Press Release
May 30, 2014
2 minute read


Trenton, NJ – To showcase the rebuilding of small businesses impacted by Superstorm Sandy, the New Jersey Economic Development Authority’s (EDA) Chief Executive Officer Michele Brown visited Stronger NJ Business grant recipients in Lavallette yesterday.  These visits included both Ohana Grill and Martin’s Casuals.  Other Lavallette businesses approved for grants include Lavallette Personal Fitness, Enright Chiropractic and Island Floor Covering.  To date, over 220 Ocean County businesses have been awarded grants and loans totaling over $22.7 million. 

“The summer tourism season will soon be in full swing and shore area businesses are preparing for what will hopefully be a bustling season,” Brown said. “We are happy to be a part of the recovery of these businesses and continue to work hard to make sure every eligible business owner that has applied for the Stronger NJ programs receives help.”

At the time Sandy hit, Martin’s Casuals had been in business for over 50 years.  After losing its entire inventory and experiencing nearly complete destruction of their building, store owner Nathan Hesslein and his daughter Lori Hesslein reopened Martin’s eight months after the storm.

“The Lavallette area was hit very hard and we feel fortunate to remain a part of this community after being here since 1960,” said Lori Hesslein.  “We truly wish to thank our customers and the local community, as well as the state, for their support.”

Ohana Grill owners James and Dana Costello reopened on Mother’s Day of 2013, after months of work to rebuild their Hawaiian-influenced restaurant.  Flooding destroyed Ohana’s floors and sheet rock, requiring a nearly full remodel of the building.

“At first we were overwhelmed by the idea of reopening, but this restaurant was always our dream,” said James Costello.  “It was a bit of a gamble, but as people in the area slowly return to their homes, things are picking up.  We are anticipating a strong summer and are excited to see both familiar and new faces.”

EDA business advisors were in Lavallette yesterday for one-on-one meetings with local Stronger NJ applicants to assist with the completion of their applications. According to Brown, the goal of these workshops is to help expedite the process and ensure that additional burdens are not placed on the businesses.

Applicants are contacted via telephone prior to the workshops to schedule appointments and are informed of any documentation or information needed to complete their application.  Since May 6th, workshops have been held in Seaside Heights, Beach Haven, Sea Bright, Ocean City, Atlantic City, Manasquan, Moonachie, and Lavallette, with assistance provided to over 60 businesses. Additional workshops are being scheduled in towns where a need is identified.

To date, over 510 impacted businesses in New Jersey have been approved for grants and loans totaling more than $55 million.  Additionally, the EDA has recommended the approval of eleven municipalities for Streetscape grants totaling $10 million under the Stronger NJ Neighborhood and Community Revitalization (NCR) program, including a grant for South Toms River.  Also under NCR, the EDA has provided $2.5 million in grants to five Community Development Financial Institutions offering recovery loans to Sandy-impacted small businesses, and $5 million to Seaside Heights and Seaside Park for boardwalk demolition and debris removal.

The Stronger NJ programs are funded through New Jersey’s Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) allocation from the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).  Similar to other Sandy relief grant programs, there are strict federal eligibility requirements to which the EDA and applicants must comply. 

For more information on the Stronger NJ Business programs, visit or call EDA’s Sandy hotline at 1-855-SANDY-BZ (1-855-726-3929).