Ongoing road work stemming from sewer- and water-line projects has proven troublesome for businesses and drivers along Trindle Road in Hampden Township.
“When customers that want to come to you don’t come, that’s kind of bad,” said Barry Dobb, owner of Today’s Home and Leisure Products.
Dobb said that construction work has often been done right in front of his store, particularly on days that he has held events, such as his store’s grand opening. While he was pleased with the turnout of 250 guests, he was not thrilled with construction crews working in front of his store during the event.
For Dobb, it all boils down to communication. “There’s just been a total lack of communication between the township and this stretch of Trindle,” Dobb said.
Stephen Keslar, manager of Josie’s German Market, said business has been “terrible” and that the store is doing the worst it has done in 26 years. The road work comes at an inopportune time for the German food store, as Keslar said that around 35 percent of the store’s profits come from the holiday season.
“We were having days where we were doing $50,” Keslar said. “That doesn’t even pay us to turn our lights on.”
While December may not be the ideal month to shop for a swimming pool, co-owner Bill Roder of Atlantis Pools said sales were hurt in the summer due to the work.
Hemant Amin, owner of the Trindle Mini Mart, said that a loyal group of customers have enabled him to stay in business despite heavy losses in lottery and gasoline sales. “Business is really bad,” Amin said. “I’m hardly keeping my doors open.”
Being further down from the bulk of the construction has not done much to keep Little Mario’s from feeling the effects of the road work. While sales have taken a small hit, owner Christen Valdez said the lunch hour has been affected the most due to traffic jams. Customers have canceled orders that were placed in advance due to the traffic backlog and in order to return to work in time, Valdez said. She also said quotes for deliveries have to include more time with the slower traffic.
What’s the project?
The road construction involves both sewer- and water-line projects. The Pennsylvania American Water Corp. has been overseeing the $1.2 to $1.5 million water-line project. Company representatives said the project is a continuation of another that replaced water lines from 32nd Street in Camp Hill to Sporting Hill Road in Hampden Township.
This project involves replacing Trindle Road’s water line, which the water company’s representatives estimate to be from the 1950s. New 12-inch pipe is replacing old 8-inch lines and representatives estimate the work being completed sometime in January or February.
Extensive underground rock has been troublesome for the sewer extension project, according to Jeremy Miller, assistant director of public works of Hampden Township. He said work has involved “pounding through” as much as 20 feet of rock to install sewers; the contractor using three to four crews working on road restoration and some surface work being performed at night.
Blasting through the rock has not been an option, Miller said, due to safety concerns. He said that the goal is for the sewer work to be finished by the end of the week, but noted that the original completion time for the project was in August. “We’ve given some ‘guesstimates’ before,” Miller said.
The toll on businesses
Keslar, of Josie’s German Market, said that until the road work is completed, there is nothing much that can be done. “What can you do?” he asked. “We put signs out, we put all kinds of lights to try and draw attention to it (the store), but there’s nothing you can do about it, except for just grin and bear it, I guess.”
He has had some business from the road workers, who he said came in and purchased a few hundred dollars worth of gift certificates and food.
Had the road construction not been a factor, Keslar said that the store would be “packed full of people”, which is typical for the store during the holiday season.
“When you come in on a Wednesday two weeks before Christmas, and you’re the only person that’s in the store, it’s not good,” Keslar said.
Dobb, of Today’s Home and Leisure Products, said he has tried to increase advertising to get some foot traffic back into his stores. Without communication from the township and the road crews, however, Dobb said that the efforts will not amount to much.
“Every time we do something, it’s foiled by construction efforts,” Dobb said. “I can plan things better if they had a little communication, but there’s absolutely zilch in the way of communication.”
While installing services have remained steady, Dobb said that his retail sales are “almost nonexistent.” Despite investing money into advertising to attract customers, he estimated that he has lost from $50,000 to $60,000 since the road work began.
Lottery sales have dropped 25 to 30 percent for Amin’s store in the past two months, and gasoline sales also have been scarce. He bought his fuel at $3.52 per gallon, and his price as of Wednesday was $3.49 per gallon.
“When the price drops, I’m in trouble, because I have 48,000 gallons of gas in the ground, and the market drops, and then everybody sells 15 to 20 cents cheaper than me,” Amin said. “I can’t lose money when I put it in the ground.”
While the sales have dropped a little, Valdez said that the road work has not had a significant impact on Little Mario’s business.
“It just seems a little slower at lunch time when it is normally a decent crowd,” Valdez said.
The store’s Facebook page has been a part of the strategy to draw more attention to the store, Valdez said, with pictures of various pizzas and products shown.
Business as usual?
As the road work nears what the business owners and drivers hope to be an end, Amin said he hopes that he can get some customers coming back through the door. While he has some weekend help, he said that loyal customers and being a “one-man operation” has enabled him to keep his business open.
Dobb and Roder both agreed that while the road work may be inconvenient, it has to be done. Roder, of Atlantis Pools, said he hopes the work is done by the time customers really start looking for the perfect pool. Until then, he said, more advertising surely will be a factor into his future plans. Dobb said that his business will keep “plodding along” and planning special events in an attempt to keep customers coming in.
Valdez had a similar strategy, and said her store plans to take business a day at a time and try to handle the hurdles of the road work to the best of their ability.
For Josie’s German Market, Keslar said he can only sit back and let the road work take its course. Time, however, may be of the essence for his store.
“If it continues, it’s going to put us out of business,” Keslar said. “I’m okay with the rest of this month, because I know we’ll be fine, but January and February? We just can’t do it for too much longer.”