If you ask Tim Cochrane how business is going at his hot dog joint The WindMill on Hudson Street, he's got one word for it: "horrible!"
Cochrane and his business partner Roger Corrado opened the Hoboken location of the Jersey shore franchise in June. Just a stone's throw from the PATH station and surrounded by several popular bars, Cochrane says they were starting to build up a good business.
"We're a late night place. Two a.m., you couldn't get in the door," he said. "Now, there's nobody."
Since the storm surge from Hurricane Sandy knocked out PATH service from Hoboken, Cochrane says business is down 60 percent. He also had to cut his staff to just three employees, putting several local college students out of a job.
In the meantime, Cochrane has his own problems to deal with, having lost his home on Breezy Point, Queens.
"God has an interesting sense of humor," he said.
Other business owners in Hoboken are taking a similar hit this holiday season. They say customers who are recovering from damage to their own homes and businesses don't have the money to shop, and the out-of-towners can't get here on limited public transportation.
Some members of the Hoboken City Council believe the city is suffering from bad press from Sandy's aftermath and its reputation for limited parking.
Small Business Saturday, American Express' local sequel to Black Friday, failed to change the situation for many business owners.
The Hoboken Chamber of Commerce launched a new ad campaign Friday in hopes of changing these downward trends.
"Heart Hoboken? Let's Keep the Charm."
That's the slogan that will appear on street signs, ads, and social media. The $10,000 "media blitz," as Chamber President Greg Dell'Aquila called it, will also feature commercials with "Cake Boss" Buddy Valastro and other local celebrities.
If that amount seems low, that's because many of the related services, including a public relations firm to get the word out, have been donated to the cause.
Dell'Aquila thinks Hoboken businesses suffered from a lack of promotion even before Hurricane Sandy. He hopes this will not only rouse them from this slump, but let shoppers know the city is open for business.
Joe Mindak of creative firm Tisha Creative helped design the campaign. He said he was inspired by the reaction he gets when people find out he lives in Hoboken.
But already one week into December, is it too late for an ad campaign to save the holidays for Hoboken businesses?
"It's late for the immediate relief, but we're putting a sustainable campaign out there," Mindak said.
"It took a lot of effort and a lot of collected minds to come up with a campaign that is not just for the holiday season, but will continue," said Dell'Aquila.
PATH service to Midtown Mahattan, including nearby Newport, will be suspended for the next two weekends in order to speed up full restoration, according to the Port Authority.
Cochrane said he's still optimistic, greeting customers by name as he pours over insurance forms in his office. The chain will be closed for Christmas Day when he says he will be counting his blessings with his family around him. But he also has this message:
"Go out of your way to support a local business."