TOMS RIVER – My Sister’s Jewelry Box, a small family run business in Lavallette is offering a window shopping event over the long Memorial Day weekend, while a few blocks down on Route 35 North, Martin’s Casuals, a Lavallette staple for decades is providing curb side delivery. Some of the local restaurants like the Crabs Claw Inn, Lenny’s Pizzeria and the Ohana Grill have not only been providing take out and curbside delivery during the coronavirus pandemic but are also making meals for hospital staff and emergency responders.

Small local businesses like the ones in Lavallette and throughout Ocean County are implementing creative and unique ways to continue to do business while awaiting guidance from the state on when they can reopen.

The Ocean County Board of Chosen Freeholders say it’s time to allow these businesses to open their doors again to the public as long as they are following guidelines and have implemented precautionary measures approved by the state and health experts to assure the safety of the public.

“As the summer season approaches, our small businesses need to be allowed to reopen,” said Ocean County Freeholder Director Joseph H. Vicari, who is liaison to tourism and business development. “These businesses are owned by our neighbors. They are embedded in our communities and do everything they can to make our towns a better place to live.

“They have been following all the rules and now is the time to allow them to reopen to the public to save their businesses especially as the tourism season gets underway in Ocean County,” Vicari said.

Vicari has been bringing his message to Gov. Murphy and the Governor’s staff as he urges the reopening of these small businesses during a daily conference call with the state’s 20 other counties.

“Tourism is a $4.8 billion business in Ocean County, and while some of these stores are seasonal others are open year-round,” he said. “I am sure that during the time they have been closed to patrons they have taken every step possible to be prepared for reopening under strict sanitary and social distancing guidelines.”

Vicari said that safety is the priority during this time.

“I am not suggesting anyone go against the state executive orders or participate in civil disobedience,” Vicari said. “We don’t want to see anyone’s safety compromised.”

However, Vicari said it’s now difficult to justify the continuing closure of small businesses when the aisles of box stores like Target are filled with consumers purchasing non-essential items.

“Is it fair to small businesses that one of the busiest departments in Target was the swimsuit aisles while small businesses that sell swimsuits are shuttered to the public,” Vicari asked. “We need to be fair and we can no longer justify keeping small businesses closed if they meet safety guidelines.”

Freeholder Deputy Director Gary Quinn said small business owners want to get back to one thing – running their small businesses.

Quinn said all of the freeholders have been responding to calls from small business owners that are growing more and more concerned about possibly losing their business if they can’t open soon.

“If these businesses can’t open between now and July 4th they could very well become a statistic,” Quinn said. “They won’t survive.”

“It’s probably just as safe to walk into any small business that lines Main Street as it is a big box store,” Quinn said. “These small businesses are willing to limit their number of customers, and provide safety measures for the public and their workers.”

Ocean County Freeholder Virginia E. Haines agreed.

“Our small businesses want to do the right thing,” she said.

Ocean County Freeholder John P. Kelly, who operates a small business in Eagleswood Township, said it’s time for the state to open other small businesses. His hardware store has remained open during the pandemic as allowed by the state’s executive order.

“During the closure small businesses still have to pay rent or mortgages,” he said. “The state has been showing flexibility allowing more businesses to open. Now is the time to move forward safely allowing small businesses to open.”

Freeholder Gerry P. Little said small businesses are the heart of the economy at the Jersey Shore.

“This doesn’t affect just Ocean County though it affects everyone,” he said. “It’s time to get the local, county, state and national economy back on track. We can do it safely and within guidelines that will also protect patrons and workers.”

Vicari urged residents and visitors to patronize the small businesses located throughout the County.

“Please go to their websites order food, clothing, jewelry, gift cards or whatever you might be looking for,” he said. “You can get the merchandise with curbside delivery or by take out or other means.

“Now more than ever our small businesses need every one of us,” he said. “We can’t forget all they do for us throughout the year whether donating to charities, providing gifts for auctions, supporting our schools and sporting events and being a big part of our volunteer emergency response teams. Now is the time to shop small and buy local.”