Well, well, well – a WHOLE semester has passed since I started writing this blog! It has been both an honor and a learning experience to be able to curate this site all the while getting to know the community of Cape May a little better. Truthfully, when I chose this beat, I did so because I, like most of the people I’ve ever met, have worked in the service industry and I know how exhausting, stressful, and overwhelming it can be. More than that, I also know how little appreciation tireless service workers get, especially in a tourist town like Cape May.So, I made this blog with the hopes of giving a voice to local workers, whose stories and experiences usually only exist on the sidelines of the beach experience.
If you’re interested in checking out some of the pieces I loved working on most, please visit my posts about:
Gabby Sceia: An audio interview with a woman who works as both a retail manager and a part-time barista.
Rachel Shubin: A written profile on a freelance journalist, who also curates a blog about Cape May.
Dejan Miloshev: An audio profile about a foreign worker from Macedonia, who had always dreamt of living in America.
Nauti Spirits: A photo essay about the workers at Nauti Spirits’ Harvest Festival.
Winter Wonderland: An interactive experience with the workers at the Shopping Village.
Now, I want to share a little bit about what this project has taught me throughout the past few months:
Creating valuable content is strenuous, difficult, and also, SO rewarding. Every action (the design of interview questions, the sound quality of the interview location, the clean-cuts involved in editing, etc.) is detail-oriented and requires a lot of work. However, that work pays off in the final product!
Editing online content – whether it be audio, video, pictures, or writing – is full of slightly obsessive nuance and detail. As a moderately-functioning perfectionist, it was so much fun to lose myself in creating content that I was truly invested in.
Every person, and every local business, has a complex, interesting, and nuanced story to tell and it is a total privilege to just act as the catalyst through which those stories are told.
Overall, creating and curating this site was both an extremely challenging and also, wildly rewarding exercise. However, you may be asking yourself: if it was so much fun to work on then what’s next for it? Well, for now, I’m going to take a break from blogging and take a few weeks to rest and recover from a busy semester of work and school. However, once February comes along, I plan to re-energize my content and start publishing more stories about the Cape May community.
Thanks for following along! Hope to see you around!
On a rainy Saturday afternoon, I visited Congress Hall’s Winter Wonderland Shopping Village to talk to the dedicated workers who keep the holiday festivities running smoothly. Interestingly enough, most of the workers I interviewed at this event had year-round employment, which is certainly a rare find in a seasonal economy like Cape May. However, this find is also unsurprising – Cape Resorts, along with many other local businesses, have actively been working to extend the shelf-life of Cape May’s economy. They have found success with events like the Shopping Village, which is composed of booths curated by local business owners and artisans. For example, there’s a booth designed by Off the Wall Art by Peri, a small and unique artist’s shop located in Carpenter’s Square Mall, that sells hats, scarves, and other cute trinkets. Also, the Village includes a booth dedicated to a locally-beloved hot sauce company, Hank Sauce, which is located in Millville, New Jersey. However, as much as I would love to ramble on about the booths, that’s not really what I came here to tell you about. If you click below, you can learn a little bit more about the essential team that makes Winter Wonderland not only a shopping village but, also a spirited community.
Here’s a short and candid video tour of Congress Hall’s Winter Wonderland!
Jolene Donnelly is a 19-year-old community college student who is working toward being a pharmacy technician one day. However, when she’s not busy taking classes, you can usually find her working as a personal assistant at MoonGlow Massage Therapy and Healing Arts. MoonGlow Massage is located in Carpenter Square Mall, just across from Magic Brain Cafe, and it functions as a nice little hub of spirituality and restfulness. Despite that, as Jolene and I talked about what it was like living and working in Cape May, she pointed out how that reality tended to be anything but restful. She kept mentioning how exhausting it was to deal with the expense of it all. Trying to put together the funds to pay for her tuition, her rent, and her cell phone bill have ended up being the most difficult challenge she faces in everyday life – especially when she’s had to factor in the cost of performance parking in Cape May.
I know, I know – you’re probably asking: how bad can parking really be? Well, truthfully, the cost of it negatively impacts local workers like Jolene the most. So, this week, if you click below, you can watch a short video of Jolene describing the challenges of affording a life in Cape May.
For this week’s post, I was honored to have the opportunity to sit down and talk with a man named Dejan Miloshev. Dejan is a foreign worker from Macedonia and he is a part of a larger community of foreign workers that bolster the longevity of Cape May’s economy. As years have passed, Cape May has become a home to many dedicated and hardworking foreigners like him. Often times, those foreigners travel from poor countries in Eastern Europe, like Macedonia, to places like Cape May that afford them more economic opportunity.
Since the time that Dejan was a little boy living in Macedonia, he had always dreamed of living in the United States. Five years ago, he packed up his luggage and his dreams, hopped on a plane, and traveled here. When he first arrived, all he had was luggage and a job.
For a long time, he was broke, homeless, and a little bit devastated. It was difficult to survive as a young server working in an expensive area outside of New York City. However, despite the fact that he didn’t have much money, he was certainly rich in friends. Some of the friends that he had made in his time working in Long Branch, New Jersey – whose couches he had even slept on – decided to move to Cape May. This opened up an opportunity for him – one that would change his life.
Dejan now works as a server, host, and expediter at a beloved restaurant in Cape May. Since he began this job, his dreams and goals have been afforded the opportunity to grow past what he ever thought possible. As of now, because of his fierce dedication to working, he’s been able to buy a car, rent a house, and even adopt a puppy.
So, if you click below, you’ll be able to hear him talk about his family, his work ethic, and how living and working in Cape May has changed him for the better. Thanks for listening!
For this week’s post, I had the pleasure of talking to fellow Cape May enthusiast and blogger, Rachel Shubin. Rachel Shubin, a 25 year old Virginia native, told me about her two primary loves in this world: journalism and Cape May. She explained how those two worlds merged together when she moved from her hometown of Fairfax, Virginia to her family’s favorite tourist destination: Cape May, New Jersey. Prior to her big move, she graduated from George Mason University with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication with a concentration in journalism. Although she knew that moving away from Washington D.C. might bring her some difficulty in building a journalism career, she was determined to reach her goals (and determined to avoid D.C. traffic).
So, as of February 2020, Rachel will have officially been living (and simultaneously freelancing) in Cape May for 3 whole years. Moreover, she has been working on her digital site, Cape May Rachel, since a month after she first got here. Although the site originally began as an outlet for more personal pieces, by July of 2017 – only 4 months after its creation – her digital work began to shift more toward local events. This work included events like the loss of a beloved UPS driver and the Hanukkah celebration that is held on the Washington Street Mall. She mentioned that as she writes about these local events, she is always certain to include a photograph to contextualize the occurrence for the reader. Overall, Rachel described her content-shift as a result of the freelance work that she had started for local newspaper, The Star and Wave, at the time.
As she was describing her writing interests to me, Rachel said: “I’ve always wanted to write more for a magazine than a newspaper but, as I have discovered, my writing talents are way better suited for a newspaper.” Since discovering her news writing talent, Rachel has realized that she loves it more than she expected to. In the time that she has lived in Cape May, she’s worked with The Cape May County Herald, The Star and Wave, Cape May Magazine, and more. With the permission of the editors from these publications, she often uses her site to upload the freelance content that she creates for them.
As we talked, Rachel explained that for her, the most difficult part about being a digital journalist, while also working as a print journalist, is maintaining a consistent posting schedule. She feels that a lot of her digital work ends up falling to the sidelines because most of her time has to go toward her paid print work. A girl has to pay her bills somehow, you know? Because of this, Rachel uses her site as more of “a digital portfolio” or “resume” rather than a tool for making money. However, for Rachel, uploading to her site – when she can – does have quite a few benefits. She finds posting on her site incredibly gratifying because she can instantly see the traffic that her work is getting. Despite sometimes falling behind on her posting schedule, Rachel finds that digital journalism has a particular allure because of its ability to instantaneously reach and engage with people.
However, when asked what her preference was between the print and digital journalism work that she partakes in, Rachel said, “I’ve always definitely been more of a print person. I really like to hold books, newspapers, and magazines in my hand. But I know the future of this career is going to be more online than print.” So, even though digital journalism isn’t where Rachel’s heart, or career, is quite yet, she is certain that it will play a big part in the future of communication. She believes that the demand for news will continue to grow and with that, the internet may be the only medium that has the ability to keep up with it.
So, as Rachel talked about the highs and lows of being a digital journalist, she also gave some of her personal tips and tricks to becoming the best digital journalist you can possibly be – especially if you’re a busy person:
Be consistent and be sure to maintain a regular posting schedule.
Make sure to keep the content of your website updated.
Have content in the bank and schedule your posts ahead of time.
Always link your post to social media.
Thanks for following along with the story of Cape May Rachel! Please visit back in a couple of weeks to enjoy an exclusive audio profile of another wonderful Cape May contributor. See you then!
In Cape May, the Halloween season always provides an opportunity for local businesses to curate fall-themed events. For instance, on every Friday and Saturday of October, Nauti Spirits – a farm and distillery located in North Cape May – hosts a Harvest Festival that includes a corn maze, pumpkin picking and painting, and of course, hand-crafted alcoholic beverages.
For this blog post, I visited this event with the hopes of capturing the liveliness and laughter of its servers and the attendees. However, as is typical for a cloudy, off-season day in a shore-town…the distillery was mostly deserted. Luckily, the employees were more than happy to share a few of their experiences with me as I explored the venue. More particularly, however, I spoke to retail and finance manager, Katelyn Fernandi, who was operating the entrance at the corn maze. I also talked with Ryan Murphy, a barback and porter, that also attends Rowan University. Last and not least, I spoke with bartender, Rita Bianchi, who showed off pure personality and skill as she crafted each cocktail. So, to get a more in-depth experience of these 3 service-workers, check out the photo gallery and ThingLink images below.
Before you do that, however, keep in mind that as you’re sifting through the photos, the empty seats tell the story of what it’s like to work during the off-season in a seasonal town. No matter what month of the year it is, or what point in the season it may be, these service-providers show up to their job ready for the grit and the glamour of it all.
About 3 years ago, Gabby Sceia moved to Cape May from her hometown of Hammonton to pursue a dream. She wanted the opportunity to put her culinary skills to the test by working in Cape May’s thriving restaurant industry. However, she soon found out that her calling was rooted more in service rather than in cooking. So, she transitioned from a back-of-house cook to a front-of-house retail manager and barista. Currently, Gabby works as a retail manager at Galvanic, a high-end clothing boutique located on the Washington Street Mall. She also works as a barista at Magic Brain, a cafe located in the Carpenter’s Square Mall. Throughout most of the in-season, and a lot of the off-season, her time is spent speeding from one job to the next. Like many of the workers in Cape May, Gabby Sceia has found a home in service and the culture that surrounds it.
Gabby, what was your entryway into Cape May’s service industry?
So, when I was little, I would watch a lot of cooking shows and things like that and I always wanted to be in kitchens and in restaurants. So, when I was 17, I started as a waitress at a very slow, very small family restaurant. From then on, I became a food-runner at a different, higher-end restaurant in my town. And from there, I was able to start as a kitchen employee as a cook, a fry-cook specifically and I was doing that while I was going to culinary school. So, I was working and going to school at the same time. You know, working in the school restaurant, working in the home restaurant. Then I finally made my way to Cape May and…I knew someone who worked at The Ebbitt Room, at the Virginia Hotel, and that is a very fine-dining restaurant. Completely different atmosphere. It had just received a new head-chef so things were changing and progressing and I think I got a little ahead of myself. And I think I got a little starry-eyed. I took the job at The Ebbitt Room.
Listen to Gabby describe her transition from back-of-house cook to front-of-house retail manager and barista:
What do you find most rewarding about working at Galvanic?
So, for me, when someone really does have a nice conversation with me, on top of feeling good about themselves and feeling good about their purchase – that is what is really rewarding. You know, I have some people come in looking for something specific and end up leaving with something the complete opposite and they’re 100% happy. Or if someone is making an investment purchase for the first time, something that will be a little more expensive but will last longer…that’s what is encouraging to me. It’s like okay, I’ve given someone not only a great piece to take home but, I’ve given them knowledge about the piece. I’ve explained how it’s made, where it comes from and really educated them on something that may have seemed a little trivial. A pair of boots might not seem like much but, the American leather and the built-in-America by American hands – that’s a big deal. And you know, it’s going to last them not only 5 years but it’s going to last them a lifetime.
Do you have a favorite story about working as a barista? Not necessarily with a customer but just in general.
The times I get to work with my coworkers is really…what makes it special. It’s the little moments where my manager and I…one time, we had the great chance of working together and we had had this inside joke and we just started hysterically laughing while we were making coffee. It lasted for a good, solid five minutes. And it was just so funny at the time. It just made me so, so happy and it really just calmed my nerves down from laughing. It was just like we could have friendly banter, and be friends, and still work. It wasn’t like we were stuck in this tiny corner making hot coffee, or cold coffee. We could just actually have a good time with our customers and ourselves.
If you could work in a place that was year-round and had consistent business, do you think you would or do you find that it’s still beneficial to be in this area?
Well, I actually had the option to move into a city within the next couple of months and I chose to opt out from that…unfortunately a lot of the other shore towns aren’t like this but Cape May, in particular, has the city-like atmosphere in 3 to 5 months. Even 6 months if you include all the way up to Christmas. So, it’s very fast-paced and it’s very city-like. You can walk everywhere. You can walk down the street. Then in the winter-time, it’s very suburban-like. I do have that small, hometown feel that I did growing up. So, for me, it’s really the best of both worlds. Thinking about working 80-hours a week, 365 days of the year, that I think would be so exhausting – mentally, physically, and emotionally. And I just barely made it through this summer so I don’t think doing that full-time, all the time, would be the best decision for me. I feel like Cape May gives you the best of both worlds very easily and in a very beautiful way.
Listen to Gabby describe the difficulty of working 80 hour weeks during the in-season:
Do you feel like there’s a sense of community and endurance working in the local businesses of Cape May?
Oh, 100%. When I moved down to Cape May, I was 100% by myself. I didn’t have anyone. The only friends that I had were in the service industry and they became my family. I unfortunately got sick when I moved down here and my chef was there to take me to the emergency room and to check in on me and help me get doctor’s appointments. So, it was definitely a very big blessing to have my service family in my life.
Do you think that the service provided in Cape May, not just by you but by everyone, is what brings people back to Cape May?
I don’t think it’s what brings people back but I think that’s just what makes it so successful. That’s why it’s such a well-oiled machine. You know, you have some of the bigger corporate businesses here but, you also have the family businesses. Somehow they have all created this very comfortable work environment where the customers or the clients or the tourists feel that it’s a friendly, welcome environment. You know, that doesn’t just happen. They say at Disney World, it’s because everyone’s a Mouseketeer and everyone wants everything to be successful for the people to have a good time. I feel that’s how Cape May people grew up and that’s the mindset that we’ve kind of, not forced onto people but, brought to their attention. This is a place for people of all ages to come and it’s going to be enjoyable. Yes, we work very hard but, we all love what we do and we’re all very loyal to those employers.
Listen to Gabby describe why she continues to work and live in Cape May:
Of all of the beaches in all of the lands – why do so many tourists continue to come back to Cape May? While this question is rather subjective and certainly has countless answers, it is worth considering that the service industry is the foundation of most possible replies. As the business season continues to grow longer each year, the employees who comprise that year-round service industry have become Cape May’s most essential and valuable components.
Undeniably, service is the bedrock of every part of Cape May’s bountiful tourist economy. More specifically, however, it’s the small, locally owned and operated, businesses that really give Cape May’s service it’s unique identity. In a totally traditional, mom and pop town, sort of way, Cape May’s tourist industry ultimately provides service that benefits local families, artists, and professionals.
However, it is also worth noting that there are both pros and cons of working throughout a high-stress, high-reward in-season and a low-stress, low-reward off-season. Sometimes working in the service industry means that you lose valuable time with your loved ones or that your mental health takes a turn for the worst. Other times, however, those jobs truly allow your lives and your pockets to grow. It’s a toss up, you know?
So, why is it important to focus on the maids, managers, and masseuses of Cape May? Well, because it’s the little guys who make the big machine work it’s magic. Their voices and their experiences, both good and bad, are what offers a better understanding of the life behind Cape May’s local businesses.
So, thank you for tagging along and reading this post. In the next coming weeks, a new post featuring an interview with a young woman, who works two service jobs in Cape May’s city center. Who will it be? Stay tuned to find out!
Welcome to Covert Cape May! My name is Madison Musinski and I have created this blog because I want to provide some non-traditionalinsight into an uber traditional town.
As many know, Cape May is a resort town. It’s a resort town that is embedded in and also indebted to the service industry and the workers that make that industry thrive. There are restaurants, retail stores, hotels, cafes, spas, and more – all of which have their roots in serving the millions of tourists that visit each season. However, what many people don’t think about as they’re distracted with the joy of the beach or the deliciousness of the scallops on their plate are the people who are facilitating every breathtaking moment of their experience.
So, through this blog, my goal is to explore what it’s like to be the barista during the daily coffee rush or to be the manager of a restaurant low on employees. All types of service-based jobs from massage therapist to event organizer will be focused on. Events like Oktoberfest and Small Business Saturday will also be detailed along the way.
Overall, I just hope to take you (the reader) through the highs and lows of working in the local businesses of Cape May, both in-season and off-season. So, whether you’re a local or a long-distance local, I hope that as you follow along, you’re able to attain a better understanding of all the behind-the-scenes action that makes Cape May the beautiful town that it is.
Lastly, I want to extend to you a thank you for reading! Please stay tuned, a new post will be up soon. Also, if you want to keep up-to-date with this blog on social media, just click this link: https://twitter.com/CapeCovert.