Except for scattered thunderstorms that sent some visitors prematurely packing Monday, the nice Memorial Day weekend weather had many wishing it would not end and looking forward to the summer.
“We usually try to stay as long as we can,” said Bethann Vanderslice, as she and her husband, Jason, loaded their SUV on Monday afternoon to head back to Philadelphia from Sea Isle City.
“We love it down here. You can’t not go down the shore for Memorial Day.”
While it was cooler than last year, the sun had beaches, boardwalks and barbecues packed since Friday.
For locals and tourists, that meant good times. And it showed business owners that people were not cutting fun from their budgets.
“Like with last year and gas prices, you just didn’t know what it was going to be like,” said Ron Goldovich, owner of Goldie’s Dips Ahoy on the Sea Isle City Promenade. “I don’t know if ice cream is recessionproof or whatever, but it was a good weekend for business.
“If this is the indicator, then it’s going to be a good summer,” Goldovich said.
Brief but heavy rains hit across the region early Monday afternoon, forcing people to vacate beaches and backing up highways early.
By 3 p.m. there were more than 20-mile backups on the Garden State Parkway, from Exit 30 in Somers Point past Exit 13 in Middle Township, and back roads were jammed as well. There also was an 11-mile backup from Lacey to Stafford townships on the parkway in Ocean County.
The weather didn’t do much to dampen people’s impressions of the weekend, though. Many people were more than satisfied with the relaxing and enjoyable unofficial start to the season.
“It’s good to have a nice Memorial Day because it’s like the first weekend of the summer,” said Donna Jack, who lives in Waterford Township, Camden County, but also has owned a home in Sea Isle City since 1985. “The Phillies taking two of three from the Yankees is a good Memorial Day.”
A few business owners said spending was down compared to past years, which they expected to a certain extent. Many said it was similar to last year, and they expect the summer to be similar as well.
“It was busy enough,” said Brian Moore, a bartender at Hudson House bar in Long Beach Township, who said there was a good mix of locals and tourists out to enjoy the three-day layoff. “If it’s any indication of what it’s going to be like this summer, it’s going to be a lot like last year.”
Gary Smith, a manager at Buckalew’s Restaurant and Tavern in Beach Haven, said the weekend was fairly busy as expected, but the holiday falling a little earlier this year may have kept a few people away.
“I think this weekend might be just as busy,” he said, as people get more into the summer mode.
At Fralinger’s Park Place Gifts on the Atlantic City Boardwalk, business was brisk but noticeably slower than past years. There were times when lines at the counter were nonstop, but it was obvious customers were price conscious.
“They come in and they’re like, ‘What’s the smallest size of taffy you have,’“ said employee Jomaira Brill, “because they’re gifts, and they don’t have money themselves.”
Chuck Dalrymple, owner of Daylrymple’s Hallmark Shop on John F. Kennedy Boulevard in Sea Isle City, said that given the state of the economy and job market, though, it was a good year compared with previous years since his store opened in 1963. He said his customers were more conscious of prices this year, buying smaller, less expensive items.
“But I think if this is a sign for the summer, I think we’re going to have a good summer,” he said.