'Earlier Than the Bird' promotion draws shoppers to a rebuilding Asbury Avenue

Attention: open in a new window. PrintE-mail

Four pajama-clad friends register for a chance to win Earlier Than the Bird prizes at Ocean City Coffee Company in the 900 block of Asbury Avenue on Saturday morning. Four pajama-clad friends register for a chance to win Earlier Than the Bird prizes at Ocean City Coffee Company in the 900 block of Asbury Avenue on Saturday morning.  

OCEAN CITY – Although there were fewer customers and fewer stores open on Asbury Avenue for this year’s Earlier Than the Bird shopping promotion, everyone participating in the fourth annual event Saturday morning viewed the scaled-down event a step in the right direction.

At Salon del Mare in the 600 block of Asbury, Santa (played by J.T. Williams) was taking a break from greeting shoppers and intermittently peering into store windows to view the damage done by Superstorm Sandy when she swept ashore Oct. 29, depositing an unprecedented two to three feet of flood water into the city’s retail businesses.

“We need a little cheer,” salon owner Vicky Tridente said. “Everyone was walking around in a daze for awhile. It’s getting better. Today they’re starting to smile.”

“I’m finding that hope is taking shape now,” Williams said. “People’s spirits are uplifted.”

And, in some cases, their wallets lightened along with their spirits lifted.

“We’ve done shopping in our pajamas for several years,” said Kathi Simpson of Burlington, N.J., as she browsed through a rack of 30-percent-off clothing at Gabrielle & Co. in the 700 block of Asbury Avenue. “We love it.”

Ninety minutes into their morning in the downtown shopping district, Simpson and her friend Darlene Scocca, also of Burlington, reported they had a car full of shopping bags.

“We got some Christmas shopping done,” Scocca said. “We did good today.”

“We like to come up and show our support for the shop owners,” said Karen Pauciello of Wyndmoor, Pa., who was participating in her fourth Earlier Than the Bird event with her sister, Janet Gilmer of Philadelphia. The women, who wore matching snowflake-patterned pajama bottoms and red antlers, noted there was a decrease in the number of participants from previous years but said it was understandable in light of the damage many stores had suffered.

Phyllis Turner and her cousin Jean Kling, both of Ocean City, also were participating in their fourth Earlier Than the Bird promotion. This year, Turner coaxed Mary Goodnow, a friend of 40 years, to join them. The three women were dressed as snowmen, and two of them were pushing turkey-festooned strollers in which Turner’s three retired Papillion show dogs rode.

“We’re trying to do all the city events to show support during this terrible time,” said Turner, an Ocean City High School teacher. “This year, we roped Mary in.”

Goodnow said the women had taken advantage of her in a weak moment, as the home in the 900 block of Bay Avenue that she vacated in September had sustained heavy damage from Sandy. While she no longer lives in the house, having relocated to upstate New York, she still owns the property and is facing the laborious task of restoring it.

At Sun Rose Words & Music in the 700 block of Asbury Avenue, which was selling merchandise at 50 percent off between 7 a.m. and noon, Ocean City resident and business owner Michael Hinchman, clad in street clothing, made a purchase because “it’s that time of year, and because these nice ladies own the store,” he said, gesturing toward Nancy Miller and Roslyn Lifshin.

Like Hinchman, not everyone downtown was shopping in their pajamas Saturday morning, and not every store that was doing business opened at 7 a.m. for the Earlier Than the Bird promotion.

In the 900 block of Asbury Avenue, in the sunshine and 44-degree weather, a line of customers formed outside the makeshift location of Heritage Surf & Sport. Owner Jim Hennessy had advertised a 10 a.m. opening for the store, selling half-price merchandise that had been laundered after getting wet in the storm. As he opened the doors 20 minutes early, he said his employees had been working so hard since the storm that he didn’t have the heart to ask them to come to work at 7 a.m. Saturday.

More stores were shuttered on the avenue than open. Some, like Heritage, have reopened since the storm but did not open early for the Earlier Than the Bird promotion. Others, like Kay Jay’s Doll Shoppe, The Bag Room and Ward’s Pastry, were closed due to damage but posted upbeat signs.

“Down but not out” was the message at The Bag Room and Ward’s Pastry, with additional signage at Ward’s expressing thanks for customers’ patience and the hope the bakery would reopen in “a few more days.” In the window at Kay Jay’s, three American Girl dolls wearing tiny Ocean City T-shirts waved signs of encouragement that read “Restore the Shore,” “We’ll be back in time for Christmas,” and “We survived Sandy.”

Their sentiments are shared by other merchants on the avenue, some of whom plan to reopen in the next few weeks.

Comment on this story in the box below, or email the author at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Janet Gilmer, left, of Philadelphia and her sister Karen Pauciello of Wyndmoor, Pa., wear matching pajama bottoms and antlers during the Earlier Than the Bird promotion. Cindy Nevitt/Janet Gilmer, left, of Philadelphia and her sister Karen Pauciello of Wyndmoor, Pa., wear matching pajama bottoms and antlers during the Earlier Than the Bird promotion. Phyllis Turner, Mary Goodnow and Jean Kling, all of Ocean City, dress as snowmen as they shop downtown Saturday morning. Cindy Nevitt/Phyllis Turner, Mary Goodnow and Jean Kling, all of Ocean City, dress as snowmen as they shop downtown Saturday morning.

Cindy Nevitt / Kathi Simpson of Burlington, wearing a white terrycloth robe, browses through a rack of clothing at Gabrielle & Co. in the 700 block of Asbury Avenue. Cindy Nevitt / Kathi Simpson of Burlington, wearing a white terrycloth robe, browses through a rack of clothing at Gabrielle & Co. in the 700 block of Asbury Avenue. Cindy Nevitt / Santa (J.T. Williams) takes a break at Salon del Mare in the 600 block of Asbury Avenue. Cindy Nevitt / Santa (J.T. Williams) takes a break at Salon del Mare in the 600 block of Asbury Avenue. Cindy Nevitt / American Girl dolls in the window at Kay Jay’s Doll Shoppe in the 800 block of Asbury Avenue wave signs of encouragement. Cindy Nevitt / American Girl dolls in the window at Kay Jay’s Doll Shoppe in the 800 block of Asbury Avenue wave signs of encouragement. Cindy Nevitt / Jim Hennessy greets customers at his temporary Heritage Surf & Sport location in the 900 block of Asbury Avenue. Cindy Nevitt / Jim Hennessy greets customers at his temporary Heritage Surf & Sport location in the 900 block of Asbury Avenue.


blog comments powered by Disqus