Owners seeking ways to keep customers coming during three-month project

Now that the Second Street construction project, at long last, is set to begin in February, Paul Graham’s fertile brain is working overtime.

The venerable owner of Graham’s Book & Stationery is busy thinking up ideas that will keep his customers coming while the street is torn up for three months. So, people shouldn’t be surprised if Graham dresses up like Uncle Sam.

“We want to do fun things,” Graham said. “We want to put up signs letting people know our businesses are open and thriving. Maybe we’ll have folks dress up in costumes, like Uncle Sam, Harvey the Rabbit, or maybe a crazy chicken for Easter. Our job is to make it fun and worthwhile for our customers.”

That is only the beginning. Graham’s ideas including running a product line of construction-themed toys, going on a social media binge, enhancing his store entrance off of Third Street, and encouraging or starting pop-up businesses in unoccupied spaces in downtown Lake SUBMITTED - This illustration shows what Second Street will become in June, following the completion of its reconstruction.

Everything is on the board for Graham as Second Street businessmen and women prepare to keep the business fires burning while the street is torn up for much-needed repairs. A drop in business will be hard to avoid.

“From our own study with our store in Oregon City we found people tend to find alternative pathways to get what they need,” Graham said. “Afterward, it takes a long time to get them back. We expect our sales will drop. We hope our creative incentives keep them from dropping too far. It’s going to be a challenge. It won’t be easy.”

“It is a worry,” said Moya Stephens, owner of Lady Di’s Tea Room, “especially since we only have one access. We hope we have reasonable weather and that not too many issues come up. Maybe the business owners can come up with a combined effort to make people aware we are still open. But three months is a long time to lose foot traffic. Parking will be an issue, too. Hopefully, it won’t be too much of a disaster.

“My problem is that a lot of my customers come from outside the area. I need to alert them about what is happening and help them find the best places to park when they call to make reservations.”

The bottom line, though, is that the reconstruction of Second Street must be done. Now is probably as good a time to do it as any and probably better. Sid Sin, development project manager for the city of Lake Oswego, said every effort is being made to ease this transition period.

“The key is how we can minimize the economic effect,” Sin said. “We’ve had this in mind ever since 2008 when the Second Street project first started. For 18 months we’ve been meeting with business owners and property owners. Our latest plan assures that there is always access at some place. The southern portion of the street will be open or else the northern portion of the street will be open. Country Square (shopping village) will have parking available all the time.”

The benefits of the project will be huge.

“Second Street is a completely failing structure,” Sin said, “and it’s not just what you see on top with the cracking sidewalks. The project will improve the downtown business environment and bring up the design standards to those of First Street.”

Lisa Shaw-Ryan was strongly committed to Second Street improvement even before her business, Chuck’s Place, moved to Second Street. She has so qualms whatsoever about the project.

“This will have an impact as any project would,” Shaw-Ryan said. “But this will be an easy trade-off for benefits that will be so long lasting. I am very much in favor of seeing this project working its way through the system and actually get under way. We all need to get our business models working through this three-month construction period. I say there are zero negatives. This project will do everything a reconstruction project is supposed to do.”

Should Second Street business owners get through June OK, their future will be bright.

“When is there a convenient time to do this?” asked Teri Graham, Paul’s wife and co-owner of Graham’s Book & Stationery. “We have to make the best of it.”

“At the end we’ll have a new gathering place that is great for the city,” Paul Graham said.

“The city is spending a fair amount of tax dollars to get this done,” Stephens said. “We’ll have new trees, new lighting, our sidewalks will be fixed, our road will be paved. We can introduce more people to our brand new street.”

Until then, Paul Graham will keep the ideas coming.

“Maybe we can have a boulder contest,” he said. “People can guess the size of the biggest boulder that is pulled out of the street. Sort of like a contest where people guess how many jellybeans are in a jar.”

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