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Construction done, Evansville’s downtown is back, business owners say

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GINA R. HEINE
October 31, 2007
— There’s a buzz in downtown Evansville.

It’s not just because the Blue Devil football team has advanced to the third round of WIAA playoffs.


Main Street is open, and people are curious.


In a small city, downtown employees know the locals. But Bridgit Larsen of the chamber of commerce has been happy to see people she doesn’t recognize wandering downtown. She credits the makeover.


Larsen works at 8 W. Main St. She has a good view of the redone street featuring 250,000 original brick pavers.


City Administrator Dan Wietecha said he’s received calls from prospective businesses that recognize the new, attractive downtown.


“There’s a buzz around Evansville downtown,” he said.


Business owners and residents breathed a huge sigh of relief Friday as barricades came down on East Main Street after seven months of construction.


“We’re glad it’s over,” many business owners agreed.


A ribbon-cutting ceremony and celebration are planned Nov. 16-17.


A sales decline partly due to the construction pushed owners of Dollar Land, 26 W. Main St., and Hometown Video, 18 W. Main St., to close in May. About the same time, however, two other businesses opened on the same block: Inside Out Expressions art studio and gallery and LaTrattoria Italian Restaurant & Bakery.


Susan Finque and Maria Martinez, owners of Real Coffee, 18 E. Main St., stayed open as long as they could before temporarily closing July 15.


“Our diehard regulars have been there through it all, but it was not enough to make it affordable to stay open,” Finque said.


In the meantime, the women catered for events, opened for special events at the coffee shop and kept busy with other talents and jobs.


But they’re open now, as is the rest of the street, and business owners want people to know.


Shelley Meredith, Evansville Pharmacy’s general manager, said she can’t complain about the project’s inconveniences.


Thanks to a parking lot and an entrance in the back of her building at 21 W. Main St., sales even in the non-pharmacy portion of the store didn’t suffer much, she said.


She also credits the attitude she had going into the construction.


“Don’t look like you’re going out of business,” she said.


She kept the store full and “forged ahead.”


She “went all out” buying for the Christmas season. She anticipates high interest in the downtown changes, and that could mean more shoppers.


The $2.3 million project was necessary to replace utilities dating to 1900. Finque is happy with the results.


“This is an opportunity for small businesses to get in on the ground floor of a very handsome Main Street,” Finque said.


If you go

A ribbon-cutting ceremony and celebration is being planned for Friday, Nov. 16 and Saturday, Nov. 17, on Main Street in downtown Evansville.


The ceremony with area dignitaries is scheduled for 3 p.m. Friday, with carriage rides, music on the street and an arts/vendor show through the evening. Events will continue Saturday with a visit from Santa Claus from 10 a.m. to noon at the Grange Mall, a band on the street, the arts/vendor show and other activities.



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