Downtown Yorkville businesses fight construction and frigid weather
By Steve Lord email@example.com February 10, 2014 4:14PM
Updated: March 12, 2014 6:10AM
YORKVILLE — If the past year for downtown here were a television show, it would have gone from drama to two-part saga.
The first part took place during most of 2013, when state crews began the long-awaited and long-term project to widen Route 47 through downtown.
Part two hit in December and just keeps on going — the winter weather.
Between the two, parts of downtown are closed off or full of snow, making parking and getting to downtown businesses difficult, and walking through downtown almost impossible.
Still, merchants on the east and west sides of Route 47 between Van Emmon Street and Hydraulic Avenue, are reporting that they are hanging in there, as are their customers.
“People are getting the gist of it, of coming in the back,” said Sam Santerelli, a bartender at Rowdy’s Bar and Restaurant, on the east side of Route 47. “Things are still getting bigger here.”
Next door, Susan Parker, Yorkville Flower Shop owner, said her customers are “more and more using the back.”
“We’ve always had front and back access, so for us it was not a big turnaround,” she said. “We put a few more signs at the front, directing people to the back.”
The flower shop also has a few more signs in back, where they also have a small porch and a fairly new handicapped ramp for easy access. The building landlord, the Masonic Temple, put the ramp in several years ago to improve its own back entrance.
Rowdy’s officials plan to build a deck in the back when the weather gets nice that will become the main entrance, replacing what is right now a staircase.
Of course, while those back entrances face a parking lot, the access is an alley, and it can get a bit slippery when it snows.
That’s also the case for the back entrances on the west side of that block of Route 47. Cobblestone Bakery and Bistro, at the corner of Route 47 and Van Emmon, has long had an entrance along Van Emmon, and built a main entrance to its newer dining room facing a parking lot in the back.
When Mongolian 211 opened next door, it, too, had a big, new entrance facing toward that lot.
Eventually, the plan is to open up that back much more and have more parking and better access. But that is still in the planning stages, and in the meantime, state crews closed off Van Emmon and left it that way for the winter. It has put Cobblestone and Mongolian 211 on what is, in effect, a cul-de-sac, with almost no direct Route 47 access.
Rick Tollefson, the owner of both restaurants, said the construction has been “very harmful.”
“Having Van Emmon shut down for going on four months was not anticipated,” he said.
And the winter weather sometimes makes parking slippery, with some parking lost to snow accumulation.
But the businesses are toughing it out.
“We still have many customers who have braved the weather and the less-than-ideal conditions and we are grateful to them for doing so,” Tollefson said. “There is still a great vision for what this may become, but the construction has certainly placed a heavy burden on the execution of that vision.”
Merchants continue to have faith that their regular customers and the services their businesses provide will see them through.
“For us, babies are still born, there are still anniversaries, guys still get in trouble,” Parker said. “Flowers are a necessity.”