SOON AFTER Meryl Vangelov slid back the glass doors of Sand + Stitch, a women’s clothing boutique on the Ocean City Boardwalk between 8th and 9th streets, a woman slipped inside to show her friend a piece she had seen earlier.
The door was not even all the way open, and there were only a few strollers out on this sunny spring morning, but soon more people came inside to browse the styles.
Founded by Meryl and her husband Blue, the boutique is heading into its fifth summer on the Boardwalk, one that most locals expect to be a banner year as people want a chance to get out and feel normal again.
People are ready to get dressed up again, Meryl said.
“As women, we love our dress-up time. I think people are going to be excited to get back into a dress,” she said. A customer, overhearing the conversation, adds that she was immensely pleased to get together with friends who had also been vaccinated, to wear lipstick instead of a mask.
“We love to feel beautiful,” Meryl said. “We still love our sweats. We do love to be comfortable.” But many people will be happy to get a little fancy.
She said the shop has a variety of styles, including offerings for those who are on vacation and have plans for a dinner out but did not pack anything just right.
“We wanted to be able to provide that, but we also wanted to provide your everyday casual wear,” Meryl said. The shop also offers what she described as athleisure wear, for someone who likes to run on the Boardwalk with style.
The store offers a variety of styles. Meryl said the items are fashionable, but may not follow every trend. Instead, she tries to offer a wide variety of styles at an affordable price.
“So many people have different tastes, different body styles, different ideas of what they need,” Meryl said. The concept is that every woman will be able to find something she looks great in. “We’ve been able to help women feel beautiful, feel confident and love themselves even more.”
That includes different ages as well.
“We seem to be popular with all different age groups, which was what we wanted to do when we started the business,” Meryl said.
Many people may be tired of thinking about masks, but for those situations where wearing one remains recommended, Meryl said she wanted to offer some that would be a fashion statement as well as a safe option. That includes sparkly masks.
“We’ll keep that in stock as long as we need to be wearing these masks,” she said.
Meryl started working on the Boardwalk in her 20s, in her family’s Shriver’s Salt Water Taffy, which is in the same building as Sand + Stitch. The building, and the business, dates from 1898, the early days of the Ocean City Boardwalk and of the city as a beach resort.
In 1959, four brothers purchased the business from the Shriver family. One was Meryl’s grandfather. Her mom, Virginia Glaser Berwick, and uncle, Hank Glaser, bought it from them, and in 2001, bought the building from the Shriver family, according to Meryl. The business had rented the space before that. In 2010, she and her husband bought them out, and the business went to a new generation. She describes Shriver’s as her true heart and love.
“I started my family in Ocean City,” she said. “When the children arrived, I guess I stepped back from the workplace a little bit. I was consulting. No more candy production for me. My rule was to take on jobs that would take me one day or less.”
As their two children got older, she began to take a more active role in the business again. It was also time to expand. She said she and Blue want to maintain a quality and look to all of the businesses in the Shriver’s building.
“We were trying to come up with different ideas. Somewhere along the line, we came up with a women’s boutique,” Meryl said, raising her hand to dispel any question about who came up with the idea.
The retail space next door is also slated for a new store, an island home-goods shop to be called 9Nine North. That property had been the gelato shop.
“We decided to do what we should have done in the first place, which was to put the gelato in the Shriver’s store,” she said. “Originally, Shriver’s was ice cream, candy and a restaurant.”
That was another over-coffee conversation about what to do with the space. She said she loves Ocean City and the way it has managed to remain attractive to families generation after generation. The Boardwalk has always had boutique stores, she said, going back decades. She remembers a fancy dress store nearby from her childhood. For her store, she said, there is a mix of people who walk in off the Boardwalk because something caught their eye and those who made a specific trip to her shop.
One thing she said surprised her was the connections made with the regulars. She said she and the staff members get to know many of the customers’ names, and some stop in each summer when they visit. Others ask if the store is new, she said. That might be because she rearranges the shop often, she said.
“I love to just keep things fresh.”
In addition to the clothing, the shop offers some gifts, hair accessories, purses and a line of beauty products. The hats are popular when the sunshine starts to get intense, and they offer umbrellas for rainy days.
“We’re pretty well prepared,” Meryl said.
They’ve also opened a Wildwood location for Shriver’s, which remains a popular destination on the Boardwalk, where visitors can watch the taffy be made through a large window in the back.
She and Blue divide their time between the businesses. She joked that he was very enthused about the boutique until the dresses started coming in, and started to gravitate toward candy.
“Truthfully, we do everything together,” she said. “I am where I’m needed. I love this portion of the business.”
Find this story and more in our June magazine.