In Ocean City, where they pray for sunshine, don't count Jim Whittemore among those cursing the rain.
The cooler, wetter summer has dampened business for many who rely on seasonal tourists. But cloudy skies and rain have helped others who offer beach alternatives -- movies, indoor pools, malls.
"When you can get them off the beach, they do go shopping," said Whittemore, manager of Gold Coast Mall on Coastal Highway and 115th Street. "It's been a benefit to us this year. With as many different places to shop, we've needed that kind of rain influence."
Others who felt no loss from July's below-normal temperatures and above-average rainfall included hoteliers who have lavish indoor spas and pools, movie theater operators and condominium owners who rent by the week -- and charge nonrefundable deposits.
And some restaurants benefited, as visitors spent more time lingering over meals. At the Sheraton Fontainebleau Hotel at 101st Street, its restaurant business rose 40 percent in July, said Dr. Leonard P. Berger, owner and general manager.
During July, visitors could drive up and down the road on weekdays and negotiate the best deal on a room in one of the usually full hotels or motels, said Richard Thomas, owner of Capri Motel on 2nd and Baltimore avenues in downtown Ocean City. Even such bargain hunters were scarce.
"In Ocean City, we sell sunshine," Thomas said. "If we don't have sunshine, we don't have anything. When July hit, we just didn't see the numbers of people we normally see."
If it weren't for regular customers frequenting the Sundancer Surf Shop on Baltimore Avenue, the summer so far might have been a bust, said manager John Kratz.
"It's been below average but not horrible," said Kratz. "The kids ,, down for summer, there's a slight decrease in that, and in the tourist crowd. But since we're a year-round shop, we have a strong following of locals."
July's weather -- 2.4 degrees cooler than normal, with 1.8 more inches of rain than usual, according to the National Weather Service -- wasn't all wet. The atypical month gave some beach goers a summer case of cabin fever, making for a busy first half of August.
"We've had no vacancies the past two weeks," said Berger, who also owns the Ocean Club Gateway Hotel on 48th Street.
"We'll have a few checkouts, a couple of rooms empty and people waiting to fill them," he said. "I've never seen such strong demand in my 12 years in Ocean City. The poor weather in June and July left people with pent-up demand when the weather got good."
Sales have remained strong in Worcester County, where Ocean City is located.
The county generated $2.6 million in sales taxes in June, compared with about the same amount in June 1995, and generated $4.5 million in July, compared with $4.3 million in July 1995.
Hotel taxes collected in the county for the fiscal year ending July 31 totaled $6.2 million, compared with $5.9 million for the fiscal year ended July 31, 1995, according to the state comptroller's office.
Pub Date: 8/17/96