The clouds finally parted Thursday, and sunny resort towns were packed with tourists.
Some store managers reported business was down from last July 4. Others said they were relieved not to face another storm such as the one that hit the weekend before Independence Day last year. That storm, also referred to as the derecho, knocked out power and cut into profits for the week.
"It's steady, but compared to last year we're not that busy," said Brian Erman, manager of the young adult clothing store PacSun at Tanger Outlets, The Walk in Atlantic City. He blamed the aftereffects of October's Hurricane Sandy and said business has plummeted since the hurricane.
But Faith Rosenkrantz, who has owned Margate's upscale clothing store Talk of the Towne for more than 30 years, said she wouldn't expect visitors to shop on the first great beach day in weeks.
"The people are all here. I see big crowds outside," she said. "They are enthusiastic to see the sun shine after a long, rainy spring."
And that means they are on the beach and at barbecues, she said. She is hopeful they will do more shopping over the rest of the weekend.
"If it was me, I'd be on the beach," said Rosenkrantz, who is a great believer in the weather determining the fate of her business. She has kept detailed weather and business records for the past 30 years, she said.
Margate Dairy Bar owner Chris Clayton, of Egg Harbor Township, said he is happy with the huge crowds and uptick in business this July 4.
"I was a little worried and shellshocked, coming out of the spring," he said of the seemingly constant rain. Last year's derecho, which hit the weekend before July 4 and took out his electricity for about a week, left him apprehensive about the weather this year, he said.
"We were the only ice cream shop on the island that didn't open before the Fourth last year," Clayton said. "This year we're thrilled (with the holiday). Everyone seems to be here."
At Tanger Outlets, The Walk, Rutgers University freshman wrestling team members bought items at PacSun and Polo. Anthony Ashnault, of South Plainfield, Middlesex County, said his parents gave him and his teammates a comped hotel room at Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino.
He and teammate Corey Stasenko, also of South Plainfield, had been to Atlantic City before for state wrestling championships. But it was a first visit for teammates Garret Conner, of Centerville, Ohio; and Tyson Dippery, of Harrisburg, Pa. They were having a great time visiting the Comedy Stop and restaurants such as Carmine's in The Quarter at Tropicana, Ashnault said.
Charles Walker and Anne Marie Williams, both of New York City and carrying lots of purchases, visited Atlantic City for a quick getaway, Williams said.
"There's the beach, fireworks and great shopping," she said. "The things you usually have to take a plane to."
On the Wildwood Boardwalk on Thursday, Udi Hayat, who manages the Spirit USA T-shirt shop, said so far this year, rain had dampened business by about 30 percent for shopkeepers along the wooden walkway.
People were running off the Boardwalk as soon it rained, he said. They also were not making the trek up from the beaches, parts of which were covered in rainwater.
"It's all about the weather," Hayat said.
Hayat said he is taking solace in forecasts that predict hot, dry weather for at least the next week. He said he is hoping that continues for the rest of the summer.
"If the weather is good for the next two months, we'll be fine," he said.
His words were echoed by Elizabeth Aversa, owner of Aversa's Bakery in Margate.
"In June, the weather was crazy," she said. "Hopefully from now on will be awesome. If every week is like this, I'm good."
At Harry's Corner on the Wildwood Boardwalk on Thursday, owner Harry Tsakiris was busy making cheesesteaks for the customers sitting on stools at his open-air restaurant.
"It is always one of the busiest days of the year," Tsakiris said of the holiday.
After weeks of sketchy weather, Thursday's holiday crowds were pushing business back to where it should be, he said. The sunshine and warm weather is a good omen for things to come, he said.
"Finally, it's really summer," Tsakiris said.
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