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Surviving Big Bend road construction

May 21, 2013

Village of Big Bend — It's hard to miss the bright orange barrels and loud machinery. The village is undergoing several road construction projects on I-43 and Highway 164 that are expected to dramatically affect summer in Big Bend. The village recently canceled its summer farmer's market, citing ongoing construction, and the announcements section of the village website has become a frequently changing billboard of openings and closings.

Businesses affected by the construction say there is not a whole lot they can do except ride the wave.

Julie Thomas, owner of What Comes Around Goes Around consignment and thrift shop, has been keeping her customers apprised of detours with daily "your way into Big Bend" updates on her Facebook page.

"It sucks," Thomas said. "There's an absolute decline in business. Normal traffic isn't flowing through here and people get confused with detours. Plus, the detour to 83 is there because of trucks but it's ridiculous for every day traffic."

Thomas said she continues to do business regularly and has appreciated visits from the project's on-site engineer keeping her aware of updates and a schedule.

Thomas said she's communicating that back with as many customers and consignors as possible to keep the business from being too negatively affected.

"We're just a little town, we're just little people, and this is going to drastically affect us," Thomas said. "It sucks."

Lisa Neutgen teaches Jazzercise at Hammer Rehab and Fitness Center and said she's seen her clientele struggling.

"It's been a little bit of a struggle, but mostly for our students and clientele that are just trying to get here. It's literally a half-hour or 45 minutes out of their way," Neutgen said. "I'm a little more concerned about summer, so I'm running a promo for attendance. I have had students come 15 minutes late and very angry because they were completely redirected."

Hammer Rehab & Fitness Center has access to I-43 — for the time being. The construction is within eyesight of its location a half-mile south of the interstate.

"We're nervous about the construction (coming this way) but personally I have a really good feeling about it, so we're just going to ride the wave," said Margot Jackson, who works at the facility.

Survival party

Jackson is just one of the employees at Hammer Rehab & Fitness who helped coordinate a Road Construction Survival Party that will happen from noon to 7 p.m. May 24.

"We're really just trying to tell people that we are open, and, yes, you can get here," Jackson said.

The event will take place at Hammer Rehab and Fitness Center; the center has sent letters to local businesses saying it will display local business information and provide a space to put out business cards for who's open.

The center is providing bacon s'mores, games, an optional white elephant gift exchange and the opportunity to gift cards to local businesses and prizes. They will also provide live music beginning at 4p.m.

"I think this is a great idea because I've known in other cities they've done this to get the word out and it's a plus in the end because you didn't know about a lot of the businesses were there," Neutgen said.

"We're all trying to be positive about it but it's really the clientele that are being put out of their way and getting frustrated about it so we're just trying to bring some fun to it," Jackson said. "It's happening, we can't argue with it so we'll just deal and move on. "

For more information about the event call Jackson at (262) 662-9760.

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