Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

New-Look Shore Opens in Quest for Old Business

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

New-Look Shore Opens in Quest for Old Business

Article excerpt

Marilyn Schlossbach stood Sunday at the entrance to the Langosta Lounge and issued a post-Superstorm Sandy report card on her mini- empire.

The restaurant, which she owns with her husband on the boardwalk in Asbury Park, was gutted by the storm but is open and running. A surf shop they own a few doors down is expected to open in a couple of weeks. A Mexican food outlet she owns on the boardwalk likely won't open until July 4. Labrador Lounge, a storm-damaged restaurant she owns in Normandy Beach, opened two weeks ago. But it's on a reduced schedule and is doing about half the business it used to.

Still, Schlossbach is optimistic about the coming season, in large part because she hired a strategic management consultant to help make the businesses more efficient so they can pay off $500,000 in loans taken out to repair the damage.

"We borrowed a lot of money," Schlossbach said. "And it's really important that we are profitable so we can pay back the loan."

Schlossbach's management revamp was one of many ways Jersey Shore businesses prepared for a challenging season that, discounting rain- washed-out Saturday, began Sunday.

Whether reopening in new premises, riding new marketing strategies, targeting new customers or increasing advertising, businesses and chambers of commerce have worked hard to make the most of what could be diminished customer traffic.

The results will be felt not only by the businesses but by New Jersey as a whole. Last year tourism accounted for about 7 percent of the state's gross domestic product, generating $37.7 billion in sales, state figures show.

Of that, about half was generated in the four Shore counties -- Ocean, Monmouth, Atlantic and Cape May, which together directly employed 130,000 people last year.

"I think Asbury is going to do well," Schlossbach said. "We have an open beach. We have a great boardwalk. We have lots of businesses. ... We are very confident here."

A block from the Langosta Lounge, the management of The Empress Hotel in Asbury Park spent a lot more time planning for the season than in the past after rebuilding some 40 percent of its rooms, which were damaged in the storm, said Doug Conover, an assistant manager.

As a result, the hotel, which includes a nightclub, hired about 30 percent more employees -- taking the total to 100 -- to cope with an expected rise in business from customers who find that nearby towns are still struggling to repair damage, Conover said.

"We have been booking much earlier this year," he said. "We are filling up on weekends that we never would have before. I think people are intrigued to see what it's like now."

In Belmar, Marty Riccio, co-owner of Saltwater Inn, a bed-and- breakfast, said he is confident that the season will be good, because the town and beaches are ready. …

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