CRYSTAL LAKE – Business owners along Rakow Road are hoping to see customers return when road construction work is completed later this year.
Some retailers along the three-mile path of the $37 million road expansion project that includes Randall Road saw sales slump as drivers found alternate routes to avoid the traffic headaches of the construction zone. Other businesses have struggled with product delivery schedules as trucks were caught up in lane closures and other construction-related backups.
Though officials held a celebratory re-dedication ceremony at the end of October, the project won't be done until Nov. 30. For some business owners, the end can't come soon enough.
Sales declined at Galloway’s Chicago Subs when construction started in the spring of 2011. At one point, the family-run sub shop at 1295 N, Randall Road cut back hours in step with the drop off in demand. But owner Judy Galloway has since extended hours. With the end in sight, she's preparing for a rebound.
"Some are still shy because of the construction," she said. "But we're hoping all of our customers come back."
Officials working on the McHenry County Division of Transportation project made efforts to keep both business owners and the public informed about the road work. On Twitter, MCDOT's @RakowRoad sent out 247 messages with updates and warnings about lane closures. Engineering firm Bollinger, Lach & Associates Inc. has maintained a website dedicated to the project, with information, news and photos. The site also allowed visitors to sign up for project email alerts.
A message at the top of the site reads: "While construction along the Rakow Road corridor is making good progress, it is a difficult time for many of the Rakow Road businesses. These businesses are part of our community and are in need of support at this time."
Construction crews erected signs along the path of the project reminding passers-by that shops and stores remained open, but some people stopped traveling on Rakow Road altogether, frustrated by seemingly inconsistent lane closures and long rush-hour backups.
L & V Distributors Inc. – which distributes beer, water and soft drinks – lost part of its front parking lot to the road expansion. A pedestrian bridge over Rakow Road runs right past the company's facility at 8108 Pyott Road.
Construction work hampered the company's distribution schedules, making things more difficult for drivers, said owner and president Donald Lewis.
"It's been an inconvenience," he said. "In the beginning, we were notified of road closures and everything was coordinated, but that came to an end and [since then] it's been a pain."
Nonetheless, L & V Distributors dealt with problems as they came up and figured out how to work around the obstacles presented by construction, Lewis said.
Niche retailers such as Red Wing Shoe Store at 1273 N. Randall Road, and Soccer Heads at 1275 N. Randall Road were sheltered from the sales declines that hampered other retail businesses.
"We're looking forward to the end of construction, but it hasn't really affected us too much," Red Wing manager Perry Lynch said.
Having so many construction workers nearby was actually good for business at the store, which sells durable boots to many in the industrial trades, Lynch said.
Similarly, Soccer Heads hasn't been hurt by the construction after moving into the shopping center near Grand Appliance and TV this summer.
"We're such a specialty store that the traffic hasn't really affected us," owner Orhan Senger said.
Others haven't been so lucky.
Several prospective tenets, including a coffee shop, interested in leasing space at the adjacent Crossroads of Crystal Lake shopping center have backed off because of the construction, said Noel Escalona, vice president of leasing at the Shiner Group LLC.
Crossroads of Crystal Lake has spaces of up to 8,400-square-feet available for lease. It has five leased spaces and seven empty, Escalona said. Interest in the vacant spots has picked up with the road project winding down.
"We've got some new inquiries," he said. "But before, one of the main issues was construction."
Once complete, Rakow will have six lanes between Pyott and Ackman roads and four lanes from Pyott Road to Route 31.