How To Help Local Businesses

  OCEAN COUNTY – We’re not quite there yet, but local businesses are welcoming the easing of restrictions to help summer get underway.

  Local businesses, especially the small ones owned by our neighbors, need help in rebuilding after being closed for months.

  Marina Papanikolas, director of business for the Greater Toms River Chamber of Commerce, said customers can help get the word out about their favorite businesses. They can share pages on social media, and let others know what they might be missing.

  She also encouraged people to buy gift cards, even if they are not really a gift – even if you keep it for yourself. Buying a gift card injects a business with needed cash right now, and then you can redeem that card later when the business is on more solid footing.

  “If they are open, just encourage people to support all local businesses in any way they can,” she said, which includes purchases, promoting, and sharing their pages on social media. 

  While some restaurants have the option of providing outside dining, deeply restricted inside dining is starting on July 2. This might lead to scarcity in how many parties they can sit. Lori Pepenella, chief executive officer of the Southern Ocean County Chamber of Commerce, recommended calling restaurants to see if reservations are needed.

  Checking out a restaurant’s social media page or website might be a good idea as well, since there might be new hours, new menu items, and even new procedures for safety.

  Since New Jersey schools finished up, there will be more opportunities for families to visit the shore.

  A list of all the places that are opening and reopening is at, or on their social accounts by using their Fanfare and Now Serving programs. Fanfare indexes businesses offering online shopping and essential services. Now Serving is an updated list of eateries and breweries, and what they are offering in terms of delivery, pick-up, and outside dining.

  There is also a Non Profit Solutions program which connects people with charity groups and is listed by categories such as community, youth, health and culture.

  “We have been diligent on maintaining our COVID-19 resource and response guide, as well as consulting with hundreds of local businesses on relief and reopening efforts,” Pepenella said.

  Outside events have a larger capacity available because it has been shown that the virus isn’t as easily contracted outdoors. By July 3, it is expected that events of 500 or more people will be allowed. Therefore, hotel and motel bookings “are catching up with the season,” Pepenella said.

  The state has also released regulations on summer camps, so officials are urging people to research the ones that are still open.

  For more information, visit the Southern Ocean County Chamber of Commerce Visitor Center’s Information Window at 265 W Ninth Street in Ship Bottom, go to, call 609-494-7211, or email if you prefer free porch pick up of welcome material and vacation kits.