The recession may be almost over, but construction on Meridian Ave. East through Edgewood and Milton isn’t.
Washington State Department of Transportation began work to widen the highway in September 2011, and, since then, sales have been down at a number of businesses along the stretch, including Poverty Bay Coffee Co., where sales are down more than 50 percent.
“People can’t see us. They just go somewhere else,” said Kirsten Grant, one of the owners of Poverty Bay Coffee and the manager of the company’s drive-thru stand in Edgewood.
Grant said sales have been down since construction on Meridian Ave. E. started, and, if it wasn’t for the success the company has seen at its roasting plant in Auburn and its recently expanded cafe in Federal Way, the stand might not be open.
“It’s going to take a long time to get that money back. We’re just hanging in there because we are able to as a company,” Grant said. “We’ve considered just walking away.”
With the economy recovering, Grant said many of her customers were just starting to come back to the stand, where sales dropped 20 to 25 percent during recession. That decline, though, pales in comparison to what she’s seeing now.
Grant and her partners were hoping to invest in their Edgewood location, as they did with their Federal Way cafe, but now that’s out of the question.
While they ride out the roadwork, Grant has talked her landlord down to a percentage of her stand’s sales, which has saved her about $400 or $500 per month.
One of her neighbors, though, wasn’t so lucky.
“Joe’s Java, they had been around as long as we had,” Grant said.” They’ve been gone since they started digging the road up over there.”
Business slow to brew at Java Junkie
Bill Crawford, owner of Java Junkie, also in Edgewood, says he’s glad he kept his day job.
Like Poverty Bay Coffee’s stand, business at his drive-thru at 2425 Meridian Ave. E. has been hurting since construction began.
“When they first started construction we saw an impact,” Crawford said, who works full-time as a milkman for Springbrook Farms. “Every year, it’s down a little more.”
At first, it was about 10 percent, but, this year, Crawford said he’s down 15 percent to 20 percent every day.
“This year, they were literally in front of me,” Crawford said. “They turned my power off twice. I don’t know how many times my Internet has been down. It’s been one issue after another. That’s why I keep my full time job.”
The most significant impact was earlier this year, when crews were working on the section of road in front of the stand, said Crawford.
He said the worst of it seems to be over, though.
“We have started to see some rebound since they’re not directly in front of me. The rebound hasn’t brought us back,” Crawford said.
Crawford knows he isn’t alone, but said a business like his is more vulnerable.
“I’d say everybody is impacted to some degree or another,” he said. “There’s no reason someone has to come to Java Junkies – there are three other stands around here – so I think it impacts me more than anyone else.”
Local eateries also impacted
The construction has also made lunchtime traffic noticeably slower at Ranchito Mexican Restaurant, located at the corner of Meridian Ave. E. and 8th St. E. in Milton.
Sales are down about 20 percent overall and more than 50 percent during lunch hours, said server Ramon Pena.
“A lot of people don’t want to come and have the hassle,” Pena said. “A lot of people don’t want to face the construction.”
The work is also slowing sales at Oliver’s Sandwiches, which is located in the same plaza as Ranchito.
Owner Matthew Nguyen said business is down about 10 percent, but noted it isn’t as significant as it could be.
“If it was a slow economy, our sales would be down 25 percent,” Nguyen said. “If there was no construction at all, we’d either stay the same or have a little increase.”
Roadwork to be complete 2014
Construction, which will widen Meridian Ave. E. through Milton and Edgewood, as well as add a center turn lane and sidewalks, should be complete in 2014.
The $42.79 million WSDOT project required extensive relocation of underground utilities. This portion of the work finished late last month, said Claudia Bingham-Baker of WSDOT communications. Paving is set to begin after Labor Day.
“I think we won’t be complete with paving until Spring 2014,” Bingham-Baker said. “Paving is the last major type of construction activity.”
Bingham-Baker said she knows local businesses have been affected by the work, but assures the worst should soon be over.
“I expect that the height of construction will really be now – now, we’re going in and starting paving,” she said. “It will be a much safer road, because you will have a turn lane that people can now use, and you have a lot better traffic flow through the corridors, which I hope can lead to better business for the area.”