A construction project on Woodruff in Idaho Falls is blocking the main entrance for several businesses in the area. | Rett Nelson, EastIdahoNews.com
IDAHO FALLS — A major construction project at an Idaho Falls intersection is having a negative impact on businesses in the area.
Crews are about two months into a project on Woodruff Avenue and 17th Street that involves adding another lane, adding a right turn lane on each intersection and updating the waterline, curb, gutter, landscaping, and traffic signal. The project is slated for completion this fall, barring any supply chain issues or inclement weather.
RELATED | Major construction project set to begin soon at Woodruff Ave. and 17th St. in Idaho Falls
The main entrance for a strip on the east side of Woodruff has been blocked off since the project began and business owners have seen a significant decline in sales as a result.
Lorita Kahn, the manager at Gandolfo’s New York Deli at 1685 South Woodruff Avenue, tells EastIdahoNews.com there’s been a 30% decrease in business since construction started.
“We’ve slowed down quite a bit here because people don’t know that we’re open. There’s signs (about construction) clear out on 1st Street, 17th Street and all over town, so people are bypassing this area,” Kahn says.
The decline is focused primarily on in-store dining. Online sales and catering services are helping the restaurant to stay in operation.
“Our business has been booming the last couple of years, but now all of a sudden, we’re slowed down,” she says.
Left: A sign listing the businesses inside the strip next to the construction project. Right: The storefront for Gandolfo’s at 1685 South Woodruff Avenue. | Rett Nelson, EastIdahoNews.com
Lehi Playas, who owns Playas Barbershop adjacent to Gandolfo’s, says the construction has not affected him too much because customers are by appointment.
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But other businesses in that area, like Autozone, La fonda Mexican Buffet, and Austin Kade Academy on the other side of the intersection, have also experienced a decline in sales.
The business most significantly impacted by the construction is Red Clover Herbs & Market at 1655 South Woodruff Avenue next to the Mexican restaurant. Owner Liesl Vosika says sales are down about 90% in the last two months.
“Six months of this and — we can’t do this,” says Vosika. “At this rate, we’re not going to stay afloat. We’re losing money every day.”
Red Clover also has an online store, which Vosika says has struggled with traffic for years.
Under normal circumstances, Red Clover gets anywhere from 15 to 25 customers a day. It’s a high traffic area and a lot of people typically stop in while getting lunch at either of the restaurants.
“Our store is a little bit of a destination. We do have people that are trying and struggling to get in. I had one lady come in probably two days into this (construction project). She’s like, ‘I was driving up and down 17th and I couldn’t find any way to get to you. I almost gave up but I was so determined,’” says Vosika. “We have some great customers.”
Vosika and her husband faced similar struggles in 2020 during the COVID-19 shutdown. Though it was challenging, the couple weathered the storm and the business survived.
Just like COVID, Vosika says the construction project was unexpected and came with very little advanced notice.
“I think there was a notice given out in 2018 saying a construction project was coming in 2022. Then we didn’t hear anything (for a while),” she says. “There was a news article that said the city had talked to all the business owners (about it), and we were like, ‘They didn’t talk to us!’”
Entrance to the strip from 16th Street. | Rett Nelson, EastIdahoNews.com
In a February news release, Idaho Falls Public Works Director Chris Fredericksen explains contractors were unable to bid on the project last spring when the project was originally supposed to happen. There were various economic challenges and the project was delayed.
“We are pleased to be moving forward with the improvements this year,” Fredericksen says.
Still, with a 90% drop in business over the last two months, Vosika fears the shop will cease operation if the trend continues.
In a statement to EastIdahoNews.com, Public Works spokeswoman Kerry Hammon notes that while the main entrance is blocked, access to each of the businesses remains open on other streets.
Vosika and Kahn’s message to the community is that they’re still open for business and there are multiple ways customers can enter the strip. One entrance is through the parking lot on 17th Street by Autozone.
“That’s the main back way. You can come in off from 12th Street and over to Nixon and up to 16th Street, too,” says Kahn.
Customers can also enter on the east side by turning from 17th onto Riviera and taking a left on 16th Street. A third entrance is available on Woodruff by taking a left at the construction site onto 16th Street.
Public Works holds a project meeting every Wednesday at 10 a.m. behind Chevron on Woodruff and 17th. Impacted business owners are encouraged to attend and share concerns so they “can work on finding solutions together.”
This map shows where patrons can enter the strip during construction. | Alex Lemoing, EastIdahoNews.com
The post Multiple businesses see major decline in business due to road construction project appeared first on East Idaho News.
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