Broadway Corridor retailers fear major construction project will decimate holiday sales

Like many small retailers, Merry Colvin, owner of Merry’s at Broadway and Temple Avenue, is struggling to stay open.

The shop, known for it’s life-sized metal camel outside, specializes in clothing and jewelry from the Middle East, Morocco, India, Tibet and elsewhere.

While her goods are unique, Colvin said she’s been hit hard by the online shopping boom.

“We’re hanging by a thumbnail,” she said.

Counting on the holiday season to keep her in business, Colvin, 74, said she was devastated to learn that the city’s Broadway Corridor Revitalization project in front of her shop could stretch into December. The project will tear up sidewalks and streets, significantly impacting parking and foot traffic.

“I was hoping Christmas would be our saving grace, and then the city comes and gives us that last kick into the grave,” she said. “They’re hitting us at the worst possible time.”

Long Beach’s massive Broadway revitalization, which kicked off in February, is designed to calm traffic and transform the busy corridor into walkable, bike-friendly neighborhoods.

The project, funded through the Measure A sales tax, spans from Alamitos to Redondo Avenue and includes bike lanes and major overhauls for sidewalks, curbs and gutters. The project also added 121 new parking spaces along First and Second streets.

Phase 1 east from Alamitos has been completed, while Phase 2 stretching just past Junipero Avenue should be finished by mid-October. Phase 3, the final phase from Lindero to Redondo avenues, is expected to begin Oct. 22.

Business owners in the final Phase 3, including Merry’s, said the construction comes at the worst time during the holiday season.

In a petition to city officials, 18 businesses from Lindero to Redondo have asked that the city consider breaking up the work into smaller segments to help foot traffic and parking during the holiday season.

“We’re definitely going to lose business,” said Ciaran Gallagher, owner of Gallagher’s Pub & Grill at Broadway and Temple. “It’s supposed to take about six weeks and the parking will be gone during that time. People are going to drive around looking for parking and then next thing you know they’re going somewhere else.”

Jennifer Carey, a spokesperson for the city’s Public Works Department, said the city has worked to accommodate businesses and residents, including establishing a hotline and reopening construction areas after 4 p.m. to minimize parking issues.

The city also pushed plans for street overlay work to January to minimize further impact during the holidays, she added.

“Our project team has been working with Merry and other businesses along the corridor to make as many accommodations as possible to lessen the impacts in their area,” she said in an email. “Recently, our contractor has reorganized their construction plans to cut the construction time in front of Merry’s and other businesses in that area in half.”

The city does not yet have a date for when the work will be completed since plans are still being finalized, she said.

While the city has promised to speed up the construction outside of her shop, Colvin said her business would still be impacted by the major work and street closures along Broadway.

“We can’t handle any kind of blockages right now,” she said.

After owning a similar shop in Oregon, Colvin and her husband Dallas moved to Long Beach and used their life savings to open Merry’s at 2747 E. Broadway 12 years ago.

Marry Colvin, 74 of Long Beach, is seen in her shop by the dressing rooms In Long Beach September 24, 2018. Colvin the owner of Merry’s shop is beside herself because the city will be doing construction in front of her business in the weeks before Christmas. She says it could cost her in lost sales and force her to close. Photo by Thomas R Cordova

 

From authentic Egyptian bellydancing costumes to handmade harem pants from Nepal, her shop features hundreds of items that come directly from the makers.

Colvin, a former East Coast runway model, said it’s always been her dream to promote cultural awareness through handmade goods.

“This is what I’ve waited for my whole life,” she said. “How could I ever close this place?”

Colvin said she’s happy the city is improving Broadway, but the timing is terrible.

“We’re glad they’re finally noticing us,” Colvin said. “But please, not right before Christmas.”

Contact the writer: [email protected]

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Kelly Puente is a general assignment and special projects reporter at the Long Beach Post. Her prolific reporting has taken her all over Southern California—even to the small Catalina Island town of Two Harbors. She is a Tiki mug collector and is currently pursuing a master’s degree in public policy and administration at Cal State Long Beach. Reach her at [email protected].
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