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Workshop to offer tips businesses can use to counter disruptions

The city of Spokane is beginning another round of major road construction projects this spring and summer, some of which will affect many small and midsize businesses with detours, dust and noise. Some small businesses struggled during the last major round of construction, so this time around the city is being a bit more proactive by inviting business owners to a workshop on March 24.

The workshop is focused on these three major projects:

Second Avenue from Arthur to Howard streets, Mission Avenue from Hamilton to Greene streets, and Grand Boulevard from 29th Avenue to High Drive.

“It can be a tough learning curve for small businesses, mainly because most of them only go through it once,” said Andrew Worlock, economic development specialist with the city of Spokane. “It’s the first time we’ve had a workshop like this.”

No, there is no monetary compensation available for businesses in construction zones.

“The idea is to use what we have learned during other street construction projects to help the businesses who have not been through this before,” Worlock said.

On West Second Avenue, not everyone was aware of the city’s meeting.

“I knew nothing about this meeting. My neighbors knew nothing about the meeting,” said Deena Caruso, owner of Finders Keepers at 309 W. Second Ave. “I helped set up a meeting with a lot of the businesses here on Second a couple of weeks ago. After I saw what happened to the businesses at the other end of Second during last year’s construction, I figured we better do something.”

Caruso said it’s not just businesses on the main construction drag that are impacted; it’s also those on the side streets because traffic patterns change.

Caruso and other business owners in the SoDo district – the area on West Second Avenue roughly between Washington and Browne streets, and Riverside and Third avenues – are planning a big promotional campaign with the help of a group of graduating seniors from Whitworth University.

Among other things they are planning a “Buy Local, Give Local” campaign to benefit the Second Harvest Food Bank when the construction really hits in early May.

“My plans are to go into it extremely aggressive prior to the construction. That means getting stuff out where people can see it from Third Avenue,” said Caruso, who’s also giving up personal parking spaces behind her store to customers.

At Perfection Tire and Auto Repair, 604 E. Second Ave., things are still busy though construction has begun.

“We have to tell people when they come in to see us, to come in from Third and then on Sheridan – you have to go west of us and then come back over,” said Jeremy Dierks, store manager. “The studded tires have to come off by April 1 so it will be interesting to see if we are as busy as we usually are at that time.”

Dierks had heard of the city’s workshop, but had been too busy updating the store’s new showroom to decide whether he was going to go.

“I think it’s going to be all right, we have a lot of faithful customers,” said Dierks.