Flooded and beaten to a pulp by Sandy, a few restaurants and a bait and tackle shop in Point Pleasant Beach near the Manasquan Inlet are just beginning to come back to life.
The Shrimp Box and Outside the Box Patio Bar, 75 Inlet Dr., re-opened Wednesday afternoon for the first time since Sandy pushed five feet of water into the restaurant overlooking the harbor.
Alex's Inlet Bait and Tackle Shop, 9 Inlet Dr., is shooting for a March 15 opening and , for an April 17 opening.
The Manasquan Inlet was rushing over the bulkhead, into the parking lot on Inlet Drive on Wednesday, as the Shrimp Box was serving its first customers since the end of October.
"The Shrimp Box & Outside the Box Patio Bar is opening for the season today (yes unbelievably on the eve of yet another storm...wow)," wrote co-owner George Gyftakis to Patch on Wednesday, as a coastal winter storm barreled into the area. "The paint is still drying but we were determined to open today after being destroyed by Sandy."
A customer asked on the Shrimp Box Facebook page if they would be open despite the coastal storm.
"We are open right now," said the response on Facebook. "If we survived Sandy...this is nothing!"
At the restaurant on Wednesday afternoon, there were a fair number of customers who had come in to enjoy the grand re-opening.
For co-owner Nick Gyftakis, George's father, it was a relief to be working on running a restaurant again, rather than supervising a massive renovation project. The ceilings were the only part of the place that didn't need to be replaced, he said.
His daughter, Connie Gyftakis, said, "We're going to get plaques made and put them up here to show how high the water was," pointing about halfway up pillars inside the renovated space.
The Shrimp Box, like Red's Lobster Pot nearby, has historically been closed all winter and re-opened in March. But this winter was busier than most, since the owners had to do a major restoration.
George Gyftakis said a lot of people will probably be surprised to hear the news about the re-opening.
"Many locals believed we would be closed forever," he said.
The restaurant is offering "Help Rebuild The Box" gift certificates. Those purchasing a gift certificate for $40 will receive another $10 added by the restaurant.
Flooded at Home and at Work
Kitty Stillufsen, whose parents own Red's, not only had to help her parents clean out and renovate their business, where she is manager, but her own home nearby also flooded.
Her parents, Red and Louise, have again posted a "For Sale" sign outside their business, a sign that had been there a number of months before Sandy ever struck.
Last summer was one of the best summers the place has ever had, said Kitty Stillufsen recently.
"But then came Sandy, so it was the worst fall" that forced the restaurant to close for the season a little earlier than usual, and to stay closed longer, she said. The restaurant typically opens around mid March, but this year that's delayed by about a month, thanks to all the extra work brought on by Sandy.
So the Stillufsens are still weighing their options as they try to plan what's best for the future. But, for now, it's obvious the family is looking forward to re-opening.
"Re-opening April 17, Psyched" says the sign outside.
The Sea Rose, Destroyed and Took Back the Bait
Alex's Inlet Bait and Tackle Shop, like the other homes and businesses facing the inlet, seemed to take the brunt of Sandy. The sea not only plunged with a vengeance into the small business and its neighbors, but took every piece of bunker with it, noted owner Marc Palazzolo.
"It's as though the sea took back everything that came from it, we didn't have one piece of bunker left," he said, back on Nov. 6, as he gave a Patch reporter a tour of what Sandy had chewed up and spit out.
As Palazzolo walked around behind the wrecked store, he found one piece of bunker behind a neighbor's place.
"That's the first one I've seen!" he said.
The superstorm smashed buildings, unearthed a towering light pole and sent it into the side of a house. The walls of the business on the end of the strip, formerly occupied by Waffles 'n More, were blown out and the inside ripped to shreds.
The public bathrooms on the inlet were easily pulled apart. Sandy yanked off the roof and sent it sailing across the parking lot and Inlet Drive, over the bait shop and crashing onto the ground behind it.
For weeks after the superstorm, that section of Inlet Drive was closed to all vehicular traffic except emergency vehicles. Slowly but surely, the process of picking up and cleaning up moved forward, including a major renovation of Alex's Bait and Tackle.
It's been tough for Palazzolo, like so many other business people and residents flooded by Sandy. The shop owner has learned the hard way he's had to ask for help and has been touched by an outpouring of support from friends and customers near and far. (Anyone who wants to help the shop make a comeback can visit the store's "go fund me" web page.)
Regarding overall recovery efforts, the Small Business Administration (SBA) is urging all impacted residents and businesses to apply for SBA loans, in addition to registering with FEMA. Even businesses that did not sustain any flooding or physical damage can apply for an Economic Injury Loan if they lost revenue because of the storm.
For information about how to apply for government aid, grants and loans to help rebuild your home or business, click here.
Editor's Note: This story cites just a few examples of businesses struggling to recover or re-opening. If you are aware of any businesses or homes in the Inlet neighborhood that are making progress in the recovery, or hitting nothing but roadblocks, please let us know in Comments. And please feel free to load photos. Thank you.