In the immediate aftermath of Superstorm Sandy 15 months ago, the obvious and necessary focus of local, state, and government agencies was on repairing and rebuilding the residential and commercial infrastructure. With so many displaced, the task was daunting, and despite the appearance of New Jersey’s embattled governor on television screens throughout the region, the message that the shore was truly open for business last summer was never conveyed effectively.
Businesses from Atlantic Highlands to Cape May saw significant revenue drops, and while it was expected that those in the most-affected areas would suffer, shore towns that suffered no damage whatsoever also saw significant revenue decreases last summer.
For many businesses along Route 35 from Seaside Park to Bay Head, the outlook for summer 2014 is bleak because that road, the main north/south thoroughfare running along the coast, is undergoing what is expected to be a two-year repair. This construction has damaged significantly numerous businesses this winter. In some cases, stores have been unable to open because of the construction.
Summer 2014 might be the last for these businesses because they can no longer absorb the costs associated with paying for the repairs due to storm damage and having to close their stores to make said repairs; and having their traditionally-slow off-seasons ruined by the aforementioned road repairs.
The United States’ economy thrives when small businesses succeed. Independent businesses recirculate an average of 48% of every dollar of revenue, while chains recirculate an average of 13.6% of every dollar spent. The percentage of money recirculated when one compares local restaurants vs. chain restaurants is even more dramatic. (65.4% to 34.5%.) Put simply, local businesses grow local economies.
When you visit the Jersey shore this summer, instead of buying a boogie board at Wal-Mart, visit NJ Surf Show in Lavallette. You’ll find an attentive store owner who will take the time to advise you on what board will best suit your needs. And you might be surprised, but he will even tell you not to buy something that won’t suit you.
Instead of buying a “Stronger Than The Storm” t-shirt made in China, buy a shirt made by a L.P.S. or Epic. You’ll gain instant indie cred. and, more often than not, the prices for locally-made products are competitive with the retail prices of products of similar quality sold by big-box retailers.
As for restaurants, you will find delicious food, made with locally-sourced ingredients, at prices that match or beat those that you would find at local outlets of national chains. Forget Red Lobster. Try a local seafood restaurant. You know how you make fun of the tourists who visit New York City and eat at TGI Fridays in Times Square? Here’s your opportunity not to be that tourist. (If you’re skeptical, try to find someone who dislikes Surf Taco – a local chain that has a number of outposts in Ocean and Monmouth counties.)
If you really want the Jersey shore to recover, shop local. Drop a few dollars and the locals might even stop calling you Bennies.