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South First Street businesses impacted by road work

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Work on expanding South First Street is currently focused near the intersection of South First Street and South Hill Road. When complete, the project will feature wider lanes, a turn lane, as well as improvements to South Hill Road and a new traffic signal at the intersection at East Lincoln Avenue. The street is inaccessible from South Hill Road to East Lincoln Avenue, impeding access to some local businesses.

The businesses in the area of construction on Sunnyside's South First Street are feeling a varying degree of negative effects.

Business continues to be pretty steady at some businesses while others have experienced a severe drop in patrons. Most agree that the construction will most likely benefit them once it is completed. In the meantime, the merchants are hoping loyal customers and the community will navigate the road work and find their way to the shops.

Several of the business owners and managers, however, expressed displeasure with the city of Sunnyside for not personally contacting them about the construction start-up. "They did not tell us when the construction was going to start," said Walco Manager Chris Grow. He said the project has been planned for a number of years, but the actual start date was not provided.

"I learned about it by reading the paper," he said.

Bi-Mart Manager Michele Stickley said her business has been impacted slightly by the construction, but customers are "finding their way" to her store.

Those more greatly impacted by the construction are the convenience stores. Both A.J. Hohti, owner of Sunnyside Chevron, Cash Mart and Wine Country Espresso at the corner of South First Street and South Hill Road, and Bok Hyun and Young Kim, owners of Valley View Market on the corner of South First Street and East Lincoln Avenue, expressed they have experienced a significant drop in customers.

The two businesses are largely dependent on patrons stopping in at the spur of the moment. Mrs. Kim has reviewed her store's videos and noted business is "very slow."

Mr. Kim said he feels at a loss as to how the couple might attract customers to frequent the store.

The Kims and Hohti question whether or not the city can do anything to alleviate concerns. "We still pay same taxes and same fees," Hohti said.

The consensus among some of the business owners is a feeling that they must balance operation costs with the loss of revenues.

Two other business representatives said the impact has not been as great. Because Sartin Construction and Trucking is not dependent on the general public frequenting the establishment, Pete Sartin said, "We are very fortunate at the present."

He said there will be challenges for his drivers when cherry season begins, but his business will overcome them.

Because Walco offers delivery services, Grow said his firm has experienced very little impact. "It is more difficult to access our store, but people are still coming in," he stated.

Of those unwilling to traverse the construction, he said there are some who call in a delivery instead of walking through the door.

Those who are willing to make their way to Walco, Grow said, aren't all that pleased. "They are unhappy with the traffic and access," he stated.

But, the South First Street business owners and managers did agree the construction may prove beneficial once it is completed. Some, though, are concerned about surviving the next few months, but believe support from the community will help.

Young Kim said, "I just appreciate those who do go out of their way, detouring all the way around and coming back to my store."

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