By ED SALVAS and NEIL SCHULMAN
The summer is going well for many businesses but hiring staff for many of them – that’s another story.
Laura Checki, president of the Ocean Grove Chamber of Commerce, and owner of From Heart to Hearth, said that while the summer has been good for local businesses, there’s a lot to make up.
“This summer is a challenging summer,” she said.
Ocean Grove businesses have been busy, as people who haven’t been able to get out for a year want to get out and there’s an “element of retail therapy,” she said.
Ocean Grove has proven a destination, with out-of-state visitors from New York to California visiting. But, Checki says, even though the summer is going well, “it has to make up for so much.” Most of last year was disappointing for businesses, with quarantines and limited seating keeping crowds away.
Eateries also have the issue restaurants around the country are experiencing. dd
“They have the challenge of finding people who are going to work,” she said.
One thing which has proven important to Ocean Grove businesses is the special events. They draw large crowds, and those crowds shop there, she said.
“Hopefully it will continue so that it will make us whole,” she said.
The music is back at The Headliner on Route 35 in Neptune and the popular shore nightclub and restaurant is crowded with people who appear to have left the pandemic behind. But Headliner General Manager Tom Sueta said the business faces many challenges as they move forward this summer.
“The biggest challenge is filling jobs,” Sueta said. “We are limited in what we can do without a full staff.”
He said the pool is only open on weekends and the Raw Bar hasn’t opened at all this year. They also have a shortage of workers on the kitchen staff.
Sueta said that overall business has been good this summer, but the staff shortage has taken a toll. “We have good people and a great team, we just need more of them.”
In Bradley Beach, the Bradley Beach Business Community Alliance is doing well this summer. President Paula Gavin said. The alliance was formed in January 2020, and this year many new businesses have joined it.
“Our mission is to bring the business, community, and the municipality together to enhance the lives of both residents and visitors as a partnership between all, taking actions to strengthen resident life as well as economic development for our local businesses,” Gavin said.
While 2020 was “a most challenging year,” this year 60 Bradley Beach businesses have joined the Alliance.
Gavin says this shows they want to be engaged with the community.
“We are supporting our Bradley Beach businesses with promotion and services,” he said. “Business is definitely better in 2021 but challenges from 2020 linger, so we should all shop local.”
As the signs in the windows show, finding employees is proving to be a problem. For 2022, the Alliance hopes to have a program to get the young people of Bradley Beach their first jobs, at Bradley Beach businesses.
For Bradley Beach businesses she’s talked to, the biggest concern “is, of course, what they lost last year.” Gavin says that by shopping local, residents can support the businesses, which are working to support the community.
Chris Tilton at Serpico’s Restaurant in Allenhurst has seen many changes in the town in the last eight to ten years brought on by a shift in demographics that extends beyond the impact of the Coronavirus pandemic.
“We’re holding our own and doing OK,” Tilton said when asked about the impact of the pandemic and lifting of restrictions have had on his business which is mostly take-out and catering. “We have a steady year-round business and are doing more home delivery and delivery to the beach.”
But the population makeup has changed and Tilton says one noticeable change is fewer children in town. There’s also a major parking problem. He said he sees more New York license plates, showing that people are leaving the city for the shore.
On the Asbury Park boardwalk, Tim McLoone said “there has been tremendous demand” as people return to the shore after staying away last year because of the virus.
“The Supper Club is selling out and the Robinson Ale House and The Iron whale have been extremely busy,” he said, but the staffing shortage has forced McLoone to make adjustments.
He’s hired more people without experience and has also hired more high school students able to work at 16 years old. Many college students will be leaving in August to return to school. McLoone said, “there’s a lot of stress in the building.”
McLoone very early raised the hourly pay for employees to $15 an hour explaining that the company received federal assistance and felt it was only right to raise the pay and offer bonuses.