MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - Although Myrtle Beach businesses didn’t have any physical damage, the economic hit they took was felt.
Several restaurant and store owners say they feel like they didn’t even have a month of September, since the city was basically shut down for a full week, and flooding impacted so many people for the two weeks after the hurricane.
"Over the years the shoulder season through February was dynamite. This year we just pray we can recover,” said Bowery Owner Victor Shamah. “We missed a few weeks over here so there really isn’t a September for us we had the first week of labor day and then it went downhill with the evacuations.”
"After the governor evacuation we came back in to work the following Monday and it has been real, real slow,” agreed Peach’s Corner’s Robert Alston. Peach’s corner employee’s say compared to past hurricanes, this may be their biggest economic hit yet. Business owners say one of the issues was that both employees and visitors had a difficult time getting in and out of the city.
“Our main problem here is our employees and people living in surrounding areas that can’t come to work who live in the outskirts of Myrtle Beach. Our hearts and prayers go out to them,” said Shamah.
The City of Myrtle Beach says it does not have an exact amount lost yet, but a study from Coastal Carolina University shows that occupancy along the Grand Strand was down 64% this September.
"Although I can’t put a dollar amount on it there was definitely a huge economic impact,” said Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce PR Director Julie Ellis. “We were ramping up our fall campaign. We were rolling hard with the 60 more days of the summer campaign that focuses on building September October. So we had that campaign fully rolling and put it on hold to deal with the storm and subsequent flooding.”
City leaders, the chamber and businesses all agree one of the biggest problems is visitors don’t realize the city wasn’t impacted by the storm.
"People up north think we were drastically affected and they’re afraid to drive in,” said Shamah.
The Chamber says they’ll work to get the word out that the city of Myrtle Beach was not damaged in the storm. City spokesperson Mark Kruea says the biggest message to visitors is if you have plans to come to Myrtle Beach this fall, keep them.