By David Cruz
Gov. Chris Christie was the guest of honor as they cut the ribbon on the Ocean Grove boardwalk today just in time for the start of the holiday weekend. As the governor walked along the new boards, surrounded by a throng of supporters, he was blasé about the latest economic news, showing strong job growth and consumer confidence.
“Listen, we’re pleased that things continue to move forward,” he said. “We don’t take victory laps over progress. That’s what we’re supposed to be doing, and I’m happy about it.”
It could be the positive economic numbers or the so far spectacular summer weather, but along Main Avenue in Ocean Grove, the prevailing sentiment is optimism.
“There was definitely a sense of desperation around two to three years ago and now the mood has completely lifted,” said Victor Aluise, who owns The Emporium
on Main Avenue. “People feel elated, so things are definitely going in a positive direction. We’ve actually doubled our staff over the last two years.”
But not everyone is feeling as optimistic. Next door at Artisan Home and Design, owner Jacqueline Chesley says she’s still waiting for a turnaround.
“It hasn’t trickled down,” she said. “If there is a trickle down effect, it hasn’t done it. You know, people are still reluctant to spend.”
After a tough winter, residents and vacationers have shown an eagerness to embrace summer. As the holiday weekend approaches, the beaches are starting to get packed and that means day-trippers, weekenders and locals are making their way into local eateries and boutiques, and, of course, Brandon Clarke, the Italian Ice guy.
“With this job I’ve been having a great time so far this summer,” he said. “It’s great to hear that the economy’s doing so well.”
Congressman Chris Smith said he’s happy things appear to be moving in a positive direction, but warned that not everyone is benefiting in his district.
“Both by mail and by personal contact, they’ll tell me that they don’t have a job,” he said. “They’re still looking and many have given up looking.”
Holiday weekends are for sunbathing and swimming, easy to enjoy the positive news of thousands of new jobs and strong economic growth, but summer is also hurricane season and people down here know from experience that that can all change in an instant.