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Superstorm Hits Vending And Amusements Hard; The Jersey Shore's Arcades And Boardwalks Are Lost

by Nick Montano and Hank Schlesinger
Posted On: 10/31/2012

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TAGS: vending, vending machine, vending business, coin-op business, jukebox, office coffee service, food service, Big Buck Hunter Championships, Hurricane Sandy, Jersey Shore arcades, amusement business, Sandy impact on business, Casino Pier, Seaside Heights, Point Pleasant, Fun Town Amusement Pier, Seaside Park, Point Pleasant, Jenkinson's boardwalk, National Automatic Merchandising Association, Pam Gilbert

NEW YORK CITY -- Sandy has delivered a blow that will keep many businesses in the Northeast down for weeks, and will likely have a longer-lasting impact on the overall U.S economy. Sandy was a large storm, cutting a wide swath affecting an estimated 20% of the U.S. population. Even more, it impacted a possible larger percentage of vending and office coffee service operations serving business and industry, and coin machine routes providing music and games to public venues. Vending, OCS and coin-op industry revenue losses will be in the millions this week alone, and tens of millions in the months to come.

The reach of the storm was overwhelming, with devastation along the East Coast, snow in Appalachia, power failures in Maine and high winds at the Great Lakes. In West Virginia, two feet of snow fell in Terra Alta.

Pam Gilbert, senior manager of government affairs at the National Automatic Merchandising Association, told Vending Times today: "I have heard from a few members in the mid-Atlantic region about their experiences: working from a motorhome parked in the driveway (PA); snowed in with no power (VA); no power, sleeping in winter clothes to stay warm (PA); and lots of reports of trees down, no power, etc."

Gilbert, who is based in Arlington, VA, is trying to establish communication with the region's operators. "I'm sure that those with the most damage have not had the time or ability to communicate with us yet," she said.

More than 8.1 million homes and businesses on the East Coast were without power on Tuesday after the storm tore down power lines, flooded networks and sparked an explosion at a power station on Manhattan's East River. That compares with 8.4 million outages at the peak of Hurricane Irene last year.

The outages spread from New Jersey, which was hardest hit, to 19 other states from North Carolina to as far inland as Indiana. Power companies estimate parts of New York City could be without power for more than a week, including lower Manhattan, where the 5th annual Big Buck World Championships are scheduled to take place Nov. 9-10. An additional 145,000 people lost power in the Canadian province of Ontario. The storm disrupted landlines and wireless communications in at least eight states in the Northeast.

Betson Enterprises, the nation's largest vending equipment distributor, this week had to close its flagship office in Carlstadt, NJ, where there is an ongoing power outage. Beyond a few vehicles in the parking lot, none of the facility's assets was damaged, a Betson spokesperson said.

Sandy appears to have caused more losses than last year's Hurricane Irene, but final totals will be hard to come by for some time because of the scale of the disaster. One disaster-forecasting company predicted economic losses could ultimately reach $20 billion, only half insured. If that estimate holds, and it might even grow, Sandy will rank in the Top 10 most costly storms, exceeding Irene's estimated damages of $15 billion. IHS Global Insight, a consultancy firm, estimated that the storm could shave 0.6 percentage points off the nation's annualized gross domestic product in the fourth quarter. In the amusement sector, nowhere will Sandy's destructive results be more apparent than on the Jersey Shore.


In an early afternoon press briefing on Oct. 30, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie called the damage from Hurricane Sandy "unthinkable." The devastation wrought by record-breaking tidal surges and winds that topped 90 mph seemed to leave the usually direct and garrulous governor struggling for words. The comments came as the state's search and rescue crews continue to pull those citizens who unwisely sought to ride out the storm in homes near the water. "That you see homes in the middle of Route 35 southbound and northbound is just unfathomable," the governor said.


Initial reports indicate that many of the fabled Jersey Shore amusement areas suffered serious damage that could take years to repair. As reports continue to flow in from a variety of news and government agencies, the full scope of the damage becomes shockingly apparent. In Seaside Heights, the Casino Pier has been severely damaged; its rollercoaster (shown above) is now partially submerged. The Fun Town Amusement Pier in nearby Seaside Park lost a 30-ft. section that broke off and "floated away."

In Point Pleasant, most of the boardwalk that's been home to Jenkinson's arcades, an aquarium and rides, among other attractions since the 1920s, is still there, but it has been severely damaged.

Initial reports show similar devastation up and down New Jersey's coastline with large sections of boardwalks, buildings and amusement complexes damaged or totally destroyed by the storm.

This year's seasonal business for Jersey Shore operations was brisk, aided by hot summer temperatures. Even the 2011 season, which ended with Hurricane Irene, was considered stable amid a struggling economy. | SEE STORY