0119ROADSaudListen as Tim Hayes, general manager of the Hayes Chrysler, Dodge and Jeep dealership in Oakwood, talks about challenges his business faced during a three-year, $75 million road project in the area.
OAKWOOD —Newly opened roads around Interstate 985 and Mundy Mill Road have brightened life for many area businesses.
The three-year, $75 million project, with its orange barrels and closed lanes, was a particular hassle for store owners hoping would-be customers wouldn’t become frustrated motorists and pass them by or ignore the area altogether.
“We were struggling. A lot of people avoided this exit because of the construction and closing off lanes,” said Joan Smith of Cool Beans Coffee Cafe and Deli on Mundy Mill Road.
“But now, since everything is flowing, we really did notice an increase in our business.”
Rick Pruett of VIP Autocare, also on Mundy Mill Road, said his numbers are “way up” over 2008 and 2007, “when Mundy Mill Road was gravel.”
“There’s less confusion for the customers as far as ease of entrance and exit, so access is easier now that the road is completed,” Pruett said. “Visibility is certainly good in both directions.”
His business also saw an upswing because of the economy.
“A lot of people are surprised by that, but when the economy is hurting, the auto service industry should do better, especially in high-visibility locations, like ours,” Pruett said.
“Fewer cars are being sold. People are hanging on to what they have and they’re having to repair and ... maintain them.”
Recent years haven’t been as kind to Hayes Chrysler, Dodge and Jeep dealership off Frontage Road.
Frontage Road used to run between Mundy Mill Road and Atlanta Highway, but then fell into construction cross hairs as the Georgia Department of Transportation began the road project.
The traffic light at Mundy Mill was removed and a median was added, permitting only right turns in or out.
Frontage also was realigned so that it crossed the new, four-lane Thurmon Tanner Parkway and ended at a traffic circle at Gainesville State and Lanier Technical colleges.
One of the road’s busiest stores, Sam’s Club, moved to Mundy Mill Road across from Gainesville State.
Throw in the failing economy and a perfect storm hit the dealership.
“It was like I’m down, just keep kicking me,” said Tim Hayes, general manager.
To help increase visibility, Hayes has expanded on lots down Frontage to Thurmon Tanner, which leads to the new Exit 17 at I-985.
And the dealership is renting space in the parking lot of a now-closed convenience store at Mundy Mill and Frontage roads.
“We have got to re-establish our presence,” he said. “... We had to stop, get out of the box and think about what we were doing.”
The renewed push on freshly widened roads is pushing more business his way.
“It’s made a big impact. People really notice signs,” Hayes said.
As far as an uptick in the economy, “I think it’s going to turn around, but I think it’s going to be March, April before we see incremental improvement,” he said.