When Hurricane Sandy’s tide receded and the wind diminished, many barrier island business owners returned to find their very livelihoods washed away.
Now, they’re putting in the hard work needed to get their businesses back running, whether it’s this week, this month or next summer.
In Margate, where the ocean met the bay in many parts of the city, “Every single business was impacted by the storm,” said Margate Business Association President Ed Berger. “It’s just a matter of what degree.”
Some had minor damage and were able to restart operations rather quickly. The Bocca Coal Fired Bistro on the stretch of Ventnor Avenue closer to Ventnor was up and running within two days of the storm, as was the Hot Bagels store across the street.
Others, especially those along Ventnor and Amherst avenues in the part of the city closer to Longport, took a major hit.
“I’m a lot more concerned about some of the smaller retailers up and down Ventnor Avenue,” Berger said. “I don’t know the answer about how many are going to recover. But they’re a tough group — you have to be in seasonal markets. The city may have a different look, that’s all.”
In Ocean City, Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Michelle Gillian said small businesses on Asbury Avenue between Sixth and 14th streets got hit badly.
“It’s devastating what happened to them. ... That area really never floods, and it’s just so sad to see small businesses struggling to make it.”
Gillian said the city got together with the chamber to create OCNJCare, in which contractors volunteer one day a week to help out businesses that may not be able to afford them.
“The majority of businesses are very small businesses and are either not insured or underinsured,” Gillian said. “And FEMA has low-interest loans, but a lot of businesses can’t afford those loans. We realized as a community that we need to come together and help put businesses back on their feet.”
Boardwalk businesses in Ocean City fared better than those downtown because they were mainly closed down for the season and were not as vulnerable, Gillian said.
Along Ventnor Avenue in Margate, near the still-closed City Hall, the Wawa remained shuttered behind a string of yellow tape and the CVS was boarded and sandbagged after a large part of its merchandise washed outside in the storm.
Sidewalks were covered Friday with waterlogged furniture and equipment.
At the Marielena boutique, two stripped-down mannequins watched over the scene Friday as fans ran continuously, drying out a bare and empty store. A second Hot Bagels’ location, this one closer to Longport, had an orange paper on its door proclaiming that it was unsafe for human occupation.
At the Kazuko Salon in Margate, owner Kazuko Kurokawa looked over what remained of her first floor late last week.
“I got water almost up to two feet,” Kurokawa said. “We got water from the ocean and the bay. It’s totaled — the floor, furniture, equipment. ... They told me three weeks, but I’m not sure.”
She was able to keep the business going thanks to a smaller, unaffected section on the second floor — and the beauty concerns of customers forced to wait longer for their appointments than normal.
A few blocks a way at the Margate Dairy Bar, owner Chris Clayton called the damage “a total loss.”
“We had four feet of water in here,” he said from behind the counter. “It destroyed everything inside. I’m still trying to figure out my next move. ... Even if you look at the TV, until you get to your business and open the door, it’ll kick you right in the head. Even without busting the door, the water just got in here and stirred everything like a blender.””
Still, he said, “I plan on reopening. We’ve been here for the community for 60 years. We have a responsibility to the community. We’re not going to sell it or anything like that. This is a place where your grandfather took your father and your father took you.”
At the Heritage Surf Shop in Margate, across the street from both the CVS and Wawa, owner Randy Young and his employees had managed to patch up a section of the store, isolating the sections and products that were damaged. Meanwhile, boards and rubber shoes sat drying in the street.
“We had three feet of water in here,” Young said. “And tons of moisture problems. ... Not since ‘91 have we had major (flooding).”
The Sea Isle City Heritage store had “little to no damage” to the products, Young added. The Ocean City location, though, “was in a pretty similar to this. It needs a full renovation.”
Meanwhile, in Ocean City, one Asbury business was still on its feet, as The Sneaker Shop — which had 18 inches of water — was willing to meet with whoever gave them a call.
“We’re here,” owner Maureen Kelly said. “The store’s being gutted, but the majority of the stock survived. We’re a phone call away, and we’ll come and meet customers and get their shoe needs (filled).”
In Ventnor, while homes between Ventnor Avenue and the bay were devastated, avenue shops opened rather quickly, including Jagielky’s Candy and Sack O’ Subs.
“There was not one drop in the Ventnor store, thank goodness gracious,” said Jagielky’s co-owner Annamarie Carr. “The Margate store got three inches, and it required us to rip out the walls. We reoponed thinking we were OK, but the alarm of mildew grew, so we’re going to sanitize and dry out the store. ... It’s been crazy, it’s been hectic, but we’re trying to be a beacon of normalcy.”
The situation was not so lucky for businesses on Dorset Avenue in Ventnor, where every block had piles of furniture and equipment placed out on the sidewalk. Community Liquors had signs, machines, shelves and an entire door sitting out front.
Kim Ryon, owner of the Rain Florist shop next door, may have summed up peoples’ mindset best.
“We got about three feet of water, and you can smell it,” she said Thursday. “It doesn’t smell so good. But we just got flowers today for a wedding in Atlantic City ... We’re taking it seriously. And we’re going to get it done.”
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