Sunday, July 4, 2010

Asbury Avenue Shopping in Ocean City, NJ


The 900 Block

Even on vacation - maybe especially on vacation - shopping in Ocean City, NJ is a great activity. Some guests at the Scarborough Inn B&B reserve shopping as a "liquid sunshine" (OK, rainy day) activity.....but do save a little time during your visit (no matter the weather) to explore the shops, cafes, and galleries; you'll be well-rewarded.

Most shops are owned by local families and they are a wonderful antidote to huge, impersonal shopping malls with stores that are the same from Maine to Florida. Ocean City shops offer unique merchandise carefully selected by the owners and feature an eclectic collection of items from the practical to the luxurious. You can also enjoy a variety of foods and sweets inside cozy restaurants or outdoors under umbrellas or awnings while downtown. This time of year, Asbury Avenue is adorned with enormous pots of colorful, seasonal flowers making it especially appealing to stroll the area.

Recently, I conducted some "Research" and visited the 900 Block of Asbury Avenue (between 9th. and 10th. streets) to wander through some of the shops. I learned that merchants on this block have compiled a list of Specials for guests of Ocean City Bed & Breakfasts, so when you're vacationing at the Scarborough Inn we can offer you coupons to use in these stores - "Shop the Block."

I find that in addition to an appealing selection of goods, the shopping experience is enhanced (or not) by the attitude of the shopkeepers, so I have developed a completely subjective "Friendliness/ Service Rating" based on personal experience on the day I visited. It goes from one star * (minimal contact) , two stars ** (some, friendly contact), three stars *** (greeting, some conversation/explanation of goods & services, helpful attitude &/or assistance).

The first store I visited is a brand new outpost of the Potomac Bead Company at 910 Asbury Avenue. With 11 locations, this is not a typical family-owned business. Housed in a very large storefront, they stock a overwhelming collection of beads (what else?) in crystal, wood, clay, natural stone, etc. and the findings to design-your-own jewelry. Classes are held every day (Basic Beading 101, Mommy & Me, Advanced Wire, for example) for a variety of skill levels and interest levels for a fee - plus the cost of materials. Or, you can just try your hand at jewelry-making. Rainbow-hued beads are tantalizingly displayed on the walls and in cases, but there's so many! I wouldn't know where to start, so a class would be helpful. I could see doing this when my nieces (ages 10 & 17) come to visit, but you never know if this is "cool" or not. I have a feeling this would be a madhouse on rainy days!
Most workers seemed occupied, but one young girl was friendly.
[Friendly/ Service Rating **]

Next, I visited the Villa Gourmet at 918 Asbury Avenue. The owner, Tara ("like in Gone with the Wind") was enthusiastic about her shop - and about Ocean City! In fact, when I visited she was on the phone trying to help a fellow shopkeeper with a computer problem. Tara specializes in gourmet specialty foods, gift baskets, and accessories for kitchen and entertaining. There were several stations where you could sample gourmet foods - always enlightening and fun. This would be a good source for your own household and for appreciated hostess gifts, too.
[Friendly/ Service Rating ***]

On the same side of the street, I visited JaTori's Gems at 920 Asbury. Here they feature lovely sterling silver jewelry in a variety of styles and designs as well as some handbags and decorative items. I was particularly intrigued by Staxx rings - you select pieces in different materials and designs to stack into a ring. Apparently the finished ring is not only unique, but can be rearranged for different occasions and using different options. I think this requires further research!
[Friendly/ Service Rating ***]

I wandered through the Accent Gallery where I always enjoy the eclectic and carefully-curated collection of art work in a variety of styles and media. Many pieces feature seashore motifs or themes or local locations and would make unique souvenirs. Rody works with many talented, local artists and also supports the Community Art Projects effort.
[Friendly/ Service Rating ***]

On down the Avenue, I visited TaDah - "trendy & affordable fashions for women" (at three locations, no less). They have a variety of sundresses and sportswear that is colorful and casual and a collection of $6.00 jewelry - just for fun!
[Friendly/ Service Rating *]

Having reached 10th. Street, I headed back toward 9th. Street on the opposite side of the Avenue and virtuously resisted the lure of Casa Del Dolce Italian Restaurant (947-949 Asbury), Scully's Cafe (they recently catered a delicious party at a local bank - yum!) , and Laura's Fudge Shop (935 Asbury).

My final stop was The Flying Carp Gift Gallery (939 Asbury) where the owner, Lisa, has assembled an amazing collection of art, jewelry, decorative items, pottery, cards, and more. Many items are handcrafted by skilled artisans. I selected a wall hanging for my sister's August birthday and Lisa wrapped it in beautiful, floral paper with a coordinating raffia bow that will make a lovely presentation.
[Friendly/ Service Rating ***]

You will have a wonderful time shopping the 900 Block of Asbury Avenue in Ocean City - no matter what the weather!


DON'T FORGET!

"Evenings Along Asbury Avenue"
Wednesday Nights 5 to 8PM - June 30 through August 25

arts, music & entertainment, open-air artists, outdoor dining,
shopping specials

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