MOUNT VERNON — In the aftermath of last week’s fire at the former Kresge building and with the structure being fenced off until a decision is made about what to do with it, many downtown businesses are reporting poor business returns with the normal flow of people not coming into their places of business.
Videos, stories and photos pretaining to the fire of 201 South Main Street in Mount Vernon Ohio on October 25, 2010.
“Business has been terrible all this past week,” said Charles Hunnicut, owner of Hunnicut’s Jewelry and Repair. “Business is down about 90 percent because people don’t want to park blocks away and walk in.”
Having not heard any word yet on when Main Street may be opened or when a decision will be made on what to do with the old Kresge building, “Nobody has contacted me for anything; I don’t think they’re being very neighborly,” said Hunnicut. “I’m not really happy on how it is being handled.”
“We’ve received a ‘double whammy,’” said Patty Harrell, owner of Bead Therapy. Traffic is reportedly not coming into her business with the road being closed, plus there is now construction going on next door at Mount Vernon Nazarene University’s nursing center. “It’s noisy and messy,” said Harrell, who said there was excessive noise coming from a generator and debris flying around from their construction. The business is scheduled to close later this month, but Harrell admitted “this is very disappointing. Business is dreadfully miserable.”
Harrell did receive some unexpected extra business on Wednesday when women were stopping in who were on the Ohio Amish Country Quilt Shop Hop. Sharon and Sandy Robinson, from Coshocton, said the tour was taking them to different business stops in Mount Vernon, Coshocton, Ashland, Wadsworth, Akron, Kidron and the Berlin area.
Dave Frase, owner of Y Not Cycling and Fitness, claimed business has been way down, admitting he has had maybe three or four visitors each day for the past week. “We actually had no sales last week. It’s sad,” said Frase. “It’s hard for people to park and then walk in. I hope they do something soon. I don’t know why they don’t put in a turn lane and allow drivers to turn onto Gambier Street.”
“It’s hard to judge with the economy being down,” said Richard Mierzejewski, owner of Gospel Supply Shop. “I haven’t seen a huge difference in our business, but we have had a lot of calls wanting to know if we’re open.” Mierzejewski added that the signs posted at intersections leading into downtown are a bit confusing. “The sign up here says ‘Road Closed,’ but you’re still able to drive down here and park,” he said.
Open now for just five weeks, Bayleaf Indian Bistro is “not doing very well,” according to owner Rakesh Kapil. “It was much better before, but now we’re down about 70 percent,” said Kapil. “It’s not very convenient for customers to park,” adding that he also has not been contacted with information regarding what is being done to open up the downtown streets.
The aftermath of last week’s fire “has affected us a little bit,” said Teresa Buena, co-owner of LaPaloma Restaurant. “We’ve had some good days, but overall it’s still not great.” Buena added they are grateful to representatives of COTC. “They are allowing us and others to use their parking lot,” said Buena. “But a lot of people still don’t know where to park. And the signs at the intersections are confusing. People see these and are afraid they might get a ticket if they park downtown.”
The city opened South Main Street down to Gambier Street this morning. Southbound traffic on South Main Street will have access to East Gambier Street only. West Gambier Street between Main and Mulberry streets remains closed.
At the corner of Gay and Gambier streets, a large sign in the middle of the road facing west states “Road Closed,” even though cars are allowed to park along Gambier Street west toward Main Street. Along the south sidewalk at the intersection is a much smaller sign stating “Downtown Businesses Open.”
At the South Main Street and Ohio Avenue intersection, a sign reads “Local Traffic Only” with the same small sign off to the side stating “Downtown Businesses Open.” Traffic is allowed to drive in as far as the Root Art Center and the MVNU Buchwald Center. There are 12 parking spaces available on that block.
Parking lots are open to the rear of the west side of the 100 block of Main Street behind Herald’s Appliances and the 200 block behind the Buchwald Center and former Kresge building.
While the downtown business owners are anxious for the streets to be opened, Kresge building owner John Montenery told the News he is working on getting the situation resolved.
“We’re talking with the insurance company, and they want a controlled demolition, which should take a while,” said Montenery. “The city wants the building torn down now, but it’s between the insurance company, a demolition company and the Environmental Protection Agency who is also involved. We’re getting estimates on the project, which we should be able to present to the insurance company by Friday. We’ll see what they propose then.”
Until then, downtown business owners tell the News it is business as usual.
Efforts were being made as early as this morning to improve the downtown traffic flow.
“Our biggest concern is to get Main Street open,” said Mount Vernon Safety-Service Director Dave Glass. “But we can’t open it until [the Kresge building] is safe. If they choose to demolish the building, the east side will be done first to get Main Street open.”
Street crews were to be out today changing some of the signage at intersections and moving the orange snow fence to open up the traffic flow.
“The signs will now all say ‘Local Traffic Only,’” said Glass. “We’re also moving the snow fence at Main and Gambier streets to a diagonal position so that traffic going south on Main Street can turn left onto East Gambier, and traffic going west on Gambier can turn right onto South Main.
“We’re also opening the sidewalk on the north side of West Gambier just off of Main Street,” said Glass. “This is probably all we can do for now.”