But one store managed to do what seemed to be impossible amid all of the damage and prolonged recovery, they opened for business Wednesday.
The boarded up windows on Ocean Avenue in Sea Bright are testament to the damage Sandy caused. 41 businesses in the tiny spit of land between the ocean and the Shrewsberry River were ruined, but Bain's Hardware--a mom & pop operation for 19 years--is one of just two that have been able to reopen.
"It's like a Phoenix," said owner Frank Bain. "We are a beacon of hope to show that Sea Bright can come back."
The brick is still stained, and the water inside the building was up to Pat Bain's neck. The 65,000 items for sale in the store were tossed and ruined in the storm. Benjamin Moore paid to restore the paint section of Bain's but the rest, Pat says, is a work in progress.
"This is what we do. We have to do it, just have to take it slow. We'll do the best we can," said Pat Bain.
Reopening a hardware store may not seem like much of a big deal, but the damage in Sea Bright was catastrophic and people say this is one small sign of recovery.
"Oh it's absolutely incredible and it's just got up boost everybody's spirit and it's just very encouraging. It's the first step back to rebuilding," said local merchant Shayne Wolfe.
Brian George has owned Northshore Menswear for 30 years.
His building was condemned and will have to be knocked down. He has opened a pop-up store nearby temporarily, but promises to reopen in Sea Bright by March.
"Absolutely, it's my livelihood," said George. "I'm not a neurosurgeon, I'm not a lawyer. I'm a merchant. So we believe in Sea Bright. We love Sea Bright, and we made a commitment to it."
"It's a struggle, but we've spoken to so many of the business owners and they are really on the same page. They're all frustrated and scared in a lot of ways, but they are also excited about opening up again," said Councilman Frank Kelly.
It may be months or even years before that happens, but Bain's Hardware is a start.