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Road to Recovery

May 3, 2013

Businesses such as Mike Swaney’s Buick, GMC car dealership are feeling the pinch of the East Auglaize Street reconstruction project but they are making due. They are working hard to attract customers to their lot by the side streets. Other business such as The Herb Ladies, and the Wapakoneta Antique Mall that are not directly connected to the construction but are nearby are also working to attract and maintain their customer base.

While the impact seems to vary from store to store, business owners whose shops are located near the roadwork on East Auglaize Street reported their sales have been negatively affected.

The effect on business sales were described anywhere from mild to major, owners said, depending on the location of the shops in relation to the construction.

The Herb Ladies co-owner Treasa Vetrick said business has been cut as much as 50 percent since the road construction began.

“It hasn’t helped that we recently changed locations,” Vetrick said, “but with the construction going on out front, we are down half.”

The $2.3 million East Auglaize Street project is a full-depth reconstruction of the street from the CSX railroad tracks to Wood Street.

Vetrick said much of the problem has been with signage.

While the closed sign is blocking traffic, access can be gained to The Herb Ladies from Broadway Street. It is located in the rear of the building that houses Headline Styling Salon.

“A lot of people are unaware that Broadway is even a street,” Vetrick said.

Vetrick said the store has placed direction signs hooked to the barricade sign helping instruct people where to go to get to the business. She said the store has cut down on the amount of items it keeps in stock.

“We currently do not have any other plans of what to do,” Vetrick said. “There is not a lot we can do.”

Mike Swaney, of Mike Swaney Buick GMC Truck Inc., said business is down slightly, but it hasn’t had the impact he thought it would.

“To tell you the truth, I thought it would be a lot worse,” Swaney said. “It has had a small effect. We reduced prices on some used vehicles and it has helped increase traffic.

“The contractor has been very cooperative in keeping it as accessible as possible,” he said. “Everyone involved has been as helpful as possible.”

Swaney estimated sales were down about 20 percent since road work began.

Swaney said he would be happy when the work was all finished and believes it will look much nicer.

Signage at intersections of north-south streets along East Pearl Street help to direct customer traffic to his new and used car lots. The easiest street to access the lot is Seltzer Street.

Auglaize Antique Mall owner Jack Lambert said other events going on have been the only thing that have kept his business from taking a heavy hit.

“There have been a lot of auctions at the fairgrounds and we have been getting a lot of people coming from there,” Lambert said. “We have had some pretty good days and some pretty bad days. There has been enough going on around us to keep it from being as bad as it could have.

Lambert said the biggest hit has been because of accessibility from Interstate 75.

“We rely a lot on billboards on the highway,” Lambert said. “About 75 percent of our business comes off of the highway.”

Wapakoneta Area Chamber of Commerce Director Dan Graf, who serves as a city councilor-at-large and is chair of the Streets, Alleys and Sidewalks Committee, said officials met with the city Engineering Department personnel earlier this week and have now put a better detour in place to help the businesses.

“We put up some new signs that take traffic north on Park Street up to Auglaize Street,” Graf said. “One concern was that people were going on Water Street up to Harrison Street turning west on Harrison Street and going on up to Blackhoof Street and bypassing the businesses.

“We took the proactive approach and we hope this will help alleviate that,” he said.

Graf said a computerized map, a PDF or post-script file, is available to direct traffic off of I-75.

 The map also has been emailed to all businesses in the construction area so they can post it on online business websites.

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