Downtown merchants feel impacts of Olympic Avenue construction
August 27, 2008 · Updated 4:52 PM
ARLINGTON Businesses throughout the citys downtown have felt the presence of the North Olympic Avenue Reconstruction Project, which Strider Construction started work on April 23, but merchants continued to express optimism for the future.
Laura Mills, owner of Shear Salon on Fifth Street, is close enough to the construction zone that the street almost directly in front of her store has been torn up and fenced off, but she credited the consistency in her business so far to the loyalty of her customers and a bit of extra effort on her part.
I put up signs designating parking spaces for our shops customers in the back lot, said Mills, whos been trimming hair in town for more than three years. Ive given out my cell phone number to them and tried to stay in contact with them, to let them know about all the phases of this project.
Mills described herself as excited by the business opportunities that construction could bring, while doubting that she would see any significant drop in her own business.
Im sure Ill still be here, Mills said. I hope this will bring the community together. Theres a lot of potential for fresh vision here.
Jim Smith, owner of Arlington Computer on Fifth Street, shared Mills relatively sunny outlook, even as he acknowledged that traffic around his own store has been affected.
Because theres that big sign in front of our section of Fifth Street, some people think that section of Fifth Street is all closed, rather than just Olympic Avenue, Smith said. So, we do have vehicles buzzing through the parking lot in front of our shop instead. Its not the citys fault, though.
Smith expressed confidence about his own business prospects, even as he voiced his concerns about his fellow merchants.
Id imagine some of them might not survive, Smith said. I hope this does a lot to draw people to downtown Arlington, though. Id love it if this could go as well for us as it did for La Conner. Theyre way more out of the way than us, but theyve become a destination.
South of the construction zone on Olympic Avenue, Two Bits and More owner Dawn Ambler has already fielded questions from her own vendors about the progress of the project, although she doesnt anticipate as much of a decline in her business, since shes only open on weekends.
Bruce Bruch, owner of Broosters Cafe on Olympic Avenue, is likewise outside of the current construction zone, but hes already evaluated the impact of construction on his business.
Lunch has been slower, but thats to be expected, Bruch said. I do expect a decrease in customers over the long haul. Those fences are intimidating. Well put a sign out on our back door once the construction gets here but, hopefully, theyll get most of the bugs worked out before it gets here so it can go quicker for us.
Although Bruch conceded that his business has slowed since construction started, he attributed the decline so far to several contributing factors such as the rising price of gas.
Its not like I can say, Olympic Avenue is killing me, because its not, said Bruch, whos received a number of to-go orders from construction crews. It needs to be done, so theyve got to get it done.
Taylor Jones, manager of Arlington Hardware, was similarly hesitant to speak ill of the street projects affect on his business.
Its hard to say whether its the construction or the weather weve been having, Jones said. Its been spring mixed with hail. We do appreciate our customers for taking the time to come here, as well as Strider Construction whose workers have come in early and stayed late. Ive left here at 6 p.m. and seen them still going strong. Rumor has it theyre even ahead of schedule, so you cant beat that. I cant wait until its finished, but so far, so good.