Saturday, August 1, 1998
businesses optimistic, pessimistic
By JEFF BEACH
- To hear the region's officials tell it, the battleship USS
New Jersey could spark an economic revival in Camden that would
be as explosive as a shot from its long-silent 16-inch guns.
There's talk of the ship turning the city's
Waterfront into an overnight destination, with the requisite
development of a hotel. Plans for a baseball stadium and other
long-sought attractions would be immediately enhanced by the
ship's presence, its backers say.
But down in the trenches, in Camden's independent
downtown businesses where entrepreneurs daily scratch out a living,
reactions to those high hopes range from optimism to downright
''The battleship, along with everything else
on the Waterfront, can be the hub of the rebirth of the city,''
said Gordon Sunket, a principal in the Market Street eatery Lauretta's
Hi Hat, formerly the American Cafe. ''If we could get (the ship)
here, it's good for Camden and the whole area.''
Sunket said the restaurant directly across
Market Street from City Hall sees an upswing in business when
there are concerts at the Blockbuster-Sony E Center or other
special events on the Waterfront.
Closer to the Waterfront on Market Street,
though, another restaurateur was less optimistic about the benefits
the battleship might bring.
''From past experience with the Aquarium and
the Sony-Blockbuster, I'd say nothing,'' said Frank DiSalvio,
manager of the Market Street West Cafe at Market and Third streets.
DiSalvio said he's tired of watching cars
zoom into attractions on the Waterfront and then zoom back out
of town, ''like cockroaches when you turn the lights on.
''People have this image of Camden,'' DiSalvio
said. ''They can't wait to get in and get out.''
Still, landing the ship could be one step
in turning that image around and bringing other businesses knocking,
said Gary Mahon, co-owner of International Commodities Terminal,
a cocoa company.