A sign outside Bargreen’s Coffee on Rucker Avenue pokes fun at the large pile of construction dirt. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

A sign outside Bargreen’s Coffee on Rucker Avenue pokes fun at the large pile of construction dirt. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Rucker construction blues: ‘We’ve gotten used to the shaking’

Downtown Everett businesses cope with road closures, debris and the roar of the jackhammer.

EVERETT — Meditation isn’t exactly a restorative pause when the jackhammer fires up.

“I’m trying to stay positive and focus on the end result,” said Maki Perry, who owns Body & Brain Yoga-Taichi in downtown Everett.

Perry teaches stretching, taichi and meditation — when there’s a lull. “So far, people are making it to class,” she said.

Body & Brain, at 1319 Hewitt Ave., is one of a dozen or so Everett businesses that are coping this summer with road closures and noise.

The sidewalks are clear and open, but Rucker Avenue between Everett and Hewitt avenues has been closed to vehicle traffic since July.

The stretch, part of the Rucker Renewal Project, is expected to reopen in late September or early October, Kathleen Baxter, Everett’s public works spokeswoman, said this week.

The $9.6 million state and city-funded project replaces aging utilities and adds pedestrian-friendly features, including a center median to four downtown blocks on Rucker Avenue.

The city of Everett is using its social media channels — including Facebook and Twitter — to provide project updates and encourage folks to visit affected businesses. It also offers one-on-one meetings with the area businesses and other services.

For some merchants, the project is an inconvenience; for others, it’s a threat that’s cutting sharply into their revenues.

The owners of Prestige Espresso, a drive-up coffee stand on the corner of Rucker Avenue and California Street, say business is down by 60% since the project began in early July.

“We hope we’re here three months from now. We hope we don’t lose our business,” said Lisa Deshazer who owns the coffee-stand at 2627 Rucker Ave. with her daughter, Serenity Lundquist.

Prestige has cut its workweek from six to five days, closing on Saturdays. One of its two drive-up lanes fronts the closed street.

The city’s public works department has made signs directing visitors to Prestige Espresso, but the route can be complicated.

A “Businesses Open” sign points to the Prestige Coffee that’s stand blocked by construction on Rucker Avenue. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

A “Businesses Open” sign points to the Prestige Coffee that’s stand blocked by construction on Rucker Avenue. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

“It’s a bit of hassle getting here,” said Hannah Pittman, who visits the coffee stand two or three times a week. Her route takes her west on Everett Avenue, south on Grand Avenue and then east onto California Street before taking a left into the alley.

AAMCO Transmissions & Total Car Care, at 2801 Rucker Ave., is routing customers through an alley behind the business because its main entrance fronts Rucker, which is closed.

“They’ll have our address but then they can’t find us,” said owner Michael Kim.

“The problem is they give up and don’t come in.”

Business has slowed significantly since the start of construction, said Kim, who bought the repair business a year ago.

A 2010 study by the University of Wisconsin-Madison found that creativity in a construction zone can help boost business.

For example, Portland, Oregon, used performance art to attract people to businesses in a construction project area. Other cities used temporary public art to draw visitors, according to the report, which looked at how 33 U.S. cities drummed up business in the midst of a construction project.

In Green Bay, Wisconsin, customers who visited businesses in a construction zone were entered into a raffle for a big screen TV. “Green Bay noted success, as various customers admitted driving out of their way specifically to shop at the business, despite the construction,” the report said.

In San Jose, merchants offered city-subsidized discounts to customers.

Perry at Body & Brain is picking up the tab for customers to park at the Everpark Garage, located at 2815 Hoyt Avenue between Hewitt and California. The parking garage is owned by the city of Everett and managed by the Downtown Everett Association.

A few doors down, Mr Cuts’ barber shop is relying on its lighted barber pole to guide customers past the “Road Closed” sign.

“They see it and make their way here,” said owner Maurice Ivy, whose shop at 2828 Rucker is located in the middle of the block between Hewitt and California.

“Once I saw the barber pole, it was fine,” said Mill Creek resident Sam Thaing, who brought his 11-year-old son in for a haircut.

Ivy hasn’t seen a decline in appointments yet, but he worries about the fall months, when he depends more heavily on walk-ins.

A front end loader dumps more dirt into a pile on Rucker Avenue in Everett on Monday. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

A front end loader dumps more dirt into a pile on Rucker Avenue in Everett on Monday. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

The street is the haunt of dump trucks, front loaders and backhoes, and an intimidating source of decibels, in other words, it can be LOUD.

“Our employees are getting used to the shaking,” said Brandi Hoskins, manager of Goldfinch Brothers, a residential and commercial glass company, at 2812 Rucker Ave.

“Business is a little off as far as foot traffic but that’s not a big part of our operation,” Hoskins said. “When it’s done we’ll have beautiful new sidewalks and parking strips and a crosswalk mid-block,” she said.

Construction hasn’t impacted the wholesale side of Bargreen’s Coffee Co. at 2821 Rucker Ave., owner Howie Bargreen said. Sales at the cafe, however, are down 25%, said Lynnette Smith, the cafe’s manager.

“Fortunately our regulars are making it in,” Smith said. “We’re grateful for them.”

Howie Bargreen’s only real concern is where a planned mid-block pedestrian crosswalk will be located.

“We don’t want to lose our loading zone out front,” Bargreen said. “Our finished, roasted coffee has been going out the front door since 1910.”

But mostly, Bargreen and other merchants want people to know: their businesses are open.

The project is being done in three phases. When the stretch on Rucker between Everett and Hewitt is finished, the project will move south to the next block.

Janice Podsada; jpodsada@heraldnet.com; 425-339-3097. Twitter: JanicePods

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