Merced stores hope for boost in business

MERCED, California

A steady stream of customers stopped by Joe on the Go for lunch Thursday, but the owner says she still has to make up for a lot of lost profits. Melissa Rasmussen estimates business was down 50 to 75 percent while the G Street entrance to the Bear Creek Galleria was closed for a repaving project. The work forced drivers to loop through a neighborhood to access the shopping center.

Rasmussen said, "I'm a cafe so people at lunch time want to be able to get in and out quick, and they just didn't want to take the time."

Sheri Browning says her business also suffered. She was in shock after learning about the construction plans because she moved her gift and stationery shop here after going days without a single customer during a road project in downtown last year.

Browning said, "Downtown was a ghost town during construction, so it's definitely better here than downtown, but downtown also took a lot longer."

Crews finished the G Street project ahead of schedule, and now workers are making progress on a million dollar renovation to the shopping center. Christina Macha says she's kept customers posted by email and Facebook to avoid losing business and is excited about the final product.

Macha said, "Everything from the roof all the way down to the sidewalks will be brand new, so it's a big project but we're almost done."

But this effort to modernize the shopping center has also unveiled a piece of Merced's history. The front of a Save Mart store that closed about 30 years ago is now exposed, and it's bringing back memories for many long-time residents.

Kathy Scoto said, "It's kind of weird when I pulled in, and I saw Save Mart I'm like oh my gosh, I forgot, it was a grocery store, that's right!"

This renovation project is expected to be complete next month, so that Save Mart sign won't be showing much longer.

Meanwhile, store owners here want to remind shoppers that they are open for business.

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