June 15, 2016
Ken Taylor ’84 and Maria Storino Taylor ’84
Office: Jenkinson’s Boardwalk
Where: Point Pleasant Beach, N.J.
Q. Describe what your life is like working every day at Jenkinson’s Boardwalk.
Ken: It’s an adventure. Our season usually goes from March to October, although some attractions are open year-round, and our busiest time is from Memorial Day to Labor Day. So our year is basically broken into three parts: pre-season, season and post-season. In the pre-season we work to put into place all of the changes and additions for the upcoming season.
Maria: The season itself is a blur. We’re here practically day and night so there’s not a lot of down time. The post-season is when we regroup and start making preparations for the following year. And we involve ourselves in every aspect of the business from buying rides and attractions to sampling the ice cream and salt-water taffy.
Q. Tell us a little about the history and how the business has grown.
Ken: Jenkinson’s has been around since 1926. The Storino family bought part of it in 1976 when it was just a restaurant and some small concessions. The rest has been added since then. Maria’s father and uncle were the ones who took the risks to purchase the property and who had the vision to make it what it is today. We’re fortunate to build on what they created and keep the property flourishing. We’re in the next generation of the business and we have high standards to uphold.
Maria: It has really grown tremendously. Now we have an aquarium, fun house, arcades, miniature golf courses, games of chance and an amusement park with 29 rides.
Ken: In 2002, we purchased Casino Pier and Breakwater Beach (then Water Works) in Seaside Heights, another amusement pier with a water park located nine miles south. That property sustained a great deal of damage during Superstorm Sandy. You may have seen the photo of our roller coaster in the ocean! We are almost 100 percent restored there now.
Q. Most people must think they would love to be doing this, but they may not be aware of the day-to-day responsibilities. What are some of the responsibilities that most people do not realize?
Ken: We do love what we do but there are a lot of responsibilities. It’s still a business—in addition to that it is a family business so it is sometimes difficult to separate work and home life.
The rides and games of chance are highly regulated by the State of New Jersey and require constant attention. I also spend a great deal of time on insurance and tax matters. We also have to make sure the maintenance is up to date. Unfortunately, I spend a lot of my time indoors, but I do like to walk the property at least once a day to see if I spot anything in need of repair. It’s not all dull work though—we do make it a point to visit other amusement parks locally and nationally to look for new ideas, and I do make sure I test all the arcade games before they are purchased!
Maria: I also spend most of my time inside. Another thing people may not realize is that their vacation time is usually our work time, including nights and weekends during the summer. It’s our job to make sure everyone has an enjoyable visit.
Q. Each summer, you keep the classic feel, but also plan something new. What’s new coming up this summer?
Maria: Some of the staples of the classic Jersey Shore experience—like a pizza and the carousel—will always be there, but we do like to keep the property fresh. This season we’re excited about our new Adventure Lookout ropes course and zip line. We are also always on the lookout for new foods, like gluten-free items, that will complement our Boardwalk staples.
Ken: Adding a new attraction like the ropes course takes about two to three years of preparation before we can actually build it. This year we’re moving our batting cages to a location that was a miniature golf course and putting the ropes course in their place. Next year we’re looking to replace one of our rides. The only time this process was accelerated was after Superstorm Sandy. We were forced to rebuild and make improvements quickly in order to be open for the 2013 season.
Q. What do you need every day to run a successful business such as this?
Maria: Good sneakers! We’re on our feet a lot. And you have to have the stamina for those long hours during the season. You have to be able to be a good communicator, too. We always want to get feedback from our employees because they are on the front lines and can tell us what our customers want.
Ken: Marketing is another important skill. Even though we have a strong customer base in North and Central Jersey, a lot of people from the Philadelphia area have probably never heard of Point Pleasant Beach, even though it’s a short trip, especially from areas of Montgomery and Bucks counties. Capital budgeting is probably the most critical for us. Being seasonal, you have to be able to sustain your business year-round even though the majority of your income comes in a concentrated period of time. It is vital to manage day-to-day operation through the off season while still appropriating enough capital for improvements for the following year.
Q. What is your favorite aspect of the boardwalk?
Ken: I love seeing the excitement on the faces of the kids when they open the amusement park gates at noon. It is fulfilling to see the planning and preparation made all winter come together in season. Plus, I get to work with Maria every day!
Maria: Besides working with Ken, I love seeing the generations enjoy themselves. I’ve heard grandparents explaining to their grandchildren that they took their mom on a certain ride. Knowing we’ve played a role in helping them create lifelong memories is a great feeling.
I also like Thursday nights when we have our weekly fireworks show. I usually stop whatever work I’m doing to watch them. They’re just as dazzling every week. It never gets old!
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