It was a cool evening last fall when shop owners in Old Town Berea slowly gathered in the street chatting. Bell Jackson, executive director of Berea Tourism remembers, “As soon as it got dark several shop owners seemed to gather. We stood in the middle of the road just looking up and down the street. It was beautiful, and emotional.”
Construction started last spring on North Broadway, and the finishing touches to the road will be added within the next three weeks. Randy Stone, City Administrator, shares that after the pavement is finished there will be “cobblestone crosswalks” added to match the retaining wall at the top of the hill. Storeowners were warned to not expect much when construction started; the main purpose of the job was to provide better drainage for the street. Yet, new flowerbeds, light posts, sidewalks, and a hand laid stonewall were put in to place. The end result has pleased the storeowners and visitors to Old Town.
When construction began storeowners prepared for the worst. They knew that with the road being under construction, there was the possibility that they could receive few or no customers. Ellis Hogg, of “Hogg Heaven,” noted that, “[The construction made it] harder for people to get to us and it slowed them down, too.” Sandy Chowning, owner of “I Love My Stuff,” explained that the businesses from the corner of Adams to the top of the hill had a hard time during parts of the construction. Due to their location, absent from side streets, customers were forced to park and then walk up the street. One store, Antiques and Things, was fearful of customer’s safety and refused open during extreme construction; as a result, the business had to close down permanently do to losses. Several businesses, including: Gastineau Jewelry, the Victory in Jesus Bible store, the Visitors Center, and I Love My Stuff, had to close their doors for at least one day throughout the construction period.
Jackson comments that, while she did have to close the doors of the Visitor center one day, the construction was handled wonderfully. She felt the construction company was very courteous to businesses, and did their best to stay out of their doorways. She also noted that the time at which construction was completed was under the deadline. The owner of “Shelf’s and Such” said, “They did a wonderful job at routing traffic.” She felt the construction was handled amazingly and did not hurt her business, and is expected to aid it through summer profits.
It is expected that the new look will be shown off significantly this summer. Jackson plans “We’ll be ready for a more active roll in the Spoon bread Festival this year.” She is also preparing for a “Bigger and better L&N Day” on June first. Jackson finds the biggest change, that is a direct result from the construction, is the longer hours that stores are staying open. These extended hours are made possible by better lighting and parking in Old Town. The stores hope that these extended hours will encourage more tourists as well as more local residents to visit Old Town. The previous hours were geared toward tourists, but the extended hours allow local residents to stop by after work.
Now that the city has done its part to beautify Old Town, the local stores are doing their best to impress visitors. The smell of smoldering hickory is now floating around Old Town due to “Hogg Heavens” expansion; while, hand-dipped ice cream is the new item found at “Shelf’s and Such.” Storeowners are proud of the new look and are doing what they can to draw business to the location. Hogg declares, “It’s the most beautiful and best part of Berea.”
Written by Hannah Billings
Copyright 2002 BereaOnline.com / DataStar Unlimited Inc.