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Thursday, August 11, 2005Past Issues - S | M | T | W | T | F | S
 
South Jersey

Saturday, August 1, 1998

Camden businesses optimistic, pessimistic

By JEFF BEACH
Courier-Post staff

CAMDEN - 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 scorn.

''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.



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