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Oswego Business Owner: Route 71 Project Having a 'Huge Impact'

Aug 03, 2015 08:48PM ● By Steven Jack

Customers who could previously enter Oswego's Ace Hardware store off Plainfield Road are now re-routed to an entrance in the back of the store off Grove Road.

For John Purcell, doing business for the last year at his two local Ace Hardware Stores has been a challenge.

Purcell owns both the Route 34 Ace location in Yorkville and the Route 71 store in Oswego. In one way or another, the roads around both shops have been under construction for well over a year. 

To make matters worse, Purcell said contractors, with no prior notice, recently closed the main entrance to his Oswego location off Plainfield Road. That's the second time that's happened since November when Purcell said contractors closed the Route 71 entrance to Oswego Plaza on Black Friday — the biggest shopping day of the year.

“I won’t lie to you, it’s been frustrating,” Purcell said of doing business in the face of major road construction. “It’s had a huge impact on business. ... A lot of what we do is service oriented. With service you have to be able to sell convenience. Right now for the Oswego store that’s a challenge.”

In Yorkville, where the Illinois Department of Transportation has been working to reconstruct the intersection of Routes 47 and 34, there is light at the end of the tunnel. Purcell said work near the store appears to be wrapping up, and he’s hoping business will stabilize in the coming months. In Oswego, however, the Route 71 widening project won’t be completed until at least next fall, and Purcell said sales receipts have been off since the project started last summer.

The most frustrating part of the Route 71 work has been what Purcell said is a lack of communication before major road changes that greatly affect business. 

“I get it. This is a multi-year, multi-million dollar project that needs to be done,” he said. “But communication has been very poor to be quite frank. I can usually get a call back after I call them, but there’s been almost zero communication before decisions are made. None."

Jennifer Hughes, Oswego’s public works director, said the village has fielded the typical amount and type of complaints from business owners and local residents given the size of the project. Even though the village does its best to handle issues, it’s the responsibility of IDOT to communicate with business owners and residents, she said.

“It’s important to balance the need to maintain local access with the need to keep the project moving,” Hughes said. “Whenever we hear issues from business owners or residents we pass them right along to IDOT.”

Attempts to reach IDOT’s Route 71 resident project engineer Jim Vaninger for comment were not successful. 

On the other side of Route 71, Jimmy John’s owner Dick Johnston said the Route 71 project has impacted his business in a couple of ways. Getting customers to actually come into the store has been more of a challenge than at his Route 34 location, and Johnston’s delivery drivers now have to wait through two and three sets of stop lights just like everyone else. 

“I am definitely seeing a heavy delivery percentage from that store,” he said. “Hopefully when they finish two lanes in-store sales will start to pick up.”

Purcell said new promotions to keep sales steady have helped; however, he was less optimistic than Johnston about the future.

“As long as the Yorkville store picks up, we should be fine,” he said. “But people will change their shopping habits over three years, and just start shopping elsewhere."