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Callow construction takes toll on businesses

When the city did construction work for the Bremerton Gateway project last summer, the traffic disruption nearly forced the Charleston Cinema to close its doors.

“Last year it nearly put us out of business, if my husband and I didn’t work full-time jobs we wouldn’t be here,” said owner Frances Myers.

When Myers learned more construction was planned this summer she braced for the worst, but so far the impact has been less severe.

However, like most Callow Avenue businesses, Myers has seen a 20-30 percent drop in revenue since the June 10 kickoff of the Callow Avenue combined sewer overflow reduction effort.

The project, mandated by the federal government, aims to reduce sewer flow by installing underground pipes to capture storm water. The work will be complete by June 29, estimated Lynn Price, project manager for Bremerton Public Works.

Until the end of the month, Callow Avenue business owners between Burwell and Ninth street will have to contend with reduced parking, limited access to their businesses and sharp revenue declines.

“If it’s too inconvenient, people will take their business elsewhere. That’s just human nature,” said Brock Jackley, owner of Dave’s Loans and Guns.

The pawn shop’s sales have dropped 35-40 percent since the project began, and Jackley, also a state representative for the 26th district, has taken measures to cut his losses. He’s reduced employees’ work hours and has offered sales to stimulate business.

The city has worked to keep business owners informed, Jackley said, but “On this block we have suffered through two summers of traffic problems. It almost seems like we’re being picked on.”

Susan Sadtler, co-owner of the Mattress Department, said her normally-busy downtown branch has lost 30 percent of its average revenue. Although she hasn’t reduced her employees’ hours, she said they are feeling the pinch of lower commission.

Callow merchants and their employees should find off-street parking, and save what little street parking is left for customers, Sadtler said.

“If we can get (customers) in the door, there’s a good chance we can sell them (a mattress). It’s getting them in the door that’s so important,” Sadtler said.

Bucky’s Mufflers and Brakes has seen business drop 50 percent overall since the road’s been torn up, and as much as 80 percent through the week of July 8, according to manager Tim “Ziggy” Zeigler.

“We’re a drive-in businesses — that’s the reason we got hit real hard,” Zeigler said.

He’s reduced his employees’ hours, and spent a lot of time on the telephone directing loyal customers through a maze of detours to get their cars serviced.

“I know this is a temporary thing. There’s not much we can do,” Zeigler said.

The Bremerton Animal Hospital was one of the few businesses which was not impacted by the road work.

“It seems most of our clients are making it in, but they have trouble getting here and they’re late,” said clinic assistant Leesa Weaver.

Originally, the bulk of the Callow Avenue work was slated to be completed at night, according to Tom Knuckey, design project manager for Bremerton Public Works. However, the contractors found a way to maintain limited traffic flow while doing construction during the day.

This is more disruptive for Callow businesses, but less disruptive for area residents, Knuckey said.

“By setting up this contract, we’ve made it in the contractor’s best interest not to dilly dally through the Callow Basin, Knuckey said.

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