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Nikky Furrie, whose family owns West Glen Plaza and another nearby plaza with a Sparkle Market, and the grocery store, on West Western Reserve Road, stands with a sign that lets people know the store is open for business during a construction project along the road.

BOARDMAN — Operators of some businesses along a short stretch of West Western Reserve Road are upset over a construction project there that they say is hurting business heading into the busy holiday season.

What’s more, an official with Furrie Vitullo Group and Village Plaza Sparkles — the companies that own West Glen Plaza and another nearby plaza with a Sparkle Market — said there have been attempts to speak with Mahoning County Engineer Pat Ginnetti about the timing of the project and other issues, but he’s been unresponsive.

At question is about a half-mile portion of West Western Reserve Road between Hitchcock Road and Glenwood Avenue that is the first part of a multiphase project to replace about 5 miles of sanitary sewer line all the way to North Lima Road.

It’s this stretch that contains Western Reserve Plaza, which includes the grocery, Lemon Tree florist, ShipOnSite, a package shipping store, and Risers Tavern & Grill. Inside the grocery store is a Hometown Pharmacy, which also has drive-thru access outside the plaza.

Near Glenwood Avenue is West Glen Plaza, which contains a gasoline station and standalone pizza parlor among its occupants.

A BUSY TIME

The work started Oct. 31. It is expected to be finished Nov. 23.

“Basically, that’s the day before Thanksgiving, so they’re pretty much hitting us and all of these businesses for the holiday season, and obviously grocery stores are the biggest thing right now during the holidays,” said Nikky Furrie, spokeswoman for Furrie Vitullo Group and Village Plaza Sparkle.

“Everybody is cooking, but you’ve got people who want to send out packages for the holidays, so ShipOnSite is hurting, and everybody knows the night before Thanksgiving is the biggest holiday for everybody to go out,” she said.

Furrie estimates business at Sparkle is off about 60 percent during the week. On Thursday morning, the grocery store’s parking lot was virtually empty. Weekends, when the work is paused, business returns somewhat to normal levels.

Less business means a lesser need for staff. It also presents a challenge for ordering, especially now with supply chain issues that managers are trying to overcome by ordering a higher volume to try to avoid shortages, Furrie said.

If consumers aren’t there to buy the items, the store is left to send them to another location and / or donate them. Some of the items, however, cannot be given away or sent elsewhere for sanitary reasons, she said.

TAKING A HIT

Lisa Lorelli and her fiance, Mark Taylor, have owned and operated Risers Tavern & Grill in the plaza for six years.

She said her daytime business is also down — to the point where she called it a “ghost town.” It’s because, she said, people think the road is closed.

Risers employs 15 to 20 part- and full-time workers. The bartenders and servers rely on crowds and tips, and are suffering the most, she said. They’ve been taking turns working the day shifts.

“I feel bad for my co-workers. This is their go time, this is when they get to make money on tips because people are coming out and enjoying themselves and leaving good tips,” Lorelli said.

Furrie said when the plaza owners learned of the project’s timing, they reached out to the engineer’s office, but got no call back.

She said they contacted the office again after getting reports that customers and employees trying to get to the grocery store were told it and the plaza were closed, and reached out to inquire about the office posting a large sign stating the Sparkle plaza was open, “but we’ve gotten no response,” she said.

So they had their own signs made stating as much and placed them near the road at both plazas.

Messages left seeking comment from Ginnetti on Wednesday and Friday were not returned.

In October, he told Mahoning County commissioners his office was trying to urge motorists who are “just passing through to avoid the area or follow the detours as a safety precaution.”

“The sewer line will be in the westbound lane, so you’re going to have an excavator in that westbound lane, and they’re going to be deep in some sections, so as a safety precaution, not only for the workers, but for people driving, to avoid the area, give yourself more time if you do have to get into there, but it is going to be very congested during the work hours,” he said then.

Lorelli has a suggestion: “What they need is to have a flagger on either end directing traffic one way at all times. It will bottleneck you for a few minutes and you wait, but then you can come through.”

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