Fudge is fun, and those take-home boxes of saltwater taffy let the sweet taste of summer linger a bit longer. But what if you could revisit those memories of sun on your skin, the smell of salt air, and the caress of ocean breezes after summer was over?
Well, you can — and at a discount, no less.
For Shore-goers in the know, Labor Day weekend is the time to snag great bargains and pedal home a slice of the waning beach season. Though the sales are seldom advertised, bicycle rentals up and down the Shore offer their summer stock often at 50 percent off the retail price, and their guests get to bring home something more enduring than a T-shirt or toffee-coated cashews.
"They take a piece of the Shore back with them," said Matt Krumins, a manager with Surf Buggy Centers, a bike rental with locations in Ocean City, Sea Isle City, Avalon, and Tuckahoe.
For some rentals, those sales are a way to recoup some of their investment and avoid the cost of offseason storage. But even year-round bike shops find it makes good business sense. The bike businesses say summer customers would rather rent new bikes than those obviously used. The end-of-season discounts help to clear out the old inventory to make room for the new bike purchases.
And those largely word-of-month sales have become for some Shore-goers a summer finale.
"It becomes a tradition," said Joe Volpe, a manager with Cape Island Bike and Beach Rentals, a family business that has been renting bikes in Cape May for 22 years, including their popular Fuji Cape May model. "We have people that have bought multiple bikes from us over the years. It's very cool to have people come in and say, 'We bought a bike from you two years ago. We're going to get another one.' It's just nice."
"It's just a fun way of remembering a good time," said Mike Wiesen, owner of AAAA Bike Shop in Ventnor, a business he runs with his wife, Ann Marie, and, this summer, daughter Jordan, a recent college graduate, all under the watchful eye of Jersey Girl, the family's yellow Lab.
Since AAAA began its Labor Day weekend rental-fleet sales decades ago, many bargains and memories have been made.
Cyd and Jay Weissman of Wynnewood came in to check out the sales but were wooed by two snazzy new Electra Townies on Sunday, a combination birthday present for Jay and mutual anniversary gift.
Sure, they could have gotten bikes closer to home, but hey …
"It will invoke memories of the summer as we recede into the fall," said Cyd.
Cade Melton, 9, a fourth grader at Philadelphia's Greenfield Elementary School, was standing by as one of AAAA's technicians put the finishing touches on his newly purchased, used Sun Scout 24.
"He just learned to ride a bike yesterday," said his mother, Janine Devine.
Jennifer and Mark Seligsohn were in Sunday, too. Sixteen Labor Day weekends ago, the then-newlywed couple walked into AAAA, lured by the word-of-mouth of deals to be had. They walked out with matching silver Fujis at half of what they would have gone for new.
Over the years, they came back again and again — to buy secondhand bike seats for their two children and then bikes for the kids when they learned to ride.
"Those were our best memories — taking our kids on the bikes," Jennifer said.
Sunday, the couple traded in their Fujis for one new bike for Jennifer — a sweet-looking powder blue Electra. Four years ago, they moved from Washington Township to Margate.
But still, one could detect a bit of wistfulness as they watched a AAAA tech work on one of their old Fujis.
"That bike is going to look like brand new," Mark said, grinning. "I'm going to say, 'Why did I get rid of it?'"
Jennifer smiled, too: "I hope somebody buys it today."