Finding a slice of normalcy in New Jersey

Francolli’s Pizza in Toms River, N.J.

Francolli’s Pizza owner Lisa Murdoch has been tallying up her orders using a calculator.

The food processor that’s grinding 100 lbs. of mozzarella one chunk at a time.

Francolli’s Pizza's tiny generator.

More than one million homes and businesses are still without power in New Jersey. Many schools are closed, evacuation orders prevent people from returning home, and additional state troopers are being dispatched to discourage looting. There is no normal in New Jersey this week.

You can tell by walking into Francolli’s Pizza in Toms River, N.J. You hear things you typically don't. Like owner Lisa Murdoch punching her calculator to tally up a sale. The little relic of a food processor that’s grinding 100 lbs. of mozzarella one chunk at a time. And the tiny generator humming out behind the shop. It may be small, but it’s huge for Murdoch not because she has to open, but because she needs to.

"It actually makes me feel like I’m actually doing something," she says. "Instead of sitting home. What am I doing at home? Looking at the trees outside, you know."

This part of New Jersey is a mess. People have lost their homes. Trees and power lines are down. It’s hard to get gas. Police have started IDing people because there’s looting.

"I don’t even know how to explain it. It’s not even like the loss of the houses. It’s watching people in such despair," says Murdoch.

There’s not much the pizza shop owner can do to fix all that. But she can open her doors -- and people have started trickling in.

"Us being here, is like a sense of normalcy. Like, 'OK, I can’t get in my bed, because it’s soaking wet, but at least I can have my pizza.’ Like it sounds stupid, but it’s little. It’s like the little things," she says.

Customer Joe Mahan says it’s not stupid to him or his little girl. "So my daughter, before I left ‘are you getting the pizza from the pizza clock.’ And I said, ‘yes I am. It’s a comfort food. And that’s what people need right now is comfort," says Mahan.

Comfort provided by Murdoch and her tiny little generator.

About the author

Dan Gorenstein is the senior reporter for Marketplace’s Health Desk. You can follow him on Twitter @dmgorenstein.

Francolli’s Pizza owner Lisa Murdoch has been tallying up her orders using a calculator.

The food processor that’s grinding 100 lbs. of mozzarella one chunk at a time.

Francolli’s Pizza's tiny generator.

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