Calling small businesses "the backbone" of the Jersey Shore, Gov. Chris Christie spent most of his day Wednesday visiting those businesses that have been awarded money through the Stronger NJ Business Grant Program, to support their continued recovery eight months after superstorm Sandy.
Watch the video above to see some of Christie's visit.
At the Casa Comida Mexican restaurant in Long Branch, Christie took a seat on a bar stool next to owner Kristin Catlett, who recalled the three feet of water that spilled over the banks of the Branchport Creek and inundated her dining room and collapsed the bar.
"If you would, you like to see some pictures?" Catlett asked.
"Yeah, come on, sure," Christie replied.
In the days after the storm, even before power had been restored, Catlett used butcher knives from the kitchen to cut up the water-logged carpet and was able to open in six weeks after the Oct. 29 disaster, with a lot of help from family and friends.
"I was my own general contractor," she said.
Family and friends helped with gutting, sanding and painting. Catlett spent $175,000 -- $50,000 which was placed on a credit card -- on equipment that was not covered under an insurance policy. The grant she received this week amounts to $26,000 and will go toward paying down the emergency costs.
The Stronger NJ Business Grant Program is administered by the state Economic Development Authority. Small businesses were eligible for grants of up to $50,000 beginning May 1. As of Wednesday, the EDA has received 200 completed applications under the Stronger NJ Business Grant Program, and 22 businesses have been awarded grants totaling up to $1.2 million, according to the governor's office.
WATCHDOG REPORT: Sandy aid for small businesses tied up in red tape
In Belmar, Christie stopped in at Eastern Lines Surf Shop on Ocean Avenue where employees Jessie Mineo and Patrick Hemenway recalled how the sea had laid waste to the first floor of the store and even cracked a second floor window. When the water receded, the sand left behind was waist-deep. About $160,000 worth of merchandise was lost.
The store management and employees banded together to begin the process of rebuilding and Eastern Lines reopened about six months later, Hemenway said.
Eastern Lines will receive a $38,135 grant.
Christie, who has been to Belmar so many times since Sandy that Mayor Matthew J. Doherty presented him with his own beach badge several months ago, greeted the mayor as he arrived at the surf shop.
"We were very happy that Governor Christie was back in Belmar today to help our small businesses as they continue to recover from Sandy," Doherty said.
"This is a very, very important part of the overall recovery, one that that doesn't get a lot of attention, but it needs to get a lot of attention," the governor said.
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