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Downtown Canton businesses rejuvenate, as construction moves further up Route 11

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CANTON — Business is better for Main Street shopkeepers this year, as ongoing construction that clogged the thoroughfare last year has moved east of the central business district.

The $9.55 million project to reconstruct a mile stretch of Route 11, from Riverside Drive to Stiles Avenue, has moved away from the downtown area and now has Main Street closed off in front of the Canton Park. Many business owners said that customers avoided the area last year because of the traffic delays and loss of parking due to construction.

Catherine E. Mathews, director of the Church and Community Program, 95 Main St., said her business is rebounding this year.

“Last year, we probably made half of what we’re going to make this year,” she said. “I would project that anybody who’s got this construction going on in front of them now is probably losing about 50 percent of their business.”

She said business slowed down for her last year as customers avoided the village. The Church and Community Program is both a thrift shop and a food pantry that struggled last year while the construction was right outside their front door.

“Last year, the construction cut our business by 50 percent,” she said. “When they take our food, there’s sometimes five bags and they’re heavy and to have to walk to find your car just makes it very difficult.”

Joshua Ritchie, manager at Hot Tamale, 67 Main St., Canton, said that business this year has been almost back to normal.

“Compared to last year, a lot of people were looking for parking spaces, and they only have a certain amount of time for their lunch breaks,” he said. “By the time they’d get into town, it took them way too long to get in and out, but this year they have plenty of time to make it through town.”

For some businesses, however, parking was not as big an issue as they advised their customers to park in either of the two municipal lots behind the shops.

Rainbow L. Crabtree, owner of Nature’s Storehouse, said that since her shop has a back entrance, people didn’t have a hard time accessing her building last year.

Ms. Crabtree said the construction is not affecting her business as much as last year and that customers have started using the front door again.

“People don’t seem to be as disgruntled this year,” she said. “There hasn’t been as much of a disruption to Canton as a whole.”

Ms. Crabtree said that she knew the construction was necessary to the infrastructure of the village and that the effort to improve the area was successful.

“We love the new sidewalks and railings,” she said. “We think that downtown Canton has been enhanced and beautified in a way we find very appealing.”

Stephen Russell, co-owner of Hair Designs, 76 Main St., said he and his wife, Denyse, had their salon’s business cards made to remind customers of the construction.

The cards they made for this year read: “Canton is almost done with construction…thanks for your patience.”

Mr. Russell said that because much of the salon’s business is by appointment he doesn’t feel as though the construction has had much of an effect on them.

“I’m sure the construction has deterred us some, but not much,” he said. “And now it’s like you don’t even know it’s happening.”

Not all downtown business owners are experiencing better days, however. J. Bradshaw Mintener Jr., whose wife, Marilyn I., owns The Pear Tree, 77 Main St.,said that in some ways, this year is worse because the detour is being enforced.

“East Main Street is blocked off totally, but last year you could get through,” he said. “So, we’re losing the drop-in customers.”

Mr. Mintener said he would like the village to put up signs on the meters that will ensure the parking in front of the shops are reserved for customers and clients.

“There isn’t always a U.S. highway going through the main street of a village,” he said. “Everybody wants an active Main Street, and we’ll keep working toward it.”

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