By MADDY VITALEWhether shopping during Ocean City’s Virtual Fall Block Party or strolling the downtown and Boardwalk for the merchant table sales, events over the last two weekends proved to be an economic boost for the business community amid the COVID-19 pandemic.“It was a very successful and safe event. I think people want to support small businesses, which is huge. It is great for us,” said Danielle Guerriero, president of the Downtown Merchants Association. “Everyone was wearing their masks while walking down Asbury Avenue and going in and out of the stores and practicing social distancing.”With the cancellation of the traditional Fall Block Party, the Ocean City Regional Chamber of Commerce hosted in its place a virtual shopping event, giving those who chose to stay home a way to shop.The Chamber also still offered the popular merchant table sales, minus the street vendors, for patrons who enjoy in-person shopping in the downtown and Boardwalk, helping the store owners showcase their merchandise.From Sixth Street to 14th Street along Asbury Avenue and the Boardwalk, customers perused items from clothes to shoes to jewelry and much more on Oct. 3 and 4 and Oct. 9, 10, 11 and 12.Michele Gillian, executive director of the Chamber, pointed out prior to the events that shopping local not only helps Ocean City’s economy and the merchants, but it also gives customers top-quality merchandise at good deals.“Small businesses have struggled to stay afloat during the pandemic, and this offers them an additional outlet to showcase their unique merchandise,” she said in an interview last month.People stroll the downtown last weekend to get good deals, while shopping local.Although the table sales didn’t bring in the thousands of shoppers that make the Fall Block Party a big tradition, people filled the downtown and the Boardwalk, officials noted.“It was an economic boost,” said Guerriero, whose family owns the Ta-Dah shops along the avenue. “By not canceling the Fall Block Party completely, it allowed everyone to enjoy shopping the way they wanted to experience it and do it safely. While we canceled the vendors, the Chamber allowed us to put merchandise outside for people to buy.”The table sales also brought shoppers into many of the 120 shops on Asbury Avenue.Guerriero visited many of the downtown merchants before the start of the table sales.“Every store has masks and hand sanitizers right when you walk in the door,” she noted. “Every store had taken the needed safety precautions and I think it made shoppers feel safe.”The Virtual Fall Block Party brought business to the local merchants and customers took advantage of great specials and discounts, Guerriero added.The virtual event page listed all of the participating businesses. Each brought shoppers to the store’s websites where deals awaited them.“A lot of people went onto that blog to see what everyone was offering, and some came in to buy gift cards,” Guerriero said. “I believe this is the new normal. People like to shop in person, but they also like to shop from home. Right now, especially, some people, I think, feel safer to shop at home.”For more information about Ocean City Regional Chamber of Commerce events visit oceancityvacation.com.Cruise Control Gear in Ocean City was one of the shops that participated in the virtual event. (Photo courtesy Cruise Control Gear) The Boardwalk is a hub of tourism and one of the centerpieces of the advertising campaign.