Bridge construction has cut into Nitro business
NITRO, W.Va. -- Richard Stadler, the owner of Produce Junction in Nitro, said his store averaged $300 to $400 a day in revenue last year.
Stadler's employee, Gary Parsons, totaled Sunday's earnings and those of Monday morning -- $36.86.
"Business is off a little -- by about 85 percent," Stadler said. "All you can do is grin and bear it."
Stadler is one of many Nitro business owners who have been hit hard by the closure of the Dick Henderson Memorial Bridge, which connected the town across the Kanawha River to St. Albans. The bridge has been closed since January, and is schedule to reopen Nov. 1.
In 2011, an average of 19,400 vehicles traveled over the bridge each day. Stadler said state Division of Highways officials told him they have projected the road will see 25,600 vehicles each day by 2031.
But the months of repair to the bridge, which had been a long-time safety concern, has meant little or no traffic near his business.
"There are 10,000 cars that go through the St. Albans underpass every day, but just to look you'd never see it. You think nothing of it," Parsons said. "The traffic on the bridge was continuous. You didn't just walk across that road; you broke into a run across it."
Eugene Mallory, owner of Abbott's Wrecker in Nitro, said that as the only wrecking service in the area, he hasn't seen a loss in business. But the detours -- Mallory said the closest ways across the Kanawha are 9.5 miles to the Nitro exit on Interstate 64 or 12 miles to the Dunbar-South Charleston bridge -- have forced him to keep one of his employees on the St. Albans side of the bridge.
"We're not like anybody else; when someone calls, they've got to have us, so we've been keeping someone over there," Mallory said. "If you wreck in the middle of the road, you're not going to want to wait 20 minutes for a wrecker to get there."
He said Abbott's has absorbed the cost of the return trip during the bridge construction, but the situation has been worse for gas stations and other business with direct competition.
"We didn't add a cost for the extra miles. That's just the cost of doing business," he said.
Across the road, Sam Hodroge, who has owned the Sunoco gas station in Nitro for 23 years, said business has never been worse.
"Business is down by about 40 percent," he said. "We had quite a few customers from St. Albans, plus the community businesses sort of depend on the traffic count. If we lose that traffic count, we lose business. The more cars that come across that bridge, the more business we have."
Hodroge, like many of his neighbors, has relied on the through traffic along the bridge to bolster his business. And like other businesses in the area, he said all he can do is wait.
"I'm just waiting to see what the economy does," he said. "I hope to at least be able to go back to the way it was." Reach Lydia Nuzum at email@example.com or 304-348-5189.