Businesses reflect on how the Streetscape project affected them, return of customers

Jennifer Eisenbeis, Breaking News Editor

During the beginning of April, the project began. Although the goal of the Streetscape project was to improve the road, look, and safety of Fenton’s downtown district, the time during construction and road repaving brought a time of many road closures around the downtown district and a time where less people and less money came into the businesses.

“It [the Streetscape project] hurt our local business,” manager of Yesterday’s Treasures Stacy Mielcarek said. “There’s been a drastic drop [in customers]. We get people from Rochester and Livonia, who never really come here [to Fenton] that often, they were confused because of the construction.”

However, the companies in charge of construction have helped make events easier for people to access, and also were understanding of the business owners concerns about their lack of customers.

“The engineers and contractors of the construction, Champagne Marks and OHM have been really accommodating,” Mielcarek said. “There was an art walk and it was dusty, so for the next event, they hosed down the streets with water, they also understood the plight of not getting a paycheck.”

Champagne Marks was the contractor for the construction. They planned their construction around the events, and were prepared for any event that happened during the summer.

At the start of the project, we met with the city manager and he gave us a calendar with all of the summer events that were already planned,” Estimator of Champagne & Marx Jeff Riley said.  “Throughout the project, we met with the city on a weekly basis to  discuss our current week’s activities along with upcoming events. We would have to plan our work activities around these events. Usually on Friday afternoon, we would clean up the area the best we could to allow for the weekend activities to proceed without too much inconvenience.”

They also did many things to keep business coming along while the construction was going on, the businesses also knew that the construction would only be temporary and be done by winter, at the latest.

“We placed a sign outside the construction limits,” Riley said. “The sign read, ‘All Local Businesses open during construction.’ Most of the stores on Leroy and Shiawassee Street had a back entrance into their building. This allowed their customers to access the businesses during the time we were in front of the their business. We also placed asphalt millings in front of the stores as temporary sidewalks.The business owners were understanding that this work had to be done and this would create a temporary inconvenience.”

Now that construction is over, and the roads are reopened to traffic, Mielcarek believes that business will pick up with the events,like Ladies Night, a night where women come to downtown Fenton where they can enter contests to win prizes from the businesses, receive discounts on items in the stores, and shop with their friends and other ladies, that occur in downtown Fenton.

“Ladies Night last week helped business,” Mielcarek said. “I think that next year when spring hits and Art in the Parks come in and people see the sidewalks and stuff they’ll come back, and more people will know it’s over.”

Mielcarek also believes that other businesses help bring people into her store as well.

“We’ve got the Rough Draft and Firehall,” Mielcarek said. “These restaurants have really brought people in, while people wait, they will come to the other businesses and shop. It’s been a big change and the restaurants have helped a lot.”

With the new paved road, widened sidewalks, and new parking spaces, the end of the Streetscape project not only gives downtown Fenton a new look, but it also gives businesses a chance to start fresh and start a new chapter in their business’s life.