Hot weather is warming up sales at the Shore

Getting a rental-house key in Avalon from Eric Dechert are Karyn O'Kanski and her grandson Luke Jadlocki, 21/2.
Getting a rental-house key in Avalon from Eric Dechert are Karyn O'Kanski and her grandson Luke Jadlocki, 21/2. (AKIRA SUWA / Staff Photographer)
Posted: July 22, 2013

So it's been pretty hot lately - and hot in another sense at the Jersey Shore.

Meaning that everyone from day-trippers, to hooky-players, to overnighters, to weekend warriors, and even procrastinators who hadn't gotten around to planning their weeklong summer vacations has begun migrating to the water's edge looking for relief.

Throngs of visitors have been arriving since the weather turned decidedly warmer just before the Fourth of July, and they haven't let up, said Scott Wahl, a spokesman for the Boroughs of Avalon and Stone Harbor.

That has meant a steady stream of traffic in and out of the beach towns, Wahl said, and a boost in parking-lot fees and beach-tag sales, though he had no hard numbers to report.

"Up until the Fourth of July, the season looked about equal to last year . . . and we were delighted with that considering how wet June had been," he said. "But then the heat wave kicked in, and that has really helped heat things up down here."

That appeared to be the case Saturday in Avalon, where signs of a packed beach abounded: umbrellas stretching along the beach; vacationers lining up outside rental agencies to pick up their keys; and a parking lot on the Atlantic City Expressway and Garden State Parkway.

But the July surge may have come too little, too late for some real estate agencies and businesses that had hoped people from Sandy-battered North Jersey would venture down south, to areas that escaped the brunt of the storm.

"I don't think we've experienced any influx from North Jersey at all," said Brian B. Campbell, manager for resort rentals at Long & Foster Real Estate in Avalon.

Overall, he said, rentals are down about 8 percent to 9 percent from this time last year. "But the last couple weeks, activity has ticked up. We should come close to closing the gap," Campbell said, adding that the next two to three weeks were looking very good.

And a few doors down on Dune Drive, Hassis Men's Shop, a clothing store, was empty at about 1 p.m., despite a door-size sign advertising 20 percent off all inventory.

"Crowds are smaller," said Peter Marziano, who has managed the store for 34 years. "Weekends don't have the same bang we typically expect in July."

Just down the street, though, Allan H. "Dutch" Dechert, of Ferguson Dechert Real Estate, said sales and rentals were about even compared with last year.

Beach-tag sales were up in Avalon and other resorts in Cape May County, with some towns reporting numbers that could be as high as 10 percent over last year, officials said.

"There are so many people here, it looks like a weekend day instead of a Monday," Ocean City lifeguard Paul Jones said on a recent, very hot weekday afternoon as he surveyed the blanket-to-blanket beach crowd and the sea of lollipop-colored sun umbrellas that covered the sand from the surf line to the dune line.

Worried that memories of Hurricane Sandy would put a damper on the season at the Shore, many shops, restaurants, and attractions early on expressed concern about just what the summer would hold, said Jean Miersch, a spokeswoman for the Stone Harbor Chamber of Commerce.

"But by Fourth of July, we had businesses saying they were having record days," Miersch said. "Merchants are very happy."

But those vacation procrastinators? Maybe not so much, Miersch said.

"House rentals, even motel and hotel rooms, are getting difficult to find at this point," Miersch said. "As it's been getting hotter and hotter, more and more people want to get down here."

That includes refugees from Monmouth and Ocean County beach towns still devastated by the Oct. 29 storm, she said.

"We have been seeing a lot of people who are used to going to towns that are still recovering from the storm," Miersch said. "They're discovering Stone Harbor for the first time, and they're liking what they are seeing. They may very well go back to their usual places next year, but we're happy to have them here this year."

A new multimillion-dollar upscale hotel, the Reeds at Shelter Haven, also is helping boost the Cape May County town's profile, she said.

On Saturday, Stone Harbor plucked Greg and Emily Dodge and their two children from their usual vacation spot in Long Beach Island. The Dodges, of Gladwyne, were staying at the Reeds for the weekend.

"We wanted to try something new," said Greg Dodge, 43.

Farther up the coast, real estate agents in places like Sea Isle City, Ocean City, Longport, Margate, and Ventnor said warm weather was driving a last-minute boom for any remaining rentals. Though preseason beach-tag sales ran about neck in neck with what they were last year, officials said weekly and daily tag sales are also up in those towns.

Most summer house rentals - and even hotel and motel reservations - are made months in advance of the season, but a few openings remain, said Judi Cohen, an agent with Prudential Fox & Roach Real Estate in Margate.

"The few openings that are left are being quickly snapped up," she said. "We always tell people they should get down here because you only have one ocean, one bay, and a lot of memories to make in between."

Cohen said she had noticed lines out the doors of restaurants, and busy bars and stores.

"I think when we look back on this season, we're all going to be able to say that it's been a good one," Cohen said.

But on Long Beach Island, things aren't quite as busy. Beach-tag sales are down about 15 percent over last year, although the island experienced a pretty busy Fourth of July weekend, according to Beach Haven Manager Richard Crane.

"Pizza places were running out of dough, it was so busy Fourth of July," said Crane. "But I do have to say in general the number of visitors is down from past years, so we will have to see what the summer holds."


Contact Jacqueline L. Urgo at 609-652-8382 or jurgo@phillynews.com. Read the Jersey Shore blog "Downashore" at inquirer.com/downashore. Follow on Twitter @JacquelineUrgo.

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