Marcy-Holmes businesses still struggling

Business is bouncing back from the initial decline, but is far from past years’ levels.

Kelly Gulbrandson

As construction begins on the new Interstate 35W bridge, some establishments in the Marcy-Holmes neighborhood continue to assess their businesses.

Tom DeGree, owner of Wilde Roast Café at 518 Hennepin Ave. E., said the number of customers decreased more than 50 percent right after the collapse. Business is now back up to 80 percent of its pre-bridge collapse rate, he said.

“We have daily customers that come up from South Minneapolis that didn’t know how to work through the city at first, so they just didn’t come,” he said.

DeGree also said business is nowhere near the levels it used to be during weekends a year ago.

The other neighborhood businesses have been supportive of each other since the collapse, he said.

“Everybody is kind of feeling it,” DeGree said.

To address these concerns, the Marcy-Holmes Neighborhood Association discussed possible solutions at an Aug. 21 meeting.

Executive director Melissa Bean said some developments that were planned for the area around the collapse had to be discontinued to allow for the construction, such as University Crossings strip mall at 10th and University avenues.

DeGree said the now-increased traffic in the area has also affected some business. If people drive by fast, they are less likely to stop somewhere.

“The less people see us, the less people stop,” he said.

While not yet to the point of needing financial help, DeGree said he has received information from the city about small business loans that are available to businesses affected by the bridge collapse.

To deal with the problems, DeGree said he has had to cut back employee and store hours.

Of the 20 employees at the café, only four or five are full time, he said. The part-time employees suffer the most because there aren’t enough work hours to give them.

Gopher Cleaners and Launderers is another business that suffered from the bridge collapse. Owner Debbie Allen said while many factors led to the business’s demise, the bridge collapse was a big factor.

The business had problems with crime in the past, she said, but the bridge collapse “finally did it.”

Business declined 85 percent immediately after the collapse, Allen said. A fire that occurred Aug. 10 shut down the business for good.

While she said the cause of the fire is still under investigation, Minneapolis police arson unit investigator Sean McKenna said in an Aug. 15 Daily article that faulty wiring was a probable cause. McKenna estimated damage to the wiring occurred when the building shook during the bridge collapse.

Brian Bussey, a strategic communications senior, said that the bridge collapse hasn’t changed the way he shops, but added he doesn’t shop much in the Marcy-Holmes area even though he lives there.

DeGree said he thinks businesses in the area will rebound as they adapt to the changes.

“You can’t prepare for an event like this,” he said. “You just have to quickly develop new customers.”