Main Street Retail Emerges From the Dust

By Ron Rose

Remembrance of things past; life was a challenge for Main Street business owners during construction. Photo credit: Ron Rose

Remembrance of things past; life was a challenge for Main Street business owners during construction.
Photo credit: Ron Rose

When residents first learned that Main Street would be under construction for two years, one of their concerns was the potential impact the work would have on businesses along the street.

Store owners themselves were worried. With traffic reduced to only one way southbound, the temporary removal of parking and general construction chaos, many thought clients wouldn’t go to the trouble of figuring out detours and finding a place to park. They would simply take their business elsewhere.

Some businesses closed, due in part to construction and parking problems. Others saw an almost total drop in visits from passing motorists.

However, now that traffic has almost returned to normal, it appears that most stores have survived.

Their success was a combination of proactive measures, cooperation of city staff and customer loyalty.

Once they knew how bad construction would get, the more successful businesses quickly made sure their regular clients knew they were still open for business. They updated them on detours and the best routes to take. They used e-mail and social media and posted welcoming signs in their windows.

Many posted regular traffic updates on their websites. Staff took extra time with phone enquiries, assuring callers their store was open, providing advice on how to get to the store and where to park once they arrived.

Store owners also reported that city staff and contractors were extremely helpful during the two construction seasons. The city posted signs at key gateways to the community advising motorists that Main Street stores were open for business. Members of the business community participated in the four public open houses and 21 meetings of the Main Street Working Group. They also benefited from eight meetings the city organized specifically with the business community.

The city designated one person to act as a community liaison. That person was always available to address questions or concerns raised by residents and store owners. The city published 36 bi-weekly construction newsletters, highlighting imminent activities.

Most store owners also credited customer loyalty for their survival. One said her clients were, “crazy faithful”. They made special arrangements to come to the store at a different time or on a different day. All of her regular clients have come back since the street reopened.

“I have the best clients ever,” she said.

All store owners went out of their way to thank clients when they did show up. One even hugged a customer who had had a particularly difficult time getting to the store.

While results were mixed along the street, the stores near the Main-Hazel intersection seemed to have emerged in good shape. One reason was location. Being close to Hazel Street, which was always open, allowed constant access to businesses both north and south of the intersection.

Another reason was the possibility of hassle-free parking in the lot beside 202 Main St. Stores at this location were also more established than others. They had a solid client base.

Main Street stores are starting to see an increase in business since the street reopened to two-way traffic late last year. Owners are optimistic that the new improved street will lead to a better customer experience. They are looking forward to the future with confidence.

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Filed in: Business Beat, Main Street Renewal Tags: ,

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