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Small businesses cut costs after flood, bridge construction

By SARAH RITTERJune 15, 2019

DAVENPORT, Iowa (AP) — Even though the Village of East Davenport has stayed dry during the flood, business owners are facing difficult decisions as slow traffic causes sales to slump.

Small business owners — stuck between “road closed” signs, high flood waters and Interstate 74 bridge closures — have been struggling to stay afloat for months, said Tom Lagomarcino, co-owner of Lagomarcino’s.

Lagomarcino told Quad-City Times that all the businesses have been impacted.

“We’re not downtown, where the poor folks have had to close their businesses. But, River Drive is one of the major thoroughfares to get into the Village, and it’s been closed probably seven out of eight weeks.”

In talking with his neighbors, Lagomarcino said he’s hearing sales have dropped as much as 20-40% at some businesses. And as the flood persists and detours stay in place, he said it’s growing increasingly difficult to make ends meet.

“I know the small businesses worry because you’ve got cash flow issues,” he said. “Employees are relying on you as their employment, and sometimes you have to cut back on that because you just don’t have the business. So we’ve had to do some of that, and I know other businesses have, too.”

First, there was the long, cold winter, which kept some shoppers indoors and took a bite out of small business’ sales. Then, came the prolonged flood, followed by heavy rain that has closed River Drive for months.

Business owners interviewed said they’ve had customers cancel appointments and avoid the area, unsure of access to the Village. Leaders are spreading the message that the Village is open and encouraging shoppers to support the local businesses.

“We are blessed because we weren’t in the flooding like businesses in the downtown. We count those blessings,” said Tami Grady, owner of Freddy’s Fritters Dog Bakery & Grooming. “But, we really need the business, because our rent and power bills still come up. We still have to pay our employees.”

In addition to road closures, flooding also has stalled the Channel Cat Water Taxi’s season, which would usually bring more visitors to the Village, said Lagomarcino. And, annual events haven’t brought expected sales either.

“The Criterium is a huge event for the Village. And because of the weather forecast and extreme rain and flooding, it wasn’t the day we were hoping for and worked toward,” he said. “It’s frustrating when you’re counting on a day like that. And once it’s gone, it’s gone. Once the day passes on the calendar, you can’t recapture that traffic.”

Interstate 74 bridge construction, which has included the closure of one Iowa-bound lane, also has caused a slow-down in retail sales, Lagomarcino said.

“No doubt people from Illinois aren’t making those extra trips because it’s hard to cross the bridge,” he said. “It’s the pain of progress sometimes, and we get that. We need a new bridge. But, it’s difficult for small businesses to continue when you have a drought like this.”

Business owners are encouraging drivers to find alternate routes to make it to the Village, such as following Middle Road, driving up Brady Street to Kirkwood Boulevard, or taking Kimberly Road to Jersey Ridge Road.

“We are trying to remind people we’re here and we’re open,” said Jennifer Chen, owner of The Plaid Rabbit. “There’s parking that’s accessible even though the street is closed. We still have a lot to offer in the Village, and we really appreciate the community supporting us and getting over here if they can.”

Businesses are encouraging people to call them with questions about detours or parking.

“Small businesses are the fabric of a community. That’s what makes you different than any other place,” Lagomarcino said. “Those little mom-and-pop places bring a certain feel that’s specific to the community and makes people want to come. We have to support those little guys.”


Information from: Quad-City Times, http://www.qctimes.com

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