“It was a unanimous ‘yes,’” she said. “We need to bring back business.”
When Western Garfield County Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Julie Vanhoek asked downtown business owners to jot down enough signatures needed to obtain a permit to close down Third Street, there was no pushback.
The Rifle Rotary Club will host a beer tent, with all proceeds going back to downtown establishments that sell alcoholic beverages. Meanwhile, scheduled is a live performance by the Jeff and Phil Duo.
Between 5-7 p.m. Oct. 15, downtown storefronts celebrate the official opening of Third Street by inviting the public to mingle, drink and enjoy live music and libations during the chamber’s Business After Hours event.
First, it was COVID-19 keeping prospective shoppers trapped at home. Then storefronts began seeing Third Street getting completely ripped up due to a major infrastructure and beautification project.
In many respects, downtown Rifle has been through the wringer.
Midland Arts Co. operators rearrange pieces of artwork.Ray K. Erku / Post Independent
Construction has lasted from early spring to early fall. For some time, the $3.8 million project, which transformed the old asphalt roads of downtown Rifle to new concrete surfaces, disrupted parking and commercial access.
The times also proved tough for the chamber. Vanhoek said the Business After Hours event should help rejuvenate the chamber. “It’s not just the construction and COVID,” she said. “But it’s the chamber getting back into what the chamber does.”
For the Midland Arts Co., a volunteer-run consignment art shop that features works done by many locals, the woes of downtown Rifle led to a 30-40% drop in revenue, said Lindsey Johnson, one of the operation’s four partners. “For a time the customers had a very hard time getting to our shop because of the road work that was being done, and previous to that was COVID,” she said. “I think people just quit coming downtown because of that.”
Lindsey Johnson reaches far to place a print on a back wall shelf at Midland Arts Co. in Rifle.Ray K. Erku / Post Independent Johnson said, however, Rifle officials did their part to help out. Midland paid off rent and utilities bills using $6,000 in subsidies facilitated by the city.
“We hope people come downtown and check us out again,” she said. Reporter Ray K. Erku can be reached at 612-423-5273 or email@example.com.
Now that Business After Hours ushers in the end of downtown construction, Johnson said she simply looks forward to once again mingling with all her fellow downtown merchants. “The community has been incredibly supportive of Midland Arts,” Johnson said. “We are very appreciative of that.”