The Rucker Renewal Project is complete but the COVID closures still hamper businesses along the thoroughfare in Everett. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

The Rucker Renewal Project is complete but the COVID closures still hamper businesses along the thoroughfare in Everett. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

COVID and road closures have hampered Rucker Ave. businesses

The streetscape looks better, but pedestrian traffic hasn’t returned.

EVERETT — The Rucker Renewal Project handcuffed businesses along one of Everett’s main thoroughfares for more than a year. As the project began to wrap up, the pandemic hit, and now some businesses along the corridor are just trying to survive.

“All the uncertainty makes you feel shaken,” said Maki Perry, owner of Body & Brain Yoga Tai-chi at 1319 Hewitt Ave. “You think, maybe it’s a sign that I should just give up.”

Perry said her business, teaching tai chi and meditation, has been hurt in the past year. She celebrated her eight-year anniversary in early July but said the business isn’t where she wishes it was.

“It has been tough, but I think I am tougher,” Perry said.

Construction on the project to give Rucker Avenue a facelift was completed last month — more than a year after it began and months behind the anticipated reopening this spring.

In December, a city engineer attributed delays to wet weather, abandoned underground utilities and unsuitable soil. Upon excavation, crews found an old wooden water line, voids, oil tanks and other problems that required more work and fill than expected.

“That is a 100-year-old roadway. Each of those presented a challenge,” Tom Hood, a senior engineer working on the streetscape project, told The Daily Herald in December.

The work along the four blocks between Pacific and Everett avenues added a tree-lined median, improved lighting and replaced an aging water line. The $9.6 million state- and city-funded project included removing one lane in each direction north of Hewitt Avenue.

The redevelopment was designed to make the environment more walkable with larger sidewalks, more street parking and landscaping. Businesses along Rucker Avenue said the improvements look great, but not all have seen results.

The Rucker Renewal Project is complete but the COVID closures still hamper businesses along the thoroughfare in Everett. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

The Rucker Renewal Project is complete but the COVID closures still hamper businesses along the thoroughfare in Everett. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

“It looks beautiful. Hopefully it does make a difference in pedestrian traffic and getting customers in, but we haven’t noticed a huge difference yet,” said Lynnette Smith, a longtime employee at Bargreen’s Coffee Co., 2821 Rucker Ave.

On top of the months of torn-up streets and limited access, starting in March businesses were affected by closures and mandates instituted by Gov. Jay Inslee to quell the COVID-19 pandemic.

Chris Covington, owner of Port Gardner Bay Winery and Structural Design Associates, in the same building at 3006 Rucker Ave., said he doesn’t expect a return to normal for the winery side of his business until next year.

“For me it is real easy to see the science, if the graph flattens out he (Gov. Inslee) might consider opening us up, until that happens we are closed down,” Covington said.

While the winery continues to sell wine by the bottle and case, tastings and events are shuttered for the foreseeable future. Covington said he is fortunate to have the engineering business to lean on but recognizes that isn’t the situation for many others.

“There are coffee shops and restaurants that are just shut down. I feel real bad for them. They are good places, good hard-working people,” he said.

Stylist Mindi Skidds works at Hairforce Salon and Color Studio at 2914 Rucker Ave. She said since reopening in June she’s worked seven days a week to meet the needs of customers.

“I finally just got all my clients in this week,” Skidds said. “I think I am booked into September, just because people are worried if we get shut down again they want to get in.”

The coronavirus prevention measures are extensive, Skidds said, including no waiting room, customer temperature checks and staff changing masks and smocks after each client, but she’ll do whatever is necessary to not jeopardize her license and stay open.

“I don’t care what they ask us to do, I would do it just so we could work, because I don’t want to get shut down again,” she said.

This story has been modified to correct the original planned completion date of the Rucker Avenue project.

Ian Davis-Leonard: 425-339-3448; idavisleonard@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @IanDavisLeonard.

Ian Davis-Leonard reports on working class issues through Report for America, a national service program that places emerging journalists into local newsrooms to report on under-covered issues. To support Ian’s work at The Daily Herald with a tax-deductible donation, go to www.heraldnet.com/support.

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