Walking into Marty’s, you see a little of everything. The left side, Marty’s side, (and yes, there is a Marty) has Ocean City sweatshirts, shirts, jackets, mugs and a mini Christmas tree. Meryll’s side has sweaters, shoes, wooden signs and clocks. The jewelry counter, always well stocked, has a variety of earrings, bracelets and necklaces. The husband and wife team may have separate sides of their iconic Boardwalk shop, but as in life, they compliment each other.
New this year – Artisan chains created to hold your masks.
Another new addition? A small Christmas tree placed on the counter, decorated with Christmas masks.
In the Beginning
When Marty’s, established in 1980, first started, clothes looked very different.
“It was all terry cloth back then,” said Marty, laughing.
Marty found a small store for rent as he walked the Boardwalk.
“In 1980, I came up on the Boardwalk as a sales rep to sell a resort line. I started all the way down the other end. So when I got to this end, this little store had a for rent sign. I said, ‘Well, do I really want to sell clothing?’ so I decided to take a store,” said Marty.
The only issue? He didn’t have the money.
“I called up the owner of the clothing line who I was a friend of. I said, ‘If I take the store, will you front me the clothing and I’ll pay you at the end of summer?’” Marty said.
In 1980, Marty’s was a few doors down from where it is today. After a few years, they moved to the left side of the store where they reside today. In 1986, Marty’s took up both sides of the store.
“It’s hard to think that we’ve been in business 40 years. It’s a long time. I must be old,” Marty said.
Some things have certainly changed over time. For instance, Marty’s used to sell bathing suits up until a few years ago.
“We have people come in and say ‘Marty, I bought my first bikini here,’” Marty said proudly. “I used to have a line in the dressing rooms. Back then, the Walmarts, the K-marts, and the Targets didn’t have bathing suits. You had to go to the department store or small businesses. I’ll never forget the lines from Memorial Day weekend.”
In the past 40 years, there were two problems Marty and Meryll didn’t know how they’d face – Superstorm Sandy and COVID-19.
“I literally closed the doors that day and said ‘Well it’s been nice knowing you.’ I really thought we were going to have incredible damage,” Meryll said about the time before Sandy hit. “I cleared out the counters. I thought for sure these windows would get blown in.”
When they could return to the store, they were shocked – there was no damage.
Because of COVID-19, this year had a bit of a rocky start.
“Curbside was a little weird for retail stores,” said Meryll.
“Everybody was peeking in. We’d put stuff outside. Me and Meryll were running back and forth,” Marty said.
“It was stressful waiting, and waiting, and waiting, and waiting, and waiting,” said Meryll. “It was a little bizarre, but thank God we even got to do that.”
“When the season started, it almost got back to normal. We still missed some of the elderly couples who didn’t want to come out. I still call them on the phone,” Marty said. “Since we have a lot of repeat customers, we’re saying ‘Hey, where’s this one, where’s that one?’”
Marty’s will be open through October. When it gets into November and later, they are open weekends – weather permitting.
Meryll and Marty are snowbirds. Married 36 years, but some customers never realize that they are a couple.
“You’re married?” asked a customer during our interview. “All these years I never knew that!”
“Yeah, and we work together too. How do you like that?” Marty said.
“You seem okay,” said the customer. “Neither one of you seem nuts.”
We all laughed.
“Not yet, not yet,” said Marty.
They have two daughters.
“One’s in New York, one’s in Florida. Two completely different career paths, not really interested in retail,” said Meryll.
They’re thankful for the customers that have kept them around for 40 years.
“When we first started out, we said, ‘We’re going to give quality clothing at reasonable prices.’ That was my motto. From generation to generation we’re had little kids come in, they’ve grown up and now bring their kids in,” said Marty.
“We really thank our customers for 40 years of their patronage over the years,” said Meryll. “And that’s why we’re here – because of the customers. They keep coming back.”