All work and some play

Summer jobs in Ocean City let young people earn money while still having fun on vacation.

bay & beach

September 07, 2005|By Chris Huntemann | Chris Huntemann,Special to

While most young people spend their summers lying on the couch watching reruns of "The Real World" or playing "Halo 2" for the umpteenth time, Christina Vathis spends her days on the boardwalk, steps from the beach and ocean, immersed in taffy, fudge and candy.

And she gets paid for it.

Vathis is an assistant manager at a Candy Kitchen location in Ocean City, where she has worked for the last four years. The draw that keeps bringing her back is obvious.

"You're at the beach," said Vathis, 21, a native of Ocean Pines. "You can take your breaks on the beach and hang out there on your days off."

Vathis, like many others in her situation, proves that the dreaded summer job does not mean the death knell for having a social life. Working at the beach has long been a popular way for young people to have their cake -- or taffy -- and eat it, too.

Whether it be working in one of the seemingly unlimited shops along the boardwalk or anywhere else up and down bustling Coastal Highway, Ocean City offers a plethora of opportunities for employees to line their pockets with extra cash. As a summer travel destination, business picks up and stores are hiring just when the vacationing student is in need of work.

With the jobs come all the attractions the city offers, from the beach to the boardwalk to other stops along the main strip in Ocean City, including multiple locations to play miniature golf and nightlife such as the popular Seacrets nightclub on 49th Street.

But before you throw everything you own into a suitcase and speed "downey'ocean," there are measures that need to be taken, and that starts way before the last final exam.

Start early

Employers and rental agents in Ocean City highly recommend that those interested in spending the summer there inquire about a job and find a place to live as soon as possible, with January or February being the best time.

"At the beginning of the summer season we have many places for rent," said Gail Edler, a rental agent with Holiday Real Estate, Inc., in Ocean City.

Holiday Real Estate charges a $20 application fee, and after the application is completed, they look at the applicant's history and check their references. If everything checks out, the applicant is approved and can begin moving in.

"We average about 10 inquiries a day in the summer," Edler said. "But it slows down as the summer goes on."

Holiday Real Estate tries to accommodate every request, even for those who wait until the summer begins to find a place to live.

"The places we offer to live in are plentiful," she added. "We always do our best, and if we have properties available, we'd love to help put people in them."

One advantage of Candy Kitchen is that the company offers employees housing for the summer season.

"Candy Kitchen owns and maintains two housing units in downtown Ocean City and Fenwick Island," said Tracy Hofman, a human resources administrator with Candy Kitchen.

Every residence owned and operated by Candy Kitchen is approximately one block from the ocean, and each living area is equipped with air conditioning, cable television and a kitchen area, Hofman said. Candy Kitchen also offers a discount on total seasonal rent to employees who come back and work for them.

"We have several students who come back every summer, which is good because we're always looking for strong leaders," Hofman said.

Pay day

But getting a nice place to live won't mean anything if there is no money coming in. Young people work extensively over the summer for a variety of reasons -- to pay their college tuition or to save money to buy a new car. Working at the beach also means earning money to pay rent, which can run about $1,100 for the summer, according to Klaudia Hall, a lawyer in Ocean City who specializes in immigration law and offers advice to foreign workers.

The jobs aren't always glamorous, but often in the case of college students, beggars certainly cannot be choosers. Competition for summer positions can be fierce.

"We get hundreds of inquiries for bartenders and waiters," said Adam Showell, co-owner of Castle In The Sand Hotel in Ocean City. "It's first come, first serve and we end up turning a lot of people away."

The hotel has also been looking for lifeguards, which Showell says is a very high-demand and competitive position.

"We're looking for people who are friendly and outgoing," he said. "We'd also like them to have a good education and must have training in first aid, CPR and life-saving techniques."

Working in a tourist hotspot like Ocean City also requires social skills, and Fran Russo looks for workers who will say more than just "yes" or "no."

"I'm looking for someone who can engage in conversation," said Russo, manager of one of The Kite Loft stores in Ocean City. "We get a couple hundred inquiries for jobs per summer, and we have to turn a lot of people away."

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