Businesses try to adapt to Route 120, 31 construction

McHENRY – The construction at the intersection of Route 120 and 31 has hit the bottom line of many businesses in the area as drivers avoid the gridlock.

Since the $7 million construction project began in April, several businesses have reported that their drive-by traffic has dried up but they're holding out until work wraps up in November.

"It's been kind of tough because we definitely have slowed down during the week," said Darius Pfeifer, who has owned McHenry Pet Central. "The weekends have been normal, but on heavy construction days, our sales are cut by about 50 percent."

Crews have been moving up and down Route 31 as they work to widen the west side of the road and install storm sewers. The work has reduced the number of lanes and driven up congestion.

"Everyone has found another way around town," said Jennifer Eckel, who owns Eckel's Flea Market with her husband, Carl. "They're avoiding 120 at all costs."

And that is impacting the people who just stop by the store, especially those who used to drive through town on their way to Wisconsin, Carl Eckel said.

It's hurting also the number of new customers headed to Salon Unique at 3731 W. Elm St., owner Judy Congdon said, adding that most of her regular customers are braving the traffic.

She had hoped the back roads would give her customers a quicker route to her salon, which has been at the Route 120 location for 10 years, but even those are clogging up.

Pick Door Thrift Shop, at 3741 W. Elm St. has also been taking advantage of back roads, advising customers to use the exit on to Third Street to come and go, said Janet Byrnes who serves as a liaison between the store and the Auxiliary to Centegra Hospital - McHenry as well as a day manager and volunteer coordinator.

"We've stayed fairly busy, but I anticipate it's going to get worse," she said. "It's going to be a hard summer. Everyone that is involved over here is feeling that it's going to be a hard summer and a hard fall, but hopefully once it's all over, it will be better for traffic and safety."

To help get through the hard summer, some businesses are trying new events and taking advantage of the weekends when construction crews aren't out.

McHenry Pet Central, located at 3743 W. Elm St., is hosting dog rescue events each weekend with one coming up this Saturday and offering buy-one-get-one sales on tropical fish, things Pfeifer said he wouldn't normally do. He's been taking advantage of the store's Facebook page to promote the events.

Eckel's Flea Market, located at 3705 W. Elm St., is also starting monthly auctions with free refreshments for registered bidders in an effort to bring in customers, Carl Eckel said.

Their first auction is Friday with the preview to start at 4 p.m. and the auction to official start at 5 p.m. The auction will include antiques, collectibles, vintage household items, furniture, musical instruments and more.

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