainly a lot less stuff. But you would be wrong, so very wrong.

In Cape May, finding a place that’s affordable for one person without roommates, is nearly impossible Everything is priced competitively, without young millennials who are just finding their way in mind.

I went from being with family to being alone to being with roommates and was ready to be totally independent.

Surprisingly, it only took two weeks for me to find the perfect new space of my own. It’s all about who you know and dumb luck. I was told I had to move out and two weeks later, I had a new lease signed. This time, for a year.

Before I saw my new apartment (or one bedroom house, or half of a duplex – whatever floats your boat), I knew it was going to be the perfect place because of the address.

The address was still the same street as my house with roommates, just 0.7 miles down the street. Not even a full mile. I hadn’t even seen the new place, but I knew it had to work because it was so close.

I saw the place and although it was small and did not have a washer and dryer, it was perfect. It took some convincing, because of my age and income, to get the landlord to rent the place to me. That’s the problem with being a millennial, but that’s another post.

Once everything was in order, I started moving. My third move in a year and somehow I had accrued so much stuff. I moved the majority of my stuff by myself. My roommate moved two pieces of furniture. And my friend Kate helped me with about five runs of stuff over, that would’ve easily taken me double the amount of time by myself.

I also had to furnish my new place, but luckily I was not starting from scratch. I had the furniture I had picked up off the street during the past year. I got a few pieces of furniture from Amazon and Target, which pretty much made me good to go.

The only and truly big purchase I had to make was a bed. For whatever reason, mattress shopping terrified me. I really did not want to do it, I hemmed and hawed how much I would allow myself to spend. Ultimately, I ended up checking out the selection at Big Lots and was surprised to see they had decent mattresses. I ended up with a Serta mattress that was firm and very budget friendly. (Shout out to Pam for telling me to go to Big Lots). I’m also obsessed with my French inspired headboard.

Bonne nuit bed
Bonne Nuit. Cape May Rachel ©.

Overall, even though moving is a complicated very stressful process…it all worked out in the end. I did not want to nor anticipate living with roommates last year, but it was really an experience I needed (especially after living at home throughout college). I wouldn’t trade it and now I have friends!

Big thanks to everyone who helped me move into my place – Mom, Dad, Kate, Karyn, Max, Marshal and Jenn.

I am so happy to be home!


Shore shops open to increasing winter business

Special to the Star and Wave

by Rachel Shubin

This seaside town is experiencing a winter revival. Even amid a long, cold winter, the population picks up on weekends, when out-of-towners come in from the surrounding areas to see what the vibrant summer community offers in the offseason.

Visitors will be pleased to see that many of Cape May’s businesses offer wintertime hours and a selection of merchandise catering to all the seasons. The spotlight that basks Cape May in a summer glow, turns to a cooler and gentler radiance in winter.

The artful vibe of Givens Circle is apparent in their window display before shoppers enter the store.  Located at 418 Washington St., they are open Saturdays and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., and will be open daily starting Mid-March.

“Cape May has a following of people who enjoy the solitude,” Owner Lindsay Givens Casale said. “It’s gorgeous on the beach.”

Her husband and fellow shop owner, Danny Casale, agrees.

“Just because it’s cold, doesn’t mean it’s not beautiful,” Danny Casale said. “Cape May is becoming more of a year-round place to visit and we want to be a part of that and help cultivate it. Plus, Lindsay is in love with the shop.”

Lindsay Casale enjoys keeping the shop open, for people who want to stop in and find great gifts for holidays and birthdays.

“It’s nice to see people appreciate more than just the 80-degree beach weather,” Lindsay Casale said.

Danny’s Grandfather was the late Vince Casale, who opened Casale’s Shoes on the mall. When Danny and Lindsay opened their shop, Vince Casale advised them to keep their doors open year-round.

The offseason gives the Casales more time to chat with visitors to the shop.

“We have a lot of really great little conversations that come up, because we have more time talk to people and spend with them,” Lindsay Casale said.

Shop owners also enjoy having their friends and other fellow shop owners and local businesses stop in to see them.

“Our friends come in to see us in with their morning coffee, so there is also a social aspect to it,” Danny Casale said.

In November and December, the Casales hosted a pottery class in their shop. Local artist Molly Bernstein came in and taught a class on ceramics.

“We moved all the stock and made a makeshift studio,” Lindsay Casale said. “We had to take it down and put it away and back out for the second night. We wouldn’t have been able to do that in July.”

Givens Circle also hosted various art openings during their summer season. The Casales enjoy thinking of other ways to utilize their shop space during the offseason.

“We love to bring in artists for meet and greets and their collection of works,” Lindsay Casale said. “We have met so many people through it. And other business owners come in, so we get to know them too, which was awesome. That is what keeps me excited.”

With the summer season not far in the future, the Casales shift the times they visit the beach.

“We enjoy the beach at a different time and take early morning dips,” Danny Casale said. “The sunset is eight o’clock so we go to Cape May Point and swim before sunset.”

Lindsay Casale notes that they start to see familiar faces at the same time each year.

“We always enjoy seeing return customers,” she said.

Find them online at


Louisas Chocolate bar
Louisa’s Chocolate Bar employee Molly Bernstein.


Louisa’s Chocolate Bar offers a sweet option for shoppers. Located at 106 Jackson St., the shop is open on Saturdays and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The shop sells a variety of artisanal chocolates and caramels, that are sure to delight customers craving chocolate while walking the Washington Street Mall.

“Cape May is surprisingly not dead,” Louisa’s employee Molly Bernstein said. “There are plenty of people here, with more and more people from the city coming down on weekends. They like and prefer the quiet atmosphere.”

Cape May’s proximity to Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland and Virginia, makes it an easy weekend trip destination.

“I enjoy the seasonal aspect of living here and how much it changes,” Bernstein said. “I like how the pace picks up and you meet new people. More and more young people are coming down. We are seeing a broader demographic and different types of people, with more diversity. It makes me really hopeful that Cape May is becoming a place for everyone to come down.”

Cape May’s quieter season is a time for locals to come out and go to stores that they might not have time to see during the hustle of the summer.

“I like the pace of the offseason; it recharges you from the summer,” Bernstein said. “More locals come in and it’s relaxing.”

The offseason provides shop employees more opportunities to have fun in the store.

“We can decorate more and put a lot of thought into how we present our inventory and curating what we carry,” Bernstein said. “It’s always a good time to reflect on both things.”

Louisa’s Chocolate Bar offers sales throughout the winter season.

Around the corner at 429 Washington St. is the green façade of Lace Silhouettes Lingerie. Lace Silhouettes is an intimate apparel brand that carries popular brands and unique accessories. They are open daily; hours may vary.

Manager Shawna Hulse says the store stays open to cater to year-round residents. Its sister store, The Cotton Company, is also open daily.

“We try to stay open for our local following,” Hulse said. “We like to have our store open for guests who want to come in to shop in winter.”

Hulse said shoppers vary from people coming in from out-of-town to check on their houses and people visiting for holidays.

“I like working in the winter and getting to know the local population,” Hulse said. “I also have the time to invest and build those relationships with our local community. The more stores that are open, the more people come to the mall. It keeps the community going.”

Lace Silhouettes is celebrating their 30th anniversary. Shop online at





A year in reflection


year in review
Hard at work, taking reservations and handling customer service.

This weekend marks my first full year of living in Cape May.  Journalists are supposed to avoid clichés in their writing, but this year really flew by fast. It’s been a whirlwind, I blinked and time was gone (seriously, I’ll just apply all the applicable clichés).


One minute you’re in college and wishing you were out in the real world. Next thing you know, you’re working fulltime, paying rent and daring to wonder the next time you’ll be able to afford to travel somewhere, anywhere (preferably back to Harry Potter world, Nashville, or somewhere new like New Orleans or Europe).

My writing capabilities have grown substantially in the past year. I’ve spent the last seven months writing for the Cape May Star and Wave Newspaper, learning tricks that you can’t learn in college – it has to be learned in the field.

Other than writing, what drew me to journalism is its ability to put me outside of my comfort zone. For reasons I can’t put my fingers on, my least favorite part of writing a story is collecting interviews. I recall the feeling going back to being on the middle school newspaper staff.

Writing for the Star & Wave means a lot of interviews and speaking to people. I’ve always been used to it, but now I don’t think twice about phone call interviews and even ones in person. Journalism has pushed me to change.

In the year since I moved, I’ve gone from staying at my parents’ house, renting a room in a house with roommates and now I just signed a lease on my very own one bedroom duplex.

When I look back on the past year, I don’t recognize the person I was in the past because I have changed for the better. I feel completely lucky that I have been able to support myself by moving away from the only place I have lived my entire life and starting a career in the place I have always lived in my dreams.

I would not be where I am today without my family and friends.

Here’s to another year in Cape May, learning more about myself and journalism every day.


Love for Valentine’s Day cards grew during U.S. Victorian Era

by Rachel Shubin

Special to the Star and Wave

In Victorian times, handwritten love notes on Valentine’s Day were the way to reveal romantic feelings for someone. In the modern age, “swiping right” with your thumb on a smart phone dating app is a way to signify interest in someone and potentially connect with a future love.

Located in Cape May Court House, the Museum of Cape May County is home to hundreds of years’ worth of local records and artifacts. Established in 1927, the Museum preserves and protects the history of the Jersey Cape for historians and visitors alike.

Valentine’s Day cards sent in the Victorian era are remarkably different from the current cards one can find at a Hallmark store. Valentine’s Day is the second-most-popular holiday for greeting cards behind Christmas.

In fact, Victorian valentines were not mailed, but hand delivered, according to museum volunteer Barbara Novsak.

“Historically, the old way valentines were sent were on handwritten on letter paper and then hand delivered,” Novsak said. “The letters had embossed envelopes with embellishments on the cards. They had pockets to put jewelry, candy and candy jewelry. Even secret notes.”

Novsak said some of the valentines were so embellished and large, they had to be put in a presentation box.

“When sending valentines first started, it was just on notepaper,” Novsak said. “The Valentine’s Day market first started in America because a young girl in Massachusetts received a valentine from a man in England.”

That young girl was Esther Howland of Worcester, Mass. The Howland family came over to America on the Mayflower. Her father owned a stationery and bookstore. She graduated from Mount Holyoke Female Seminary in 1847. The card she received was made with fabric and lace, with dimensional layers.

Esther “started manufacturing them and then enlisted college friends to write them,” Novsak said. “She sold them at her father’s stationery store. Worcester became the valentines center of America.”

Howland’s creation of valentine cards came during the height of the Industrial Revolution.

“It was a time where they could make paper better and faster and they had machinery for everything,” Novsak said. “Even the embellishments.”

The Museum has a collection of Victorian valentine cards, including one from a Cape May County woman, Hattie Hughes.

The year was 1868. At age sixteen, Hughes received a valentine from an admirer, Frank Hoffman. The valentine letter from Hoffman to Hughes is carefully preserved in wrappings at the museum.


The valentine reads: “Hattie – may the flowers of friendship forever bloom around thy way and may the choice gems of heavenly affection beam o’er thy path to light thee o’er to heaven, if sickness could cloud thy moment here and cast its gloom upon the prospects, he will serve like the storms on Earth to render far more bright and beautiful the sunshine of the eternal world. There storms come not; and no cloud mars the clear beauty of immortal bowers. The destiny of Earth may hurt us but cannot sever the lies of friendship – but beyond the tomb there is a world were friends part not and flowers immortal bloom.”

In addition to his valentine, Hughes received other love notes from Hoffman. Hoffman’s words did not sway Hughes, for she married Michael Lengert of Philadelphia in April 1871.

Novsak did research on the history of the origins of Valentine’s Day, which started because of Paganism in Rome.

“Christian belief changed the celebration, with Emperor Claudius II having problems with his empire during the third century A.D.,” Novsak said. “It started to fracture, so he needed soldiers to keep hoards from coming in and he wanted young, single men to fight. He thought they fought better than married men.”

According to Novsak’s research, it was a time when Catholics were converting to Christianity, priests were becoming bishops, who were, in turn, going around and marrying people to encourage them to stay faithful.

“That didn’t sit well with the emperor, so he arrested a bishop named Valentinus and put him in jail,” Novsak said. “The bishop became friend with his jailer and the story has it that the judge who was going to execute him had a blind daughter. Valentinius prayed for her and her vision got better and her father converted to Christianity.”

Novsak said Emperor Claudius was so mad, he had Valentinius beat, stoned and beheaded.

“The trifecta of death,” Novsak said. “That is where Saint Valentine comes from because he didn’t recant or stop marrying people. He stuck to his religion in the way he believed, which cost him his life but made him a Saint.”

Novsak said the more she reads and researches, the more she learns every day.

“Before Valentinius was killed, he wrote a message to the girl he had healed and at the end of his message he wrote, ‘from your Valentine,’” Novsak said.

Novsak also discussed her research on vinegar valentines, a lesser known form of valentine cards with bitter sentiments.

“It piqued my interest because I hadn’t heard of it,” Novsak said. “In the 1840s, you printed valentines on postcards and put them in mailboxes anonymously. They were valentine cards that insulted the person you sent it to.”

Novsak explained that the postal service was dependable and price controlled at the time, so for a penny, senders could mail the card without paying, but the receiver had to pay.

“So not only did they insult you, but you had to pay to get insulted,” Novsak said.

Novsak said there were valentine cards being produced during the first World War.

“The war made things scarce and harder to do and get it across seas,” she said. “But when the soldiers came home, there was an uptick in nicer valentines and has continued to grow continuously into the second largest card industry today.”

The staff of the museum said they could not do without Novsak as a volunteer.

Novsak, a retired nurse, said she had wanted to volunteer at the Museum for years. “I started coming up here to pull weeds and play in their gardens. But it got too hot and I ran out of weeds and came inside. One thing led to another and now I’m here five days a week.”

The Museum, located at 504 Route 9 in Cape May Court House, is home to more than 500 years of county history. It is located in the historic Cresse-Holmes House, which dates back to 1704 and 1830. In addition, the property is home to the historic Smith Barn and a carriage shed. The museum is also home to the Alexander Library, which houses centuries of Cape May County genealogical documents.