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LBI Businesses Eager For Return Of Summer Visitors

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By Robin Rieger

LONG BEACH ISLAND, N.J. (CBS) — On Long Beach Island, there are signs of progress and hope as beach cleanup continues and businesses, like Foster’s Farm Market, welcomes customers.

Even if it’s just a few each day, Kristy Davis says they are her family’s lifeline. Their home and a rental unit they count on financially are still uninhabitable.

“We need to rent this house to afford our mortgage here, so it hurts us,” Davis said.

She is anxious about the return of renters and tourists this summer. Like Davis, realtor and broker Jan Thomas, at Beach Haven South End LLC., is trying to stay positive.

“We’re little bit behind, but not by much,” said Thomas.

Thomas says she lost 10 of over 100 available summer rentals to Superstorm Sandy. And she says this year, fewer clients are renting solely online.

“Before they send deposits, they want to come down and see for themselves. And so far, all the business that I’ve done that way, they all have signed their leases and have given us deposit checks,” said Thomas.

Hank Kiechlin came in person to continue his family’s summer rental tradition on Long Beach Island.

“It’s good to be able to support something that’s existed your whole life. I think it’s important people aren’t shy from coming here cause by the summertime, this will all be rebuilt here,” Kiechlin said.

According to the Southern Ocean County Chamber of Commerce, over 90 percent of Long Beach Island’s rentals will be available this spring and summer, and they say all of Long Beach Island’s restaurants will return for the 2013 season.

“In 2011, we had 1.2 billion in tourism expenditures and that’s with lodging, dining, attraction and retail,” said the Chamber’s Lori Pepenella.

Those dollars also keep 20,000 people employed.

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