Kearney Business Owner Moves Shop after Construction Slows Sales

2nd Avenue Project

It's been almost three months since construction began on Kearney's busy Second Avenue, and with another six to eight months to go before the road is finished, some small business owners are deciding to move to avoid losing business.

Bo Whaley, owner of Big City Burrito -- which used to be located right in the middle of all that construction -- made the decision to move his shop somewhere else. He says once the road work began, their sales hit a slump.

"With our sales just kind of leveling off, that was kind of the deciding factor," Whaley said. "We said, 'Ok, construction -- we have to make a move, and we need to do it now."

One reason for the lackluster sales, he says, was all that construction on 2nd Avenue, blocking the entrance to his restaurant -- at least for people driving in the southbound lanes of the street.

"It made it less convenient for people, and I think it probably determined a lot of peoples' choice -- whether or not they were going to stop there."

And with so many other options for grub in Kearney, Big City Burrito was feeling the pinch.

"My specific business it probably affected more than anybody else in that same area," Whaley said, "Just because most of those businesses are on a need-to-arrive basis, or are such a niche in that market that they don't necessarily have much competition. The options for those other businesses were fewer than say, mine, being a restaurant."

Tom Farber, project manager for the Nebraska Department of Roads, says the construction shouldn't have hindered access to those businesses on Second Avenue at all, because people could get to them by simply taking a different route.

"Most all access to their businesses are from city streets," he said. "There are very few businesses where their access is directly off of Highway 10."

But Whaley says that sales at the restaurant told a different story.

"An 8-10 percent decrease from what I had hoped it would be -- not necessarily from what
sales were, but from what I had hoped it would be," he said, "Which puts me about 20 percent off of where I wanted to be."

Farber says the roads department didn't have much of a choice, though -- the street had to be fixed.

"The existing condition of the concrete pavement had deteriorated to the point that it needed to be totally replaced," he said. "It couldn't be patched anymore."

And Whaley agrees. "I'm all for improvements," he said, "And I think that when the street's done, it's going to be fabulous. There's still going to be left-turn lanes, the street's going to be wider and nicer."

At their new home across from UNK, business is booming for the burrito joint, which has seen double the business since the move less than two weeks ago.

"[We've seen] a significant increase in sales -- maybe even slightly higher that I expected, but I'm happy with where we're at."

Work on Second Avenue is expected to continue through late spring or early summer of next year.