Summer construction has businesses worried
April 16, 2010
Complaints about road construction can be a self-fulfilling prophecy for businesses, says Vic Saunders, spokesman for the Ogden region of the Utah Department of Transportation.
That’s a message Park City officials plan to echo at a marketing meeting April 21 from 4:30 to 6 p.m. that Bonanza Drive business owners are encouraged to attend at the Park City Marriott on Sidewinder Drive.
Starting in mid-June, Bonanza Drive will undergo a major renovation through November. Many fear sales will sink during the an already tough economy.
A few months ago major construction began on Layton’s Main Street in Davis County. Saunders and a marketing professional led an information campaign to get merchants to stay positive and talk their clients into coming anyway. If that didn’t work, they encouraged owners to "think outside the box" in how they operate or promote themselves.
Matt Cassel, Park City city engineer, said a similar strategy is needed to help businesses along Bonanza Drive overcome the obstacles the work will create.
Saunders said feedback is positive in Layton that the strategy has helped.
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"If you could encase it into one phrase, it would be, ‘Be Positive.’ Construction makes things bad and hard, but when you say it to customers they believe it," Saunders explained. "Forget about the construction. Build up great reasons people should still patronize you."
Cassel said he supports that approach because Bill White Enterprises made it work last summer. During three months of a first phase the Windy Ridge Café came up with "Taco Tuesdays" in which tacos were sold for a discount. That kept a lunch crowd coming despite the work. Another promotion for Fridays once brought 400 customers to the neighborhood, he said.
"If he can do it, others should be able to. They just need a little guidance," he said.
Representatives from Clear Channel Communications, Flashpoint Media and the Park City Chamber/Bureau will be present on Wednesday to offer suggestions to the merchants.
Spencer’s Smoking Grill owner Mark Spencer has been vocal about his doubts. Earlier this week he announced he planned to leave the neighborhood and seek a lease elsewhere. Business was down 55 percent during last year’s phase of construction, and he can’t survive another phase twice as long and more involved.
He said he can’t afford to lose his lunch business.
"If you have 30 minutes to eat, you can’t spend 10 minutes of that just sitting while some guy puts a stop sign in your face," he said.
Spencer said he doesn’t think he’s being too negative.
"It sounds like a lot of philosophy. We have hard numbers. We’ve been here for years and we know our customer base," he said.
But Spencer said he’ll still try to attend the Wednesday meeting, as did many other owners equally skeptical but hoping for solutions.
Matt Hash, store manager at Diamond Wireless, said his location relies on walk-in business. Brittney Lundgreen at Great Clips said her employer is the same.
Sonia Bernard-McCall, owner of Nick-N-Willy’s Pizza, said she fears her regulars will go elsewhere during the construction, develop different lunch-break habits and it will be hard to win them back.
Marion Boland, co-owner of Right at Home, said she understands the importance of the road work and plans to develop new campagins.
"It’s got to be fixed. We’re just going to have to get really creative with marketing strategies," she said. "We’ll cross our fingers and hope we blow through it."
Desiree Lindemann with White Pine Touring said the store plans to take the same approach. Parkites are expected to stay away, but by promoting more to tourists, White Pins hopes to get equipment-rental and tour-guide business.
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