Tuesday Jul 13 2010
Sutter Street businesses feel the pinch
By: Laura Newell Telegraph Staff Writer
Construction is expected to last through November
As construction continues in Folsom’s Historic District, businesses are feeling the pinch. The 600 and 700 blocks of Sutter Street have endured underground work resulting in closed streets, while the 800 and 900 blocks have undergone work and closed streets in past weeks. Electrical work will begin next, said Shannon Cheyne, Folsom Historic District Association director. “We are really striving to keep access to the Historic District open, and even when sidewalks are being torn out, there will always be entrances to our businesses,” Cheyne said. Guido’s Deli and Wine, located on the corner of Sutter and Reading streets, opted to close down a few days because of the excessive construction near the deli. “When all of the entrances are blocked, it has affected us. When the corner in front of us is blocked, there is no way in, so it’s just not worth it for us to stay open,” said Colleen Relei, Guido’s chef and owner. “Unless you are a local, and know the back roads, you don’t want to deal with construction.” She said she wished construction could have been spread out. “I know that they have tight deadlines, but it’s unfortunate because it’s affecting some businesses,” Relei said. “I’m totally for Teichert because they are fast and efficient, unfortunately they have to do what they have to do.” She has had to cut labor drastically and has missed a few food deliveries to the store. “I’m just having to work a little harder to make sales,” she said. Relei said that while sales are down about 50 percent in the store, she is successfully working harder to build up business with catering outside of the store. “I think there will be a big turnaround after construction. We just have to be patient,” Relei said. In the 800 block of Sutter Street, Sutter Street Grill has seen a 20 percent drop in sales this summer compared to this time last year. “It’s hard to pinpoint if it’s construction making us slow some days. We are down a little bit compared to last year, but we don’t know what is really affecting us. There are other things that could be affecting us such as the economy and the warm temperatures,” said Bebe Hubbard, Sutter Street Grill employee of 16 years. She said the low parking availability is the biggest problem for the restaurant’s elderly and handicap customers. “It’s a pain to park. Many of the elderly people can’t walk around and get up to us,” Hubbard said. “And we have to constantly wipe down and clean the outside seating because of excessive dirt.” She said people are also asking more often to sit inside on the weekdays during construction because of noise and dirt. During weekends, she said, everything goes back to normal when construction disappears. “Overall, we are still holding on. We are not getting rich, but we are making it,” Hubbard said. “When it’s all finished and it’s all pretty, people will want to see the ending results.” Businesses up the street are beginning to anticipate how construction will affect them. Dorothy Cormack and her husband, Jim Kelly, have owned Rainbow Bridge Jewelers for 33 years. The store is located in the 700 block of Sutter Street. “Business has gotten better. When the trees were first taken out, it looked like we were open for business, but I know that they have not taken out the sidewalks yet,” Cormack said. She said to ensure business stays steady for them, they are working to change their marketing strategies now before construction becomes heavier. “We are trying to do logical advertising, and trying to drive people to our website to buy online,” she said. She said weekdays are slower than weekends, and events like Second Saturday are really helping to bring customers into the store. Cheyne said the key is to remember that construction is almost over with an estimated four months left. “We all need to work together to help market our businesses,” Cheyne said. “The city has been very helpful in marketing for us.” She suggested that businesses could fit their hours around in the next few months to work around the construction. “Teichert is usually done around 6 p.m., so maybe some businesses can shift hours to stay open later,” she said. “Also, businesses should participate in events like Second Saturday and Thursday Night Markets on the street because we are bringing in thousands of people to our district, and it’s a great opportunity for sales.” Cheyne said merchants and visitors can expect to see new signage around the Historic District to help people get around construction work easier. Staff Writer Laura Newell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.