Gas line work hurts businesses

Published 9:52 am Wednesday, March 7, 2018

By Elizabeth Pattman

Staff writer

Downtown Smithfield business owners are facing the consequences as gas line work continues on Main Street.

At a committee meeting recently, Town Council member Milton Cook expressed concerns about businesses suffering due to the work along Main St. As a business owner on the 300 block of Main St., Cook said he has seen the difficulties the construction has caused for residents and tourists alike. 

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Because many of the shops and businesses downtown rely on tourism, particularly in the upcoming spring months, and because the construction is likely to turn them away from the downtown area, Cook foresees a decline in customers and thus in profits for these local business owners. {mprestriction ids=”1,2,3,4,5,6″}

According to Sheila Gwaltney, director of the Arts Center @ 319, January and February are usually slow months, but they are further seeing a difference in attendance because of access issues. Gwaltney said regular customers have been alerted of the construction as well as where to park, however the attendance losses have come from casual visitors downtown who don’t see how they can gain access due to the work. 

Next door, Finley’s General Store has noticed a downturn too.

“I even have regular customers who have said they wanted to get here and thought they couldn’t because of the work,” said Cheryl Finley Ketcham, owner of Finley’s General Store.  Ketcham said the store has had one-third of the business during the construction than they had at this time last year.

“It’s not easy,” said Christi Chatham, owner of Victoria’s Rose. “We’ve been through major construction before, but it’s even harder with the entire road closed as opposed to when it’s just down to one lane.”

Even for shops outside of the 300 block, such as Relics located at 237 Main St., business has slowed due to the work.

“It’s killing my business to the point where I don’t know how much longer we can exist,” said Relics’ owner Wendy Addison. “I completely understand that it is a necessary evil, but for a small business to withstand, it’s hard.”

Other businesses along the 200 block, who will soon be affected by the construction, similar sentiments were shared. According to Dorothy Bobonick, manager at the Smithfield Bakery and Café, many customers that are not locals have turned away from Main Street businesses. 

“It has certainly affected the amount of flow traffic,” she said. “Progress has its aches and pains, but we hope they get it done on time.”

Despite the decline in business, most of the owners agreed that the winter slow months were the best time to complete the work and expressed their desire for a speedy finish.  {/mprestriction}