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The construction of a new entrance into the Mari Mac Shopping Center is making access to the center’s businesses even more challenging than usual. Owners and managers are coping as best they can, and a number of them are surprisingly upbeat about the situation.
The Pajarito Brewpub and Grill and Daniel’s Café Haagen-Dazs are feeling the greatest impact, since they have lost not only their entrances but all their adjacent parking during construction — a critical factor for lunchtime business.
“Parking was already a stress at lunchtime, because there are so many restaurants,” said Dan Sena, who co-owns Daniel’s with his wife Margie. Sena estimates they are losing 20 percent of their business daily. The day two additional lanes were closed for re-striping, that number jumped to 40 percent.
But Sena thinks the end result will be worth it.
“We’ve been trying to get this done for 30 years, so it’s a good thing,” Sena said. He called the current configuration, with a blind curve next the exit from the brewpub and cars turning into pedestrian crossings at both entrances “an accident waiting to happen” that could have led to a fatal incident.
“Having a safer intersection is well worth any inconvenience right now,” Sena said.
Sena is also looking forward to the parking that will be freed up when Smith’s moves across the street.
Sena is recommending that customers come either earlier or later than usual, and avoid the 12−1 p.m. lunch rush.
“I want to stress that people have been very good,” Sena said. “Our customers are very good and loyal, having to go through all the mess.”
According to Pawel Listwan, co-owner of the Pajarito Brewpub, the construction is hitting them hard, especially since sidewalk access has been closed as well
“So we have only one access to our place from the shopping center. And it’s only a walking access,” Listwan said. “So anybody that has disabilities that normally parks very close to our place, they have to park further away. And with the limited parking now, I don’t think that we will see a lot of those people that require special assistance, because we basically don’t have any parking.”
Listwan is especially concerned about the impact as the restaurant moves into its busy season, with Spring Break and Easter coming up.
Brewpub owners are analyzing their daily losses and are in discussions with Smith’s and their landlord.
“They did not say definitely that they would help and reimburse us for the business we might lose. They said they would be closely monitoring the situation, and there have been discussions and communication with us,” Listwan said.
“So, on the one hand, that’s a positive note. But, on the other hand, we don’t know what to predict. It’s uncertain. They could still say no, but they realize that it’s important for the local businesses to be successful, to actually have access to the business, and the current situation is very limited.”
The restaurants the Los Alamos Monitor was able to reach all reported a greater impact than other businesses.
Miracle Miller, co-owner of Fusion Cafe & Coffee Roasters with her husband Chuck, estimates they have seen a 30-percent decrease in business.
“It has totally cut into our parking, and while we have quick service, everyone is trying to get to the grocery store, the fitness center, everything all at once during rush hour and it’s made it extremely difficult,” Miller said.
Miller is doing what she can to alleviate the situation.
“All of our employees are parking elsewhere so that we have customer parking,” Miller said. “We’re trying to offer people extended service. We start serving lunch at 11 a.m. We do have call in service, so you can pick your meal. We’ve told people, if you can carpool, that would be great. Just different ideas like that.
“I’m just really going to listen to my customers and ask if there’s anything I can to that will help them, and meeting their needs.”
Uli’s Boutique has also lost all of its parking during construction, but manager Gretchen Mills is taking it in stride.
“I’m sure we’ve lost a little business, but I don’t have a complaint. I think they are being so efficient that I’m impressed, and I think our disruption will be minimal,” Mills said. “They’re moving quickly, and I appreciate that.
“There’s no parking right outside, but they’ve done a decent job of realigning an area of the parking lot to try to minimize the impact. It was really just the first day when it was really disruptive.
“They’ve watered it, they’ve kept the dust down. They’re really trying to do it as efficiently as possible and mitigate the disruption.”
Mills was not concerned about how the parking situation could affect their spring fashion show this coming Thursday.
“We have loyal customers, and they’ll come anyway,” Mills said. “I think the community understands what this is all about and what it’s for.”
“It’s all for the betterment of the community. So it’s all OK”
Rick Roybal, stylist at Just Hair, also reported little impact on that business.
“People still find us. They complain a little about the parking situation, but I don’t think it has affected us like it has the restaurants,” Roybal said.
Kent Pegg, owner of Los Alamos Fitness Center, has not seen a lot of impact either.
“Our business is scattered more throughout the day, so we’re not as dependent on the peak times like lunch time or right after work,” Pegg said.
“I have heard people coming in here taking a little more time to find a parking spot,” Pegg said. “But, for the most part, for the people coming here, I don’t think it’s a big deal if they have to park a little further away to get here, because they’re coming to exercise anyway.”
Pegg has noticed his clientele coming in at different times, perhaps mid-morning rather than 11:30 a.m.
Johnny Durand, manager of Auto Zone, is taking a philosophical approach.
“There’s not much we can do anyway. Whatever happens, happens. They do what they have to do out there. And it’s for the better,” Durand said. “I just don’t look outside too much.”
Durand has not noticed a significant drop in business.
Beall’s Department Store Manager Loretta Montoya is also looking forward to the changes.
“Basically, it is an inconvenience, but in the long run it is going to be for the better. It is something we need,” Montoya said. Then she quipped, “It will be more convenient after this inconvenience.
“So I’m excited about it, all the changes that are coming: the new store and everything in the shopping area that changes, I’m happy we’re going to get done.”
The businesses the Los Alamos Monitor spoke two were in agreement on one thing: they hope the work is completed within the targeted five-week window.