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Category: Business

Who’s new, who’s moved, and who’s gone – local business changes in Cape May.

Catching up with innkeeper Doug McMain of The Queen Victoria

You can’t talk about Cape May B&Bs without talking about The Queen Victoria, which has been a pillar of Cape May hospitality since 1980. We chatted with innkeeper Doug McMain, who purchased the B&B in 2004 with his wife Anna Marie, to find out what it’s like operating a year-round accommodation in Cape May, the strangest phone call they’ve ever had, and what an innkeeper eats for breakfast.

What made you to decide to run a B&B in Cape May?

We stayed in too many bed and breakfasts and got hooked on the idea of owning a charming historic property in a beautiful beach town. The idea of having our own little business, out of the corporate scene, had tremendous appeal. It turns out that The Queen Victoria is not quite a “little business,” but we’re still thrilled with the decision we made fourteen years ago.

How do you manage to stay open year-round?

We choose to stay open year round for a few reasons. The first, I think most people would be surprised how many visitors we get during the winter. There is rarely an evening that we don’t have guests. Secondly, the phones are ringing every day, all year round, with people making reservations. Somebody has to be here for that purpose alone. Beyond that, we have a wonderful staff, which we would probably not be able to keep intact if we closed for several months each year. We’re proud to offer nearly 20 of these people year-round, full-time jobs. Basically, we take the “long view” when considering our finances throughout the year. It would be very short sighted of us to simply close our doors each month that we aren’t showing a positive cash flow.

Tell us about the strangest phone call you’ve ever had.

One that has always stuck with me is a call I got on our emergency line at about 5:30 in the morning, as I was leaving our home to head into the inn, asking if we had a room available for the night. I wasn’t sure what night he was asking about, the one that was nearly over, or the one to come. It turns out he meant immediately for the previous night. I ended up renting a room to him and his wife for two days. Nobody saw them again until they checked out, so I assume they were simply on a completely different schedule than the rest of us.

What was one of your worst blunders in the kitchen?

I suppose dropping the breakfast dish as I was taking it out of the oven one morning tops the list. Destroying the breakfast you are supposed to serve five minutes later definitely disrupts the flow of the morning.

What’s the #1 thing you recommend people do when they visit Cape May?

We recommend MAC’s Combination Trolley Tour, to give new visitors to Cape May a good sense for the history of our fair town, and also a glimpse into the past in the Emlen Physick Estate.

What’s your favorite place to eat in Cape May?

We have too many favorites (and friends who own them) to give you only one. Here is a short list (in no particular order): Freda’s Cafe, Washington Inn, Louisa’s, Fins, Sapore Italiano, PSI, Georges Place, and the Ebbitt Room.

We’re throwing a tea party. What type of tea do you recommend, and what foods should we serve guests?

Harney’s Paris Tea, without a doubt. Personally, I’d suggest our “Amazing 6-layer Gluten Free Bars” (not the sexiest name, but the best thing you’re likely to ever taste), “Melt in your Mouth Shortbread Cookies,” and “Chunky Bacon Tomato Spread” with crackers. We serve all of these, of course, and they are all in our cookbook.

Anna Marie and Doug celebrating Cape May’s 400th annivesary in 2009 | Photo courtesy of Doug McMain

Did you make your own bed this morning?

Absolutely. Anna Marie and I start our day that way every single morning.

What do you eat for breakfast?

We’re in a bit of a rut, but a great one. We typically enjoy one of the recipes that we serve our guests, which is called Spinach Portobello Frittata. The name describes it well, but it also has asparagus & lots of cheese. (Nearly everything tastes better with lots of cheese!)

Where do you go to get away?  

We love to go wine tasting in Virginia.

And do you stay at a B&B?

Of course!

Finally, what’s the funniest thing you’ve found left in a room?

A full suitcase. It is hard to imagine leaving your full suitcase in your room when you leave. It turns out that you can simply take a suitcase to the US Post Office (unwrapped), put a label on it and mail it. Who knew?


For more information

The Queen Victoria is located at 102 Ocean Street in Cape May and is open year-round. For more information about the B&B, please visit queenvictoria.com.


New liquor store to open; Little Store temporarily closed

Location of the new Joe Canal’s | Photo: Michelle Giorla

If you make the trip to Rio Grande to stock your cooler but you’re tired of getting stuck in summer traffic, we’re happy to tell you that Joe Canal’s Liquors is being constructed on the site of the former Cape Liquors at 918 Route 109 (to your right before the main bridge, next to Urgent Care).

According to the contractor our photographer spoke to, construction is expected to be complete in April or May.

The Little Store is temporarily closed | Photo: Michelle Giorla

And now some bad news. Earlier this year, The Little Store – that darling coffee shop and bakery that opened in 2015 – announced that it would close. “But hopefully not for good,” according to their website, which says they’d to move to a new location. The Little Store hasn’t responded to our request for comment, so we don’t have information on where or when they might be reopening.


Cape May Stained Glass Company opens in West Cape May

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Cape May Stained Glass Company opened for business in West Cape May last week. Located on Park Boulevard, the gallery space features works not only by owner/stained glass artist Christopher Michalek, but by several other local artists and artisans, among them Jimm Ross, Mary Stewart, Patricia Piacentine, Jeffrey Hebron, and Bill Bader, to name but a few.

Michalek said he wants to offer a space for artists to display their work on a commission basis (“and we all chip in at the end of the month for the utilities”), rather than having to pay up front for wall space as is often the case in other galleries.  

Among the wares available in the gallery are paintings, jewelry, leather goods, reclaimed wood pieces, and of course, stained glass. You can follow Cape May Stained Glass Company on Facebook and on Instagram at @michalekchristopher.


Coffee and curry: two new favorites opening this spring

Exit Zero Cookhouse’s former location | Photo: Michelle Giorla

If you were looking forward to warming up with their curry this winter, we’re sorry to tell you that the Exit Zero Cookhouse is temporarily closed. But the Exit Zero Filling Station, just across Sunset Boulevard, will be opening late this spring. The complex will include a gas station, merchandise, restaurant, and coffee and sandwiches to go.


Three longtime Cape May businesses close shop

Like any city, Cape May has its fixtures. And one of them, Cheeks, which stood at 101 Ocean Street across from the Queen Victoria, has closed its doors after 35 years. The clothing store first opened shop in 1983 and evolved into a source for flax clothing. 

“It has been our greatest joy to serve each and every one of you,” reads the message on their website.

The inside is undergoing renovations and will become an expanded dining area for another Cape May icon, the Queen Victoria B&B, which owns the building. Says owner Doug McMain, “Once complete, hopefully early this Spring, we’ll be converting the space we currently use for dining in that building to a new guest room. Both revitalized rooms will be stunning and beautiful.”


Recent changes on the Washington Street Mall

There are two big changes on the Washington Street Mall that we want to let you know about.

The first is that Coffee Tyme is opening a second location on the 400 block, in the space formerly occupied by Cafe Buongiorno. They will be opening for Presidents Day Weekend in February.

The second change is on the 300 block. That’s Amore is closing its Cape May location. We’ve heard it won’t be replaced by a restaurant and will share the details with you as soon as we have them confirmed!

Is there a change in town we should know about? Email details to jessica@capemay.com

Cucina Rosa closes its doors

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It’s with heavy hearts (and growling stomachs) that we report that this past weekend marked the last day of business for Cucina Rosa, which has closed its doors after twenty-one years of serving up Italian food. Their Washington Street Mall location has sold.

“As you can imagine, the restaurant business is very demanding. As we’ve grown much older, the time seems right. Despite profound regrets, we know that we must do this now,” said owners Chris and David Clemans in the Winter 2014 issues of Cape May Magazine. “Goodbye for now and thank you.”


Cape May’s boutique store trend

Last year, if you’d asked me to describe the type of shops we have in Cape May, I would’ve said they’re largely geared toward our summer visitors: t-shirt shops, souvenir shops with “Cape May” emblazoned on knick-knacks, the quintessential surf shops.

But last summer, the 500 block of the Washington Street Mall welcomed Galvanic, a shop specializing in men’s clothing, accessories, and unique home decor. We haven’t had a dedicated men’s clothing store in years, not since Barry’s closed (where Fralinger’s is now). Galvanic took over the space previously occupied by Gifts Galore and gave it a complete renovation. They gutted down to studs and painted the exterior a bold, charcoal gray.

Some people objected to the new look, but I was pleasantly surprised the first time I walked in. The inside is gorgeous: rough-hewn wood walls, sparse decor, handcrafted furniture. The store isn’t geared specifically to tourists, and it’s not geared specifically to locals. It’s just a great store, with interesting merchandise sourced from around the world. I ended up back there for my holiday shopping, infinitely preferable to trekking to the Hamilton Mall in May’s Landing.

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Left to right: Red Oak Trading, Galvanic, Sea Bags

Since Galvanic came onto the scene, two more stores have opened on the mall that point in a similar direction: Red Oak Trading, sister to Good Scents, took over Wave One’s space on the 300 block this spring. Like its big sis, the store is eclectic, offering a curated selection of women’s clothing, accessories, home decor, and a scattering of books. A large number of products are made in the USA, and the shopkeeper can tell you about every one of them. Sea Bags just opened down Liberty Way, carrying nautical-themed totes made in Maine of recycled sail cloth. Ours is their third retail location, after Portland and Seaport, Maine. I walked past their window for a week before I broke down and bought their octopus tote.

These new faces follow a trend that has been emerging over the past few years: boutique shops with sophisticated, upscale merchandise. They join the ranks alongside existing stores including Across the Way, Pink, West End Gallery, Miss Demeanor, White, and Splash.

Do these newcomers foreshadow the type of shops we’re likely to see in Cape May going forward? Time will tell. But I can say, definitively, that I’ll be doing the bulk of my holiday shopping in Cape May this year.

What do you think of these new stores? What type of shops do you want to see in Cape May?