Merchants: Early rain doesn’t dampen holiday weekend

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OCEAN CITY – Mother Nature rained on the city’s Independence Day parades, but the Fourth of July weekend was far from a washout.

After Friday’s rain, sunny skies returned for Saturday and Sunday and visitors arrived in droves, business owners said this week. The fireworks show, postponed from Friday to Saturday, went off under clear skies without a hitch. A bike parade in the south end was canceled and one in the Gardens was held on Saturday.

“It was absolutely insane both days,” said Angelo DiBartolo, co-owner of the Northend Beach Grill. “I’ve never seen anything like it. They just kept coming.”

Waitresses were still taking orders at 5:30 p.m., he said.

“We usually close by 5,” he said.

Huge crowds packed the beaches on Saturday, enjoying one of the nicest days of the summer. The line at the Beach Grill backed out onto the sand.

DiBartolo said Sunday’s breakfast crowd broke records and by the time the lunch crowd arrived, he was out of French fries.

“We ran out by 1 p.m.,” he said. “We bought a freezer just for French fries, and we sold so many we ran out. No one does deliveries on Sunday, so we just served our sweet potato fries.”

DiBartolo said the crowds appeared out of nowhere.

“With the rain on Friday, we were very slow,” he said. “The weather forecast predicted the rain, so most people didn’t venture out, but our most faithful customers came in for breakfast. It rained so hard we had to build a little bridge to get them across the water from the street side.”

The Forum Motor Inn on Eighth Street was filled to capacity Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Co-owner Meredith Morrison Harvey said guests knew the rain, though generated by a hurricane at sea, was temporary.

“I think our guests knew that Friday was going to be somewhat of a washout until late afternoon,” Harvey said. “They were prepared for the rain, but knowing that Saturday and Sunday were going to be beautiful days made their decision easier to hang in there.”

Harvey said they had two cancellations due to the rain, but were able to fill the vacancies very quickly.

The Independence Day weekend is a big tradition for the Forum, and quite sentimental, she said.

“We have many longtime guests that stay with us over the July Fourth holiday each year,” she said. “Most have all become close friends and look forward to gathering at the Forum each year to celebrate.”

Downtown, the rain did not dampen the merchant’s spirits. While the weather kept people inside, once it started to clear, visitors stopped at Asbury Avenue’s shopping district.

Ocean City’s Retail Merchants leader said a little rain is just what the downtown needs.

“Friday morning was quiet, with the monsoon,” said Skip Tolomeo, who owns the children’s shop Sea Oats in the 700 block. “As soon as the sky started to clear, we were busy, from about 1 p.m. until after 6.”

Saturday lured the crowds to the beach. Tolomeo said that is to be expected.

“Traditionally the week after the Fourth of July is slow,” he said, as people head back to work after a weekend of fun. “It will be interesting to see how it pans out, whether we slow down as we traditionally do or we continue to be very busy. We’ve had some really nice weekends, we’re hoping it continues.”

Johnson’s Popcorn’s three boardwalk locations had a great weekend, owner John Stauffer said.

“I’ll take it anytime,” he said.

Friday’s rain hurt a little bit, he said, but the sunny weather the rest of the weekend helped, and it got busy as soon as the rain stopped.

“From what I’ve heard, the restaurants had a great weekend,” he said. “It was fantastic for a lot of the little restaurants, people were looking for something to do. The people were here and even in the rain, they were eating.”

Business died off somewhat on Sunday because some folks headed home early, he said.

“I’m not complaining,” Stauffer said. “The weather was perfect for us. If it’s too hot, they don’t eat popcorn, so during a hot spell it hurts us. The weather in the evenings was perfect.”

The summer is a short one, so a busy Fourth of July is more than welcome, he said.

“Everyone got out of school late. Labor Day is early, so at best the season is short,” Stauffer said. 

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