By Lauren Wanko
“We’re back, we’re doing business. It’s business as usual.”
That’s Belmar restaurant owner David Morin’s message to tourists. Federico’s Pizza was the lieutenant governor’s first stop this morning, part of the administration’s “Open for Business” initiative.
“Tourism is the third largest industry in New Jersey, it is a $34 billion industry. We need to let people know that parts of Jersey shore are open,” Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno said. “You’re going to see us doing this all through the springtime. We’re gonna have a very active spring campaign encouraging people to come to the Jersey Shore.”
Federico’s Pizza and Restaurant opened 10 days after the storm. The building didn’t suffer any significant damage. Morin says the number of deliveries has declined, but business in the restaurant has picked up.
“We got all the contractors in so it’s been good,” Morin said.
Nearby, the Belmar Bagel Café saw a similar uptick in sales post-Sandy.
“Our business increased the month after because of the all the contractors and people in town,” said Belmar Bagel Café Owner Don Weston.
Belmar Window Shop Owner Steve Beaudoin isn’t as optimistic. He thinks the damage Sandy left behind will impact the summer tourism season along the coast.
“We’re not going to get busy for quite a while. We’ve been dead for months on end. There’s been no business,” Beaudoin said.
There are 140 businesses in Belmar. The mayor says almost all the restaurants and stores have reopened since the storm, with the exception of three or four businesses along the waterfront.
“Every one of our businesses before Sandy have committed to wanting to come back and reopen in time for the summer,” said Belmar Mayor Matthew Doherty.
But are people getting the message that parts of the Jersey Shore are open for business? Cape May County Chamber of Commerce Vicky Clark says business was down during their Christmas holiday season. Clark thinks one of the main contributors is the national media’s portrayal that the entire Jersey coast was destroyed. The chamber’s advocating for an aggressive media campaign to set the record straight.
“I think Gov. Christie’s given a solid commitment to tourism that he’s going to be pushing more to get the information out to the people outside the state and I think he’s fully committed to that,” said Assemblyman David Rible. “I think you are going to see a very solid campaign come out of the state of New Jersey.”
That’s something many Jersey Shore business owners are counting on. As for whether tourists get the message, well that remains to seen.