Ocean City: COVID’s Effect on Local Businesses

Small businesses in a seaside getaway like Ocean City, New Jersey rely on the three main months of summer to get them through the year. However, having closed doors and tight restrictions has made it difficult to not only get by but to show growth. 

Owner of Spoon & Sip on Asbury Avenue, Britney Stein said her issues as a new restaurant and growing business revolve around the topic of development.  

“‘Save for a rainy day,’ well no one tells you to save for a pandemic, ” Stein said. “And then how do you come out of a pandemic, financially? You can’t. Like, as long as you make it, you’re there. But to grow the business, to invest in different areas in the business, to serve your people better, it costs a lot of money.”

For restaurants like Uncle Bill’s Pancake House that remain open year-round, programs like the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) have been able to compensate for the employees and utilities. 

Patrick O’Hara, owner of Uncle Bill’s Pancake House, said that “without that money it could have really hurt us financially.”

Business has recently been on the rise heading toward the peak of summer, so financial issues aren’t the only thing that business owner Patrick O’Hara said is affected. 

“The unemployment benefits have been extended until the end of September and that has affected our business,” O’Hara said. “We’re not attracting any employees that really wanna work.”

Regardless of the past year’s growth or stability, more visitors in town allows for more support for local businesses. One customer of downtown’s Spoon & Sip, Danielle Faulkner, said she makes an effort to shop local. 

“I definitely like to support local businesses more than I did before,” Faulkner said. “So, instead of shopping on Amazon and things like that, I try to find it locally. And even feeding our children, I like to do it in small, local businesses.”

As more people continue to get vaccinated and restrictions are lifted, this summer will start with high expectations as a recent report by the Harris Poll found 77% of respondents are planning to travel, compared to just 29% last year at this time. 

People appear to be returning to Ocean City following Memorial Day weekend, or as some say, the kickoff to a new summer season. Business owners like Chris O’Hara, owner of Nauti Donuts, said they’re excited to see growth, all while welcoming their seasonal customers back into town. 

“I think this summer is gonna be awesome,” O’Hara said. “Everybody is eager to get out and have a return to normalcy. Obviously many people have been vaccinated and so they have a renewed confidence going into public spaces and we’re very eager to welcome them with open arms.”

– Please email any questions or concerns about this story to: editor@philadelphianeighbors.com.

Editor’s note: Our special reporting on COVID-19 may focus on communities outside Philadelphia because many of our student journalists are now temporarily located outside of the city. Instead, our reporters will cover how the coronavirus is impacting their own communities from across the country and around the world. We will return to hyperlocal coverage of Philadelphia’s neighborhoods as soon as possible.

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