Hardware stores, pharmacies, supermarkets and some restaurants remained open Monday.
But those were the exceptions as business came to a halt and everyone counted the hours until Hurricane Sandy made landfall in southern New Jersey.
Travel restrictions, evacuations and common sense kept most people off the roads, slowing business at places such as Cappuccio’s Eastside Deli in Vineland.
The store has a generator and supplies enough to last for days, owner Mehe Patel said.
“It must be getting bad. I haven’t seen too many cars. My regular customers have been coming in, and some emergency workers. They need coffee,” she said. “Tomorrow we’ll be open. We have everything we need so we’re ready.”
Marmora Hardware on Route 9 in Upper Township was closed to business on Monday after employees found several inches of standing water. Instead of helping customers with last-minute purchases of plastic buckets and trash cans to store drinking water, batteries and generators, employees worked to dump truckloads of sand along the leaky wall before pumping out the floodwater.
“We haven’t lost any inventory yet. We’re just sucking and mopping,” store manager Mike Ricchi of Upper Township said.
Ricchi said he woke Monday to find his home’s roof starting to leak from the wind-blown rain and a tree blown down in his yard.
“I’m a little concerned. It’s still early on in the storm,” he said.
Ricchi said he was surprised by how busy Marmora was Monday morning. The ShopRite remained open along with pharmacies and other small businesses along Route 9.
Farther north on Route 9, most businesses remained closed Monday in parts of Northfield and Linwood.
One exception was Bunting Family Pharmacy on Tilton Road. The store was busier than normal Monday.
Owner and pharmacist Joe Bunting, 36, of Linwood, said he intended to stay open throughout the storm if possible. On Monday, his pharmacy continued to make home deliveries of medicines such as insulin.
“The flooding our drivers have been encountering hasn’t been that bad yet, but it’s expected to get much worse tonight and tomorrow,” he said. “We have a backup generator, so in case we do lose power, we’ll still be able to process claims for patients.”
Bunting said he was so focused on his patients that he had not considered what he might do for lunch or dinner Monday. He said most of the usual restaurants around his store had closed.
“That’s a great question. We have some candy bars. Maybe we’ll tear into those,” he said.
Nearby in Egg Harbor Township, the Shore Diner planned to remain open until 11 p.m. as long as it had power.
“Unless we lose electricity, we’re staying open,” said Elena Motalkina, of Egg Harbor Township, the store’s morning manager. “We have quite a few people here, a lot coming in and saying everything is closed and they have no place to go.”
At Joe Canal’s Discount Liquor Outlet just down the street, the crew was cutting short by a few hours its plan to stay open until 4 p.m.
Morning flooding made it impossible for businesses on Cape May County’s barrier islands to open even if they were so inclined. First responders accustomed to grabbing a slice of pizza or cup of coffee were on their own like everyone else.
Ocean City Police Capt. Steven Ang said the police station on Ninth Street and the rest of the downtown had become largely impassable by flood waters.
“We went out yesterday and got food and supplies for ourselves,” he said.
Home Depot in Middle Township was closed Monday, but its parking lot was full of cars left behind by Wildwood residents who no doubt hoped the high ground would be high enough.
Farther inland, businesses such as the Richland General Store in Buena Vista Township contended with a blustery but uneventful morning.
Owner Gary Brookland, of Manahawkin, helped customers get last-minute batteries, pumps, extension cords, duct tape and some unusual impulse purchases.
“We’ve been selling a lot of playing cards,” he said. “The storm is disruptive but very good for the hardware business.”
Many of his customers own local farms that needed attention, despite the approaching gales, he said.
“It’s a farm community, so people stay busy. They’re not afraid of a little weather,” he said.
Big sellers have been gasoline cans to stock up on generator fuel to power well pumps, lights and household appliances, he said.
“People are nervous because of what happened in August. We didn’t have water for a week,” he said of the wind storm that knocked out power to most of southern New Jersey. “These are tough people. They will hold their ground. They’ve got nowhere else to go.”
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