It’s not all business as usual for shore towns this summer.
Amid sky-high inflation and a labor market that’s deterred low-wage workers from returning to jobs, small businesses at seasonal communities are still struggling to stay afloat.
Cousins Maine Lobster, a “Shark Tank” success story that currently has 40 owned and franchise trucks nationwide with 9 dine-in restaurants, just opened a new location in Asbury Park, New Jersey — a seasonal town that’s betting big on the return of the shore.
Investor Barbara Corcoran (who is also a New Jersey native) told Yahoo Finance that communities like Asbury Park are a “walking symbol of what success looks like in tough times.”
“When you go to a community like Asbury Park, they’ve had many stores close. A lot of people can lose faith and think that this is going to be the future,” she said, alluding to the various economic challenges businesses face today from inflationary pressures to the tight labor market seen at restaurants, bars and other eateries.
According to official government data, although food service jobs have somewhat bounced back since the start of the pandemic, employment in the sector remains 6.4% below February 2020 levels as customer demand surges.
However, Corcoran said that Cousins’ new brick-and-mortar location can serve as inspiration for other small businesses “to make something happen,” and revive the local community in the process.
“It’s good for everybody. It’s like sharing the good news. Everyone does better because of it.”
The real estate mogul went on to explain the benefits of small towns and communities, noting that businesses generally do not see the same level of customer loyalty in larger cities and metropolises.
“People appreciate when you do something for the community. They come back, they give you their loyalty and you become part of the fabric of the town,” Corcoran revealed.
“With appreciation, business always does better. You can’t underestimate the power of people appreciating that you’ve brought something good to the community,” she continued.
It’s good for everybody…Barbara Corcoran on small business boom in beach towns
Sabin Lomac, one of the Cousins Maine Lobster co-founders, added that “having small businesses thrive in communities like this is essential.”
Asbury Park is “traditionally a seasonal location when you’re at the beach, so making sure that locals come down and they support businesses year-round is super important,” he emphasized.
Lomac added that, when it comes to labor, “hiring locally and giving people opportunities to grow within a company” are key elements to success.
“It’s fun. It gets people involved and more immersed in the community, and it’s a way to be part of something that is a destination location,” he continued.
Corcoran: Businesses need to ‘welcome change’
Overall, Corcoran advises all of her business to “welcome change,” especially in the midst of a challenging economic environment.
“You have to have a mindset that you’re looking for what the change is and that it’s not a threat. But, rather, how can I take advantage of it?”
“If I look at all the businesses I’ve invested on ‘Shark Tank’ — 112 businesses to date — about a third of them have moved forward [amid] the pandemic, but most of them have fallen to the side,” the investor noted.
She explained that the “distinction between those who have moved ahead and those who have fallen behind is really an openness for change and love of their people.”
“The more you take care of your people, the more they take care of the customer, and the better your business does,” she revealed.
“It’s that kind of heart and soul that really pushes people ahead, and it’s been proven in this last pandemic.”