A survey of business owners and employees along the north side of Roosevelt Road produced a chorus of comments about the ongoing construction. Some were positive, others talked about how it has hurt their bottom line, but almost all agreed that the village has done a good job keeping them informed about the various stages of construction. 

Charles Tzouras, owner of the Golden Steer Restaurant, believes the construction is worthwhile. He likened it to an “illness” the village must recover from to upgrade Roosevelt Road. “Looks-wise, it will make Roosevelt Road cleaner and better.” Tzouras had no problem with communication from the village as the project has progressed.

Jim Nadeau, proprietor of Nadeau’s Ice Sculptures Inc., was also positive about the project. “As luck would have it,” he said, “the construction hasn’t hurt our business.” That’s because they made a major change to their business plan last September. “We used to sell cubed ice and dry ice, but we cut back entirely on retail.” It just wasn’t profitable to sell ice to customers who came to the front door. 

“We decided to just stick with ice carvings,” Nadeau said, adding that the village has been very much on top of the street project. “We receive e-mail blasts about what to expect next.” 

However, he was critical of certain aspects of the plan. “I’m glad they’re doing something on Roosevelt Road, but I don’t understand the medians. I don’t see the value of it. We need all the road space we can get.” Otherwise, Nadeau was very pleased about the decorative brickwork and the ornamental streetlights.

At Cardinal Wine & Spirits, owner Sanjay Bhatt confessed that construction was hurting sales. 

“The customers complain about it,” he said. “They want to know when it will be done.” Bhatt believes the project will be good for business in the long run and said communication from the village has been good. 

A few doors to the east, Jimmy Moccio was very upset about what the project was doing to his barbeque restaurant, Smokin’ M’s. 

“The construction and Ultra Foods closing has been a double whammy for us,” he said. Besides its effect on business, the project caused added anxiety when it temporarily shut down due to the state budget impasse. “It’s moving pretty fast now,” Moccio said, “but the flowerboxes in the middle will be a disaster, a real traffic hazard.”

At Spotless Car Wash, owner Bill McKenzie commented briefly, “The construction is hurting business, but the work needs to be done.” McKenzie has already survived a streetscape project at his location on Madison Street. That construction was even more disruptive because it involved new sewers. He credited the village for keeping him informed and said, “The construction superintendent has been very responsive. He’s made some changes we requested and the project will help business when it’s finished.”

Forest Park National Bank has also seen its share of woes due to the project. Branch Manager Pam Dass has a sign posted in the lobby, “The office will remain open during road construction.” Orange cones alert drive-thru customers. “The construction has been causing problems,” she acknowledged. “We had to close some drive-thru lanes.” Dass attends the meetings every Friday with the construction company at the intersection of Circle and Roosevelt. “Communication with the construction company could be better,” she said. “They need to let us know when they’re tearing things up.” Besides these meetings, Dass receives weekly updates from the village. 

At Carole’s Tavern, patrons are complaining, just like the customers at Cardinal’s. Bartender Liz Willoughby said, “It’s making it harder for customers to find parking. It was hard enough already. It’s a mess out there.”

Customers at Fade City have the same problem. Owner Nico Perez said, “The construction affects parking. Customers have to park blocks away. I hope it’s worth it when it’s finished. The owner of Salo’s Dry Cleaning & Alterations has no such complaints. “It’s not hurting business, so far,” said Solomon Gutierrez. “The village is communicating well and the project is worthwhile.” 

That was not the sentiment at Siloe Beauty Braid Gallery Corp. The owner said, “The construction is making it very hard to park. There’s no wheelchair access.” She hopes it will help in the future. One of her customers also piped up. Kimaya Wentworth complained that the construction has increased her commute time from 20 minutes to an hour. 

Andrea P., an employee at JM Mattress & Furniture Store, has also experienced longer commutes. “The construction is really bothering me. All these cones confuse me. I get delayed and sometimes I’m late for work.”

Andrea may be frazzled by the construction, but the atmosphere inside R. Eck & Son Inc. was positively placid. Frank Pedi said the project is not hurting their roofing business. 

“We’re not a retail operation,” he noted. “We get our business word-of-mouth.” This model has been successful since 1912 and their office has been at their Roosevelt Road location since 1963. He’s happy with the village’s weekly updates but takes a dim view of the project. “It won’t be worth it when it’s done. Parking is already difficult.” 

Time Dimensions Clock Repair has also been at its location a long time. Owner Lloyd Posavec said, “This is the third time we’ve had major construction in the 38 years we’ve been here. Customers are complaining there’s no place to park, but at least they haven’t torn up the sidewalk. The village sends notices when there’s a transition.” 

Posavec believes the temporary inconvenience is worth it. “Roosevelt Road will conform to the rest of the village,” he observed. “It will look like Madison Street, with new streetlights and bump-outs.”

At the western edge of the project, Joe Cali said the project was having, “no impact on business” at Kagan & Gaines Co. Inc. “People can still find parking.” The only hardship was when workers poured fresh concrete for the sidewalk, customers had to enter the store through American Music World. Cali is otherwise gung ho about the project. 

“The black ornamental streetlights will make the street more inviting,” he said. “The medians will slow down traffic. New curbs and sidewalks will give the street a cleaner look.”

Cali believes, “It was about time they gave Roosevelt a little respect, like installing brick pavers. It will be classier.”

Finally, Chubbs Polfus, a mainstay at McGaffer’s Tavern sounded off about the project. 

“Construction is cutting into our business,” he said. “They need more signage that says ‘business open.’ It’s really hurt our lunch crowd. Miller made us a banner that says our business is open.” McGaffer’s is adapting by serving food on Thursdays and Fridays from 4-7 p.m. 

“We get the grill going and offer beer specials,” Polfus said. Overall, he’s pleased with the project. “The village has been good. The project is worthwhile. It will slow down traffic.”

John Rice is a columnist/novelist who has seen his family thrive in Forest Park. He has published two books set in the village: The Ghost of Cleopatra and The Doll with the Sad Face.

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