OCEAN COUNTY – For most seasonal businesses who depend on day trippers to provide their service, a weather forecast of gloom and doom can be devastating and many said that is precisely what happened this summer season.
Bill Petruzel, owner of Barnacle Bill’s arcade and miniature golf, which celebrated its 55th year of operation in Ortley Beach on July 21, said, “the weather is always important and this year we had a non-trend of sunny days followed by some rainy weather. It was not consistent.”
“Generally we had a good season but if anything it was wet and we would have done a little better,” Petruzel added.
Nearby is one of four Kohr’s Ice Cream locations (the others being in Seaside Heights, Seaside Park and Lavallette). Owner Greg Kohr said that forecasts by northern Jersey and New York radio and television stations hurt his business and others with forecasts predicting rain storms that never came.
“We are a big day trip customer business and a lot of those forecasts reported storms that were taking place up north but didn’t occur here. It would have been nice if they put a better spin on it,” Kohr said.
“We had 10 weekends of rain in the spring and five during the summer. The weather people said we had a 60 percent chance of rain this weekend and that really hurt our Friday and Saturday business. I’d say most businesses this season aren’t doing what we should be,” Kohr added.
The Starlight Motel in Ortley Beach has catered to vacationers for decades. Manager Michele McGarry said the false forecasts had hurt her business. “They kept reporting about storms happening up north but there was not a cloud in the sky here.”
Angelo Nucci, the motel’s assistant manager said “News 12 was reporting all season about storms that we didn’t get.”
“That really hurt us a lot and we had the added problem of the beach replenishment project going on here in Ortley Beach which has caused most of the beach blocks to be closed. Shame on the governor for not seeing that this was not done earlier in the year instead of the peak summer season. That hurt a lot of businesses here,” McGarry said.
Further north on Route 35, the owners of Lava Golf, a miniature golf business which features a barrier island theme for its 18 hole course, retaliated with some humor posting on several social media sites that better weather forecasting could be made by fictional characters like Aunt Clara of the 1960s Bewitched TV show and the psychic, Kreskin not to mention a character from the cartoon SpongeBob Square Pants.
Kathy Misdea and her husband Dan own and operate the attraction which started three years ago. “We only had to close a few times this summer due to rain but our weekend business was hurt by the forecasts which generally didn’t reflect what was happening on this end of the state,” Kathy Misdea said.
“They said it was going to rain every day this weekend and there isn’t a cloud in the sky,” her husband added.
“It was so wrong. The forecasts were so different to what was going on here,” Kathy Misdea said. “We did have some people play in some drizzle but generally it wasn’t bad.”
The Beach Authority in Lavallette features bicycle rentals along with a beach supply store. Owner Maytol Manor said the weather forecasts definitely had a negative impact at her Lavallette and Ocean Beach locations.
“It started on Wednesday when they were predicting rain all weekend,” Manor said.
Customer Susan Bialasz of Somerset said she didn’t mind the lack of traffic but “I felt bad for the businesses here. One day it was a report of rain and then it quickly changed to a heat advisory. I have children and you don’t want to plan something when you think rain is going to ruin it. My family has been coming down here all our lives and the weather predictions really stink.”
“We have a baby season to work with and as business owners we put our blood, sweat and tears into this. I just hope they don’t shoot down the weekends we have in September,” Manor said. “There are times when Toms River has rain but we don’t get a drop here on the island.”
“I do understand how you would weigh in weather as a factor. It would be better if they simply said there was a slight chance of rain and not say it was definitely going to happen,” Manor added.
Leah Steriti, manager of the Island Gypsy, a clothes store next to the Beach Authority, had a flurry of business on Labor Day. She noted a different situation than most.
“I do know that when it is nicer out we aren’t as busy. We are busy today but Friday was slower than last year’s Labor Day weekend. We do better when it rains. Many of our customers have learned not to rely on the weather reports,” Steriti said.
For one business, the day’s heat played a factor in delaying the start of their operation. A miniature golf course on West Atlantic Way in Chadwick Beach posted a sign stating that due to the heat, it would open at 4 pm on Labor Day.
Stewart’s Root Beer in Seaside Heights features car port service and outside seating so weather plays a factor for their business.
Manager Tysheena Osborne said “we had a lot of rain this summer and did impact us. We also had forecasts of rain that we never did get. We did well overall though.”
Maria Mastoris, marketing manager for the Casino Pier and Breakwater Beach water park in Seaside Heights, said that “unfortunately it wasn’t the best summer for us here on the Jersey Shore.
“Casino Pier and Breakwater Beach, along with other Jersey Shore destinations, rely on good weather so people will flock to the shore. We had many hot and humid days this summer but that kept people indoors. The weather reporters even told people to stay inside, don’t go to the beach.”
She added that this “hurts our property, along with every other boardwalk along the coast. We had cloudy, rainy weekends as well. However many times when it is raining in Toms River or across the bridge, it is sunny and nice in Seaside Heights. Usually the ocean breeze keeps the rain clouds away. However, our guests are watching New York news where it is saying it is raining outside, don’t go to the beach, so we lose all of those guests for that day,” Mastoris said.
Mastoris noted that “even this Labor Day Weekend, the weather app on my phone was calling for rain, clouds and a crappy weekend. But it turned out to be perfect. Saturday was sunny, Sunday was sunny, today (Labor Day) was sunny. Our business is only open for three short months so we need to make the most of those months. Unfortunately, the weather and the weather forecasts didn’t help us this year”.