‘A complete surprise’: Merchants frustrated as construction blocks road on Small Business Saturday


PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — It’s the biggest sales day of the holiday season for small business owners, but for merchants on Hope Street in Providence, it was more of a headache.

Providence Water crews closed a portion of the street early Saturday morning and part of the afternoon for utility work. The construction has been happening for some time, but business owners, like Asher Schofield of Frog & Toad, thought the work would be paused on such an important day.

“Small Business Saturday is probably, like, the highest revenue, highest traffic day that businesses like mine experience every year,” Schofield said. “So, it’s come as a complete surprise to us that traffic is totally detoured from this street, and parking is inaccessible at the moment on Hope Street proper.”

Schofield took to Twitter with his complaint and told 12 News it’s one more issue small business owners have to deal with.

“Small businesses have had to endure a pandemic, supply chain issues, and of course, because we’re in Providence, we’re having to deal with unannounced street closures and road work,” he said. “It’s a real illustration of how tone-deaf this utility work can be when they don’t realize that small businesses depend on holiday shopping on days like today so greatly.”

A few shops down the street like Studio Hop, a business that sells fine art and fine crafts, had a slow morning. Owner Nina Kooloian Tegu thinks the utility work is to blame.

“It’s adding a bit of a thorn during what’s already a challenging time. We’re trying to catch our breath, we’re trying to really stay positive,” she said. “Early this morning, one of the merchants came in very early, saw (the road closure), and tried to reach out to the mayor, (but) didn’t get any response from his office.”

Tegu said that merchant called Councilwoman Nirva LaFortune who got the crews to wrap up at 1:30 p.m. instead of 3 p.m. But those lost hours mean less money for those shops struggling to stay afloat.

“This is the day and the season that we really work so hard for,” said Tegu. “To have another challenge during a pandemic, or even without a pandemic… to have any kind of challenge for a small business that’s caused by a situation in the city where it could have been halted, I think, for a day… yeah. It’s kind of hard.”

12 News reached out to Mayor Jorge Elorza‘s office for comment but did not hear back.

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