Saturday, September 19, 2009

The Straw

We visited about a dozen University Avenue businesses today. Met Council keeps telling business owners that light rail is going to do a world of good for them, bringing in more customers from near and far as if the light rail will magically improve everyone’s life. But businesses don't buy it. They are surprisingly realistic. They know what’s going on. They know the parking will be gone. They know they will have a tough time going through construction. They know their taxes will go up. They know when the light is built they might not be around. One thing they all know now business is down due to the bad economy. They are struggling. One restaurant owner said she could barely cover her rent last month. She asked if we knew a place where she could get a sign made cheaply to advertise her desserts. She doesn’t know how long she will last if business don’t pick up.

Another woman who has owned a large building of shops for 15 years and now that’s half vacant is losing the building to the bank. When the bank takes over, she don’t know what she will do. All the shops will close or move. She said the shops don’t want to stick around for the light rail.

A small restaurant that opened two years ago is closing. The owner is looking for a buyer. He said he’s got family to take care of. But he also said with the way business is, he doesn’t want to deal with what’s coming down the line (in the middle of the avenue). He wants to get out before his business goes under.

People think or wish light rail is going to do a miracle for businesses on University Avenue. It ain’t. These people don’t know anything about running a small business. They just need to talk to a business owner for 5 minutes about how things are. Nobody does that with them. Nobody. How are you? How’s your business doing? Could be better. Staying alive. Slow. Surviving, barely. Just ask and listen. They will learn that with the economy so bad, light rail will be the straw that breaks the camel’s back. Owners know this. They know their business like nobody’s business, they know what’s going on. They don’t believe the hype of light rail and the rosy picture painted by the Met Council.

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