Note: This story has been updated with new information. The building owner said the store will be renovated and reopened under the same name by early summer. More information can be found here.
OCEAN CITY — The department store B&B, a centerpiece of downtown Asbury Avenue for decades, will close in March, the company announced Wednesday on Facebook.
Two locations on Long Beach Island are already closed, the notice says, with locations in Ocean City and Sea Girt expected to close by the end of next month.
The Ocean City store is traditionally open year-round.
“B&B Department Stores South is closing its physical store operations. We thank you for your patronage and it has been a pleasure to serve you,” the statement read.
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At the Ocean City location at 827 Asbury Ave. Thursday afternoon there was little visible indication that anything had changed other than a paper sign on the door stating that items could not be returned.
Owner Helen Bertole was at the store, but staff members said she was unavailable for comment. There was also no immediate response to calls to the store later in the day asking for comment.
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Michele Gillian, executive director of the Ocean City Regional Chamber of Commerce, said the owner is retiring. She said downtown wouldn’t be the same without the popular department store.
“It’s going to be a big loss,” she said.
The store specializes in clothing, with men on one side, women on the other, but it also offers homewares, gifts, accessories, beach items and more. He is perhaps best known for the decorations on his ceiling, which include a Volkswagen Beetle and Karmann Ghia, an Ocean City lifeboat and a Cessna airplane. Not models or replicas, but the actual vehicles hanging above the screens. The cars are upside down.
Robert Smith, who grew up in Ocean City, was disappointed by the news, he wrote on a Facebook page dedicated to Ocean City.
“Sucks,” he wrote. “I loved going to B&Bs when I was a kid. I was amazed by the plane and the cars hanging from the ceiling, and had hoped to share this with my daughter.
Hundreds of people have commented on this page and other posts about the impending shutdown. Many said they were shocked and saddened by the news, saying they made it a point to stop by whenever they visited Ocean City.
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“Loved this store. It will leave a huge empty space in downtown Ocean City,” wrote Susan Shubert.
The company has been in business since 1974, according to a history on the company’s website. It had locations at Ship Bottom and Beach Haven on Long Beach Island, Ocean City and Sea Girt, Monmouth County.
B&B North spun off from B&B South in 2006. This company has locations in Lavallette and Seaside Park in Ocean County. There was no immediate response to a call to the B&B North offices on Thursday.
Helen Bertole is the widow of B&B co-founder Philip Bertole, who died in 2010.
Gillian said the Ocean City business community is sorry to see the landmark disappear, but understands Helen Bertole’s decision.
It is unclear what could replace the store. At approximately 12,000 square feet, this is one of the largest stores in Ocean City.
Although the advisory refers to the closure of the physical storefront, the bnbstores.com website does not appear to be offering online sales at this time.
Contact Bill Barlow: 609-272-7290