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Lake Road businesses carry on, look to beginning of paving work

They say that when life gives you lemons, make lemonade. Sue Johansen, owner of the Wild Flour Bakery on Lake Road in Rocky River ,is taking this advice literally, even though in her case it may well be lemon meringue.

Johansen is running a contest at her bakery in which contestants guess when work on Lake Road will be completed. The catch is, customers must physically visit the bakery to enter, and no e-mails or Facebook entries will be accepted. A form including an entrant’s name, phone number and e-mail address has to be completed and placed in – what else – a cookie jar.

“There’s nothing we can do about it, so we might as well have some fun,” said Johansen of the ongoing project, which according to city officials will be totally complete in July. “It had to be done and we were given lots of advance notice,” she added. Underground work, which totally replaced sewer lines, some of which were close to 100 years old, has been completed and according to Mayor Pam Bobst, work on the paving phase is set to begin on May 15.

In a recent interview, Bobst told West Life that a meeting between Lake Road business owners, ODOT representatives and city officials was held on April 1, and while some concerns were expressed, she said it was a good session.

“There was some concern among the business owners when they saw some excavating taking place, then they saw the workers go back and do some more,” stated Bobst. She explained that according to foremen from DiGioia Suburban Excavating, the contractor for the work, a two foot deep opening was necessary to test the viability of the surface to accept pavement. It was then determined that they needed to dig a little deeper, and so the second excavation was needed.

Businesses represented at the meeting, according to Bobst, included the Lake Road Market, Grady’s, Danny Boy’s, Corcoran’s Garage, Wild Flour and Cravings Café. She added that Joe Orange, owner of the landmark Bearden’s Restaurant, which closed in December, was also present.

“Joe was there, but is still uncertain of his future,” said Bobst. Orange closed his business for what he claimed was a drop in revenue due to the roadwork making it difficult for customers to visit. Bobst said that Orange was still interested in selling the restaurant. Orange could not be reached for comment.

Paving work between the Clock Tower Park and Morewood Parkway is the priority, according to Bobst, with special attention to the area in front of Kensington Intermediate School. “The bus lane needs to be paved and we already have that commitment to the schools,” stated Bobst. She said that the bulk of the work is to be done during spring break, April 22 to May 2, but may start a few days before an d run a few days after. During this time, she said student pick-up and drop off would be available on Falmouth Drive.

Bobst said the biggest disruption during the paving process would occur during the paving and sidewalk replacement on the south side of Lake, directly in front of the stores. Ron Gottschalk of the building department, who is serving a liaison between the businesses and the city, will keep the owners abreast of the schedule, according to Bobst. “There will be two days when the cement trucks will be coming in one after the other,” she said, adding that police will be directing traffic during this time, and there will be access to all businesses. Owners, however, will be encouraged not to schedule deliveries during this time.

“We’ll have to wait and see what happens with the weather before we get fully mobilized,” Bobst stated, adding “We’ll communicate well in advance when we can hone in on what days this will be.

While businesses on Lake Road say they are hanging on, not all share Johansen’s lighthearted attitude. “Our business is down by 40 percent. We’re trying to hold on, but people are going somewhere else,” stated Sylvia Kash, a worker at Cravings Café. Owner Paul Sykes was out of town at the time. She said that while most of their business is local, customers still do not want to deal with the construction.

Elizabeth LaVigne, owner of Grady’s Fine Wine credits her loyal customers for keeping her business going. “I have the best customers you could ask for,” she stated. She said that the city has worked well with the businesses, but she added, “It’s puzzling when you keep seeing the same hole dug up time and again, but that’s to be expected.”

Down the street from Wild Flour, a sign announces that the Visage Portrait Studio has moved, but owner Julie Walborn states on her blog “The time has come for a new adventure.” She adds that she has been photographing exclusively on location for the last year and has decided to “say goodbye to the four walls that contain so many beautiful memories”. A worker answering the number on Visage’s website confirmed that this is the reason for leaving the Lake Road location and not construction. Walborn did not return a phone call.

“She was a good neighbor. We’re all sorry to see her leave,” said Johansen of Walborn. Johansen stated that she is still putting the rules in place for her contest, the prize being a $100 gift certificate. She summed up her contest in with what could also be words of advice for Lake Road businesses. “We’ll figure it out as we go along,” she said.

 

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