By Donald Wittkowski
During Sea Isle City’s summer vacation season, the number of cars with Pennsylvania license plates driving around town rivals those with New Jersey tags.
Many, if not most, of the visitors from Pennsylvania live in Delaware County – hence Sea Isle’s unofficial summer nickname, “Delco East.”
Capitalizing on their strong ties, VIPs from Sea Isle and the Delaware County Chamber of Commerce held their first ever networking session Friday evening to promote business and tourism in both areas.
To mark the occasion, the Chamber of Commerce printed up blue T-shirts that proclaimed, “Sea Isle City, NJ: Smile You’re in Delco East.” The T-shirts included a map of Pennsylvania and New Jersey tracing a line from Delco to Sea Isle.
Sea Isle Mayor Leonard Desiderio, who hosted the mixer at his Kix-McNutley’s nightclub and entertainment complex, couldn’t resist hurling some good-natured barbs at his friends from Delaware County.
“I’d like to call Delaware County ‘Sea Isle West,’’’ he joked in a bit of one-upmanship.
Desiderio later declared in jest that Sea Isle should consider holding a Delaware County-themed parade during the summer to coincide with the arrival of so many vacationing Delco residents.
At the same time, there was plenty of serious conversation going around during Friday’s meet-and-greet. There is already talk of possibly turning the mixer into an annual event to help stimulate business and tourism in both Sea Isle and Delaware County even more.
Trish McFarland, president of the Delaware County Chamber of Commerce, said that about 50 Delco business owners were in Sea Isle for the mixer. She noted that some of them are scouting out possible business opportunities at the Jersey Shore.
“It just makes sense. You’re more comfortable doing business with people who you know and trust,” McFarland said.
She explained that Sea Isle is popular with Delco residents because it has become a “home away from home” for so many of them.
“I think it’s familiar,” she said of Sea Isle. “Your neighbors, colleagues, friends and family members all go there and you think, ‘Hey, I should go there, too,’’’ she said.
Desiderio said quite a few residents from Delaware County have second or even third homes in Sea Isle as vacation retreats. He has gotten to know some of them because they are customers at Kix-McNutley’s.
“This is great. I’m really so appreciative to see so many familiar faces in there,” Desiderio said of the Delco crowd at the mixer.
The Delaware County businessman who came up with the idea for the event is Mike Brady, owner of the LPL Financial Services firm in Broomall, Pa. Brady has owned a summer home in Sea Isle for five years.
Brady said his wife, Annette, who is originally from South Jersey, grew attached to Sea Isle while spending her summer vacations at the beach and working at “every restaurant and bar in town.” He added that he and his wife believe Sea Isle is the perfect place to raise their daughters, Brielle, 3, and Audra, 2.
“When we looked around for a shore house, there were no other options,” Brady said of Sea Isle.
Brady also pointed out that many business owners in Delaware County have vacation homes in Sea Isle. While they are on vacation, they may be looking for business opportunities or partnerships, which could ultimately benefit Sea Isle, he said.