Businesses working to ‘weather the storm’ during Route 47 work in Yorkville
By Steve Lord firstname.lastname@example.org August 14, 2013 8:20PM
Both sides of Van Emmon Street have been closed for several days now as part of the Route 47 widening project through downtown Yorkville. State officials have said closings of the side streets along Route 47 will be necessary for sewer work for the rest of the summer. With Van Emmon closed, it has particularly strained access to buildings on both sides of Route 47, restricting entrances to the back. But Cobblestone Bakery and Restaurant, River's Edge Theater and Mongolian 211 remain open through their back entrances on the west side of the street, as do the Kendall County Record and Rowdy's on the east side. | Steve Lord ~ Sun-Times Media 8-15-2013
Updated: August 17, 2013 6:36PM
YORKVILLE — Susan Parker knows that her life downtown here has changed forever.
“Simply said, our back entrance has become our front,” said Parker, from inside her business, the Yorkville Flower Shop. “We’re not going to have any parking out front, ever.”
That’s a hard fact of life for Parker, whose store is on the east side of Route 47, in the block between Hydraulic Street and Van Emmon Road. Right now, her former front door is a sea of gravel, broken concrete, road signs and orange construction fence.
She and other stores in that block are at ground zero for the Illinois Department of Transportation’s Route 47 work, a complex, long-range project that ultimately will result in the state highway being four lanes through Yorkville.
Once upon a time, a car could pull up in front of Parker’s flower shop on Route 47, park, the driver could jump out and walk inside. That can still kind of happen, but in the back, where a driver can park in a rough parking lot, and walk up stairs or a ramp into the flower’s shop back, er, front, entrance.
The good news, Parker said, is that the Masonic Temple, owners of the building she is in, which houses their temple, too, saw ahead and fixed up the back nicely. The even better news will be if the city decides to fix up and pave the parking lot in back someday. City officials have discussed the possibility.
“We’ll see what happens,” Parker said.
Parker said the road project has hurt walk-in business, but fortunately she gets a lot of online and florist-to-florist business, which has kept her alive.
Just down the street, on Hydraulic, the same kind of thing has happened for Robyn Sutcliff, owner of Foxy’s Ice Cream. She took over a space next door this year, and put a sign on top of the building. That seems to have attracted a lot of people in Riverfront Park next door, particularly whitewater enthusiasts using the Marge Cline Whitewater facility.
“I’ve gotten a lot more kayakers,” she said. But with Route 47 work going on, and the closing of East Hydraulic’s access to Route 47, she has lost about 35 percent of her business compared to last summer.
“A lot of local people, I think they’re just staying away,” she said.
On the west side of Route 47 between Hydraulic and Van Emmon, Cobblestone Bakery and Restaurant has been surviving, although “not without its challenges,” said Head Chef Rachel Conover.
Cobblestone was established before the Route 47 project began, which means customers are going out of their way to find their favorite place to eat.
“We’re really very thankful to the community for supporting us,” Conover said. “We’re trying to weather the storm, like everyone else.”
Cobblestone has been holding complimentary wine tastings from 3 to 6 p.m. every Saturday, partly as an incentive and partly as a thank-you to customers for braving traffic, rough roads and sketchy parking.
Next door, the same ownership has opened a new restaurant, Mongolian 211. Conover, who also is the head chef there, said she has been “pleasantly surprised” at how easily people are finding the back entrance to the new restaurant.
Julia Messina, communications director for IDOT’s District 3, which is handling the Route 47 project, has been making regular trips to Yorkville to keep people apprised of the different project stages. She was spotted talking to some downtown business owners Tuesday, after speaking at a Yorkville Chamber of Commerce women’s program.
“This is such a complex, important road project,” she said. “The scariest thing for a business is if people don’t know you’re open. We now have put up signs letting people know the businesses are open during construction.”