Construction ‘killing’ business in downtown
By Kristen Swing
A months-long replacement of power and water lines in conjunction with a sidewalk expansion project have downtown business owners short on customers -- and patience.
“I’m 100 percent for the construction that is going on downtown. But 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., that’s the only time downtown that the merchants have to make a living,” said Jeff Gurley, owner of the Lollipop Shop on Main Street, while speaking to members of the Board of Mayor and Aldermen at their July 9 meeting. “There are times when the road is closed that it’s a ghost town. There are times when it is loud and it is dusty.
“It would be beneficial if the obtrusive work -- the sidewalk work where they are cutting bricks, the dust is flying and it’s loud -- could be done earlier or after 5 o’clock.”
Marty Glasgow, owner of Gracious Designs, asked members of the BMA for their help, citing their track record of coming up with “some really progressive ideas.”
“For six months my business has been down anywhere from 35 to 70 percent. I can’t lose that amount of money every month,” Glasgow said. “I don’t want to leave Jonesborough, but I don’t have pockets that deep. I can’t go another three months — I can’t — and lose that much money.”
Glasgow asked the BMA to come up with a solution, saying the downtown construction is “killing my business.”
“I want it to go faster, but I don’t want it to interrupt my business all day, every day,” she said. “No matter where they are working (along the street), they are parking (construction vehicles) in front of my store.”
Trish St. Jean, owner of the Old Sweet Shop, said the construction project has “destroyed my business,” too.
“I’m throwing out food because there’s no customers,” she said. “I would like to see (construction) maybe stop for the summer and do it in September. That’s the deadest month.” But Town Operations Manager Craig Ford says halting the project is the worst idea yet.
“We stopped work during Jonesborough Days at the merchants’ request. It was the third work stoppage since Mother’s Day,” he said. “Any time you stop work, you are just adding another week to the project on the back end. It’s not going to go away. It needs to be completed. I see no reason at this point to stop what we’re doing and prolong this project.”
Ford also warned against moving the work to nighttime hours.
“If you want to make this a graveyard shift job, you’ve got a lot of people living in apartments above those businesses who are going to complain that we’re keeping them awake all night,” he said. “I’m recommending we plow ahead and try to get to the other end of the courthouse by the end of the month.”
Crews are currently working to expand the sidewalk across from the downtown courthouse. They have already done sidewalk repairs at the corner of Boone and Main streets.
Town leaders planned to meet with merchants at some point this week to discuss possible solutions to the construction issues.