OCEAN CITY — The iconic Esskay Quality Meats clocks on the Boardwalk are soon coming down, perhaps for the last time, as the long-standing sponsorship agreement with the company is nearing its end and will not be renewed.
Roughly since the end of World War II, when Ocean City was just a fledgling resort town, the Esskay clocks have stood at different locations around the Boardwalk and have been familiar landmarks for generations of residents and visitors. More than a few parents and grandparents have told their young children to meet back at the Esskay clock at an appointed time after a night on the Boardwalk, for example.
The designs have changed over the years, but the Esskay clocks have almost always been there, as familiar for many as the iconic Ferris wheel on the pier, the carousel at Trimper’s and even Thrashers French fries.
However, it was learned in June the long-standing sponsorship agreement was set to expire at the end of this year and Recreation and Parks officials were negotiating a renewal with Esskay Quality Meats. However, Recreation and Parks Director Susan Petito told the Recreation Committee this week the efforts had reached an impasse and the company was abandoning its long-standing sponsorship of the iconic clocks.
“Esskay is not interested in renewing its sponsorship of the clocks,” she said. “We’re currently doing some research on possible replacement sponsors.”
There was a time in the early 1990s when the town attempted to move away from Esskay’s exclusivity and offered the rights to advertise on the Boardwalk clocks as a means of generating revenue, but there was little interest from the private sector. As a result, after a brief hiatus, Esskay resumed putting the clocks up each spring and taking them down each fall.
Decades ago, there was no formal agreement with Esskay on placing the clocks on the Boardwalk, but for years the company’s deal with the town had been formalized to the mutual benefit of both parties.
For example, Esskay paid the town $5,000 per year for the six clocks with a 10-year contract worth $50,000. In addition, Esskay made an annual $3,000 contribution to the Ocean City Recreation Boosters, a volunteer agency that helps sponsor youth sporting events in the resort. For its part, Esskay gets 40 gold passes to the town’s Eagle’s Landing Golf Course, a perk valued at an estimated $3,600. In addition, as a somewhat odd perk in the agreement, Esskay would have exclusive rights to any future town-sponsored hot dog eating contest. Petito said it was about time the clocks were taken down for the winter anyway, affording time to find a new sponsor for next season.
“The good news is the clocks get taken down in October every year, so there is time to work something out before they go back up again,” she said. “It’s been our tradition to pull them in each fall during Nor’easter season.”