Gym. Tan Laundry…Tourism? Is Jersey Shore Good or Bad for the Local Economy?
By Phil Stilton
MTV has a thing for the Jersey Shore, from the filming of MTV Beach House in the early 2000’s in Seaside Heights to Season 1 of The Real World to the on-location production of their current meghit show ,Jersey Shore. The show, which has reached 8.9 million viewers worldwide this season, not only benefits MTV, it benefits many local businesses which are featured on the show. Aside from the cast’s favorite restaurant, Rivolis and a long time favorite of our family, they bring attention to several local businesses throughout the season. Owner, Tony Rivoli, credits spotlight appearances and random plugs “Rivoli’s!” during the show to an almost double increase in business over the past three years. “It’s been phenomenal!” he said “We now get people coming here from all over the country and all over the world. Just tonight, I got a call from a party in Atlanta that is going to fly up here just for dinner at the restaurant.”
Rivoli also credited the show for giving both Toms River and Seaside Heights a long term economic stimulus. “For the 5 years prior to Jersey Shore coming, business here was down, it was all over, in Seaside, here, things weren’t looking good.” he said “People stopped coming down here, I don’t know why. Now, there’s been a steady increase since the show started of families with kids, hoping to visit anywhere the cast comes, hoping for a sighting.”
Rivoli told a story how a table full of girls from Australia came in one night and were waiting for a sighting. “Ronnie called me and said he wanted to come in with Sam, so I made sure I didn’t tell the girls, so it would be a surprise” he said “When they walked in the door, the girls went crazy. It’s memories like that that people are coming for, to take back with them.”
Another prominently featured business on the show is KS Fitness on Hooper Avenue. KS Fitness is the cast’s home away from home gym. KS Fitness had grown over the years from their original Tae-Kwon-Do school, which started inside a suite in the Rand’s camera plaza in the 80’s, to their current fitness and martial arts complex down the street. KS fitness didn’t want to talk about the impact the show has had on their business and preferred to “remain neutral” on the topic.
Even the salon responsible for Pauly’s famous blowout has seen business explode in recent years. “It has help us out a lot. In fact, it advanced our business at least a year and a half.” explained Jagged Edge Salon owner Paul Marte “People drive up to two hours to come here and get the ‘Pauly blowout’.” Marte noted that in 2009, his name was given as a recommendation from a friend working police security at the Jersey Shore beach house. “I thought it was going to be a one time thing, I never expected it to turn into this.” he said.
Despite the images and behavior depicted on the show, Seaside Heights Police Chief Thomas Boyd said “Nothing but good has come out of that show for Seaside Heights. We hope the show returns this summer.” Boyd said not only has the show helped the local tourism economy, but he said the crowd the show draws is full of families with young children, and despite that you would expect it to be full of Jersey Shore copy-cats, the reality is quite the opposite. “The crowds who come to see them and line up along the sidewalk each night are full of families with kids driving SUV’s and Escalades.” Boyd said “Those are the people who are going to come to our town and spend money at the boardwalk and eat in our restaurants.”
Boyd also says the show has actually boosted the morale within the Seaside Heights Police Department. While other nearby towns in Ocean County are looking at budget cuts in law enforcement, Boyd says his department might be the only one that will actually grow in size in 2012, when he expects to hire 6 more officers if the show returns.
“The show has really helped our officers. MTV pays for all of their security details.” Boyd said “When you look at the economy out there and our town’s business has increased 20%, it’s a great thing for Seaside.” Boyd added that contrary to a popular misconception, the show has not affected the town’s crime rate.
“My wife went on vacation in Europe and she said they had two channels over there dedicated to the show.” Boyd said “To think, 9,000,000 people all over the world watch our town on television each week, it’s amazing. It’s probably one of the best things that has happened to our town.”
Mike Loundy, of Seaside Reality who also serves as the MTV liaison for the borough echoed the sentiments of Boyd, stating that Seaside Heights is “very fortunate to have something like this fall in our lap.”
Loundy says the show has helped the town on many levels, including a 20% increase in revenues to the town in beach and parking fees alone. He estimated a revenue increase of $400,000 over two years in those areas alone. “We see other shore towns experiencing drops in tourism, so that 20% estimate might in reality be 30-40% when you factor in the possible downturn that we could have been in otherwise.” he said “The merchants are also benefitting from about a 20% increase at restaurants, shops and rentals.”
The cast of Jersey Shore also helps local motels, with an average of 125 room rentals each night in addition to a dozen or so condos rented out to MTV executives during the production of the show. “Their rentals have a ripple effect where motels who do not rent to MTV staff are busy with the overflow of vacationers who want to come to the town, so it helps everyone in the end. It has even helped businesses in nearby towns, Toms River, Seaside Park and Lavallette.
Loundy also points out that the quality of visitor fits the demographics the town seeks, stating that the show attracts visitors who are typically in their early 30’s to the borough. The impact on the local restaurant businesses has also been helpful Loundy says. “During the filming, the cast and crew alone consume 30,000 to 50,000 meals over the course of the production.”
Loundy also noted that because Seaside Heights now has a reputation of being a film-industry friendly town, other networks are flocking there to film. In 2009, before filming of Jersey Shore began, there were only 4 film shooting applications filed with the township. In 2011, 29 applications were filed from networks such as HBO, TruTv, E! Television, VH1 and Bravo down to independent filmmakers.
Not everyone is happy with the cast of Jersey Shore. In August, Abercrombie & Fitch offered to pay a substantial amount of money to Mike “The Situation” Sorrentino and any other Jersey Shore cast member who stopped wearing their clothes. “We are deeply concerned that Mr. Sorrentino’s association with our brand could cause significant damage to our image.” the company said in a statement. Many feel it was just a publicity stunt by the company to have a little Jersey Shore fame rub off on them.
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie also took a hardline stance against the show, with a blow to their finances in late November when he pulled a $420,000 tax credit from MTV for production of the show. “As chief executive I am duty-bound to ensure that taxpayers are not footing a $420,000 bill for a project which does nothing more than perpetuate misconceptions about the state and its citizens.” The tax credits were a program that sought to encourage more television shows to be filmed in the state to boost economic development here in New Jersey. New Jersey politicians piled on the Governor’s action, hoping to ride the political wave.
Local officials would not comment on the Governor’s comments about the show, but they, along with local business owners are sure of one thing. Jersey Shore has been an economic gift presented to the state of New Jersey by MTV which has been instrumental in helping the local economy get through the current economic crisis in America.
Photos courtesy of MTV Press
Check out a virtual tour of the Jersey Shore house here:http://www.seaside-realty.com/jersey-shore-house-rental