New Jersey marine businesses hope for post-Sandy rebound

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South Jersey marinas and boat dealers were just beginning to rebound after the recession when Hurricane Sandy hit in October, making this selling season an important one.

At Grassy Sound Marina in Middle Township, Debbie Mooers, who owns the marina with her husband, Jim, expects a decent boating season — the 75 rental slips were all nearly booked by early April, according to the Press of Atlantic City.

A bigger portion of business, however, is the day-trippers who rent pontoons and 16-foot skiffs to scour Turtle Creek for flounder, striper and crabs. “That’s what really will make or break the season,” Mooers told the Press of Atlantic City. “And that’s been way off the last four or five years.”

Hurricane Sandy meant $180,000 in ongoing repairs and new steel beams for the tackle shop, she said.

Brian Tersaga, owner of All Seasons Marina in the Marmora section of Upper Township, said leasing had been up slightly this year — occupancy had been in the 70 percent range for the past few years.

“Hopefully we’ll start to creep back up. Under normal economic times this place is always full, but the recession has not been kind to us,” Tersaga told the paper. “Until consumer confidence climbs up, I think it’s going to haunt us for a while.”

Boat dealers and marinas employed 1,217 people in Atlantic, Cape May, Cumberland and Ocean counties in 2011, according to the latest available data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Employment shrunk by one-fifth from 2007 to 2011.

Andy Biddle, owner of Professional Boat Sales, which has a location at All Seasons Marina, said sales at winter boat shows this year were particularly promising. Biddle, of Egg Harbor Township, sold about 20 boats at the Atlantic City Boat Show in February, 50 percent more than last year, he said.

Al Mury, chief operating officer of C-Jam Yacht Sales in Somers Point, said his company had yet to get much business from the replacement of storm-damaged boats.

“Some of that may be people are still waiting to settle insurance claims,” he said.

Overall, sales had increased over the past two years, he said.

C-Jam sustained minor damage from Sandy and reopened within a week of the hurricane.

Mark Hattman, owner of Sheltered Cove Marina in Tuckerton, Ocean County, has dealt with massive damage — both to his business and the loss of business from people with damaged boats and homes.

In budget projections from September, Hattman said he had forecast 10 percent to 12 percent growth this year. Now it’s looking to be down about 20 percent, he said.

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