BY LAUREN ANTONE
At the Red Hill Shopping Center where many students walk for lunch, when construction picked up, business slowed down.
Construction to beautify Red Hill Shopping Center has negatively impacted several businesses, putting shop owners and restaurants into debt by turning away new and returning customers.
Several Red Hill businesses, including and Pretty Baby, have been forced to close due to financial costs and slower business, while Stella’s Fine Consignments has relocated to San Rafael. As of mid-October the UPS Store is moving as well, according to nearby shop owners.
The vacant spaces from these shops, combined with construction that bars many businesses from view, has led customers to believe that many of the Red Hill businesses are closed.
still remains, although “business is down about 30 to 40 percent,” said owner Saaman Sami. “I’ve had people call me to say, ‘When are you going to open back up?’ when we’ve never closed.”
Saaman Sami owns two other businesses in San Rafael that are now his main source of income. “They are how I’m staying afloat,” said Sami.
Since the renovations began, Holiday Cleaners has lost more than 40 customers who used to be regulars. “Sales have dropped more than half each day,” said Sami. “We are talking about thousands of dollars.”
Sami is not alone in his business’s growing debt. has also been impacted by the construction’s inconvenience to customers. “Our business is down more than ten percent,” said owner Elvis Johnson. “We are going into debt during this phase; we already owe lots of money.”
Although the Red Hill Pet Center is suffering from slower foot traffic and fewer customers, Johnson and his employees have maintained a positive attitude towards the remodel. “It’s going to look good after it’s done,” said Johnson, who expects that business will pick up once the construction has ended.
Lin Anbrosia, an employee at the neighboring , has the same optimistic view as Johnson, regardless of her own loss of customers and decrease in business. “After they finish, business will come back and bring new customers,” said Anbrosia. “I pray, please.”
While several of the remaining businesses have suffered from drops in business during the construction and how it inconveniences customers, a popular chain store, has hardly been financially impacted. Jessica Musselman, a Peet’s Coffee & Tea employee, mentioned the construction’s effect only on new business, “but regulars, not so much.”
Mostly hidden behind the construction fences on the left side of the shopping center, the new has opened, drawing in a few more customers than the other nearby stores. While business is steady, according to Swirl’s manager, Terrance Levey, the owner and employees expected a greater customer flow. “A lot of people complain about how long and daunting the walk is,” said Levey.
As a popular chain frozen yogurt shop, Swirl is fairing much greater than other eateries at Red Hill Shopping Center.
At , the 30-year-old business is suffering more than it has at any other time as a result of the construction. “I’ve been told that people think we are closed and that’s just not the case,” said Clarise Langley, manager of Easy Street Café. “As of last week we are down 50 percent but we are not leaving. We are just trying to get through the remodel.”
To make it through the renovations, Easy Street Café has “cut back on labor so people aren’t working as many hours as they used to,” said Langley.
Before the renovations began, Easy Street Café was a family spot where people could sit outside or enjoy their meal from a window seat. Now, the restaurant is blocked off by the green tarps of the construction site. More limited access to the restaurant and fewer parking spaces has resulted in the major loss in business.
“The noise, the dust and the lack of parking are the three biggest inconveniences that people don’t want to deal with,” said Langley.
Although business is down and Easy Street Café is suffering, Langley and her fellow employee Kristy Moller agree that the remodel should benefit the restaurant once it is completed.
“You know it is bad though when it is 9 a.m. on a Saturday morning and no one is in here,” added Kristy Moller.
According to construction managers interviewed at the scene, the project spanned from July 20th until November 10th. For the merchants, it will be none too soon.