Fenwick Island business committee reviews summer season

Fenwick Island’s Business Development Committee took a look at the summer season for past improvements and future ideas.

Attendance at the Sept. 24 meeting was slightly sparse, as it was expected some business owners were finishing the end of summer with skeleton crews and couldn’t get away for the meeting, but businesses were definitely happy to use up to more sidewalk flags and A-frame signs this summer, reported Building Official Pat Schuchman.

However, there are 12 vacant businesses now, which Mayor Gene Langan said doesn’t encourage visitors to visit neighboring shops. Some businesses even permanently closed their doors after just a few weeks.

When businesses share parking, it makes the town look more inviting, said Tim Collins, owner of Southern Exposure. On the other hand, he questioned the purpose of businesses hanging signs warning that vehicles will be towed, even if the business closes at night, when restaurant business is in full swing at those hours. “Let’s cut the other businesses some slack,” he said.

“The biggest issue with visitors is lack of parking,” confirmed Kristie Maravelli, executive director of the Bethany-Fenwick Area Chamber of Commerce. Although it’s only few months that parking is tight, “That’s when people make their money.”

The committee discussed the lack of public parking.

“It is what it is. Fenwick was not a planned community,” Councilwoman Diane Tingle said.

“No one thought it would be a year-round community,” Langan added.

“When this town was set up in 1953, there was a commercial district set up,” Tingle said, so the Town must plan for it. “There are so many people who don’t want business. If they’re so against business, why didn’t they build” outside of town limits? she asked.

Looking at one way to distinguish the town from neighboring Ocean City, Md., the committee discussed hanging decorative streetlights year-round, similar to those hung during the holiday season. However, the existing decorations aren’t meant for continuous use.

As new lights would cost $650 to $2,100 apiece for nautical designs such as lighthouses and seashells, the committee will consider just purchasing a few for each end of town, as people enter or exit town limits. They’ll look into funding or potential grant money for the project.

The committee will also invite representative from the County and State to do presentations on community business enhancement, such as coordinated approaches to marketing and branding.

With previous mayor Audrey Serio having retired from the council this summer, “Nothing’s gonna change,” Langan concluded the meeting. “The town’s going to remain business-friendly, and we’re going to do all we can for them to be successful.”

On a side note, Schuchman reported that the HGTV television series “Beachfront Bargain Hunt” would be filming nearby the following week.

Monthly meetings of the committee have been changed to the second Wednesdays of each month, so the Business Development Committee will meet again Oct. 14 at 2 p.m.