GRAFTON — Businesses are beginning to feel the pinch from the state Route 57 widening project.
On July 12, Route 57 was limited to one-lane, one-way traffic from Barrington Drive to the railroad tracks near Erie Street as crews put up orange road construction barrels.
But business owners along the stretch are scrambling to let customers know they are open and encouraging people not to let an inability to travel north deter them from patronizing local establishments.
China House, 411 N. Main St., has a large “Open” sign out front but owner Xia Lin estimates her sales are already down 30 percent to 50 percent.
“It’s very bad,” Lin said. “So many businesses all say the same thing. Many customers drive 57.”
Across the street at Nancy’s Diner, 426 N. Main St., owner Denise Shutek expressed the same sentiment.
“We’re suffering,” Shutek said. “We’re trying to work with the village, and we all had the understanding the village was going to work with the businesses. I don’t really feel as though that’s coming to light.”
Shutek said her main concern is that larger signs be placed at the city limits informing drivers that the road and businesses are still open. Village administrator Alyson Moritz admitted there were complaints when work began because signs said “Road Closed.” She said signs were changed and plans are in the works to put out even larger signs to let people know the village’s Main Street is still open for business.
“I just talked to representatives from ODOT, and we are going to be able to change some of the signs coming into the village,” she said. “A lot of business owners did take issue with the road-closed signs because they felt that was detouring customers around their business.”
Moritz said the road will remain one-way until November.
“We need to have two-way traffic back open this fall,” Moritz said. “Keeping one-way traffic through winter and next spring is not an option. Our businesses can’t sustain that kind of closure for that long.”
Rich Guyeska, owner of Protech Automotive and Bullseye Firearms, 788 Main St., said he brought the sign issue to light at a recent Village Council meeting, and he hopes the administration acts fast to get more “open” signs out. But he also said it is up to business owners to do what they can to draw customers in.
“I have adapted and taken on some contracts I normally wouldn’t do on the automotive end to keep me going,” he said. “On the gun end, we are running a lot of collector and Internet sales, just doing what we can. Owners need to adapt, run sales and advertise. If you just sit back and hope it’s going to work for you, it’s probably not going to happen.”
The Unicorn Restaurant and Pub, 423 N. Main St., owned by Mayor Megan Flanigan’s family, is one of those businesses getting creative in an attempt to draw people. Manager Kevin Hastings said lunch sales are definitely down but dinner is holding steady.
On Thursday night, the establishment held its first “Orange Barrel Party” with specials and live music by Irish performers Brigid’s Cross.
Hastings said there will be another “Orange Barrel Party” in August in an attempt to keep sales steady. He said The Unicorn is fortunate because they are a well-established business with a widespread customer base.
“We’re trying to make a good situation out of a bad,” Hastings said. “The big thing out here is we’ve got to support each other.”
Guyeska echoed Hastings’ sentiments, saying Grafton residents should continue to buy locally.
“I drive an alternate route every morning so I can still get my coffee in town,” Guyeska said. “It’s a slight inconvenience, an extra five minutes, but if it keeps the money in town, it’s worth it.”
The $4.62 million project, 80 percent of which is funded with federal dollars, includes widening the 1.25-mile stretch to include a turning lane, adding new water and sewer lines, storm drains, curbs and sidewalks on both sides of the road.
Twinsburg-based Shelly Company is the general contractor overseeing the project, Moritz said.