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Fighting through construction: St. Charles Mayor Rogina urges residents to shop local

Gino's East server Lorraine Wright talks with her coworker, Mike Fruel, during lunch at the St. Charles restaurant on Route 64.
Gino's East server Lorraine Wright talks with her coworker, Mike Fruel, during lunch at the St. Charles restaurant on Route 64.

ST. CHARLES – Since taking office in the spring, St. Charles Mayor Ray Rogina has been concluding City Council meetings with a reminder to shop locally, especially at businesses along the line of construction on the east end of Route 64.

The construction has been ongoing since April 2012 and will continue through the end of the summer. Business owners said the project has taken a toll, which Rogina acknowledges.

“In a time where we have construction, nobody’s going to argue the fact that Route 64 construction probably has reduced sales to some of those businesses,” he said. “The community has to band together and say we have to help our brother.”

The construction from Seventh Avenue to Route 59 has caused a few headaches at Gino’s East in the 1500 block of East Main Street, manager Edward Pignataro said. Business during the weekdays has slowed he said, and construction has disrupted the restaurant’s phone lines and credit card machines.

“When the credit card machines are down and the phones are down, carry-outs and deliveries can’t be called in,” he said.

Pignataro said graduation parties, rehearsal dinners and busier weekends have helped offset the slower weekday pace, he said, but it still has forced management to make some tough decisions.

“We’ve had to make cuts as far as labor to compensate for the business loss,” he said. “I think people are still coming for the most part. It’s just not as much as they could be because of the construction, obviously.”

Rogina said he’s hopeful that the smooth pavement and the new center turn lane that will be in place once the construction is done will help make up for any inconvenience.

“They’re trying to repair a road, and knowing when that’s done that it’s going to be beautiful – hopefully it’ll do a lot of offsetting,” he said.

Rogina said while the inconvenience is “regrettable,” the fifth lane will resolve a lot of traffic problems in that area and will be nicely landscaped. He said the construction is on schedule, and most of it should be concluded by the end of the summer. He said one stretch – from Seventh Avenue to Dunham Road – is scheduled to be finished by September.

Jay Schrock, owner of Heinz Brothers Greenhouse in the 2000 block of East Main Street, said traffic counts and transactions have been down since construction began in April 2012. But, like Rogina, he’s hopeful that all the construction will be worth it in the end.

“I’m definitely looking forward to it. You’ll have a center turn lane, and it’ll be easier to get in and out of our store and back onto Main Street,” he said. “So in the end, I feel you’ve got to take the good with the bad.”

Rogina said money spent locally cycles back into the community because businesses, in turn, reinvest those dollars into the community.

To help bolster local shopping, the city this spring launched its first “Shop St. Charles Challenge.” The program rewards one person each month with $100 rebate on purchases made at three different independent stores or restaurants and runs through April.

Rogina said he reminds people to shop locally at the end of every City Council meeting because just about everyone benefits in the end.

“I make it a point to shop locally as much as I can with the idea that I’m helping local merchants,” he said. “There’s a multiplier effect throughout the community coming from that activity.”

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