Business as usual, and better

PAT FRIDGEN

Business is better and retailers in downtown Greencastle name two reasons. The primary one is that the three-prong infrastructure improvement project is done. Baltimore and Carlisle streets are back to normal, with smooth black pavement making for easy travel. New underground pipes are carrying natural gas to Columbia Gas customers. New underground water lines are handling the water needs of Borough of Greencastle customers. In plain view of everyone, the road surface accomodates the regular traffic of customers who want to shop in town, but were inconvenienced for the past year due to the presence of construction vehicles, altered lanes of travel and lack of parking.

"As soon as the heavy machinery pulled away, we noticed a difference," said Susan Horst from Sweet Myrtle, Fine Gifts and Interiors, 21 E. Baltimore St. "In the past, people didn't stop because of the nightmare. They only ran the one errand they came to town for and then left."

Denise Urban, Anna's Paperworks, 14. E. Baltimore St., noticed the same effect. "Our business has definitely picked up. I certainly don't miss all the noise and dust from the heavy equipment."

Verna Barnhart, speaking from Willowtree Gifts and Flower Boutique, 11 E. Baltimore St., echoed their thoughts. "The local people now know they can come downtown and not go around. That has helped immensely."

At the eastern end of the project, David Pence, owner of Pure and Simple Cafe, 628 E. Baltimore St., is pleased with the final results.

“Our business has picked up since the street was completed. I appreciate the hard work and effort of all involved and am really enjoying the new, wider street. I am, however, glad it's over.”

 While Baltimore Street was hit long and hard, Carlisle Street was shut down in the final weeks by PennDOT for its paving work. Sandy Spalding, owner of Nearly New Shop, 18 S. Carlisle St., said that was the time that most hurt her business and it may take out-of-town customers time to realize the streets are back. In addition to local clientele, she caters to people from West Virginia, Baltimore and upstate Pennsylvania. "More people are venturing into Greencastle but it will take a while for them to get comfortable coming back," she said. "They were avoiding Greencastle at all costs during the worst of it."

Another cause for more customer presence could be the season. Loren Martin, ELM Shoes, 3 Center Square, said he hasn't pinpointed the exact reason more customers are coming in the door. This time of year historically coincides with more active shoppers.

Horst wondered the same thing. With her store not quite one year old, she has only known business with interruptions outside. "The jackhammering started the week we opened. Eleven months of that was not what we had in mind."

A supplier told her that sales typically increase in the fall anyway, but Horst is confident the absence of construction work still benefits her.

One businessman did ok all year despite construction and the recession. Tim Myers from The Jewelry Shop, 18 E. Baltimore St. contended his service was a little different. "We are a destination business. People found a way to get here and find a place to park. We don't rely on foot traffic."

He did notice that if customers brought in several items of jewelry for repair, they made sure all were fixed before returning to pick them up. He and his clients are glad the street improvements are done, as the noise especially was distracting.

Several merchants also gave the Greencastle-Antrim Chamber of Commerce credit for attracting people downtown for First Friday events, notably the Octoberfest on Oct. 2. Urban said the evening helped people become aware of her new business, which just celebrated its first anniversary. Martin added, "It brought a lot of local people back downtown and they saw things are put back together again. That's very encouraging."

Borough manager Kenneth Womack expects the pedestrian crosswalk and parking space lines to be completed by PennDOT very soon. "I hope people find the street attractive and traffic flowing smoothly," he said. "Now we can get back to business as usual."