OCEAN CITY — Ocean City has a long-standing tradition of providing summer jobs to teenagers. Few go as far as 13-year-old Jack Fager, however, and start their own business.
Beginning in late-April, Fager opened Jack’s Gelato on 59th Street. With only one other employee, the gelato stand operates seven days a week from 4 until 10 p.m.
“It is a lot to do setting up and getting the machines ready and just a lot to get started,” Fager said.
But running his own business before going into the eighth grade is more than worth the work, he added. And even though he’s only 13, operating a business has been a goal for as long as he can remember, said Fager, a student at Worcester Preparatory School.
“It’s a lot of fun. It’s just learning how to do stuff and learning from your mistakes and how to do everything right,” he said.
A lot of that attitude runs in the family. Jack Fager’s father is John Fager, owner of Fager’s Island in Ocean City. Jack Fager has grown up in the restaurant business, said his mother, Michelle Fager.
“This is what he’s always wanted to do. He’s been interested in Fager’s Island and what his dad’s been doing since he was two,” she said.
In getting the business started, Jack Fager said that both of his parents have been “really supportive.” They are renting him the space on 59th Street where the gelato stand operates and are leasing him the soft-serve gelato machines. But the everyday work of running a business is on Jack, according to his mother. She sees the stand as a practical learning experience for her son, who is already thinking about college.
“He does well in school and wants to go to business school to get all of those basics down,” said Michelle Fager.
Jack Fager is already thinking about specific schools, including the University of North Carolina Wilmington or the University of Maryland, where he knows that he will be studying for a business degree.
The gelato stand is more than a side project, however, said Jack Fager. He plans on running Jack’s Gelato every summer into the foreseeable future.
“I’m going to do this for many summers ahead. I’m going to try to get this really going for a while,” he said.
Jack Fager chose to specialize in soft-serve gelato because he expects it to stay popular and relevant every summer. He also thinks it’s an under-served market, with mainstays like ice cream and frozen yogurt dominating Ocean City in the summer but leaving plenty of room for competition. Soft-serve gelato is considered a healthier alternative to ice cream and has a unique taste and texture that Jack Fager said impressed him immediately.
The gelato machines that he uses are top of the line and were picked up at the most recent restaurant show in Ocean City.
“You pour the product in the top and it freezes through. It’s like custard,” said Jack Fager.
A little more than two months into his first experience running a business, Jack Fager is happy with the business coming in, especially at night. There were, and continue to be, wrinkles to work out and hurdles to overcome, he admitted. Dealing with permitting, city codes and all of the regulations in place for a food service business were a headache before he opened the doors, according to Jack Fager.
“I had to get a lot of inspections after opening, like three different health department inspections,” he said. “I had to put in a grease trap and there’s no grease in there.”
Even the headaches are learning experiences, however, and Jack Fager is excited that he has the chance to have such an uncommon summer job in Ocean City.