In the months after superstorm Sandy swept through Fire Island's communities, local business owners kept hearing the same thing from tourists who thought there would be no summer season.
"People were saying, 'I guess I'm not coming to Fire Island this summer because you guys are buried, right?' " said Ocean Beach Mayor James Mallott. "And we were like, 'No! We're here, we're working, we're trying to get this place back together.' "
It was from that widely circulated assumption that Revive Fire Island was born in January. Months later, the group -- created to inform seasonal tourists that Fire Island businesses would be open as usual this summer -- has 75 members from Kismet to Ocean Bay Park. They have raised $100,000, mostly in dues from the barrier island businesses, to promote its message.
"When you think about Long Island, you think about places like this, you think of Fire Island," said Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone during a news conference in Ocean Beach Friday to announce that local businesses have opened for the summer high season. "People understanding that Fire Island is back and open for business is critical for Suffolk County's economy and the region's economy."
The group of barrier island proprietors -- many of whom were contending with thousands of dollars in damage not covered by insurance -- chipped in as much as they could, up to a few thousand, said Jon Randazzo, owner of Castaway Bar and Grill and four other Ocean Beach eateries. And the Suffolk County IDA approved $20,000 in marketing funds for the group.
Scott Hirsch, owner of the Island Mermaid restaurant in Ocean Beach, said the mission is simple: "Let the public know we're here, we're open, we're ready for you."
But on Fire Island, where tensions run high between residential and commercial interests, the group's goal is also to be mindful of homeowners, many of whom are repairing their houses, said Patrick Macri, a Corneille Estates year-rounder whose public relations firm, Millenium Communications, headed up branding and marketing for Revive Fire Island.
"There really isn't a chamber of commerce on the island, and this is a seed of what could be," Macri said. "But I don't think everybody wants the business end to become such a dominant force . . . We hear that there is some concern -- and I think they're asking us to be respectful, and 'If you market, market responsibly.' "