Visitors welcomed with open arms
JERSEY SHORE — The good news is, tourists returned to the Jersey Shore for the Memorial Day weekend. The bad news is, half of the weekend was a washout.
While officials and business owners were worried tourists would not believe the Shore could be rebuilt by Memorial Day weekend and, therefore, would not return this summer, visitors still flocked to beach towns for the kickoff of the season. Mother Nature, however, did not exactly cooperate.
While Memorial Day weekend last year saw temperatures in the high 80s Saturday, Sunday and Monday, this year, Saturday was marked with chilly weather and rain. Sunday and Monday warmed up but were still windy, making for less-than-perfect beach days. That, however, drove tourists to local business districts.
VISITORS FLOCK TO BOARDWALK
AMUSEMENTS IN POINT BEACH
Toby Wolf, head of marketing for Jenkinson’s, said the beach basically “lost Saturday” to the rainy, chilly weather.
“That was a major bummer,” she said. “The weather didn’t really help us.”
Despite the less-than-ideal weather conditions, Mrs. Wolf said there were still crowds of customers braving the boardwalk attractions over the holiday weekend.
“There were lots of people inside the aquarium, the pavilion,” she said. “People were hitting up the indoor attractions.”
Monday, which brought sunshine to the Shore, was a very successful day for the business’ beach, Mrs. Wolf said.
“Monday [Memorial Day] 2013 was better than Monday 2012,” she said.
The boardwalk was still bustling with residents and visitors well into the dinnertime hours — a very good sign, Mrs. Wolf said, as many people had to return to work and school on Tuesday.
“The weekend was a mixed bag” overall, she said. “The weather certainly didn’t help. But our doors are open, and we hope that Mother Nature starts to help us.”
As for this year’s season, “it’s starting to feel a bit more like summer,” she said.
NUMBER OF BEACH RENTALS DOWN, BUT PHONES STILL RINGING
John Hazelet, a real estate agent with Cara Realtors on Arnold Avenue in Point Pleasant Beach, said the biggest effect of the storm on the local rental market is the number of rentals available for the season.
“Lots of homes are just not available to rent right now,” he said.
“I wish there was more inventory,” Mr. Hazelet added. “There aren’t as many [rental properties] available as last year. We’re short a few.”
He said he believes people are aware, however, that Point Pleasant Beach and the Shore are open for business and have rental properties that are up and running for the summer.
“The calls have been pretty steady over the last couple weeks, months,” he said. “There isn’t an abnormal amount of vacancies, but things are still available. We’ve gotten a lot of calls for summer rentals.”
Mr. Hazelet said, in his experience, the hurricane has not had an “overly dramatic” effect on the number of people interested in the Point Pleasant Beach rental market.
“I think people are still out there,” he said.
Doug Bollinger, co-owner of Barefoot Realty on Arnold Avenue, agreed that lack of inventory is a challenge for local real estate agencies.
“A number of houses just aren’t ready,” he said. “That absolutely has had an effect.”
He said seasonal and weekly rentals are down this year, although overall the seasonal rentals are at “pretty good” numbers.
Weekly renters are often families with small children, Mr. Bollinger said. Some of those families are still expressing concerns such as whether local attractions will be open for the week they wish to rent, he said. Others are worried about neighboring properties undergoing construction during the time they will be visiting.
Mr. Bollinger said his agency usually spends Memorial Day weekend helping seasonal renters move into their properties, but this year, they actually closed several weekly rentals, as well.
“People came down [for Memorial Day weekend], saw for themselves that things were looking up,” he said. Some of those day-trippers, after seeing Point Pleasant Beach over the holiday, turned into summer renters.
Mr. Bollinger is confident that pattern will continue throughout the season.
“Once people come down and see everything’s in pretty good shape, weeklies will pick up,” he said.
Even if rentals are down a bit this summer, people will still be visiting Point Pleasant Beach.
“We’ll still have people taking day trips, weekend trips,” Mr. Bollinger said. “People will be here. If they don’t book this year, they’re going to book next year.”
BUSINESSES GETTING BUSIER
While the rental market has been a major concern for Lavallette officials over the past few months, warmer weather and widespread publicity have helped bring those craving beach town charm back to start filling up rooms, according to Diane Smith, office manager of Childers Sotheby’s International Realty on Grand Central Avenue in Lavallette.
“Climate has so much to do with it,” Ms. Smith said. “The rental market is picking up.”
She hopes that the warmer the weather becomes, the more people will be looking around for rentals.
She also attributes the state’s ongoing marketing efforts to helping spread awareness of the borough’s readiness for summer.
“There’s a lot of publicity on TV about the Jersey Shore and how we’re doing better,” she said, “and I think that’s helping. I really do.”
She said the publicity spurs curiosity in people who have not been down to the Shore since the storm, and that curiosity, in turn, spurs people to “come take a look.”
Ms. Smith estimates about 75 to 80 percent of Childers Sotheby’s Lavallette rental properties are up and running for the season following the hurricane, and some vacancies still remain.
“In the past couple weeks it’s been picking up,” she said. “I have no doubt in my mind that the good rental properties will be rented. The rental market is still a viable market in Lavallette.”
According to Mark Speaker, president of the Lavallette Business Association, the business district, town and beach were, thankfully, bustling with visitors this past weekend.
“Everything looked pretty good,” Mr. Speaker said.
Although Friday and Saturday brought poor weather for outdoor activities, the borough kept busy all weekend long, he said.
The businesses have, in turn, been keeping up with the increasing number of customers — Mr. Speaker said the district is “about 90 percent strong now” as far as businesses being back open after the storm. By the next big holiday weekend — the Fourth of July — “virtually everyone who’s coming back, will be back,” he said.
Mr. Speaker said he was pleased with the turnout in Lavallette over the weekend.
“The Friday and Saturday weather was a bit of a damper,” he said. “But everybody [the businesses] was hopping. There was a lot going on.”
He said there was also a large younger crowd in town, of “teenagers and 20-somethings.”
“There were a lot of people on the beach, in the stores and restaurants,” he said. “The streets were full of cars the entire weekend. I was happy.”
The Lavallette beach opening day is set for Saturday, June 22, and closing day is set for Monday, Sept. 2, but residents and visitors are now able to get their hands on seasonal beach badges. The preseason for picking up badges ends June 17 this year.
A seasonal beach badge costs $45 per person. Badges purchased before June 18 will be $35 during the preseason sale. There is no fee for children under 12 years of age.
Daily badges cost $7 per person, per day. People who are disabled, over 65 years of age, on active military duty, or are a disabled veteran of any military service will be charged $14 per person for a seasonal badge.
RENTALS DOWN IN BAY HEAD,
BUT PEOPLE ARE RETURNING
Despite the cloudy weather and the fact the beaches in Bay Head do not officially open until Saturday, June 15, Bay Head Mayor William Curtis said Memorial Day weekend went well for the borough that was so affected by Superstorm Sandy.
“It was less [people] than in years past but despite the weather forecast and the condition of the town, I was very pleased with the large turnout over the weekend,” he said. “The beaches were kind of crowded even though it was cold and the businesses that were open said it was nice to see all the people around Sunday and Monday.
“It was as good as could be expected with the forecast being so poor,” he added.
Eric Beyer, president of the Bay Head Business Association [BHBA] and owner of the Beach House Classic Boardshop, said he saw a different crowd this year.
“It was decent, it was a very different crowd — I wasn’t selling beach chairs and sunglasses, I was selling surfboards and wetsuits because it’s still so cold out and not really beach days,” he said. “But I think it’s indicative of the weather and not anything else.”
Mr. Beyer said he looked at notes he had recorded from last year’s Memorial Day weekend and he recorded that the water was in the low-60-degree range last year and the Beach House was giving surf lessons. This year, it is cold with a water temperature of around 54 degrees.
“It was a positive thing — I went in with a different expectation but it was a good day and good to see people out showing their support. All in all I was happy — it was a long winter and it was nice to see people out.”
Mr. Beyer said the water is still five degrees lower than it typically is but the sandbars are more “family friendly” this year, and it will be a good year for surfing, as well.
Beaches are still scheduled to officially reopen Saturday, June 15.
The prices for beach badges will remain the same as last year — $70 per badge for the full season, $45 per badge for the half season and $7 for daily badges.
The Bay Head Improvement Association [BHIA] office will be open this Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Beginning June 15, the office will be open 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. daily for anyone wishing to purchase a beach badge or find the best way to get on the beach as conditions may change throughout the summer due to construction issues.
Walter Niebling, manager at Diane Turton Realtors in Bay Head, said the rental season is slower than normal but he is hoping there will be a second wind once visitors see the beaches and businesses reopening one by one throughout the summer.
“It’s lower than normal, the numbers are off — the numbers in terms of inventory in Bay Head are similar, but Mantoloking is down,” he said. “We’re hoping for a late influx of tenants — they’re all waiting to see what amenities the town has to offer.”
Mr. Niebling said most of the rentals are weekly or bi-weekly rather than monthly rentals, which have been on the decline over the past couple of years.
Luckily, he said, he is still seeing regulars coming back to the borough and Mantoloking for the summer, and he is still hopeful everything will pick up once people realize Bay Head and Mantoloking are coming back.
BUSINESSES DOING WELL, RENTAL INVENTORY LOW IN POINT BORO
Eileen McCabe, spokesperson for the Point Pleasant Chamber of Commerce, said businesses have been doing rather well in the borough and are happy to see customers returning to support the Shore.
She said weekly rentals seem to be doing well, also, as many hotels were damaged and are full of residents still displaced from their homes.
Local realtor Roger Pyrtko who owns Terry Perko Agency Inc. in the borough, said although regulars are coming back, they often have to find a new place to stay. Unfortunately, there has also been a drop in monthly and seasonal rentals for the summer [see related story].
MANTOLOKING COMES TOGETHER
WITH MEMORIAL DAY COOKOUT
Although the rebuilding process continues in Mantoloking, the Memorial Day Weekend saw an increase in borough activity.
The Mantoloking Yacht Club hosted its annual Memorial Day Cookout which was made town-wide this year. A total of 560 members and guests attended the event last Sunday [see related story].
“It tells you that people want to be here,” Mayor George C. Nebel said.
According to Mayor Nebel, the borough’s beaches will open June 15 with limited access. Due to ongoing demolition and bulldozing, approximately one half of the borough’s beach access points will open, with their locations subject to change throughout the summer season. Beach badges cost $12.
Despite the beaches reopening this June, demolition and reconstruction will most likely take precedent.
“The beaches were open Memorial Day weekend and they certainly were not crowded then,” Mayor Nebel added.