By Lauren Wanko
Sun-worshipers this afternoon lounged on the beach and strolled the boardwalks. Families crowded Barnacle Bill’s mini golf. Summer’s in full swing at the Jersey Shore, but merchants say while business is better this season, it’s not as good as pre-Sandy summers.
“There’s a lot of work that needs to be done on the island,” said Barnacle Bill’s owner Michael Petruzel. “I don’t think we’re going to get the tourists back until the town’s looking the way it is supposed to be.”
Barnacle Bill’s recently reopened the restaurant and arcade. Farther south in Seaside Heights, Bernt Hage set up shop in what he calls a sweet shack. The Berkley Sweet Shop owner lost two boardwalk stores to the September fire.
When asked how business has been, Hage said, “It’s been steady. You know it hasn’t been killer business. We only have 12 feet here so we can’t provide everything.”
“Considering what’s happened here, I’m having a good summer,” said Andi Dalton, owner of Andi’s.
While she’s pleased with business so far this summer, Bay Head store owner Dalton thinks the Jersey Shore lost tourists to other vacation spots.
“We don’t have as many houses to rent in the area, but hopefully in a few years, when we get back they’ll be back to the Bay Head-Mantoloking area,” Dalton said.
Point Pleasant Borough resident Nancy Regec notices fewer crowds.
“I think it’s slower than it was last year. I think people came down really for the curiosity. Really to see what things looked like after Sandy,” she said.
Bay Head Mayor Bill Curtis says with the exception of one store, the beach and businesses are open in town.
“The businesses in Bay Head are up from last year by a considerable amount,” he said. “Pre-Sandy I would say we are off 5 to 10 percent.”
The seashore community is fighting a different misconception this summer says the mayor.
“Route 35 was a nightmare all winter long, but now it’s paved, it’s smooth, it’s quiet, it’s open. Memorial Day it stopped here, but not south of us, but people didn’t know and they got caught in heavy traffic jams, so I’m sure some people said we’re not going to do this, this summer,” Curtis said.
“I do get people asking if the road is clear and if they can get down here,” said bed and breakfast owner Glenn Kithcart.
Here at the Bentley Inn Bed & Breakfast, business is better than last year, but still it’s off by about 20 percent. The owner thinks that’s due to a number of factors including the economy and weather.
“People are now more careful about their money and they’re watching the weather. We get more late bookings than we do like way advance bookings,” Kithcart said.
Still the Bentley Inn’s staffers are optimistic about August, along with many other business owners along the Jersey Shore.