Posts Tagged ‘boardwalk’


A Tale of Two Cities

May 8, 2008

This past weekend I was in Cape May to attend the wedding of one of my nieces.  I grew up in South Jersey and lived “at the shore” for many years B.C. (before casinos) in Atlantic City.  The old pier that housed Cafe Ole’ that I played at on Satuday nights is long gone replaced with multi-storied condos and the old rundown houses are now spiffy high-end Bed and Breakfast palaces.  The entire bride’s wedding party and family were housed in one of these gorgeous 10 bedroom mansions, complete with an elevator and view of the ocean’s waves breaking, providing a harmonious drone in the background.  Back in the seventies things were pretty grim.  Unemployment was over 12% and there was no future for most people coming out of college or high school unless your family absorbed you into their own business.  Then along came the promise of casino gambling.  The first referendum failed but a year later, once the bill was modified exclusively for casinos just in Atlantic City, it was passed as “a unique tool of urban redevelopment.”  More on this later.

The wedding was beautiful as the town it was held and the next day we went to Ocean City’s boardwalk to enjoy the sunny day before heading back home.  Ocean City is “America’s Resort” just as The Dallas Cowboys are “America’s Team.”  No alcohol allowed, the former Methodist retreat is loaded with families with young and innocent kids with hormones just kicking in and no where to go, so walking, mingling with their peers helps vent some of that angst away.  I spent many a night here, as did many of my high school friends, some of whom I immortalized in my book “Only Moments,” as we cavorted and danced the dance of sweet youth and lived on George’s cocoanut macaroons and Taylor pork roll sandwiches.

My brother-in-law and I have had long discussions about Atlantic City and the changes the town has seen through the years.  My first year of college was in The Mayflower Hotel on the boardwalk because Stockton State College hadn’t finished building on time to open in the fall.  Now….you want to talk party school?  Imagine a 17 year-old freshman sandwiched in between a Red-Light District on the right and a randy party-time gay community on the left, and the beach and boardwalk in the front. The stories are legendary and someday I’ll tell a few.  Nonetheless, my wife’s brother told me of the lack of business and layoffs in the town that 30 years later has absolutely no excuses for being anything but first rate, but never saw that promise come to fruition due to political power brokering, the lack of great customer service, paranioid stranglehold regulations on the casinos and the lack of leadership to force a complete renovation of the city and it’s slums.  That monopoly is now over.  To assist in their woes over the years they jacked-up prices on rooms, food, and the casino tables can’t be broached with less than $20 a hand on weekends. The city itself is still dangerous (I worked there for over 15 years, trust me) and the State of New Jersey has the audacity to make you pay to park to gamble your money away.  The outlying states have now figured out how easy this money can be made and why travel to Atlantic City to gamble?  After all, then Governor Brendan Bryne declared 30 years ago that “Atlantic City would never become like Las Vegas!”  So, ahem……there’s really no reason to go there other than gambling now is there?  Shopping abounds elsewhere, as do concerts, restuarants, etc.  So who’s crying now?  That you should even be worthy of shining Las Vegas’ shoes at this point, would be a plus to be quite frank.  Money taken-in is not a measure of success-it is the mystique of this city as well as the superior attitude and operations of the State of Nevada, Clark County, and our wonderful mayor Oscar Goodman that allow Las Vegas to remain competitive and thriving. Now that being said, here is a message for my former employing corporate entities:

Las Vegas Operators, learn from this mistake!  Don’t be so stupid as to think your lunch cannot be eaten by someone else.  You are not insulated from the world.  Stop trying to take every buck out of your customers.  Stop raising prices on rooms, food, entertainment, and by the way-while were talking about entertainment-try employing musical entertainment for patrons to hear free-yes, free, like it used to be all over this city.  You’ve been warned to wake up and take care of your customers.  Remember, they don’t have to come here, they have many other vacation options now.  Focus on customer service in fact, not in words and give them a reason to be here.  Any experienced casino operator will tell you it was inexpensive food, rooms, and loose slots that brought them here.  Just because Steve Wynn built the Mirage, doesn’t mean every new place has to be bathed in gold, mosaic tile, tidal waves and gorgeous Sirens, or Austrian Crystal.  Just make them to be enjoyed and you will continue to prosper without all that overhead!

As for New Jersey- Cape May, Ocean City, Avalon, Wildwood, Strathmere, and the like up and down the coast are waiting for your enjoyment without expecting you to spend your entire nest egg in one day.  Enjoy your treasures of nature, they are priceless!  Imagine if we had beachfront property here………maybe after the big one…….just kidding!