Main Street construction work moved to the central part of downtown last month, leaving the east end of Main Street with new pavement and not a construction barrel in sight.
Representatives of several small businesses located at the east end of Main Street gathered in front of Grain Craft Bar + Kitchen recently to celebrate the return to normalcy on their end of the street.
“It’s a beautiful sight to walk out and see blacktop and cars moving,” said Jeanne Kress, owner of The Perfect Blend, a coffee and waffle shop. “It makes me proud to be on Main Street to see it come together.”
Alicia Thomas, a representative of Sports Clips in Newark Shopping Center, said the barbershop lost business during the construction but is already seeing customers return.
“It’s good to see it all open again,” Thomas said.
Most of the business owners agreed that the construction, while challenging, was not as bad as they expected.
“Don’t fear the construction,” said Brian Broad, who recently opened Long Play Café in Market East Plaza.
Several of the businesses, like Grain and Captain Blue Hen Comics, used social media posts to remind people they were still open for business and give customers tips about avoiding the construction.
Lexi Hawkins, general manager of Grain, said there were some hiccups, such as the restaurant losing water service a couple times during the construction, but she praised DelDOT and the city for quickly addressing concerns.
Workers have completed 12 of 15 phases of the Main Street project. City officials said this week that the project is ahead of schedule but could be slowed down by winter weather. Completion is still estimated for summer 2020.
The work is now focused on the left side of Main Street, between South Chapel Street and Dunkin’ Donuts.
While most of the east end businesses emerged unscathed, Main Street has lost a number of businesses over the past few months, including California Tortilla, Jimmy John’s, Delaware Running Company, Lieberman's Bookstore, Buddy’s Burgers and Finn McCool’s.
Most didn’t give a reason for their closure, but Finn McCool’s owner Jeff Frotton put the blame on the city’s laws and the Main Street construction project, which he says reduced his business by nearly 50 percent.
“It was a tough decision, but we simply had no more money and resources to pour into it,” Frotton said in October.
Hawkins offered a piece of advice to the business owners in the central part of Main Street, who are now seeing construction outside their restaurants and shops.
“Take it in stride. Be positive,” she said. “If you’re negative about it, that will transfer over to your guests.”