Storm's effects linger for Shore businesses

As part of the weekend storm that hit the Shore, a large tree came down at Steelman and Ocean Heights Avenue in Linwood.
As part of the weekend storm that hit the Shore, a large tree came down at Steelman and Ocean Heights Avenue in Linwood. (AKIRA SUWA / Staff Photographer)
Posted: July 03, 2012

A day after a storm walloped many South Jersey beach towns, leaving businesses and homes without electricity and the comfort of air conditioning amid a heat wave, the lunchtime rush on Sunday at Sub-ology, a Ventnor restaurant hoping to hit it big in its first summer season, was just a trickle.

The place was empty, save for Michael Simon's five employees and a man doing repair work.

"A day like today is devastating. At 1:10 p.m. on a Sunday afternoon, they should be lined up out the door," said Simon, who grew up across the street from his business and opened it in September.

He added: "People should be scrambling behind the counter right now."

Instead, it seemed the violent storm and the uncomfortable living conditions it spawned had caused vacationers to scramble for home. Beaches had more towel space, parking was more plentiful, and seating at restaurants – those with power – was easier to come by than is typical for a pre-Fourth of July weekend.

That's not the run-up to the holiday that businesses already challenged by a seasonal economy had wanted.

"This is our one shot," Simon said. "I have four months to make my living for 12 months."

In Longport, Likie Nika, owner of Ozzie's Luncheonette, said her power returned Saturday night.

"I lost the business for the day, which is major," she said, adding, "A lot of people went back [home]. Also, people don't know I'm open because I have no phone service."

Even Nika's own house guest had left. "They had four small children," she said.

At its height, the storm knocked out power to 206,000 of Atlantic City Electric's customers, most in Atlantic and Cumberland Counties.

By Sunday, 119,000 customers were still without power, the company said, and it could take until midnight Friday for everyone to regain power. But "the majority" are expected to have power by Wednesday, the company said.

In Margate, Police Chief David Wolfson said 45 percent of the town was still without power.

Cookie Till's venerable restaurant, Steve & Cookie's, was one of the Margate businesses still in the dark.

Till stood inside her empty business on Sunday with tables set for diners she would be unable to serve.

"We've been taking our perishables and beer to an employee's house down the block, and we're going to have an employees party," she said. "That's not what I was hoping to be doing this weekend."

Till said she would have served 600 dinners Saturday and perhaps 400 Sunday. But many of those with reservations had already left the Shore when the restaurant called to tell them it was still without power.

Annette's, a breakfast spot in Ventnor, where an estimated 25 percent of the town was still without power Sunday, was shuttered for a second day because of no electricity, said owner Cheryl Venezia.

Then there were the lucky ones, such as Casel's Supermarket, Starbucks, and the heroic Hot Bagels & More in Margate, which trucked in coffee Saturday and was delivering bagels Sunday on the mainland in nearby Northfield, where power was out.

In Ventnor, the Delaware Food Market never lost power, said owner Bill DeLuca, who called that his "Christmas present."

"When I walked in [Saturday] morning, I held my breath and closed my eyes," he said.

DeLuca said business was sporadic, with customers mostly ordering hamburgers, hot dogs and lunch meats. But his focus Sunday was on Wednesday and whether Ventnor will have a true summer-holiday crowd.

"The ones that did leave, we hope they're coming back on the Fourth," he said.

Todd Dulson, the bridge keeper on Dorset Avenue in Ventnor,said he saw a stream of Pennsylvania plates leaving town Saturday night.

"I can't blame them," he said. "I stood in the doorway watching the storm. You could see the clouds coming. All this lit up. It lit up so much, so many strikes, they started turning colors."

But some people found comfort in friends and weathered the storm.

Norman Fienman, 70, of Broomall, said he thought about leaving Saturday night, but he heard that "the traffic was horrible, bumper to bumper" heading back to Philadelphia.

"We don't have any power, but we have lots of friends," he said. "Our friends are feeding us."


Contact Darran Simon at dsimon@phillynews.com or @darransimon on Twitter.

|
|
|
|
|