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Ocean City

FAMILY BUSINESS: Cathy Donovan’s daughter, son-in-law join New Wave

(Jan. 25, 2013) Cathy Donovan, owner of New Wave, has been providing restaurants, bars, hotels, businesses and organizations in Ocean City and beyond, with screen-printed and embroidered items and promotional products and merchandise for more than 30 years. Now, her daughter and son-in-law have joined the business venture.

Donovan and her husband, the late Michael Donovan, were living in Baltimore when they came to Ocean City to visit friends one weekend in February 1979. She was a buyer for Hutzler’s, an elite clothing store in the Baltimore area, and Michael worked in sales for Levi Strauss. He had a number of customers in the Ocean City area.

Their friends, Rick and Stephanie Meehan, were looking to open a store in the 45th Street Village, which was being built at the time.

The Donovans went with the Meehans to check out the shopping center and decided to rent a space and open a gift shop. They went back to Baltimore, quit their jobs and packed up and moved to Ocean City in March 1979.

“We just wanted a change,” Donovan said.

The Donovans opened the Village Barn, a home accessories store, in the 45th Street Village in May 1979.

The couple was not using the loft space above the store, when it was suggested to them that they get involved in the T-shirt business. They attended a screen-printing trade show that winter.

The Donovans bought a printer and dryer and opened New Wave in the loft in the spring of 1980. The pair ran the wholesale business with one employee, artist Scott Harrington.

They sold local businesses employee shirts, aprons, and other products designed and screen-printed by New Wave.

Harrington created all the logos freehand. Their first customer was the Bearded Clam, on Wicomico Street. The bar is still a client.

The Donovans had outgrown the space so when their lease was up in 1983 they closed the gift shop and rented a warehouse in West Ocean City for the New Wave screen-printing and embroidery business.

The space was four times as large as the building in the 45th Street Village. The pair purchased larger equipment to handle the demand. The business also grew from one employee to as many as of 25 in the summer.

Michael died in 1990 and Cathy continued to run the business for the next 10 years.

In 2000, another screen-printing company took over the warehouse space and Donovan’s equipment, but she continued to service her customers from her home office in West Ocean City. Donovan used local screen-printing companies to fill her clients’ orders.

Over the years, she has build strong relationships with her customers.

“The strength of our business has always been service to our customers, quality and competitive prices,” she said.

When her daughter, Colleen, was a little girl, she would sometimes go to work with her father – she was 5-years-old when he died – but she never thought about going into the family business.

In 2002, she went to High Point University in North Carolina to major in interior design and home furnishing marketing. She left school after two years and assisted her mother part-time, while working other jobs.

Colleen married Matt Brown in October 2010.

As of Dec. 1, 2012, Colleen officially came on full-time and Matt part-time. The family also brought back the original New Wave logo. Two sales representatives have been hired, as well.

“He does the behind-the-scenes stuff and handles the finances,” Donovan Brown said of her husband, “while we go out and sell. Matt and I both turn 30 this year and [Cathy and Michael] were in their early 30s when they came to Ocean City. We want to go back to the way they did it then, producing all our own goods, as far as screen-printing and embroidery. We want to go back to how New Wave was 30 years ago.”

The family currently takes the orders and uses local companies to produce the merchandise. Once the products are complete, the trio delivers them to their clients.

A number of customers have used New Wave services since Cathy and Michael started the company 33 years ago, and many new ones have signed on along the way, she said. One long-time customer is the Delmarva Irish American Club. New Wave creates the official T-shirts sold during the annual Ocean City St. Patrick’s Day parade. Donovan and other volunteers sell the shirts during the event, with proceeds benefiting the club. Over the years, Donovan said New Wave has donated approximately $50,000 to the DIAC.

New Wave not only has clients in Maryland and Delaware, but also Florida, California, Pennsylvania and New Hampshire.

Even with additional sales representatives and her daughter and son-in-law joining the business, Donovan said she has no plans to retire anytime soon.

“I love doing what I’m doing,” she said.

For more information about New Wave, contact Donovan at 410-726-6117, cathy@ocnewwave.com or Donovan Brown at 410-726-5509, colleen@ocnewwave.com.

 

Cathy Donovan, owner of New Wave, right, has been providing restaurants, bars, hotels, businesses and organizations in Ocean City and beyond, with screen-printed and embroidered items, promotional products and merchandise for more than 30 years. Now, her daughter, Colleen, and son-in-law, Matt Brown, have joined the business venture.
Lisa Capitelli, Ocean City Today
Managing Editor Lisa Capitelli, a New York native, entered Salisbury University (then Salisbury State) in the fall of 1998 and graduated in the spring of 2002 with a Bachelors of Arts degree. She majored in communication arts, and minored in art, with concentration on photography. Lisa began her career at Ocean City Today as a staff writer in February 2003. She was promoted to Assistant Editor in August 2011 and Managing Editor in May, 2013. Editorial responsibilities include covering sports — from local high school games, to fishing tournaments and recreation and park programs, the business community and weekly happenings, events and activities.

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