Quincy construction hurting businesses

HANCOCK – Rick Freeman understands the need for the reconstruction of Quincy Street in Hancock, but he’s still frustrated about the negative effect it’s had on his business.

Freeman, who owns Northwoods Sporting Goods in the 100 block of Quincy Street, said compared to the spring and summer of 2015, business at his store, which sells firearms, and hunting, fishing and camping equipment, dropped significantly.

“It was (down) 50 percent,” he said.

The income he lost during the construction he can’t get back, Freeman said.

He was hoping after the construction moved to the 200 and 300 blocks of Quincy Street his walk-in business would pick up, but he’s still waiting for things to improve, Freeman said.

“It’s not good, yet,” he said.

Freeman said much of his business is walk-in, but even his regular customers have been staying away, possibly because they don’t realize there is still parking on the side streets and in various city parking lots off Hancock Street.

He added items for sale on his website in the hope that might compensate for the loss of walk-in business, Freeman said, but that isn’t working as well as he expected.

“Online is sluggish, now,” he said.

Freeman said the country’s economy is down, now, and he realizes some of his lost revenue may be related to that fact, but he thinks the construction has had a strong negative impact, also.

Despite the loss of walk-in business, Freeman said there are some customers who are giving him support during the construction.

“We do have customers that will come in to support us and buy stuff,” he said.

Small game hunting season starts Sept. 15, and Freeman said business may pick up as that date gets closer.

“I hope so,” he said.

Rachel Blau, manager of the Shottle Bop Party Store, also in the 100 block of Quincy Street, said since the construction began in April, income at the store is down compared to the same period in 2015.

“We were down a little more than 50 percent,” she said.

Blau said much of the store’s revenue comes from walk-in business.

“We’re pretty much impulse,” she said.

Blau said before the construction, the store would get 100 to 150 customers in a week day. During the construction, the walk-in business is 50 to 60 people on week days.

Because of the construction, Blau said potential customers won’t make the effort to drive to Quincy Street from Hancock Street.

“People tend to drive on by,” she said.

Even with the construction moving down Quincy Street, and with the 100 block open to vehicles again, Blau said customers still aren’t stopping at the store.

“People don’t know they can drive up,” she said.

Cynthia Cote, executive director of the Copper Country Community Arts Center, also on the 100 block of Quincy Street, said the board of directors knew last year about the upcoming road construction, so they planned some needed renovations in the building to take place at the same time.

When the art center was open during construction in the 100 block, Cote said business wasn’t seriously negatively affected.

“Even with the closure (of Quincy Street), we were just a little bit down,” she said.

With construction moving west on Quincy Street, Cote said business is getting better.

“Things are looking up,” she said. “We’re definitely seeing a lot more sales.”

Carla Johnson, manager of the St. Vincent de Paul Thrift Store at the beginning of the 200 block of Quincy Street, said the construction has negatively affected sales at the store compared to the same period.

“We’re down by about half,” she said.

Much of the walk-in business comes from tourists from June to December, Johnson said.

“That’s my money-making time,” she said. “The last couple of weeks have been very good.”

Johnson said with the work on the Portage Lake Lift Bridge last year, the work on Quincy Street this year, significant revenue for the store has been lost, and with the planned work on Front Street in 2017, more revenue may be lost.

“It hurts,” she said.