Wednesday’s midweek holiday gives local business owners recovering from Saturday’s deadly storm a rare chance for a do-over.
Most years, the Fourth of July provides for a long weekend, creating a welcome surge in visitors who come for a three-day getaway. (Last year’s fell on a Monday.)
But Wednesday’s Independence Day sits squarely midweek, an inconvenient day for visitors who are trying to make the most of their vacation days, said Vicki Clark, president of the Cape May Chamber of Commerce.
Clark said many towns in Cape May County hoped to use the midweek break to boost tourism on consecutive weekends with special events.
“Traditionally, when the fourth is on a Wednesday you do see lower numbers on that day but a larger swell on the weekends,” she said. “When it is tied to a long weekend, the holiday is generating more overnight stays.”
But that was before a storm knocked out power to 200,000 electricity customers in South Jersey.
“In light of the storms, the fact that the holiday is midweek is a very good thing,” said Joseph D. Kelly, president of the Greater Atlantic City Chamber.
“Every indication I get from folks around town is that business will be very strong. We’re real bullish that this midweek holiday will create a weeklong set of activities as opposed to just a weekend.”
Kelly pointed to the ripple effect the annual Atlantic City Airshow has on business the weekends before and after the popular midweek event.
“If we have a catalyst before the weekend, it’s a good thing,” he said.
Independence Day is a huge tourism holiday. About 30 million people are expected to travel for the holiday, according to the National Retail Federation’s annual Independence Day survey. About 115 million people will watch public fireworks displays. Another 35 million will attend parades.
Wednesday is a holiday for most public employees and many private ones as well.
Last week, Atlantic City Electric, based in Hamilton Township, had planned to give most of its 1,000 management and union employees Wednesday off, spokesman Matt Likovich said. Now virtually everyone at the company will be working.
“When there’s a situation like this, it’s all hands on deck, whether it’s field personnel or office personnel,” he said. “Our employees all have second roles. They might be called upon to do other jobs. You might be working in the regulatory department or facility services during a normal day. We have people setting up hotels and making food arrangements for the workers.
Musa Can, owner of Marcacci Meats in Ventnor, will host his annual public barbecue Wednesday at his shop in Vineland for an estimated 2,000 guests.
Can said businesses in Atlantic County such as takeout restaurants and pizzerias are probably having a record week catering to storm-affected residents and visitors. But markets that specialize in products cooked at home such as his are suffering.
“In Atlantic County, I’d guess a lot of tourists have left. I don’t see them coming back this weekend,” he said. “Put yourself in their shoes. If you’re on vacation and lose power, you’re just going back home.”
Can said the midweek holiday is a blessing. Had it fallen on Monday, the weekend would have been a total loss for much of South Jersey.
“Places with ready-made food will do better than normal. People who see fresh food to cook will see a 25 percent loss this week,” he said.
Marco Polo’s Pizzeria Restaurant in Pleasantville had a record week of sales, said Lonnie Rama, son of the store’s owner.
Rama, who lives in Galloway Township, said to keep pace with demand, his store had to get re-supplied with inventory from his extended family members’ restaurants that lost power in the storm.
“It was record-setting in every category,” he said. “Even today we sold double what we usually make. Who knows what it’s going to be for the Fourth of July?”
The storm had little effect on Cape May County, where the holiday was expected to boost business on consecutive weekends.
Doreen Talley, director of marketing for the Chamber of Commerce of Greater Cape May, said accommodations were especially strong this week.
“I think it’s going to be a better Fourth of July,” she said. “People will take advantage of both weekends. More people will be taking off the entire week for vacation.”
Some local employers by necessity offer flexible schedules to employees so they can continue operations over the busy holiday. Others scale back operations to a skeleton crew for the holiday. Still others close completely.
AC Coin and Slots, which employs more than 200 people in Pleasantville, will be closed Wednesday but expects business to be especially brisk in Atlantic City the rest of the week.
“We are ramped up,” Director of Marketing Aimee Schultz said. “It’s a huge business week for us. We need to be on call for our customers.”
Schultz said she thinks both weekends will be especially busy.
“The holiday will give the area a good midweek push. My co-workers are planning to go to the beach in the middle of the week, which is unusual for them,” she said.
Meanwhile, towns such as Ocean City will be hosting fireworks displays today as planned.
“We’ll get two good weekends out of the Fourth,” said Michele Gillian, director of the Ocean City Regional Chamber of Commerce. “It’s a great week to take off.”
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