The frequent rattling of glass bottles can be unnerving at times, says Salmon Arm Liquor Store manager Jan Jones.
However, Jones said by and large she’s become accustomed to the commotion caused by the ongoing construction of the Ross Street underpass.
“When they did the sidewalk along here I actually left work a little early,” she said, referring to work done just outside her office window.
Though much of the downtown has been affected by construction of the underpass, the liquor store at 111 Lakeshore Dr. NE is right next to the work site. The road in front of the store has been torn up. The parking lot on the store’s east side is now part of the construction site. And metal fencing has been erected in front of the liquor store and neighbouring businesses.
The overall impact has not been good for business, said Jones.
“We lost a lot of customers,” she said. “We have found out some of them do go down to our sister store, The Hideaway, so that’s good news, but still not good news for us here…
“It’s hurt a lot. We can’t compare it to the last two years because with Covid, we saw such an increase in liquor sales that it was easy and I didn’t have to market the store as much. But now, with the construction, our sales are that much down.”
To make up for the loss, Jones said she’s been working on expanding the business, looking to be a supplier for different kinds of catered events. Their first was to be a comedy show at the Salmar Classic on April 8.
To encourage customers to stop in, Jones said the liquor store offered a trip to Mexico.
“We did a 16-week draw for a trip to Mexico and we drew that two weeks ago and that was something to entice customers to come in… We’ll have more exciting things coming up,” said Jones.
Across the torn-up-road from the liquor store is Shuswap Pawn, another downtown business next to the construction site. For months now, much of the parking lot in front of the shop has served as a staging and storage area for the construction. In December, the laneway directly in front of the shop was torn up as part of the project.
“December is usually my busiest month and it was my worst month for the whole year,” said Shuswap Pawn owner Mike Jalving. “In December, this whole alley was torn up so you could hardly get to the store… They said you would be able to get to it, but it was a little goat trail. Foot traffic was 50 per cent lower than any month in the year so that sucked. I’m still reeling from that. I usually get good sales in December – it carries you over January and February.”
Jalving said with the construction and lack of parking he’s had fewer shoppers coming through his doors. To try and compensate for the loss, Jalving and his spouse Tanya have begun a new venture: Wild Soap Co.
“These last two years have really put me into entrepreneur mode. What do we need to do?” said Jalving.
“The kids are moving out so we’ve got extra space in the house so let’s make a soap studio. People are always looking for natural products every year, every day.”
Jalving has some Wild Soap Co. product for sale at Shuswap Pawn while they’re setting up a website and offering it through social media. He also wants to get involved in the Downtown Salmon Arm Farmers Market.
Nearby on Alexander Street, the staff at Rikki Lou Who’s Gift Emporium and Head Gamez Hair & Company have had their own construction-related challenges, such as product falling from shelves and a clock falling off a wall. The biggest issue for owner Rachele Spanier, however, is how the construction and reduced parking spots have kept people away.
“We’re not getting the walk-ins that we would normally have,” said Spanier. “We’re not getting the shoppers because they just don’t bother. They’re coming down and getting whatever they need to and getting out. They’re not spending the day downtown.”
The city expects Lakeshore to be open for July and August. The contractor is hoping to have the roadway graded and paved for the opening. Spanier is hoping this will help bring in a little more traffic and make for a somewhat more normal summer.
“Parking would be my highest priority for the downtown,” stressed Spanier. “It’s like they don’t want us to succeed down here, and that’s under normal conditions. This is pushing it.”
Jones tries to look to the positive.
“I think as soon as the underpass is done, business will be back to normal,” said Jones. “I’m actually thankful they’re doing an underpass. I talk to everyone and it’s a great thing. It’s just right now it’s not.”
According to the city, the Ross Street underpass is expected to be completed in early 2023.
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