Shops, stores and the Chamber of Commerce in Westhampton Beach want customers to know that it's still business as usual on Main Street in the midst of an $11 million reconstruction project.
“Live Local, Love Local, Shop Local” is the motto for a campaign the chamber started to help bring attention to those shops as construction — which is fixing long-standing infrastructure problems on the street, including aging storm drains — proceeds.
Business owners said that since the start of construction in September they have seen a notable decline in normal foot traffic during the late fall and winter. With Main Street closed off and heavy sidewalk work underway, customers have found it difficult to locate access to the stores or parking, shop owners said.
Lynne Jones, owner of Lynne's Cards & Gifts, said the time since construction started has been “very challenging” for her and other stores.
“A lot of people don’t know how to get here because the streets keep closing and changing and moving, and not everybody reads the articles and sees that we’re still open,” said Jones, who has owned her store for nearly 31 years. “So, all the time, people keep telling me ‘Oh, I thought you were closed.’ ”
Despite winter normally being a slower time for businesses on Main Street in comparison to the summer, Jones said staying open all year allows her to keep her staff employed full time.
Jack Foster, manager of the Beach Bakery, said that even though he has used direction boards to help customers find and access the bakery during construction that the business “had suffered a lot. Our sales volumes have dropped badly.”
Lillian Schon, who has owned Lillian’s Hair Salon for 26 years, said that while she had a backdoor entrance to her salon that helped people enter her business, lack of parking due to the construction has made it difficult for other stores.
“For the retailers, you’re not getting people strolling around, so that’s the challenge,” Schon said.
Stephanie McEvoy, the chamber's executive director, said a multipronged effort involving sign campaigns, social media and other collaborations and partnerships aims to keep those businesses active during construction.
“Everyone is pulling together and really trying to promote the businesses and publicize things that are going on, blast things though social media and really get the word out,” McEvoy said.
Westhampton Beach Mayor Maria Moore said the construction project proceeding ahead of schedule and the village’s board of trustees had been speaking frequently with business owners to keep them updated on progress. The heaviest construction is expected to be finished by Friday, Moore said, with the entire project scheduled to be completed in May.
Chamber president Ari Goodman said the chamber plans to continue publicizing that Main Street stores are open and encouraging shoppers to "come to town."