In the three years Kelly Houck has owned and operated the Main Street Boutique on Adamson Square, she’s not seen a holiday season where there is such a low shopper turnout.
It’s not for lack of advertising. She’s engaged her customers through media, emails, and has numerous phone calls but the buyers aren’t coming through the doors.
“It’s a direct result of the road,” Houck said Friday. “Some people want products like the jewelry or pillows and other things made by Carroll County designers but they are not able to shop because of the road. I have several calls daily telling me they have circled the area multiple times but can’t find parking and the road is too confusing. They are out there for 10 minutes looking for spots but can’t park or go in and out so they leave. They say they have a limited time for a break and that’s it. Not a lot of merchants will speak (publicly) about it but we do talk with each other about it and many of us are noticing the drop in customers this year compared to other years.”
At least three other downtown Carrollton merchants agreed and one said the restaurants and nail salon aren’t as busy since work began at the confluence of Alabama, Maple and Presbyterian streets.
Last week City Engineer Tommy Holland said the project was a little behind schedule due to the winter storm that swept through the county. The project was originally earmarked to begin earlier in the year but was postponed after traffic studies and input from business owners.
Now Houck says she’s noticing a decline in shoppers and it’s been evident since Thanksgiving.
“We’re not competing with the big stores because our products are unique,” she said. “People enjoy coming in and seeing what we offer. But since the roadwork began we have continued to see fewer people. It was bad timing with the holidays. Yes, we have a long weekend with Christmas but we’ve also lost a weekend with the weather. I do hope this can be addressed soon so customers can come back. It’s just not the right time.”
James Gross, owner of La Trattoria restaurant on Alabama Street near the construction, said he has not seen a decline though he has spoken with some business owners who share Houck’s sentiments. Gross has been very vocal about the city doing something to improve the safety of the intersection.
“The road work has not impacted us at all,” he said Saturday. “In fact, my sales are actually up a little bit. I do a comparable from year to year and we’ve been on the increase every year and I have not experienced any kind of decline as a result of this.”
Gross said there was a slight decrease in customers when the construction first began but business picked back up afterward. He said once the pedestrian crossing is complete, he’ll see how well it flows for that portion.
“The pedestrian crossing is still quite awkward for a lot of people and being right there on the corner and watching people come out of the deck it’s very easy to see it,” said Gross. “But the overall traffic flow is already improved in my mind at the intersection of Maple Street between Alabama and United Community Bank. The traffic going toward the college has almost disappeared and that used to be the high speed area that was unbearable to cross. I walk over to the bank a couple of times a week and cars would come off of Alabama Street onto Maple Street like they were in a race and so it has improved safety there 100 percent. That was my objective to improve safety and traffic flow. I wanted that corner safer and for traffic to flow better.”