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.


More Cape May merchants offering winter hours


by Rachel Shubin

Special to the Star and Wave

The stillness that is wintertime in Cape May can be felt Monday through Thursday. Weekends in Cape May have more of a bustle to them, which is why many local shops opt to be open on weekends to cater to locals and visitors alike.

Do a double take, or a double shot of espresso, because Coffee Tyme is opening a new location on the Washington Street Mall. While their flagship store remains at 315 Beach Ave., owners Jesse and Leigha Lambert are opening a new and additional location at 414 Washington St.

Coffee Tyme at the mall will have their grand opening on Feb. 16. The shop will be open at least five days a week, Thursdays to Mondays. Coffee Tyme plans to be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., and will add longer hours in May.

The Lamberts said they were hoping to expand their store in the next few years to another location that could stay open year-round. When an opportunity arose to open a new shop in 2018, they decided to take that next step.

“One thing that really excited us is seeing more stores return to being open seven days a week in the winter,” Jesse Lambert said. “We want to be a part of Cape May’s evolution back into a year-round destination.”

He said it could be difficult to find enough open places in the winter. Having Coffee Tyme at the mall stay open during the offseason will give a place for Coast Guard families, local workers, contractors and the like to have a place to eat and drink.

“I always wanted the Beach Drive location to be year-round, but in the winter, you don’t see people on the Promenade unless it’s a nice day,” Lambert said. “I still see people on the mall even when it is 20 or 30 degrees out.”

Coffee Tyme gives local workers receive a discount on their purchases, as their way to give back to the community, Jesse Lambert said.

Coffee Tyme at the mall will still have the same products as their Beach Ave. location.

“We will also have nighttime snacks and drinks such as decaf coffee and loose leaf teas,” Lambert said. “We will also offer call in orders to pick up. We are also thinking of doing delivery to the immediate Cape May City area.”

The new store will also give the Lamberts the opportunity to try out a variety of sandwiches, different lunch specials, baked goods and a wider selection of teas. All their products are made in house and they offer a diversity of gluten-free options.

“In the summer we offer eight types of sandwiches,” Lambert said. “Those sandwiches are great, but in the offseason we are going to experiment with different combinations. We can put ones that everyone likes on our summer menu.”

The winter season allows the Lamberts and their employees to get to know their customers.

“The slower pace gives us a chance to know and connect with the people in the community beyond the level of a customer,” Lambert said. “A lot of customers become my Facebook friends, so when I see them come back I can ask them about what I’ve seen them post online and it is neat to connect with them in that way.”

Coffee Tyme prides themselves on being a personal coffee shop. Their employees know customers by name, he said.

“As much as I like the slow pace of the offseason, there is something to be said about the fast pace of the summer season,” Lambert said. “In the summer we can have a line of customers that means twelve different drinks and ten sandwiches to make. In the summer, it’s now or never.”

Coffee Tyme on the beach will open in the spring.

Cape May is a running friendly community because it is a very flat place to run. Born and raised in Cape May, Michael Mader and Harry Back are two locals who took their running passion to the next level. Mader and Back opened Cape May Running Co. in May 2017.

Cape May Running Co. sells a variety of running gear at 305 Beach Ave. Their winter hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. The store will resume more days and hours in April.

“Mike and Harry really wanted to keep the running community active in the winter,” staff member A.J. Mercincavage said. “There is still a need to buy winter gear, new shoes and running nutrition. We sell gel packs, small waffles, and salt tablets, which are used to stay hydrated and give energy when you’re going for a run.”

Being open in the winter, the employees and owners get more of a chance to interact with a different crowd.

“There are still people vacationing on the weekend stopping in,” Mercincavage said. “There is also the local running community who stop in more regularly too.”

Starting the running company was a chance co-owners Mader and Back had to take. They are the only running store in Cape May.

“We wanted to be of service and give back to the local community, not just a boutique store,” Mader said. “We give discounts to our local military, police and fire, lifeguards and cross country and track teams from the local high schools. We also want to support kids and we sponsor the healthy kid running series based in Cape May Court House.”

The running company also offers discounts for the Wildwood Harbor Tri-Club and local businesses.

Mader and Back are advocates for kids in running as well as adults. Mader also wants to support those who are walkers.

“The store is a big part of what we do and a big part of running is hosting races,” Mader said.

Cape May Running Co. will host the Great Cape May Foot Race for their second year in 2018. The 39th annual Great Cape May Footrace is scheduled for May 12. The race is both a 5K and 10K run. The cost to register is currently $30 and increases on April 1. According to Mercincavage, their races are competitively priced.

“Many people like to run on the promenade and the beach, which is great,” Mercincavage said. “That’s what Cape May is all about. We also want to show people there are other really nice places to run on the island.”

The running company is hosting the first half-marathon run in Cape May. The Hollowed Half will take place on October 27. The registration price is $80.

“It’s going to be a really great race for the first year,” Mercincavage said. “It’s going to include a run on the Promenade, through West Cape May by the horse farms, through Cape May Point to see the lighthouse. It is really scenic and a flat course.”

Mader and Back had the opportunity to sit down and pick out picturesque spots for the half-marathon course. Mercincavage says the course shows everything the island has to offer.

“We wanted to get people outside in Cape May and see more than just the beach front. It’s going to be a great event and is very affordable,” Mader said.

The company sells training packages for their runs.

“We learned a lot the first year about customers’ needs and we are looking to build on that and those relationships,” Mercincavage said. “We are very excited to start hosting more races and continuing to develop relations with the running community in Cape May and South Jersey.”

The running company is adding Asics brand to their shoe inventory and will continue to add brand names as they grow.

“A local podiatrist came in the other morning and asked if he can refer his patients to us to get their shoes properly fitted,” Mader said.

Visit Cape May Running Company online at

Nestled in the bright white storefront of 510 Carpenters Lane, is Quirk & Co. A newcomer from the past summer season, Quirk & Co. features local and regional artists.

Quirk & Co is on winter break and will re-open February 10 on Saturdays and Sundays.

Owner Heather Seaman enjoys the offseason because she gets to spend more time with customers and work on Jackson Street Designs, her custom design studio.

“I like the quieter months because it allows me more time to talk with visitors and locals while they shop,” Seaman said. “I also can work closer with customers on custom furniture pieces and window treatments.”

Visitors to Quirk & Co. will find a variety of Valentine’s Day and Easter items, as well as spring décor and gifts. A fresh batch of candles from Gold & Ivy will be in stock.

Quirk & Co. is known for their hand stenciled pillows and visitors will find a new line of the pillows in the shop when it re-opens. Other popular items include tote bags, table linens as well as other customer favorites.

“In the offseason I have made a little workshop space to paint some special pieces,” Seaman said. “During the summer the shop is packed with merchandise and people.”

Seaman is bringing in a furniture paint line to Quirk & Co. and will be doing paint demonstrations and classes.

East coast tsunami warning test


Photo by John Cooke.

There are certain weather-related events you worry about when you live by the ocean, like tidal flooding and hurricanes. The east coast seldom worries about tsunamis but on Tues., February 6, we almost did.


Accuweather pushed out a tsunami warning notification, which did not have the word “test” in the title. Upon opening the notification, it showed that this notification was a test.

A few things ran through my mind immediately. First and honestly, what the f***? To which I admit that I actually did say out loud. Second thought was is this real or a repeat of Hawaii’s fake ballistic missile notification and thirdly I thought, where do you go if there’s a tsunami coming? Cape May is not exactly high above sea level elevation.

Of course, with our ever-changing climate and recent natural disasters (read: California Wildfires, mudslides), I didn’t want to immediately rule out the chance of abnormal weather. I hopped on to social media to see a few others asking if anyone else got a false alarm. I did not feel relief as I was not really too worried in the first place.

Accuweather released a statement, essentially blaming the National Weather Service for releasing the warning. NWS, in turn, blames an unnamed agency. Play the blame game all you want, but these false alarms need a system of checks and balances so they don’t become a regular occurrence.

At the urging of my boss and fellow journalist, John Cooke, I replied to a reporter’s question on Twitter if anyone on the Jersey Shore had gotten the fake notification. Not too long after replying, I got a phone call asking for an interview. Journalists work fast like that.

Being a reporter, you are typically on the other side of the lens. The side that is capturing the story, not being captured. There is much more anticipation when you’re being interviewed for a story, rather than the one doing the interviewing. For me, it was a personal reminder that I would rather be on the side doing the reporting, though it was a refreshing change.

John and I were interviewed by Philly Fox 29’s Hank Flynn, for his Hank’s Take segment. I will update this blog post tonight and link the video once it is online. It will be on tonight Fox 29 at 10 p.m.

Shops open to serve locals, prepare for spring


Best Two
Pete Smith’s Surf Shop. Photo by Rachel Shubin.

Special to the Star and Wave


by Rachel Shubin

The snowbirds have migrated south for winter, but Cape May is not without a small population in the heart of the season. Many stores in the city stay open as a warm place for locals and visitors to shop.

The best way to find out the hours for local stores is to call them, check their social media pages and websites. Around town, there are stores that are still open but only on the weekends.

Up on the Promenade at 714 Beach Ave., Pete Smith’s Surf Shop is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays, weather permitting. The store will be open full time starting April 1.

Pete Smith’s stays open during the winter for consistency and to try to keep Cape May a year-round community, according to store manager Meghan Protasi.

“We want people to know that we are up here and open, with core items in stock,” Protasi said. “We keep in mind the smaller audience, so people can buy what they need to.”

In the winter, Protasi sees more homeowners who take their time to vacation in the offseason.

“They really appreciate the stores being open and taking advantage of what’s going on in town,” Protasi said. “Rather than just being focused on a beach community, visitors can fill an entire weekend with shopping, winery and brewery tours and happy hours.”

Protasi said winter is also time for her to spend more time with customers.

“When the weather is chillier in winter, visitors spend more time in the stores which is nice,” Protasi said.

Protasi also takes time in the winter to do research on products for the upcoming season. Pete Smith also has art shows in the winter. They post all the events on their Facebook and Instagram pages.

“I get to spend time exploring new brands and writing up different orders based on inventory,” Protasi said. “I also send emails and work on social media, which is something I don’t have a ton of time for in the summer.”

Protasi said she loves when visitors to the store notice and acknowledge products that the shop did not have the previous season.

“Memorial Day is like having a big family coming to visit, where you have so much work to do to prepare but you’re so excited,” Protasi said.

Shop Pete Smith Surf Shop online at

Shore Soaps re-opens Presidents Day Weekend and will be open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Fridays and Saturays, and they will re-open seven days a week in April. Shore Soaps owner Corinne Rietheimer said the store is currently in the process of being renovated.

“We are building some new, bigger displays and rearranging,” Rietheimer said. “We are touching up the paint, rearranging and making room for new inventory. It’s normal upkeep that needs to be done every year but we can’t do it while we are open.”

She said her choice to stay open during the winter season comes from wanting to keep the doors open for locals.

“Our mentality is that we are here anyway producing our inventory for the season,” she said. “We make all of our products in house and our handmade soaps take six weeks to cure. We always have to be thinking at least two months ahead.”

It seems far away, but the soaps that Shore Soaps makes during January will be the first ones on the shelves in March and April.

“Even though we consider this time our ‘off season,’ this is actually our crunch time for 2018 production,” she said.

Rietheimer gets to view her store at a slower speed in the winter. The quieter time gives her opportunities such as down time to make necessary improvements.

“By the summer we are a well-oiled machine,” she said.

Visitors will find different music played than in the summer, especially when it is the time for Christmas music.

“After listening to Christmas carols for a month straight, we need to regain our sanity with normal tunes,” she said. “We get to listen to our personal taste in music in the offseason.”

Sore Soaps is a dog friendly shop. Rietheimer’s husky Cecilia is the store’s official greeter and is in the store every single day, both in winter and summer.

“Cecilia has a lot of visitors throughout the day,” Rietheimer said. “She has lots of dog friends in town that stop by and even people that don’t have dogs or know me by name stop in and ask, ‘Is Cecilia here today?’ She’s a local celebrity.”

Tourists stop by Shore Soaps every year to see Cecilia. Many recognize her from the West Cape May Farmer’s Market, where she spends every summer under the soap booth’s table.

“We welcome all friendly dogs in the front of the store, as Cecilia is very friendly,” Rietheimer said. “We do have a sign outside of the store just letting guests know that she is inside in case they have a dog with them or are afraid of dogs. We never like anyone to be caught off guard and fully understand that not everyone likes dogs.”

Shore Soaps is located at 658 Washington Street and online

At the corner of Perry Street and Carpenters Lane, is Cash and Clive, which carries premium denim, women’s clothing and apparel. The shop is open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturdays, Sundays and holiday Mondays.

Owner Jessica Cicchitti stays open to encourage Cape May’s year-round community.

“So many people live here and we want to be available for the people who live here year-round,” Cicchitti said. “Being across the street from Congress Hall, there is always someone around between the hotel guests and weddings.”

In the past when Cicchitti shopped in town, she found herself disappointed when she visited stores and they were not open in the winter.

“I hated having them not be open, so I will never be that store,” Cicchitti said. “Being open in the off season means people are excited when they find out we are open. I get to spend more time talking to customers.”

Cicchitti does inventory during the day while she is open. In the summertime, she waits until the evening.  Cicchitti also takes the time to reorganize furniture during the day as well.

“I am looking forward to the arrival of our spring and summer fashions,” Cicchitti said. “I’m super excited for Misa Los Angeles. I just placed my order and the line has really cute dresses.”



The podcast comeback

Podcasts remind me of my classic iPod. What was once the craze to get the newest iPod is now what occurs for the latest iPhone release.

I’m not sure if I ever listened to podcasts in the past, but there has been a resurgence in the availability of podcasts lately – especially among millennials. Podcasts being free is also a plus.

Podcasts have become a way to digest news on the go, a multitasking tool.  The narrative audio format is perfect to listen to while at work, in transit or outside on a run.

I started listening to the Views podcast by David Dobrik and Jason Nash this year in May. It’s a comedy podcast based on their lives as vloggers on YouTube. The following is clearly people who watch them online, otherwise it might be a bit confusing.

I have occasionally listened to other YouTuber’s podcasts when the subject or guest on the show interested me, such as Shane and Friends, Psychobabble and Not too deep with Grace. They are light and good entertainment to listen to occasionally.

Recently my roommates turned me on to The Daily, which is a podcast from the New York Times, narrated by Michael Barbaro. The Daily comes out five times a week. I find it to be 20 minutes of the most timely, concise and literate reporting that I hear every day.

Image from New York Times.

The Daily is one of those podcasts that has relevant topics and great guest speakers. Entertainment Weekly named The Daily as one of the top podcasts of 2017.

The Daily brings my roommates and I together, because we will often discuss the topics of the show after work or over dinner. We are definitely the target audience for the show, being 24, 29 and 36.

My list of podcasts that I want to listen to has continued to grow, ranging from pop culture, entertainment and other news reporting.

Podcasts are a great way to relieve stress (unless your listening to something that makes you angry, like the news often tends to do these days).

Podcasts are having a renaissance moment and I’m listening. Are you?

New traditions



I can be rigid and a total stickler for keeping traditions the same every year, especially when it comes to the holidays. But it can be difficult to do so when the world is constantly changing and throwing unexpected things at you.

Since moving to Cape May in February, I’ve celebrated all the holidays here. In April, we celebrated Passover and we had an unofficial seder. But as the seasons changed and the winter holidays are in sight, I knew there were going to be bigger changes ahead.

Thanksgiving has always been one of my favorite holidays, even though it is a difficult time of the year. In 2009, my grandpa passed away the weekend before Thanksgiving. And in the years since then, I have had two Thanksgivings in Cape May, which was the start of a new tradition that was cut short.

Thanksgiving 2015 I spent incapacitated on the couch due to a muscle spasm in my lower back (think unpleasant pain & serious painkillers). And of course, last Thanksgiving when I was two weeks out from getting my wisdom teeth removed and was in a lot of pain. Two years of less than stellar celebrations.


Thanksgiving 2017


I was hoping this year’s Thanksgiving would be a little bit better, but my grandma passed away the week before Thanksgiving. And in an unexpected turn of events, I ended up staying in Cape May. I felt like it was the right thing to do, even though I did want to be with my family. Another part of me knew that going home and not having my grandma with us at Thanksgiving dinner would just make me realize that she is really gone.

Lucky for me, I have fallen in with a great group of people through my roommates. My roommate AJ and I set out to have a Thanksgiving dinner for two people – easier said than done.

The pre-Thanksgiving weekend started out with a bang, between me spraining my ankle on Thursday night and then our refrigerator stopped working that weekend. I completely took on the “I’m not stressed, you’re stressed” mentality.

Uncertainty gives me anxiety, so not knowing whether we would have a working fridge by Thanksgiving made me worry we might not be cooking. But we had a backup fridge that was up and running by Wednesday night, Thanksgiving eve (Shout out to AJ, Tom and Kyle). AJ and I even did the Thanksgiving shopping on Wednesday night. Yes – I hobbled around ShopRite on crutches and it was not a fun time.

After 23 years, I had my first Thanksgiving away from home. It might have been one of the best holidays yet. There’s something about removing yourself from family drama and just having a casual Friendsgiving dinner that just works.

I had just written a newspaper article about breaking Thanksgiving traditions by trying new foods. I did not think I would be breaking my biggest tradition by spending Thanksgiving away from my old Virginia home. Cape May is home now.

It seems like making new traditions is better than I thought it would be. And I’m very thankful for this year’s Thanksgiving with AJ and Nabs.


Friendsgiving with AJ.