By SHERRI L. SHAULIS
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
DAFFY WHITE IS BACK BEHIND THE counter of her Robbins Avenue business for the first time in a couple of weeks.
"The city essentially shut me down," said the owner of Daffy's Place, 1328 Robbins Ave., which operates as a convenience store and made-to-order cake bakery. "But I saw business dropping off even before that."
White said she was forced to close her doors more than two weeks ago when construction crews working on Robbins Avenue made it to her portion of the street. The crews, from Marucci and Gaffney of Youngstown, are working along the entire length of Robbins to install storm sewers, new curbs and sidewalks before the roadway is paved later this year.
When new sidewalks were installed in front of White's business, no traffic was allowed for seven days, until the surface thoroughly dried. Since there is no other access to Daffy's Place other than from Robbins Avenue, she could not open her doors.
Open again this week, Daffy's Place still does not get much traffic, White said. A few regular customers had trickled in Monday, looking for their lottery tickets and newspapers. But it's not just the lack of business that worries White. She is also concerned about the safety and health of those in the area.
White's 88-year-old mother lives in an apartment behind the business and uses a wheelchair. A neighbor White is friendly with travels to Cleveland for chemotherapy treatments, and is often too weak to walk from parking spots available across the street to her home, White said.
"If something were to happen, how could anyone get to these people?" White wonders. "I am trying to help out my neighbors here, too."
Herb Hughes, who supervises some of the crews from Marucci and Gaffney, said workers are willing to bend over backward to help residents and business owners through the construction phase, which is expected to last until November.
Hughes said crews are working to create as little inconvenience as possible, completing one side of Robbins Avenue with sidewalks and curbs before starting the other side. In the meantime, residents who are handicapped or have other special needs, as well as physicians and dentists along the way, can have metal plates placed at the driveways to maintain access.
Hughes said he understands the frustrations of business owners and residents but said the short-term inconvenience will produce long-term benefits.
"They will have beautiful new sidewalks, curbs and more, and it doesn't cost them a dime," he said.
There have been some instances where construction workers get yelled at by passing motorists frustrated with the situation, Hughes said, but "for the biggest part, people have been pretty understanding," he said.
Cindy Giancola and Lorie Preston, employees of Maria's Pizzeria at 602 Robbins Ave., said the eatery, owned by Maria Crowley, hasn't seen much change in business.
"We have an alley right next to us, and a lot of people are willing to park across the street," Giancola said. "Our customers have been very understanding, and the other businesses in the area have been very accommodating."
Because most of the daytime business revolves around lunchtime deliveries to other businesses, it's mostly been evening customers who are forced to find alternative parking. A hairdresser next door and other businesses across the street are allowing Maria's patrons to park there for pickups.
"And we did know ahead of time that this was going to happen," Preston said.
"To me, it's a small sacrifice for what it's going to be like once it's done," Giancola added, saying she believed the appearance of Robbins Avenue will be greatly improved, and that the finished work may even help to increase property values.
"You just have to make the best of the situation," she said.