As the beach towns of southeastern North Carolina enter the height of summer, many business owners are still grappling with the economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Reflecting national trends, labor shortages, supply chain gaps and rising gasoline prices abound.
Many local business owners have been forced to adapt to less than ideal conditions, preparing as best they can for a summer with more tourists than ever.
Woes of work
Wilmington and Beaches Conventions & Visitors Bureau President and CEO Kim Hufham said labor shortages have been difficult for some businesses.
“One of the things we say, especially in the summer months when we know we have our regular residents here as well as the influx of tourists, is to be patient,” she said. declared.
In Surf City, Jeff Peterson ran into trouble staffing his restaurant, Surf City Line. He said that while current labor shortages aren’t as severe as those of previous summers, it’s still difficult to find employees.
“We’re very lucky at the moment to have enough staff to run it, but it’s still tight.”
Blockade Runner Beach Resort general manager Nicolas Montoya said the resort was also struggling to find help.
Need help:Help not only wanted, but needed, to meet customer demand at restaurants in the Wilmington area
“Southeastern North Carolina has always been a challenge in terms of having enough service personnel, so it hasn’t been that alien to us, it’s just been a little more marked the last two years for different reasons,” he said.
Montoya said the staff is increasingly younger, with high school students and recent high school graduates filling positions traditionally held by students during the summer. Education has become central to the hiring process.
“We had to bring in a lot more people and teach them skills, instead of trying to hire someone who already has a particular set of skills in any type of hospitality training,” he said. he declares.
Supply chain challenges
Jeremy Shugarts, owner of Surf City’s non-WINEd wine and beer bar and Daily Grind cafe, says supply chain disruptions have forced him to order crates of supplies to ensure he gets some. will have enough to function.
“As a business, we have to store a lot more inventory, and that means a lot of us businesses here have our own little warehouses and stuff, to stay ahead of the game,” Shugarts said. .
Jimmy’s co-owner in Wrightsville Beach, Jimmy Gilleece, faces the same fight, getting storage space wherever he can.
“Literally, we have garages that we borrow, we’ve rented a place across the street, we have two offsite storage locations and you know, when we get the call that we have mugs, we get them all.”
He says some items are still hard to come by, with the Red Bull Tropical being one of the hardest to find. He recently bought a hundred cases of the energy drink on Amazon because it was the only way to find it.
New life for an old favourite:One of the oldest restaurants in the Wilmington area to get a new life under new owners
Rising gas prices
Island Dan’s Rentals owner Dan Lyons runs his business from home, using his truck and trailer to deliver equipment to customers.
Rising fuel and equipment prices have forced him to increase rental prices, but despite this, his business is doing better than ever.
He credits part of his success to travelers choosing vacations close to home, driving up the prices of airfares and gasoline.
In Wrightsville Beach, Gilleece is optimistic vacationers will keep coming, despite rising gas prices.
“I hope the fuel prices won’t deter anyone from coming, but so far they haven’t,” he said.
Peterson, who owns numerous rental properties on Topsail Island in addition to Surf City Line, believes fuel costs are having little to no impact on summer travel this year.
“I really believe that like it’s happened during COVID, people are going to go on vacation regardless, they’re going to go out,” he said.
Peterson said online bookings for his rental properties have already topped what they were at this time last year, and he’s on track to have another banner year for business.