The first “convenience store” in Ocean City, New Jersey opened five blocks from my family’s neighborhood grocery store. The Cumberland Farms store sold the same stuff as Fulton’s Market, but at prices only chain stores could offer. A roll of toilet paper purchased by the case from my father’s supplier cost him what a shopper would pay at the Cumberland Farms store. Most of the stuff on our shelves didn’t move.
With each passing year, I could tell my parents were becoming increasingly worried about the future of the family business. Shore Memorial Hospital offered my mother a nursing position. Dad said he could handle the store hours himself, so Mom accepted the position. Life went on. But not without a cost.
When my parents opened Fulton’s Market in the late 1960s, they believed they were launching a family enterprise that would enable them to spend quality time with each other and their three boys. My mother left a career in nursing and my father dropped two part-time jobs to devote their attention to this new venture, a neighborhood grocery store in Ocean City, New Jersey.
My family moved into the cramped apartment above the store and the tiny kitchen and living room on the ground floor. We all started adjusting to dinnertime with visitors in the next room … customers.
Despite the serious price advantages offered to shoppers at the local supermarket, our neighbors seemed to like the convenience of dropping in for basic stuff like the daily newspaper, milk, bread, lunchmeat, cigarettes, soft drinks, snacks, ice cream, etc. Summer tourists provided a robust flow of customers from May to September. Life was good for my family.
In the late 1960s, my mother and father got into operating a family business rather unexpectedly. My great aunt, who had owned and operated a corner grocery store in Ocean City, New Jersey, for decades, died from cancer. My mother acquired the store property through my great aunt’s will.
Mom had been a nurse her entire adult life, both in a doctor’s office and in a hospital. Dad was a school bus driver and retail and wholesale eggman. That’s right, he sold and delivered eggs to residential and commercial customers just like a milkman. Neither knew the first thing about operating a grocery store.
Above the store was a small two-bedroom apartment, where my great aunt had lived. My folks saw an opportunity to move out of the house we were renting and operate a family business, which would give them more time with their three boys. The store also had a small kitchen and living room downstairs, so we could have meals together and Mom and Dad could wait on customers. And so, Fulton’s Market was born.