In the upcoming days and weeks, downtown business districts and shopping areas – small and large – throughout Ocean County will come alive with the spirit of the holiday season.
“No matter what is on your wish list this year, the place to find that holiday treasure is right here in Ocean County,” said Ocean County Freeholder Director Joseph H. Vicari, who serves as liaison to Business Development. “From the latest electronic gadgets to unique crafts and household items, our local shops offer everything a holiday shopper could ever want.”
Vicari has led the “Buy in Ocean County” effort for many years emphasizing the many benefits of buying locally.
“This year I want to encourage everyone to buy locally,” Vicari said. “Our downtowns and business areas have so much to offer. I am asking you to patronize local businesses including our small ‘mom and pop’ stores. These stores offer a host of items, many unique, along with great customer service.
“So many of them support our community organizations,” he said. “This is the perfect time to remember them as you set out to do your holiday shopping.”
While malls, such as the Ocean County Mall, Toms River and the Jackson Outlets, Jackson Township, remain premier destinations for holiday shoppers, Vicari said the county’s many local downtowns offer unique shops and boutiques.
“From Point Pleasant Beach to Tuckerton, across the County, downtowns offer some of the best choices for holiday shopping,” Vicari said. “Many of these stores are owned by long-time residents that continue to be a staple in our communities. Make a day out of it – shop, have lunch and just enjoy the area. There is plenty to see and do in all of our municipalities. The towns are all festively decorated for the holidays. Shopping is fun and easy when you shop locally.
Vicari said many towns have added special holiday features like carriage rides, trolley service and seasonal discounts to enhance the shopping experience.
Buying in Ocean County also offers additional protection for consumers.
Each year the Ocean County Department of Consumer Affairs receives complaints about orders not filled or other concerns residents have when dealing with out-of-state mail order companies. If you need consumer help, the Ocean County Department of Consumer Affairs is located at 1027 Hooper Ave., Building 2, Toms River or can be reached by calling 732-929-2105.
“We see the same problems year after year,” said Vicari, who is chairman of the Consumer Affairs Department. “Merchandise is not received in time for the holidays, there are problems with backorders and some received items barely resembling their catalog photos and descriptions.”
To make matters worse, it is often difficult to pursue a consumer affairs case against an out-of-state company that does not fall under the jurisdiction of New Jersey’s consumer fraud laws.
“When you buy local, you are protected against fraud,” Vicari said. “Our county and state agencies have more authority when dealing with a local business complaint.”
It’s also easier to return an item purchased locally.
“You can drive down the street and visit the store rather than pack and ship a package across country,” he said.
If you’re having trouble finding the perfect gift, Vicari suggested purchasing a gift card from a small business in Ocean County.
“What better present to give than a gift card for a great meal at one of our many local restaurants,” he said. “Or how about a gift certificate for a haircut or a home cleaning service? Our Ocean County small businesses truly offer something for everyone.”