Businesses down the shore hurting ahead of Memorial Day weekend

OCEAN CITY, New Jersey (WPVI) -- Things are looking much different down the shore this year as COVID-19 continues to spread.

Normally, businesses would be gearing up for Memorial Day weekend. Instead, a lot of businesses are still boarded up, and the nonessential businesses that are open, are doing curbside pickup.

"It's desolate," said Bruce Zehr, who's staying in Sea Isle City. "There wasn't a car parked on the main street when we pulled in - that was different. We're not used to that."

Local businesses said they aren't used to the small crowds either, as they try to figure out a way to still make a profit this week.

Essential businesses selling food, like James Fudge Salt Water Taffy, are open for in-store purchases, but they're limiting the number of people inside at a time.

"We're doing one family in the store at a time, just to make sure people have the opportunity to browse and select what they want," said Kayla Jones, who works at the store.

However, non-essential retail businesses like Birdcage in Sea Isle City, are open for curbside pickup.

"Our store off the boardwalk is built for curbside, we have nine windows, and we have an online presence, and even then we're operating at ten percent, on a good day," said Wes Kazmarck, store owner and president of Ocean City Boardwalk Merchants Association.

In Ocean City, he barely has any business at his stores in the Surf Mall, which is operating for curbside pickup only.

New Jersey is one of the hardest-hit states by the coronavirus. Cape May County generated around $6.9 billion in direct tourism spending in 2018.

That number is expected to drastically dip this season, which is why Sea Isle City's mayor has created the Cape May County Recovery task force for when businesses open.

"Let them open their doors because I believe that everyone will follow the social distancing, they'll limit how many people can go into the stores, but it's not going to happen. I don't believe for this weekend, so we'll take what is given to us," said Leonard Desiderio, the mayor of Sea Isle City.

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