For the last few weeks, downtown Belleville’s Public Square has been closed to traffic for updates to the water lines under the Veterans Memorial Fountain.
As much fun as that’s been for those who work downtown, consumers and other traffic passing through Belleville, how has the closure affected the businesses in the area?
I paid a visit to Sawdust & Glitter, on the ground floor of Lofts on the Square, on Tuesday and spoke to owner Lacie Loose, who is understandably frustrated with the situation. Loose said the most common feedback she already hears from customers is, “I didn’t even know you were down here.”
No wonder. She had just moved her business from 119 East Main Street to the Lofts site at 16 S. Illinois Street in late April, a few short weeks before the project began.
Being at a prime location on the Square, Loose relies on the shop’s visibility to passing traffic to help bring in customers.
Since the barricades went up and roads were closed off, she said the traffic – both vehicular and pedestrian – has dropped to practically nil.
She was at her new location for only a month when she found out about plans to close Public Square. She was officially notified by her landlord only nine days in advance of the project.
In a brief phone call, Illinois American Water spokesman Terry Mackin stated that the city and the affected businesses received notice about a week in advance of the project. (Mackin also writes columns for the BND.)
He added that in hindsight, business owners should’ve had more notice and been spoken to individually.
Since the project began in June, banners have been posted on barricades at the intersections, letting passersby know that businesses on East Main Street are open even during the roadwork.
In addition to Sawdust & Glitter, other affected businesses and organizations include Elated Hearts, HeartLands Conservancy, Nester Realty, Seven, Joe & Onie’s and Blanquart’s Rusty Gem Vintage Market.
On Tuesday, the sidewalk along the first block of East Main Street was open at South High Street. From there, customers could walk to Seven, Blanquart’s Rusty Gem, Joe & Onie’s and Sawdust & Glitter.
One can also get to these businesses by sidewalk from South Illinois and East Washington streets.
Customer parking lots are available behind the former Ben’s Crafts at East Washington and South High streets, and behind the Lincoln Theatre at North High and East A streets.
Mackin acknowledged that the work is a temporary inconvenience to the downtown businesses and that more is being done to help make them more visible.
Crews are moving fencing, as the project allows, to provide more parking on East Main Street, he said. (That happened later in the week in front of Rusty Gem and Joe & Onie’s.)
Mackin has empathy for the local businesses, but he said the water line project was delayed long enough.
There’s never a good time for a project like this, he said. But this window of time is the least disruptive to the events downtown. The goal is to get it done and to move forward.
Mackin said he’s confident with the overall progress and that blessed with great weather, crews already replaced more than 1,000 feet of water line.
The project is on schedule and will be done by Labor Day, he said.
Pushing through, a day at a time
While Loose wishes she had more notice to prepare for the situation, she’s not entirely sure what could’ve been done.
And had she known what was coming, she may have postponed moving from until after the work was done.
Loose said she heard that the work is progressing and hopes it will be finished well before September.
But this is not how she wanted to spend her summer. She hoped to spend less time at work and more time with her kids while they’re out of school.
For now, Loose is taking everything a day at a time.
Sawdust & Glitter is currently hosting a kids’ day camp group from O’Fallon, which Loose said was on the books before the store relocated.
The business recently participated in Belleville’s Main Street Pour Tour.
It also hosted a flamingo party.
Nine guests painted flamingo-themed signs and got flamingo koozie cups (which are totally cute).
Another flamingo party is scheduled for July 12 at Eckert’s Cider Shed. Folks can register on the Sawdust & Glitter website.
Sawdust & Glitter also has some new merch that includes a variety of freeze-dried candies, Belleville Main Street tote bags (with markers to color them yourself), sublimation cups (designed for printing and customizing), and glass can tumblers, which I have my eye on.
Loose said that they will soon offer T-shirt printing.
She said she could put my face on a shirt. As frightening as I found that idea, it’s pretty cool she can do that.
I may have to dust off those old graphic design skills of mine and make my own T-shirt. One that doesn’t have my face on it.
I survived the pandemic, said Loose. “I’m gonna be fine.”
About Sawdust & Glitter
Sawdust & Glitter is located at 16 S. Illinois St. in downtown Belleville.
Hours are 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday-Friday and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday.
Parties can be booked outside of regular business hours.