This summer, many people are curing their pandemic blues with a relaxing day at the beach.
And with the Delaware coastline busier than ever, businesses are finding it hard to keep up.
Even before the hot weather arrived, stores and restaurants were understaffed, but now the situation has worsened as sunlovers flock to the shore.
Therefore, some businesses are resorting to new measures in these desperate times.
Jimmy O’Connor, owner of Woody’s Dewey Beach Bar & Grill, has increased wages to attract potential employees, paying workers $17 to $20 an hour instead of the usual $15 to $17.
“I don’t mind paying people (more), but they don’t want to work,” he said.
Even with the increase in pay, Mr. O’Connor is still short-staffed and finding it hard to get employees.
Meanwhile, at Kick n’ Chicken in Lewes, owner Charlie Pollard has had to tap into a new employment pool to find more workers.
This year, Mr. Pollard hired employees between the ages of 14 and 16, instead of college students and young adults.
“I have to change my vision for what an employee looks like,” he said.
The change has helped him gain more employees, but with the younger age group comes difficulties. Mr. Pollard said that many of the 14- to 16-year-olds have little experience working with customers since this job is a first for many. As a result, they find it hard to deal with rude and impatient customers.
Another issue with hiring younger workers is that they will go back to school and participate in extracurricular activities, but Mr. Pollard said he is willing to work with their schedules in order to keep them employed.
“At some point, you have to decide if some help is better than no help,” he said.
As a result of these staffing situations, some businesses have reduced hours and closed on certain days.
Funland normally employs around 165 workers but has been reduced to 135 in 2021. Chris Darr, personnel manager, said Funland will have to randomly close down for some days this summer due to its reduced staff.
He added that he noticed that some customers are unkind to the employees who are working twice as hard in order to make up for the reduced staff.
Beach business owners say there are two main reasons for the decline in the number of available workers this year: the lack of international students coming to Delaware with J-1 visas and increased unemployment benefits.
Matt Weiner, the manager of Zelky’s, an arcade on the Rehoboth Beach boardwalk, said that it has lost one-third of its staff since there are no J-1 students.
“It’s more stressful, but (I’m) asking people to be patient,” he said.
This article was produced with support of a grant from the Delaware Community Foundation. For more information, visit delcf.org/journalism.