Belmar oceanfront appears back to business as it was before Sandy
When surfshop Eastern Lines reopened in Belmar on a mid-April weekend, Don Tarrant's customers had an obstacle to clear to reach his Ocean Avenue store - the road was still closed to traffic.
Customers nevertheless mobbed the store that after Hurricane Sandy had one foot of water on top of the four feet of sand that filled the first floor of the store.
Ocean Avenue, one of the main roads through town, had been closed for nearly six months after the storm, as crews cleared tons of debris and made repairs. Alongside the road crews were contractors who speedily replaced the borough's Boardwalk, which was completed April 29, almost a month before Memorial Day. However, bathroom facilities and vendors will be housed in temporary trailers because the pavilions along the Boardwalk won't be rebuilt and open until 2014, the borough said.
Many of Belmar's oceanfront businesses suffered no damage during the storm because the boards covering windows and sandbags protecting doors and windows held. But Tarrant and a few others weren't as lucky after debris crushed their protective barriers.
Popular restaurants and bars away from the ocean, along Main Street, suffered no damage and have stayed open. But those restaurants along the ocean that also escaped damage had fewer customers because of the Ocean Avenue closing. Giuseppe Salpietro, owner of La Dolce Vita at 4th and Ocean avenues, said his restaurant reopened Nov. 14, but "we had a hard time getting customers here because we had one road to get here."
Now that Ocean Avenue has reopened, Salpietro said business has improved "enormously. We expect to have a super summer."
Tarrant, who serves on the borough's tourism commission, said some rental properties were damaged, but nearly all those available have been booked for the summer. Belmar, he said, "should be on the list of places people should go if they want to go to the beach" this summer, because other Monmouth County shore towns still are struggling. The borough, he said, is working to reconfigure parking to allow more cars.