The Seaside Heights boardwalk is still under construction, but some iconic storefronts that call the boardwalk home - such as Three Brothers Pizza want you to know yes, they are open for business.
“You might just have to come in through the street,” says Paul Schneider who is a partner of Three Brothers Pizza.
Schneider says most businesses are open at least on the weekends, especially those south of DuPont Avenue where the boardwalk is still intact.
“We need to get people on this end of the boardwalk where we have a boardwalk”, says Schneider.
All three of the Three Brothers Pizzas located on the boardwalk were among the more fortunate businesses in Seaside Heights.
Besides some basement flooding in the shops on the northern end, none of the Three Brothers Pizzas sustained any major damage from Hurricane Sandy.
“We were lucky up here,” says Schneider.
Even though it took around 10 days before he was able to get back into Seaside, images in the media and news from first responders that he knew on scene had Schneider somewhat prepared for the mess he was to be walking into.
“Oh sure, I was scared,” said Schneider.
Knowing that Three Brothers Pizza didn’t sustain much damage didn’t bring much relief to Schneider because of how the rest of the town looked.
“You wouldn’t have thought we would be open, but we’re open”, he said.
However, now that things are returning to normal, Schneider has noticed the surge of “gawkers” that flooded Seaside right after the storm has been on the decline.
“After the hurricane, every media outlet on the East Coast was up here. Now we’re open…come around and see what’s going on now,” he said.
Things at Three Brothers Pizza have been slow, but as Schneider points out it feels no different than any other off-season.
“It’s early yet, this weekend; next weekend, that’s when we’ll see. We’ll see how many people will be here then,” says Schneider.
As far as summertime business is concerned, Schneider isn’t making any predictions except that businesses will be ready.
“It’s too hard to tell right now… but they only started doing that boardwalk a month ago and you see how far they are already,” he said.
Things aren’t just getting back to normal for Three Brothers Pizza; some of their regular customers are also glad to be getting back into their own routines surrounding the boardwalk.
“This is our place”, says Carol Smith.
Smith and her sister, Cathy Conte of Toms River, have been coming to the Three Brothers Pizza located on the south end of the boardwalk for over 20 years.
Before the storm, Smith and her sister spent every week “rain, sleet, or snow” walking the boardwalk. They always stopped by Three Brothers Pizza afterward for their routine basket of fries.
“We’re creatures of habit”, says Conte.
Both sisters said they were heartbroken when they saw the images of the boardwalk on the news and immediately thought of their favorite pizzeria.
“We worried about them when it all happened. I wondered if the guys were okay, was the place okay because we knew the boardwalk was bad,” said Smith.
It wasn’t until early March that Smith and Conte were able to enjoy their favorite place again.
“We were so happy when we turned the corner and they were open”, said Conte.
Smith said seeing Three Brothers Pizza up and running is a sign that, “maybe the summer is going to be okay”.