Torn−up street hard on Harrison Ave. Businesses

By Cliff Radel, The Cincinnati Equirer

CHEVIOT − Replacing a gas main is producing financial pain for the baker, the dry cleaner and the hardware store owner.

Their revenues are way down since Harrison Avenue in Cheviot became a construction zone in November. Work started with a gas main. And that’s just the beginning.

The repairs − worth a combined $4 million − should last 18 months, counting breaks for Westfest, a street festival, and the Harvest Home Parade. The project also entails replacing the street’s water main and traffic signals as well as resurfacing.

“Here’s where the gas pains are,” said Ray Kroner, owner of Kroner Dry Cleaners, “in the wallet.” Business is down 20 percent at Kroner’s 69−year−old establishment.

“We can take our licks,” Kroner said. “We have delivery routes. And, we’ve been open since 1939.” Around the corner, the three−month−old Taber Bakery − the first bakery to open in Cheviot in 15 years −finds sales down 50 percent.

“The decline began around Valentine’s Day, the day the cones came,” said baker Jeff Taber. In the middle of an hourlong drought between customers, he tidied his display case.

Outside, a backhoe in the middle of the street dug a trench delineated by a column of tall orange plastic cones. The excavation turned the parking spaces in front of the bakery into a through lane. Taber’s has no parking lot.

“My elderly customers used to pull up outside and I’d run out to deliver their orders,” Taber said. “Can’t do that now.”

Pat Brockmeyer walks every day from her nearby Westwood home to the bakery. She dodges dump trucks,
trenches and orange cones for her daily Danish.

“It’s an ordeal to get here,” she said. “But worth it. Jeff uses the best ingredients. The walks do me good. But, not everyone wants the exercise. The bakery’s struggling.”

Down the street, Small’s Do It Best Hardware − a Cheviot mainstay for 41 years − has seen sales fall 25 percent since crews started ripping up the street. “Some days I’m stunned we are as busy as we are since you flat−out can’t get here,” said owner Bernie Small.

As he checked in an order of screws, Small stressed he’s not complaining. “The street work needs to be done,” he said. He’s “concerned,” however, about customers running the gantlet of construction trucks and detour signs. Small worries about neighboring businesses, particularly Taber Bakery. As he noted, shovels have a long shelf life. Doughnuts don’t.

“I’m not putting a lot out,” Taber said as he reached into his display case for a buttery cherry Danish. “I was throwing too much away.”

At the dry cleaners, Kroner wondered what could be done to help the business district survive construction. He wanted to know if the work could be done at night.

“A worker could get killed at night by a drunk driver,” said Steve Neal, Cheviot’s safety−service director.

“Three cars have driven into the trench in broad daylight.”

In addition to the dangers, Neal mentioned the neighbors.

“Apartments are above lots of those businesses,” he said. “Folks who live there deserve a good night’s sleep.”

The affected businesses continue to scramble to survive. Taber intends to expand his commercial accounts. Mike Fieglein, Taber’s assistant baker, is already on the case.

Fieglein buses tables at Newport’s Brio Tuscan Grill. In his spare time, he hawks treats from the bakery.

“One night, I sold $50 worth of baked goods,” Fieglein said. “Good thing Jeff hired somebody who works two jobs.”