file photo of downtown Chatham. (Photo by Jason Viau)

Concern For Downtown Chatham Businesses With Holidays Approaching

The extended closure of the Fifth St. bridge in downtown Chatham has some merchants concerned about what it’ll do to business, especially since the holiday season is right around the corner.

The municipality recently announced the bridge’s extended closure due to construction delays. Instead of reopening to traffic and pedestrians in December 2017, the reopening date has been pushed to June 2018.

Having already been closed for several months, it has affected local businesses.

Joe Robertson, owner of Cup of Joe, says business has taken a major hit and it seems like problems in the downtown core are snowballing.

Fifth St. bridge construction in Chatham. November 7, 2017. (Photo by Sarah Cowan Blackburn News Chatham-Kent).

Fifth St. bridge construction in Chatham. November 7, 2017. (Photo by Sarah Cowan Blackburn News Chatham-Kent).

“Between the condo next door shutting down the road [periodically], the bridge shutting down, now the extension of the bridge — which I kind of figured was going to happen — it’s just making it really tough,” says Robertson. “It would be nice if the city gave the landlord, or myself actually, a little break on the property tax.”

Roberston adds that with the closing of Sears, the construction going on downtown, and the limited parking, he’s not expecting a lot of people during the holidays.

“I just have a feeling it’s really going to impact December sales,” he says.

On the other side of the bridge at Sam’s Percolator, owner and operator MaryAnne Butler says she had a gut feeling the bridge construction would be extended, affecting business more than it already has.

“Business was steadily picking up before the bridge closure,” says Butler. “We had a really good spring as well — June was I think our best month ever, and then the bridge closed.”

A drop in sales for 2017 is something Kim Hinnegan, owner of the Paper Pickle, can relate to as well.

She says unfortunately local merchants have to make the best of a bad situation. Hinnegan is appealing to local residents in shopping local rather than going online.

“It may be exciting purchasing from vendors on Etsy in Germany or convenient shopping on, but each and every dollar matters,” shes says. “Choosing to explore and support local businesses is important.”

“Of course this is not a new concept but it is one that I urge people to keep in mind especially now,” says Hinnegan.

However, underneath the stress and concern, lies hope.

Anne-Marie Ceccacci, owner of Bella Chocolatier, Edible Fruit Arrangements says she’s trying to stay positive throughout the construction delays.

“There are many roads that lead to the downtown area, in the shopping district, so we are optimistic,” she says.

Ceccacci adds, now that the sidewalks have been redone, she’s looking forward to seeing what the downtown area looks like once construction is complete.

“We are excited that these will bring improvements and we can have a viable downtown,” she says.