WILDWOOD – One of Lisa Brocco-Collia’s storefronts along Pacific Avenue, within the Business Improvement District, is a boarded up old dress shop, shuttered for years. The other is a bakery with a vibrant, colorful and inviting facade.

“I am embarrassed,” Brocco-Collia, 44, owner of Sol’s Dresses and The Mixing Bowl admitted, April 24. “It is a matter of appeal. I understand Sol’s – you look at it and gasp.”

The Mixing Bowl, scheduled to open Memorial Day, has a facade that cost around $300. Brocco-Collia said she did the labor.

“It is appealing. Really, if it doesn’t look good on the outside it won’t on the inside. When people drive down Pacific Avenue they don’t want to see Sol’s,” Brocco-Collia said. “They want to see more Mixing Bowls.”

Brocco-Collia, of Wildwood, said Sol’s is going to be repaired in the next 90 days. She knows it has long been an eyesore on Pacific Avenue. Her long-term goal is to open it as an outdoor café but she knows that it will cost a lot of money to turn that dream into a reality. 

Store owners, like Brocco-Collia, do not have endless cash to sink into their businesses. With a soft economy some store owners just don’t have funds to put into an already-strapped business. Facades can cost thousands of dollars depending on how elaborate or large. A sign for a now-closed business The Therapy Club, cost at least $15,000, Business Improvement District President John Donio, 43, of Hammonton, said April 24.

The BID wants to help and created a pilot facade program with $10,000 set aside in the budget for this year.

Donio said it is still in the early stages and the BID wants to set up a formal way of applying for the money. The interested business owner would fill out an application and present schematics to the BID board. The board will then determine which projects to fund and with how much.

“We want to make sure that what people do gives the entire neighborhood an architectural flow. There are facades that definitely need improvement. Some storefronts are either in need of repair, in total disrepair or an eyesore,” Donio said. “We want to say ‘Look. Come up with a nice, basic design and signage, and we will help you out. We will give you a flat rate.’”

Mayor Ernie Troiano said Monday, April 27 it is vital to Wildwood that storeowners improve their properties.

“People have to take money out of their pockets to improve their properties. If you want to improve your business and bring people to the community, you need to fix your property up. If there is money there from the BID, then good,” Troiano said. “The owners need to partner with BID and the city. If you want a good business you have to run a good business. They need to make their place look like they want to do it and if there is a facade program to help do that, then it should be used.”

Communities such as Ocean City and Hammonton have walkable downtowns with stores that are pleasing to the eye because store owners take pride in their downtown, Donio said.

“I think some businesses don’t think about that in Wildwood,” Donio said. “If the building owner doesn’t take responsibility for the building, pull weeds, paint, take down boarded up windows, etc., then he or she has no one to blame but themselves for the condition of that neighborhood.”

The Business Improvement District includes all the properties west of Ocean Avenue to the west side of Pacific Avenue from 26th Street to Cresse Avenue. The BID is funded by property owners, with an annual budget of $350,000, spent on marketing, planning, business support and business recruitment.

Brocco-Collia said she would love assistance from the BID for Sol’s.

“I would be interested in redoing the front of Sol’s. I would like to apply for facade money. We really want to have a nice setting there. I see the future of Pacific Avenue with an outdoor café at Sol’s.”

For more information call the Business Improvement District at 609-523-1602 or email:wildwoodbusinessdistrict@gmail.com.

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