Shore Businesses Face Tough Road To Recovery Post-Sandy [SERIES]
This is the third story in a five-day series titled, Revisiting the Jersey Shore After Sandy. In Part III we ask local businesses about the path of rebuilding after the storm and about reopening in time for Memorial Day.
It's not a trip to the Jersey Shore without a slice of pizza, a grease-laden paper plate of funnel cake and a gaudy over-sized t-shirt.
The shops along the coast are just as much a part of the experience as the ocean and sand, and while most businesses are back up and running, the race to Memorial Day is not an easy one.
Belmar Boardwalk Finished
Belmar's boardwalk was finished ahead of schedule and Mayor Matt Doherty reported almost all of the businesses are up and running, noting shops along the boardwalk would return this summer in temporary trailers.
In Seaside Heights, Mayor Bill Akers is optimistic 85 percent of businesses will be open and the boardwalk is expected to be ready for Memorial Day.
Doug Woodfield, owner of the Twisted Fish on the Seaside Heights boardwalk, had a power saw in hand as he was doing work on his still-boarded business.
"I was in the Sandy Castle building, which got destroyed and I was looking for another location, but got it late."
He says "it'll be close" if he wants to make it by Memorial Day weekend.
Woodfield notes the Memorial Day isn't arbitrary, the holiday it accounts for a sizable chunk of their seasonal profits.
"The time up until Memorial Day is about 15 percent of your business for the year."
Like every business, he hopes the summer will be profitable, but admits "it'll be nice to just break even."
Domonick Maruca of Maruca's Tomato Pies says their shop also had to move after the storm.
"Basically, there was no electric, no gas, everything was turned off. We got started from what we had and had to build another pizza place," Maruca said.
Neither Maruca nor Woodfield had kind things to say about FEMA, who they say provided them no help. Ultimately private financing contributed towards the rebuilding, but Maruca says for small businesses spending the money is not always an option, especially if they're staring at a potentially un-profitable summer.
"They probably had to finance or leverage themselves, so it's a big hit."
Woodfield and Maruca hope that with less rides available visitors will be spending more of their money at restaurants, clothing shops and other stores.
"It's hoping that the crowds are here and it's hoping the crowds are spending," says Woodfield.
Look for Part IV tomorrow as we talk to the first wave of visitors to the Shore and ask them about their memories and expectations for the summer season.