Businesses coping with South Street work

Stores, restaurants feeling effects of roadway overhaul

MILFORD – At Ami­go’s Mexican Restaurant midafternoon on the Friday before Memorial Day weekend, manager P.J. LaJeunese is mixing a Margarita and talking about the effect road­work is having on busi­ness.

A major overhaul of South Street is under­way, and he said busi­ness is slower than normal for a Friday, although that might be because of the holiday weekend.

Some customers have told him it took them 10 minutes to find a spot to park, and LaJeunese is grateful that the TD Bank across the street is letting people park in its lower lot. He’s grateful, too, that contractors stop work every day at 4 p.m. at the latest, as they promised they would do. But Amigo’s outdoor tables under the wide overhang, a historic feature on the street, are a popular gathering place, and they are gone for the duration of the construction work. At the nearby Union Coffee Co., crews dug a trench in front of the shop on Friday. Owner Derek Fimbel said the workers have been "awesome, and careful to let it affect the shop as little as possible." Nonetheless, the coffee shop’s morning business has slowed. "Commuters on their way to work seem to have stopped coming here," Fimbel said, though some of that business has been replaced by construction workers who buy coffee and breakfast sandwiches. Fimbel said the shop can make it through the summer, but he is afraid when the work is finished, people will "create new routines" for getting their morning coffee. Henry Nguyen, owner of the Swirl & Serve frozen yogurt shop, said the work has interfered a lot with his business. Besides the lack of parking, "It’s dirty and dusty," he said. But everyone seems to agree that the work needs doing, and that the results will be worth the trouble. The $1 million road widening and beautification project had been in the planning stages for 10 years. It involves the area between the Oval and the railroad tracks. The federal government is paying for 80 percent and the town is paying the balance. South Street, part of Route 13, is being gradually widened and utilities are going underground in the area from the Oval to the Christian Science Church. There will be new curbs and sidewalks on most of the road’s length, and period lighting. Fimbel said people are willing to deal with the dust and distruptions because everyone knows it needs to be done, and they are excited about the expected outcome – which will "look nice and be a lot safer." Kathy Cleveland can be reached at 673-3100 or kcleveland@cabinet.com.