SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — A major water main replacement project has traffic down to one lane on North Minnesota Avenue between Russell and 2nd Street in Sioux Falls this spring. While the construction is a pain for commuters, it’s a devastating blow to many convenience-centered businesses along this stretch of Minnesota Avenue.
“When there’s construction going on like this, business owners like myself have to figure out a way to survive,” Shop ‘N Cart owner Shah Afrouzi said.
The Shop ‘N Cart has been a big part of the North Minnesota Avenue neighborhood for decades.
“It has everything, it’s nice, clean and has a friendly atmosphere,” Shop ‘N Cart customer Angelita Elk Boy said.
Karen Wilson is a big part of that friendly atmosphere and is just as much a fixture in the neighborhood. She’s worked at Shop ‘N Cart for more than 30 years, but in all that time, she’s never seen anything quite like this.
“This is hurting the business, quite badly,” Wilson said.
“I would say I’m down at least 30 to 40 percent just this month,” Afrouzi said.
After working at the Shop N Cart for the past 6 years…
“This is it, this is my baby,” Afrouzi said.
…Afrouzi purchased this location less than two years ago to better serve his customers.
“A lot of your regulars that live in the community, but also you know your people going to work, going to the airport, coming back from the airport. I’m missing all of those now,” Afrouzi said.
The City of Sioux Falls shows traffic counts along this stretch of Minnesota Avenue are usually between 13,000 and 15,000 vehicles a day. It’s why many of the businesses in the area are all about making a quick, convenient stop, but this construction has made getting here quite the opposite.
“Oh it’s hectic,” Elk Boy said. “If you really want to come here, you have to go through the back roads.”
When traveling North on Minnesota Avenue, the only way to access most of the businesses is a several block detour through the residential back streets. For those traveling South on Minnesota, there are a few right turn access points through the construction zone right now.
“Throughout the course of the summer as we sequence through the project, access will change,” Sioux Falls Public Works Director Mark Cotter said.
Cotter says the Public Works team has several one-on-one meetings with business owners along major construction projects centered on how to best provide signage and continued access to their businesses throughout the duration of the project.
“I know its for a good cause, I know that, but end of the day, its an inconvenience for customers,” Afrouzi said.
While Afrouzi says the detour signage is helpful, he knows its a lot of extra work for any customers to find their way to his convenience store or the other businesses in the neighborhood.
“Everybody is kind of frustrated,” Afrouzi said. “We all are praying. Especially someone like me that doesn’t have no other support, it’s very, very important for my customers to come and support me until this is all done.”
Afrouzi had to lay off several employees due to the drop in business since construction started. But he and Wilson are still showing up every day to serve the few loyal customers who are willing to navigate through the construction.
“We’re getting some of the regular customers that keep coming back, but boy, it’s not good,” Wilson said.
The Minnesota Avenue construction project will continue through November. The city is offering constant updates on the progress, traffic flow changes and business access points online throughout the project.