Village Businesses Deal With Summer Construction
LAKEWOOD — Business owners along a bustling road in the heart of the village are finding ways to deal with summer construction.
Bob Lingle, owner of Off the Beaten Path Bookstore, which moved to its Chautauqua Avenue location last summer, has noticed some changes in the amount of customers coming into his store.
“We were busier before the construction,” Lingle said. “The first day that it started — when they were tearing up the road — was the slowest day we had since moving, because no one could get down the street.”
As the construction has moved up the street closer to his storefront, business has slowed down for Lingle.
“It was focused on Chautauqua and Summit, and now it’s been working its way up,” Lingle said. “Now it’s pretty much right in front of our store. We haven’t been open long today (Wednesday), but we haven’t had any customers yet, and normally we would’ve.”
Lingle said those who have planned to come to the store are “still finding ways to get to the store,” but does believe foot traffic has slowed as a result of the construction because the street is “not very inviting.”
“If people aren’t familiar with the area or what’s going on, we’re probably losing out on what would normally be coming in,” Lingle said.
One way Lingle has handled some of the setbacks of construction is maintaining a strong online presence with his customers.
“We’re being very active in giving people updates through social media with status updates on the street, and navigating people where they can park,” Lingle said.
In general, Lingle is a “big champion for the project,” he said. He believes the long-term result of the project makes up for any short-term decrease in business.
“I think this temporary headache is worth it,” Lingle said. “It’s going to make the street look beautiful. I think sharing images of what our street looks like (when it’s finished) will make it very inviting for not only the out of town traffic, but will give people around the county a reason to take a little trip into Lakewood.”
Sam Whitmore, owner of Bag and String Wine Merchants, also discussed the impacts of construction on business.
“I’m down for the month compared to last year, but I’m not 100% sure if it’s the construction or just a drop because of the COVID thing,” Whitmore said.
Like Off the Beaten Path, Whitmore offers delivery and an online pickup, which has helped combat some of the declines in business.
“Luckily though, we offer curbside pick-up, local delivery and we do a lot online business, so that certainly has helped,” Whitmore said. “Our foot traffic is definitely way down, just because people assume they can’t get to the store. A lot of people just give up because of the hassle of trying to figure out where to park or where they can go.”
Whitmore is looking forward to the completion of the project.
“It’s going to be beautiful when it’s done,” Whitmore said. “I recognize it’s a short-term pain for a long-term gain. It’ll definitely be great and it’s going to have a small, but positive impact on the lake. It’s definitely going to be a lot more attractive than what it was previously.”
He is convinced that once the project is complete, it will have a positive impact on business.
“We have what I call local tourists that come to visit by boat or by car that walk up and down the streets,” Whitmore said. “I think it will positively impact property values on the avenue, and it would probably help attract more businesses once it’s finished.”
He is confused on some of the timing for the project, however. Originally, Whitmore said he was told one block at a time would be torn up and paved.
“I think they we’re supposed to be 90% complete in July, and that’s definitely not going to happen,” Whitmore said. “I don’t know if the contractor over-committed on what they could deliver, or what happened.”
Whitmore is concerned that construction will take over his total summer season.
“It didn’t seem like (the contractors) really took much in the way of consideration for the merchants in terms of blocking streets,” Whitmore said. “That’s a frustration … (but) I’m someone that’s all for the project.”
Kim Carlson, owner of Pea Pod & Juniper, thinks the construction hasn’t necessarily impacted her business because, “people can still get to the businesses they want to get to,” she said.
Like other Chautauqua Avenue business owners, Carlson is looking forward to the completed project.
“(The project) will add to the beauty of Lakewood,” Carlson said. “It will most definitely have a positive impact on the business. I think that Lakewood is one of our areas hidden gems.”
Although her bottom line hasn’t been impacted, she believes there is still confusion with potential customers about the status of the shop.
“Some people have thought that all of Chautauqua Avenue is closed,” Carlson said. “That’s not the case, at all. You can really get to where you want to be. It sometimes look like you can’t go any further, but you can.”
Some of that confusion stems from the sign on Chautauqua Avenue saying “road closed, local traffic only.”
John Straight, operator of Straight Fermentations, looks at the project with a little more skepticism.
“I don’t know how it’s going to improve the quality of the lake,” Straight said. “All I know is it’s becoming very disruptive to my business. The past month and a half, my business has dropped ridiculously.”
Straight said he attended a meeting two years ago and addressed his concern regarding customer access to his business, and he was assured that it wouldn’t be an issue. Now, it’s most certainly been an issue for Straight.
He does believe the project will have a positive impact on the village, but his concerns are with what is happening to his business now.
“Once it’s complete, yes, with the new trees and everything, sure,” Straight said when asked if it will have a positive impact. “Some day it’s going to be more attractive and desirable, but whether or not I can hang in here long enough to see it or not — that’s the question.”
Straight said he was a fan of the street the way it was, and questions whether remodeling it was necessary.
“I came here four years ago and was impressed with the looks of this little downtown village area,” Straight said. “I personally wasn’t excited about remodeling. I question just how much it’s going to help the lake.”
Stephanie Lowery, daughter of Gifts of Grace owner Colleen, said the project will have a positive effect on downtown Lakewood once it’s completed and also positively impact the business. She has, however noticed a small drop-off in business.
“I can see a small decrease in customers since they started, but we’re in the same building in Ryder’s Cup, so a lot of our shoppers come for the coffee and then come over here to shop,” Lowery said.
Lowery believes the location of her business has been helpful throughout construction.
“I think it’s helped that we’re where we’re at and not right at the intersection,” Lowery said. “I can’t imagine how it would be up in the intersection where it’s really bad right now with the construction.”
Lowery said she has had a few phone calls asking whether the shop was open through the construction.
The Green Street Retrofit project aims at installing porous pavers to improve stormwater drainage and installing storm water trees alongside the sidewalk. Construction on the project began in April, and has a projected completion date of Aug. 14.