‘We are going to have a great summer’: Jersey Shore businesses have high expectations this season

It's the first full weekend of summer -- the weather is warming up, schools are out and Jersey Shore area small businesses are ready – and a lot of owners are looking forward to the first normal summer in three years.
Heather Hunter’s Hooked Café is entering her third summer in business next to the Belmar Train Station.  
“I bought it February before COVID to open in March, so that didn’t go so well. But we are here still, so that’s good,” says Hunter.
Early signs point to a busy summer.  
“Weekends are crazy, crazy busy, lines out the door, live music Sundays,” says Hunter. “It's been really good. We are going to have a great summer.”
While the summer of 2021 was overshadowed by employee shortages, this year -- applicants are up.  
“I had a lot of college kids coming back from previous years, so we are good and ready to go, and I do have a few people applying still, so keeping everyone in the mix,” says Jennifer Matera, with Joe’s Bagel and Grill.
Joe Rizzuto’s Main Street Donuts not only survived COVID-19, but he's now ready to expand to a second location in Matawan.  
“It's the American dream,” says Rizzuto. “I never thought I would have my own business, let alone two.” 
Beach badge sales remain strong in Belmar, and high gas prices will likely lead to the revival of the “staycation," says administrator Ed Kirschenbaum.  
“We hope so, we think people will try to stay local, not travel as far south,” says Kirschenbaum. “We are the center part of New Jersey, with the Jersey Shore, so we are hoping people come enjoy everything we have here.