Shriver's Salt Water Taffy & Fudge at Ninth Street and the Boardwalk in Ocean City had a record-breaking day Friday, with lines of customers out the door and wrapping around the store for hours, said manager Abbey Moore, of Upper Township. She has worked at the iconic candy store for a decade.
Moore's boss told her it was one of the biggest nights in the store's history. A news crew wanted to film inside but couldn't get in, so it shot through a window, Moore said.
The store got busy after Thursday's fireworks and stayed that way all weekend, she said Sunday.
Jeff Guaracino, spokesman for the Atlantic City Alliance, said the weekend was a huge shot-in-the-arm for Atlantic City.
"It's early - we won't have full reports in terms of total sold rooms and everything else, but we have been hearing people are having a banner weekend," Guaracino said. "The weather cooperated and the Boardwalk and beach bars were filled. Casinos were busy."
The hot, sunny weather drove many people from nearby cities, such as Philadelphia and New York, to the shore, he said.
"We were in Philadelphia this weekend with the 'pop-up casino resort,'" he said of himself and Alliance staff. "The heat was terrible."
The pop-up is a 40-foot-long portable building designed to give people in nearby cities a taste of the Atlantic City experience, complete with food, massages and simulated gambling. It was at the Taste of Philadelphia festival at Penn's Landing during the holiday weekend, where crowds were lighter than expected, probably because of the oppressive heat, Guaracino said.
Anthony Catanoso, owner of the Steel Pier, said the holiday weekend proved there is a family market for Atlantic City.
"It was probably one of our best, if not the best, (July 4) in 22 years. We had a very large crowds, and it was mostly families," Catanoso said. "Our two pubs did very well. It was a nice complement of families and adults. We're very excited about the rest of the summer."
He estimated the last time the Steel Pier was as crowded was in 1995.
"Our crowds were larger than they've been, and even earlier in the day," he said, adding the pier relied mainly on a social media marketing campaign for the Fourth. It's main campaign of radio and TV advertising didn't start until today.
Jeff Hartmann, interim CEO at Revel Casino-Hotel, said rooms at his property were sold out Thursday and Friday night.
"We've been very pleased with how the week has gone, and with the reception to our Gamblers Wanted promotion," Hartmann said. The promotion promises a full refund of $100 or more lost in slot play, refunded to a player's card at 5 percent a week for 20 weeks, starting in August.
Ocean City visitor Robert Viggiano, of Haworth, Bergen County, arrived Friday night with his family, including daughter Emma, for a soccer tournament at Ocean City High School. They stayed the whole weekend, he said as he relaxed on the Boardwalk Sunday.
"It was impressive how busy the Boardwalk was, even late at night," said Viggiano, who owns a title company in Bergen County. He said the real estate industry has picked up quite a bit in the last year. After cutting back on travel for a while, he's comfortable spending more on vacations again, and may return to Ocean City in August, he said.
Harmon Ahluwalia, owner of Silver Secret Jewelry and Perfumes near 10th Street on the Ocean City Boardwalk, called the holiday weekend one of the top three he has seen in 13 years.
"We saw a maximum amount of people," he said. "It was definitely better than last year."
But, he said, he still sees people spend a bit less than they did before the recession.
"With our repeat customers, we still see a little effect (of the recession)," he said. "Hopefully, the economy will keep getting better, just like the weather."
Dan Doolin, owner of Rita's Water Ice at Ninth Street on the Ocean City Boardwalk, said this was his first July 4 as a business owner, having bought the business recently. He already has learned to focus on the weather when deciding how many supplies to order, he said.
"It has been a great weekend so far, but wait until the front hits us next week," he said, laughing. "I already know about a front coming."
It's great to have a booming July 4 weekend, but "we need more," the Alliance's Guaracino said.
"The key thing for the success of Atlantic City: We need multiple successful weekends," Guaracino said. "So while July 4 appears to be very strong, we need to keep our eyes focused on every other weekend and day left in summer."
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