South Jersey coastal towns try to put Sandy in rearview mirror [photos]

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    This weekend begins the second summer season since Superstorm Sandy.  Unlike in northern ends of the shore, the devastating storm is for the most part, nothing but a memory in South Jersey coastal towns.

    With a weak bugler as a soundtrack, a group of Ocean City businessmen and women walked into the surf fully clothed today to show tourists the beaches and other amenities in the shore town are open for business.  

    Real estate agent John Walton wore a suit and tie for his plunge, as he does every year.

    “Number 11 for us, the suit’s done five years, the shoes are new the tie is new, the shirt is new the briefcase is 11 years,” said Walton, who has taken the plunge 11 times.

    Ocean City was just named top of the beaches in the Garden State, also number one for family vacations.  

    “We’re in great shape,” said Mayor Jay Gillian, beaming with pride. “Our beaches are big our boardwalk is clean plenty of rooms to rent plenty of restaurants open, and plenty of rides most of all.”

    Liza Cartmell, President of the Atlantic City Alliance said the people who head to the South Jersey beaches aren’t thinking about Sandy anymore and the only people that bring up the bad weather are members of the media.

    “The news thinks about it a lot, but I don’t think a lot of people who are looking to book their getaways or vacations are thinking about it at this point,” she said.  “We think people are just sick and tired of winter and the polar vortex and are ready to come down to the beach and enjoy the warm breezes and the ocean and relax.”

    Even if major storms steer clear of our region, Scott Wahl, spokesman for the borough of Avalon, said the tourism season is still extremely weather dependent.

    “All of the storefronts in the downtown dune drive area are full businesses are excited and they are looking for a very strong years as long as the weather holds out,” he said.

    Wahl said one issue that will be a problem is a delay in high schoolers showing up for seasonal work.  Many school calendars got extended from this winter’s bumpercrop of snow days.  He said that will hurt some businesses at the very beginning of summer.

    “With the schools having snow days and a lot more of them families won’t be arriving until the end of June and then you have until the end of June until the second week of September to make it,” he said. 

    Last year’s Memorial Day Weekend was so cold you needed two sweatshirts and a coat to stay warm at the shore and the rest of the month had rainy weekends.  For some businesses, that could be the difference between a winning summer and a store closing.  

    In case the weather doesn’t cooperate, towns try to use concerts and special events to drive traffic said Liza Cartmell of Atlantic City.

    “Pretty much every night of the week we have something free at Kennedy Plaza with different bands and musical styles,” Cartmell said. “Monday through Sunday we also have nightly 3-D shows nightly on the facade of Boardwalk hall.”

    Up and down the shore, towns such as Wildwood offer fireworks to try to entice people at to come out at night.  But it won’t be until Labor Day that they will know for sure if 2014 will be good for business.

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