Main Street makes the best of sidewalks


By Jim Poole

Encouraging customers to endure mud and construction, downtown Cobleskill business owners are putting up a brave front during the Main Street sidewalk replacement.
And although construction sometimes masks the fact, stores have remained open during the weeks-long project.
Store owners, however, hope work doesn’t continue much longer.
Contractor Bill Chichester/Cobleskill Paving began work on the south side of Main several weeks ago, and like any project, there have been delays, this time with power lines, water lines and weather.
Crews have completed most of the base work and expected to begin pouring concrete this week.
Meanwhile, negotiating gravel and mud where the walks were is difficult for customers––who also must find another place to park because Main Street slots have been roped off for construction.
“It’s been killing us,” said Roberta Brooks of Catnap Books. “A lot of our customers are elderly, and they won’t walk through that.”
“It’s basically killed our lunch business,” agreed Sal Liardo of Pizza Shack. “People can’t park on the street, and they’re not parking in a lot and walking.”
But even though village officials and Cobleskill Partnership Inc. provided carpets and “Yes, We Are Open” signs, business has been slow.
“We depend a lot on impulse shoppers, people who drive by, stop and come in,” Ms. Brooks said. “They’re not stopping if they can’t find a place to park.”
Donna Lavigne of the Donna Lavigne Agency said the lack of parking has been the biggest issue with her customers.
“We’re taking more phone calls than walk-ins,” Ms. Lavigne said. “People aren’t parking a ways away and then negotiating that gravel, especially old folks.”
Both Mr. Liardo and Ms. Brooks stressed that despite the construction, stores are open as usual.
The open-or-not question has been an issue with some businesses. Nicole George of Nicole’s Hair Shoppe said several customers with appointments call to check.
“It hasn’t really hurt too much,” Ms. George said, “but they said it would take a lot less time.”
Brian Kaiser and Jacqui Hauser of the Studio for Art and Craft said their business is “bearing up,” adding that the inconvenience and slow times will be worth the result.
“We’re gritting our teeth, but we’re surprised at how long it’s taking,” Ms. Hauser said.
Even businesses across the street have seen some change. Like others, Tamara DesRoches of SEFCU Insurance said people aren’t stopping if they can’t park, and Connie Zwick of Coby’s agreed.
“We felt it the first day, but then the college kids came back and we were busy,” Ms. Zwick said.
“It’s hurt us some because parking is such a problem.”
Some businesses haven’t been affected. Neither Tod Nicolai of Cobleskill Clocks nor Calvin Wilcox have seen a downturn.
Mr. Wilcox said September is usually slow, so “for me, it was perfect timing.” Mr. Nicolai draws customers from a wide area; anyone who drives a long distance won’t be put off by gravel and parking difficulties.
But the project has seemed to drag on. Mr. Kaiser noted that any project doesn’t move with exact precision, a point that Deputy Mayor Sandy MacKay agreed with.
The project also includes sidewalks on the north side of Main, but that probably won’t be done till spring, Mr. MacKay said.
“We’re not going to start now and then stop because of bad weather and have that be mud all winter,” he said.
Mr. MacKay praised storeowners for bearing up, and Mr. Kaiser said the long-awaited sidewalks will be worth it.
“Thirty days after they’re done, everyone will forget about it and be thrilled that they have new sidewalks,” Mr. Kaiser said.