Business owners know construction necessary

Published 3:46 pm Wednesday, June 2, 2004

By By JAMES COLLINS / Niles Daily Star
NILES -- While many downtown business owners near the combined sewer overflow construction project are experiencing a decrease in customers, they also realize that the project is something that had to be done.
When construction began on Front Street last month, Riverfront Cafe co-owner Tammy Watson said the restaurant went through their worst two weeks of business since opening last year.
She said the main issue affecting downtown businesses this summer is the convenience and accessibility of parking.
With Front and Sycamore under heavy construction at one point, Watson said it was unclear to customers where they were expected to park.
She said business remains good when they have special events like live music, but it is the casual, impulse customers that they are losing out on because of the inconveniences created by the construction.
With the streetscape project getting underway on Front Street soon, Watson would like to see a better system of signs to direct people to alternate/available parking spaces.
Steve Smith, owner of Finders Keepers and two other downtown Niles buildings, has also seen a decline in customers, but he also realizes that it is just a temporary inconvenience.
He said the sidewalks and business entrances have been fully accessible throughout the project, but thinks the inconveniences associated with traffic and parking may be what is causing the decrease in business.
Diane Follmer, who owns Diane's Antiques, Collectibles and Junk located below Finders Keepers, said this is is one of the slowest periods of business that she can remember during this time of the year.
And with summer being the busy season for antique stores, she is hoping to see an end to the construction as soon as possible.
Niles residents Denver Bartley and Dora Gross think it is easier to avoid the downtown streets all together.
On Tuesday afternoon, they took advantage of the clear sidewalks along 2nd Street as they hauled a load of groceries from Save-A-Lot back home to Four Flags Plaza.
Buchanan resident C.J. Batterson said it has been a little more challenging to get around downtown Niles, but that won't stop her from making her regular trips to Express Press, located at the corner of 2nd and Main Streets.
Though business may be taking a hit because of the construction, Smith is optimistic about all of the changes happening to the downtown area.