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Sandy One Year Later: A Story of Small-Business Regeneration

Jersey Shore

Over in the Jersey Shore, one business owner has reservations about rebuilding.

Greg Kohr owned five locations of Kohr's Frozen Custard: The Original, an offshoot of the famous Kohr's dynasty, before the storm. Two of his stores have re-opened, two have been moved inland to new locations and a fifth avoided the storm's wrath because it was not on the shore. (None of Greg Kohr's stores were affected by last month's Jersey Shore boardwalk fire - that was his cousin, he says, who lost all four of his stores.)

Since the frozen custard stores are seasonal (typically open from around Palm Sunday through Columbus Day), Greg Kohr had been fortunate that he didn't lose all of his business to Sandy, but even so, business fell about 40% this summer. 

Kohr credits Stronger Than The Storm, a consumer campaign developed to raise awareness of the Jersey Shore's recovery, for helping with business this summer.

"There was a lot of misconception that the boardwalk wasn't open, that there were so many damaged businesses ... I think we really would have been hurting a lot more if we didn't have that campaign," he says.

Yet Kohr is already nervous about the 2014 summer season, predicting that business will improve just 30% over this past summer. It shows just how long the recovery process will truly take from storms like Sandy, but it's not from a lack of love or determination for their stores or the communities they are in.

"One of the neighboring towns, Ortley, is still pretty much destroyed. There is not a lot of rebuilding of the residences yet. And Ocean Beach ... A lot of summer bungalows are there. Probably 60% is still not rebuilt, and I don't know if it will be rebuilt for this year," Kohr says.

"There's a lot of questions. Do I rebuild another store on the boardwalk? I'm ... giving a lot of thought and consideration to opening up across the bridge on the mainland, as we call it, either in Toms River, Bricktown -- somewhere close," he says. "There's a difference between the mainland and being at the shore. I opened up in Ortley and Lavallette because I believe in the towns. And the people over here are really great, and I just love the shore community. I grew up in Seaside. So my heart's here."

It takes a lot of guts to be a small-business owner, especially these days. When a natural disaster like Sandy hits, and there will be more of them, local economies would falter if it weren't for the resilience of this special group.

-- Written by Laurie Kulikowski in New York.

To contact Laurie Kulikowski, send an email to: Laurie.Kulikowski@thestreet.com.

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Disclosure: TheStreet's editorial policy prohibits staff editors, reporters and analysts from holding positions in any individual stocks.
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