News Column

Jersey Shore Bounces Back After Sandy

May 28, 2013

Memorial Day weekend at the Jersey Shore, the start of summer in the land mythologized by Springsteen and caricatured by Snooki, was like the region itself seven months after Sandy: some good, here; some bad, there; hope, almost everywhere.

Hope in Point Pleasant Beach, where the boardwalk was fixed and the deck at Martell's Tiki Bar was packed.

Hope in Bay Head, where Mueller's Bakery, more than a century old, briefly reopened in the midst of renovation to sell its cakes and sweet treats on a cash-only basis (the phone lines were still down).

Hope in Seaside Heights, where the 16-block boardwalk has been rebuilt and about three-quarters of businesses are open.

And hope here in what Bruce Springsteen once called "my city of ruins," a faded resort whose long-predicted comeback suffered one more setback when a storm bearing the name of a Springsteen song character roared out of the sea last October.

The weekend started out feeling more like March than May -- but on a bright, glorious Monday, the Shore finally, in some sense, came back to life.

"It's like a renewal," said Corey Asraf, 24, a Shore native who owns Third and Ocean, a vintage custom apparel and jewelry shop that resembled a tidal pool a day after Sandy. "Memorial Day is when it begins."

How could it not when the sea and the beach are so fresh and the beer is so cold? When the inevitable summer house roommate disputes are in the future? When romance, or maybe something more casual, seems inevitable in the three months to come?

And when the president of the United States is coming to visit today.

On Monday, some visitors came just to see what had become of their beloved Shore.

"Frankly, I was curious. I've been coming here since I was a kid, and I wanted to see what the storm did," Bo Antonelli said.

Others described their visit as a sort of Jersey Shore patriotism. Asraf of the Third and Ocean shop said a customer who bought a hoodie told him to keep the change. "People want us to succeed," he said.

Along the coast, visitors found recovery amid desolation -- towns where it almost seemed nothing had happened, others where it seemed nothing would ever be the same.

In Seaside Heights, the pier at the north end of the boardwalk is being rebuilt and will have less than half of its old complement of 40 rides when it reopens. (They will not include the roller coaster, which only last week was pulled from the ocean into which it fell.)

In Asbury Park, things were largely back to normal. The trailer housing Mogo Korean Fusion Taco, which had been washed onto Ocean Avenue, was back on the boardwalk.

Something else was back, said Russell Lewis, who owns Watermark, a lounge overlooking the beach. "I was driving down Ocean, and I got stuck in traffic, and I've never been happier. After all we've been through, to have traffic again!"

No story about the future of the Jersey Shore would be complete without a visit to Madame Marie's Temple of Knowledge. Marie Castello, who died five years ago at 93, was immortalized in Springsteen's 4th of July, Asbury Park (Sandy) for supposedly being "busted" by the cops "for telling fortunes better than they do."

Marie's granddaughter, Lisa Castello, was on duty Monday in the old concrete booth that withstood Sandy's surge.

She was asked about the Shore's prospects.

"I see this year going better than last year," she said, suggesting that although she may be a seer, she's not a quote machine.

But who'd have ever thought President Obama would show up on the boardwalk? Well, that was easy. "I did," she said.

Contributing: The Associated Press

Crowds of people walk along the newly rebuilt boardwalk in Seaside Heights, N.J., on Memorial Day. The first summer season after Superstorm Sandy is underway at the Jersey Shore.

Source: Copyright USA TODAY 2013

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