Stainton’s holiday season not derailed by Sandy

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Gallery of shops looking forward to a successful summer

Stainton's: A Gallery of Shops reopens just weeks after Hurricane Sandy flooded the building with two feet of water. Stainton's: A Gallery of Shops reopens just weeks after Hurricane Sandy flooded the building with two feet of water.

OCEAN CITY — Creating a cooperative shopping gallery out of a former department store was not an easy task, but Stainton’s, at 810 Asbury Ave., did it. After opening in May 2012, Stainton’s: A Gallery of Shops, boasting over 60 individual boutiques, was looking forward to a successful Christmas season. Then Hurricane Sandy rained on their parade.  

Their first year was nearly derailed by 2 feet of water that found its way inside the century old building. At first, things looked bleak, but with a lot of hard work and perseverance, the marketplace quickly returned, explained assistant manager for Stainton’s, Kate Chiumento. By the day after Thanksgiving, merchants were back and the vast array or unusual and unique merchandise had returned.

“It’s really amazing how quickly we were able to clean up that big old mess that Sandy left,” Chiumento said.

The recently renovated first floor had to be cleaned and gutted again. Soggy carpets, walls and displays were replaced. In less than four weeks, the first floor was dried, disinfected and restored. The doors opened and the shoppers returned.

“They really came out to support us,” Chiumento said. “We’re back from the storm and very excited to be here. We had a great holiday season and we really want to thank everyone who came to help us, who came and shopped with us.

“All things considered, with the storm and the damage, we had a great season,” she said. “We couldn’t have done it without a lot of help from the community.

“The vendors really worked with us to make sure we could be open. Everyone did their part, we are so fortunate to be surrounded by such dedicated people, it was amazing.”

Stainton’s is open seven days a week, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Chiumento said they hope to be open during the evening this summer. 

The marketplace is a new concept for Ocean City. Modeled after similar projects such as Teaberry, merchants are provided with their own space, generally about 10-by-10-foot, to display their own selection of jewelry, candles, art, apparel, furnishings, pottery and more. Merchants pay rent each month, and a percentage of their profit.

There is one central checkout and, according to Chiumento, merchants have to keep their display areas neat and stocked, but do not have to be on the premises. Each merchant serves as a roving ambassador one day a month to greet and assist shoppers.

“What’s really cool is that our vendors are expanding,” she said. “They may have had one spot, and now they have two. They’re successful and they want more space. It’s very exciting to watch their businesses grow.”

The monthly rent, she said, is based on the size of the space and the location. There are glass cases at the check out that are also available for rent.

“The merchants don’t worry about anything,” she said. “They are free to create more artwork or work in a shop at another location.

“They’re all so passionate. They’re not just here to make a buck, they love what they do and it really shows,” she said. “They’re not just renting the space. They are really putting a lot of effort into decorating their space. If you’re looking for something unique and special, you will find it here.”

Chiumento said there are a few spots available for rent, though they are filling up quickly.

“People are finding out about us,” she said. “In one week, we had five new vendors come in. We’re looking for some unique vendors; we like to carry a wide variety of things for sale.”

Dave Huffman sells hand-crafted wood products. Serving as a roving ambassador last week, he said he couldn’t be happier with the set up.

“The location is fantastic, right here on Asbury Avenue,” he said. “We have a steady stream of customers. For crafters, that’s a big plush. With the marketplace operated by Stainton’s, we don’t have to be here and that means we have more time to work on our product. The place is well maintained and organized.”

Huffman said his goods were high and dry during the flood.

“Fortunately,” he said. “I had no losses. I got my stuff out and they did a phenomenal job getting this place back on line, phenomenal. You would never know it happened and they cleaned it up very quickly. The recovery was just awesome. We can’t thank the city, the chamber of commerce and Stainton’s enough for all the help the merchants received.

During the Christmas season, Stainton’s offered hot chocolate, coffee and fresh baked cookies on Saturdays. The spring, Chiumento said, will bring some new excitement to Stainton’s.

“We’re going to try and have some fun events as a way to say ‘thank you,’” she said. “Everyone has been so supportive, and that’s why we have been able to come back so quickly and grow. We are really looking forward to the spring and summer.”

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