Despite some predictions of gloomy sales and business failures if the Maine Department of Transportation project took away Main Street parking, most businesses were doing a brisk business Monday – in some cases, according to the merchants, even better than last year.
Bells were tinkling welcome all over downtown Wiscasset, despite orange cones and barrels and other signs of construction.
Margot Sullivan of Moulinette said she hasn’t had a single complaint about parking. “Not one,” she said. “We think people are stopping because they’re seeing the storefronts, not the backs of people’s cars.”
Brad Sevaldson of BIRCH said he thinks business was down early in the year, but he chalked that up to the weather. ”It was a long, rainy spring,” he said. “But with the return of summer, it’s been like this,” he said, excusing himself to speak to a customer who came in the door.
At Rock Paper Scissors, there was such a crush of customers that the Wiscasset Newspaper did not wish to distract the owner from business.
Denise Altand, a chef who is moving from Vermont to work for the Five Islands Yacht Club this summer, sat outside Treats with her husband. She said the construction didn’t deter them. “You have to do a lot to stop people from coming to Wiscasset.”
Even merchants are coming to Wiscasset, according to Judy Flanagan. “We’ve had four businesses open downtown during construction,” she pointed out. She was also impressed with the June Art Walk. “A lot of people came out for that, even with the construction going on.”
People seemed to find parking without trouble. Both the former Haggett building site and the Railroad Avenue site were being used, many spaces by out-of-staters.
No one was willing to give up their Red’s Eats fix, either. Maury Tillman of Hartford, Connecticut, parked in the Railroad Avenue lot. He said Red’s was on his bucket list. “It takes more than having to park a block away to keep me away,” he said.
Further up Main Street, In the Clover had multiple customers. Owner Casey McNamara said things were going well, and she was seeing regular local customers as well as summer people. “It helps to have a shady parking lot behind the building,” she said, smiling.
Cordelia Oehmig of Wiscasset Bay Gallery was cautiously hopeful. The Gallery has seen a downturn, especially in customers who might see a window display and dash in if there were an open parking space. “Also on rainy days, people might stop if there is parking right in front, but not if they have to walk too far,” she said. “You walk through a parking lot if you need groceries, but not for a luxury item.” However, she said, 40 percent of their customer base is repeat customers who are members of an email list. If the good weather continues, she hopes foot traffic on the north side of the street will also increase.
Due to weather issues, some of the work MDOT planned to have done by July 2 has not yet been completed. Work broke for the July 4 holiday and was scheduled to resume Sunday, July 7. MDOT plans to finish paving the base on Water Street and parking stalls diagonally across from Mammy's Bakery; paving a second layer on Route 1 and the side streets; excavating for and placing concrete for the mast arm foundation near Sarah’s; setting the electrical service foundation for the crosswalk signals by the post office; and beginning to place granite curbing and building the sidewalks.