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SBA Loans Help Ocean City Institution

Ginny Berwick comes from a long line of candy makers and her career with Shriver’s Salt Water Taffy on the boardwalk in Ocean City, NJ has never been as sweet. The Glaser brothers, Berwick’s father and uncles, owned a candy factory and ice cream parlors in Philadelphia and decided to expand by purchasing the James brand of salt water taffy in 1947. Berwick’s family has been making taffy ever since, becoming an institution at the Jersey shore.

Salt water taffy, along with macaroons and fudge were originally developed to provide candy makers with products that could stand up to the summer heat – when traditional chocolates melted. Despite the name, salt water taffy contains no salt and very little water, it’s mostly made from sugar and corn syrup and flavor, but it’s the smell, the chewing and melting in your mouth that have made it a favorite of boardwalk strollers for decades.

At the turn of the 20th century, the boardwalk was level with the beach and the water could actually come right up to the planks. Legend has it that a certain Mr. Bradley had a taffy stand, and one evening when a little girl came up to buy, he discovered that the hand pulled, and hand cut, taffy had been sprayed with salt water from the surf. He reportedly said, "Well now it’s salt water taffy!" The ladies in his family thought it was catchy and the name stuck; almost 100 years later, children and adults alike still enjoy this memory of an earlier time.

In 1959, the Glaser brothers bought another larger candy company called Shriver’s which included the rights to a large candy store and ice cream parlor restaurant, but not the land beneath it. The Shriver family had experienced a fire in 1927 and had rebuilt the building as close to the beach as possible in 1929, so the building had a historic feel, its yellow brick façade, old fashioned wooden candy cases and brown terrazzo floor very recognizable and nostalgic to tourists. Even now, families who have come to Ocean City for generations still like to watch the taffy being made and give their children a sense of the mystery and magic of an old fashioned candy store.

By the late 70’s, members of the older generation were getting ready to retire and Ginny Berwick’s brothers and cousins bought out their parents interests. Ginny and her brother, Hank, bought Shriver’s from their Dad in 1983. They had worked in the family candy business in one way or another since they were children, but had never had complete control before. It was a steep learning curve punctuated by new experiences, which included making thousands of chocolate Easter eggs just after taking over and dealing with the fallout from an accountant who was pocketing the tax money instead of sending it to the government.

In 2000, the last of the original Shriver family passed away, and Ginnie and Hank finally had an opportunity to purchase the land beneath their store. Now, the question was how to finance it. Real estate value on the beach in Ocean City was sky high and although the business was financially stable, it was going to take a bank willing to take on a sizeable risk to make it happen. Commerce Bank suggested contacting the Small Business Administration for help. Ginnie and Hank provided financial statements, the SBA provided a long term fixed rate mortgage guaranteed by the federal government and Commerce Bank provided a bridge loan to cover until the SBA loan came through. The whole deal was finalized within four months. Since the purchase, Shriver’s has grown over 10% annually. As part of a marketing campaign, Shriver’s now has a puffy cartoon character, Mr. Taffy, who greets children on the boardwalk with a Shriver’s balloon. The product line has expanded to include mints, fudge and roasted nuts.

The Small Business Professors' Words of Wisdom

The Small Business Administration has much to offer entrepreneurs. Expert guidance and guaranteed loans can help a business finance property purchase, business expansion and even the purchase of another company. The SBA understands business and its rates are more than competitive. This is a good government program, helping people to help themselves.

  • Case History:Shriver's Salt Water Taffy www.shrivers.com
  • Entrepreneur’s Strategy: Guarantee the stability of the business by purchasing the property.
  • Could This Work For Me? Using the SBA to help finance stability or growth should be investigated along with other financial options.

They had worked in the family candy business in one way or another since they were children, but had never had complete control before.