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Belknap still open for business

Patrick Ellis, left, and Alica Gaskin, both of Duluth, brose the tables at the Salvation Army in Superior on Friday afternoon. “We had to park over two blocks away,” Ellis joked as he talked about the construction on Belknap Street. Jed Carlson / jcarlson@superiortelegram.com

With Memorial Day weekend over, work on the reconstruction of Belknap Street is back in full swing. Businesses with a front-row seat to the construction have been feeling the effects of the work, some more than others. When asked what they would tell the public if they could, many had a similar message.

"We are open and ready for business," said Nancy Cox, assistant manager at the Salvation Army Thrift Store. "Come on in."

Business owners said they were pleased with the decision to leave Belknap Street open to traffic throughout the project.

"By keeping one side open over two years it's good for business, because there's still access," said Tina Prior, owner of Shirts Unlimited.

When access to the Belknap Plaza got cut off at one point, Belknap Liquor and Lounge co-owner Alan Jaques said the contractors were quick to open it back up.

"The contractors are way better than in the 80s," he said, and have really paid attention to the details.

How is the construction season going?

"So far, so good," Jaques said.

He said the lounge's back door has been as busy, if not busier, than usual. The business has been a part of Superior's landscape for 37 years, and continues to draw regulars, as well as new faces.

"They've been supporting us for years; they still are," Jaques said.

At the nearby Plaza Beauty Shop, owner Sandy Fraley said she is still seeing new clients. Two walked in Wednesday; one Thursday.

"It's better than what I thought it was going to be," Fraley said.

Little Caesar's owner Michelle Rapp said she was pleasantly surprised to see business actually picked up the last two weeks.

"People seem to be finding their way," she said.

The nearby Subway restaurant has seen a big drop in lunch business, said employee Trenton Colby. He attributes it to slow traffic during busy times like the lunch hour. Business has slowed down for the plaza's O'Reilly's Auto Parts store, as well.

Across the street, the China Inn is taking construction in stride.

"I don't think it affects us as much because we've been here so long," said manager Ali Wu.

The restaurant is a longtime Superior staple with a core of regulars. It's been open for more than 25 years.

Rascal's Professional Pet Grooming relocated to 119 Belknap St. in February, just before construction started. Owner Crystal Broderson said the appointment-based business is faring well despite the orange cones, but she can understand how the work could impact retail shops that rely on foot traffic.

Across the street at Once Again New and Used, which opened 2½ years ago in the Erlanson's building, customer traffic has slowed down over the past two weeks. Nearby Shirts Unlimited was holding its own. Owner Tina Prior said they're in the midst of seasonal baseball, softball and little league orders.

On the other end of Belknap, some retail shops are struggling.

"Business is down 30 to 40 percent," said the Salvation Army's Cox. She attributes it to parking issues, although regulars still find a way to the store.

Goodiel Beads at 1717 Belknap St. opened April 21. Owner Jamie Goodiel said she's had to cut hours and lay off one employee. They're down to a skeleton crew.

"I think we're going to make it," Goodiel said. "I think we're all going to have to pull together."

To reach the string of shops along the 1700 block of Belknap Street, customers can use the parking lots beside the Superior Public Library or seek spots along Ogden and Tower avenues.

"Our loyal customers are definitely still coming in," said Earth Exchange owner, Cara James, who's tacked on an added 5 percent construction discount to purchases. "Most people are battling through, and they know about the public parking across the street and on the side streets."

"They're supporting us," said Antiques on Belknap owner Janet Sobolik.

"We're grateful," James said, and excited for the project to be completed. "It'll be beautiful when it's done."

What would these business owners like to tell the public?

"Just be patient," Broderson said. "It will all work out and it will be beautiful when it's done."

"We're still here," Rapp said.

For updates on the Belknap Street reconstruction project, visit projects.511wi.gov/belknap, www.superiorbid.com or the Belknap/US 2 Construction Facebook page.

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