By Lauren Wanko
The sun is shining, the temps are in the 80’s and it’s the kind of Memorial Day shore business owners and storm-weary tourists hope for all year long.
“After this winter I have been waiting for sun and warmth! I’m like bring on 80 degrees and humidity,” said South Hampton resident Kathy Martin.
In Belmar, business owners are still operating in temporary trailers on the boardwalk. This is the first Memorial Day Luke Becker’s selling sandwiches on the boards.
“It’s gotten busier and busier as the weekend’s gone on, there are more people on the beach then there was yesterday so I mean it looks good,” said Becker.
There was a long line for daily beach badges in Belmar. Mayor Matt Doherty says it’s too soon to tell how beach badge sales compare this year over last holiday weekend but he says he can already sense sales are significantly greater then last holiday weekend.
“The number one reason is the weather, you know all the businesses and beaches understand it’s really weather dependent. Mother Nature really cooperated with us and we’re taking full advantage,” said Doherty.
Further south in Ocean County, realtor Lee Childers says the summer rental market is still down 30 to 35 percent from the summer before Sandy hit but the market is better than last year.
“In 2013, last summer the rentals were off depending on which town 60 to 70 percent. This year our hope was to make back about half that and it looks like we’re going to be about there,” said Childers.
Childers says so far the summer rental market in storm-ravaged Ortley Beach and Mantoloking is down because of lack of inventory and overall the Route 35 reconstruction project slowed traffic to the shore.
“In New Jersey the typical thing is families will come down January, February, March look at the houses and rent them, in this January, February, March, Route 35 was all torn up, it was tough to get around,” said Childers.
“It’s terrible, we haven’t been renting at all,” said landlord Christopher Moretta.
Moretta hasn’t been able to rent his beachfront home in Lavallette this weekend. He even lowered the price by more than $1,000 a week.
“Why do you think you’re not getting calls?” Moretta said, “I think it’s all the roadwork people come down for a day, they say hey why am I gonna drive through this.”
Martin’s Casuals’ owner Lori Hesslein is grateful this summer. For most of Route 35 all the reconstruction work on the highway will be suspended. The storm-damaged business wasn’t open last Memorial Day.
“This year it’s been a plus, anything’s a plus! Business has been pretty good, not great,” said Hesslein.
In Seaside Heights tourists flock to the beach and boardwalk.
“People weren’t here Friday and Saturday because of the weather but yesterday and today’s been good,” said boardwalk game operator Joseph Pirone.
But some game operators says during the day the sun and warm temperatures keep visitors on the beach and off the boardwalk.
“Probably around five or six o’clock there’s gonna be a lot more people up here, yesterday they were shoulder to shoulder,” said boardwalk game operator Walter Karasiewicz.