Downtown businesses ready for life beyond construction

Desmond Danso, 4, explores the map of Grand Junction that is cut into the sidewalk near Main Street Bagels, 559 Main St. The project will be finished Wednesday or Thursday, officials say.

Midway through Downtown Uplift construction on the 400, 500 and 600 blocks of Main Street wasn’t the ideal time for Robin Allerheiligen to open A Robin’s Nest of Antiques & Treasures, 558 Main St.

But the previous shop owner’s lease for the site was up at the end of February, and “it was then or never,” she said.

Since opening at the beginning of March, Allerheiligen has enjoyed steady business, but she is anxious to see what her customer base will look like with all of Main Street open.

“I think a lot of people who don’t normally come down will come downtown to see what it looks like, and hopefully the shop owners will be able to keep them coming down,” she said.

With the 400 and 500 blocks open to traffic and the 600 block set to open this Wednesday evening or Thursday morning, downtown businesses are ready to welcome gawkers and shoppers alike to visit the new sights on Main Street. Those include a fountain on every block, a brick-walled patio outside Rockslide Brewery, a play area in the 400 block with gorilla statues and a play area in the 500 block with a map of Grand Junction etched into the ground and boulders representing Grand Mesa, the Bookcliffs and Colorado National Monument.

The new features are particularly kid-friendly, Trendz owner Jes Dodson said. The women’s clothing and accessory store at 455 Main St. has a clear view of the play fountain in the 400 block of Main Street. Dodson has seen plenty of kids enjoying the fountain in the few short weeks it has been operational.

“I think a lot of people are going to bring their families down here and play in the water, sit on the benches and just enjoy it,” Dodson said. “In turn, the parents come over here and shop.”

The new look and renewed access for cars should bring more traffic to Main Street, said Allison Blevins, co-owner of Tangle, 525 Main St.

“It’s just so nice to have a fresh new face to Main Street. It makes it that much better,” she said.

Blevins said the arts and crafts industry isn’t commonly affected by the economy, so she has had better sales during the first five months of this year compared to the first five months of 2010. But others found it harder to weather the construction period.

Il Bistro Italiano had to close its patio area during construction. Owner Brunella Gualerzi said she’s happy with the result of the Uplift project, but she noticed a small decline in business during the January-to-May construction period.

“It’s hard to separate what was construction and what was the economy,” she said. “Was it economy, weather, construction? We don’t know.”

Coffee Muggers, 644 Main St., started losing customers after the 400 block of Main Street closed, even though the 600 block didn’t close until nearly two months later, Coffee Muggers co-owner Jen Ruppe said. The coffee shop cut back employees’ hours and kept the shop open for fewer hours each day. Those hours will be restored when the 600 block reopens.

“It was a tough time because you don’t get the walk-in traffic and people don’t want to fight the mess of construction, but the positive thing is it’s going to be beautiful,” Ruppe said. “We were hit by the (Seventh and Main streets) roundabout construction, too, so we’re ready to be done with construction.”

Some businesses didn’t make it through construction. Those taking a stroll down Main Street will notice Vintage West Boutique at 441 Main St. is empty.

Mesa Theater & Club at 538 Main St. will reopen soon after closing for construction, but Sunshine Wrap, 560 Main St., which also closed for construction, will not reopen. The building is for lease through Pat Gormley. His wife, Ruth, said plenty of people have shown interest in the storefront, but she expects there will be more interest in leasing the spot now that the street in front of it is open.

Across the street at 602 Main St., Interiors Etc. Manager Kirk Granum said he believes the new look of Main Street will attract more businesses downtown, plus more shoppers.

“I think even people from out of town will realize this is a thriving downtown and spend the day down here,” he said.

The Downtown Development Authority, which paid for the bulk of the project with downtown tax revenue, will substitute the first American National Bank Downtown Farmers Market of the summer June 9 for a wrap-up party for Downtown Uplift construction.

DDA Executive Director Heidi Hoffman Ham said there will be more celebrations downtown next year when downtown Main Street celebrates the 50th anniversary of Operation Foresight, the idea that led to the area’s unique look.


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