BELMAR, N.J. (AP) — Good weather and greater awareness that the Jersey shore has made huge strides in recovering from Superstorm Sandy helped make the second summer after the storm better than the first, many merchants and elected officials say.
Some business owners report profits up 20 to 30 percent this summer compared with last year's, when the shore was still in the early stages of recovering from the devastating October 2012 storm.
"This summer was great," said Matt Riccelli, who manages Gee Gee's restaurants on the Manasquan beachfront. "We're all sad to see it end."
Riccelli said his business was up 20 percent this summer from last, when it was still rebuilding and the beach was much narrower before an offseason replenishment project. Weekend weather was mostly sunny. But he and many others said the biggest factor was getting past the images of Sandy's destruction.
"Sandy is a memory at this point," Riccelli said. "A lot of the construction is done, and more locals who were displaced last year are back in town this year."
Annie's Ocean Grill has operated from a truck on the Belmar beachfront the past two summers. This year was definitely better, said cook David Gelman.
"People see that the beach is back, the boardwalk is here, and that Sandy is gone," he said. "There's a sense that the shore is getting back to normal."
To be sure, there is still work to do. The whine of power saws and the thwack of hammers still resonate on summer afternoons in places like Manasquan, the Ortley Beach section of Toms River, and Mantoloking, where work continues on homes wrecked by the storm. But even those places have made sure the beach is ready for visitors.
Summer rentals bounced back strongly. Jerry Bennett, a real estate agent with Seashore Agency in Ship Bottom, said his business increased by 30 percent on Long Beach Island.
"If you're driving around LBI, you wouldn't even realize there was a superstorm here less than two years ago," he said. "The island is back to normal now and better than ever, because a lot of places got newly renovated. People have gotten the word that there's not total devastation here."
Dan MacElrevey said rentals at the six motels he manages in the Wildwoods, three beach communities at the southern tip of the state, were up by 8 percent in July and August. At Maui's Dog House, a hot dog restaurant that serves its food in dog bowls, saw its sales increase this season, partly because it was still rebuilding in early summer 2013.
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