CANTON The Main Street reconstruction project is creating some hassles and headaches for downtown businesses, but many merchants say theyre weathering the upheaval better than expected, especially those with back-door entrances.
Heavy equipment, work crews and orange cones have dominated the downtown landscape since May, when the state Department of Transportation began its $9.55 million reconstruction project of a 1-mile stretch of Route 11, known as Main Street in the village.
With on-street parking no longer available, businesses have been directing customers to park behind their shops, where two municipal parking lots are available.
Marilyn I. Mintener, owner of the Pear Tree gift shop, 77 Main St., installed a newly painted sign so that people know her shop has a back entrance. When customers call ahead, she tells them the best way to reach her store based on where crews are working that day.
My loyal customers are still coming and finding places to park, Mrs. Mintener said. I think everybody is just doing the best they can.
She would like officials to install a sign at Judson and Court streets that would direct drivers to turn left for municipal parking. The lot closest to Court Street has both free and metered spots, while the parking lot between Hodskin Street and Riverside Drive is all free.
At the Blackbird Cafe, 107 Main St., business is down about 20 percent compared with last July, owner Katrina G. Hebb said.
Our lunch crowd has taken a hit more than dinner. Most of our traffic during the summer is lunch, and thats when the construction is going on, Mrs. Hebb said.
Several catering jobs are helping the eatery make up for the loss, and a 10 percent discount is being offered to construction workers.
Gregory H. Zimmer, store manager at Victory Promotions, 39 Main St., said many customers are calling ahead to see if his store is open and ask for advice about where to park.
Our walk-in traffic is definitely down compared to before construction, but were doing a lot of phone orders and communication through emails, Mr. Zimmer said. Were lucky we have a back-door entrance. Were trying to play that up.
Also, some orders are being delivered to customers. The store sells apparel for athletic teams and related accessories and has parking behind its building.
At Natures Storehouse, 21 Main St., signs on the storefront window let customers know parking is available behind the building, where there is also an entrance. A daily update on the construction project is sent to customers on the stores email list.
There are days when we are slower and it does seem related to the construction, but overall Ive been grateful that we havent seen a real drop in business, said Rainbow L. Crabtree, Natures Storehouse owner. Were doing our best to keep people informed about the best way to get to the store.
Ms. Crabtree said keeping a positive outlook also helps her cope with the turmoil outside her store.
Ive maintained a positive attitude from the beginning. I know this infrastructure work is important for Canton. It has to be done, she said.
The commotion on Main Street hasnt had a major impact at Sposa Bella, a formal dress shop at 81 Main St. that also has a rear entrance. The shop specializes in wedding gowns, tuxedo rentals and bridesmaid gowns.
Were a specialty clothing store and orders are prebooked months in advance, owner Michele R. Scanlin said. Were very fortunate it hasnt made a big difference for us, at least at this point.
The street work also hasnt hampered people from getting manicures, massages and other services at Glow, a spa at 75 Main St., owner Carmen J. Gendebien said.
Our clientele is used to calling and booking appointments, so weve been fine, Mrs. Gendebien said. A lot of people dont know that in the back we have free parking, so this has been a good time to educate them on that.
Catherine E. Mathews, director of the Canton Church & Community Program, 95 Main St., said the street work has made it difficult for her elderly and disabled clients to transport their food bags to their vehicles.
Some are avoiding coming to the food pantry because street parking is not available. Shopping carts are being used to take food to vehicles parked in the rear parking lot, she said.
It has made it harder. Were telling people to call us in advance, Ms. Mathews said.
A suggested detour for through traffic is expected to take effect during the first two weeks of August, according to Michael R. Flick, a spokesman for DOTs Watertown office. It will direct vehicles off Main Street to Route 310, State Street and Riverside Drive.
Bear in mind that the detour is available for all who wish to use it, but that Route 11 will remain in service, Mr. Flick said in an email.
Crews expect to start tearing up Main Street sidewalks at the end of August. Closure of the CSX rail crossing is scheduled for next summer.
During that six-week period, Main Street will be closed to traffic, Mr. Flick said.
More information on the project is available at: www.dot.ny.gov/cantonvillageproject