Not So Merry Halloween

By: 
Kirt Ramirez

Merry Colvin did not have a happy Halloween.

She hardly made a sale.

Colvin, 74, owns Merry’s at 2747 E. Broadway, at Colorado Place. She usually sees her “fashion with a passion from faraway lands” store packed with customers before Halloween, getting costumes ranging from Aladdin to belly dance outfits.

She gets an increase in income during this time.

But construction work on Broadway changed that this year. Heavy equipment, cones and construction signs indicating “no parking” and “tow away” lined westbound Broadway from Redondo to Alamitos Avenues. Westbound Broadway was closed and detours were in place.

A digital sign at Loma Avenue Nov. 5 warned drivers to “expect delays, road construction ahead, Redondo to Alamitos, 6-1 to 11-16.”

Colvin is pleased about Broadway getting a face lift. It needed it, she said. But she felt the city could have done a better job communicating the basic dates to her and other business owners. She said the project’s “confusing” start and finish dates on the construction signs changed several times.

And she especially detested Broadway work being done in front of her store during a prime selling time, the week or two leading up to Halloween.

“There were signs at each end of Broadway starting in June that the work would be completed Oct. 22,” Colvin said. “And all of us business owners said, ‘Well that’s not bad, if the work’s going to be finished by Oct. 22, that’s fine.’ Time went on; time went on; time went on, nothing’s happening. We began calling the city. ‘When is the work going start? When is it going to be completed? Well, we couldn’t get an answer. No one really knew. Everybody would say something different.”

She said phase one work started at Alamitos July 6 but that did not affect her. Then construction got closer to her in phase two, which affected her “medium.”

Then on Oct. 22 Colvin said she saw a crew person working on a digital sign. It later read road construction would be finished Nov. 16.

She said that same Oct. 22 day was when phase three work for her area began, when that’s when she thought it would be wrapped up.

Furious, she continued calling city officials and staff. Alone in her store the weekend before Halloween, she composed a letter to the editor for the Beachcomber.

“We lost Halloween and a little Christmas, because they start Christmas shopping in October,” Colvin said in a face-to-face interview at her store Nov. 4. “I don’t know what to expect. We lost a lot already; can we make it up in the next few weeks? I really hope.”

Colvin said her shop’s landlord kindly forgave half of her rent for November after seeing the construction chaos firsthand.

The day after Halloween was a particularly bad day. Colvin could not get into her store.

“And I don’t mean by car; by car forget it, you couldn’t do that for weeks. I couldn’t walk in the store. Everything was torn up; there was a big hole; there was dirt everywhere,” she said.

“I had to call one of the workmen and asked ‘How do I get to my store’ and he ran around and he came out with these two boards. So he basically put a plank across everything for me to get in to the store. There was a ditch underneath the plank.”

Colvin said she appreciated the construction workers, as they gave her the best information and looked out for her. But she couldn’t say that about the city officials she contacted.

Other businesses also saw a decline in customers, including Merry’s neighbors Gallagher’s Pub & Grill, a barbershop and One Love marijuana dispensary.

“We were definitely affected by the construction on Broadway. We help many disabled customers who had to wheel themselves into the streets and over rocks and unpaved sidewalks just to come in,” Jeremy Abrams of One Love said through email.

“We had zero street parking, which caused people to drive elsewhere or utilize illegal delivery services. We saw a significant drop in customers because of the construction and lack of driving abilities on Broadway,” he said.

The city responded.

“At the request of the businesses along the corridor, the city will stop work for the holidays and commence again in January,” Public Works Director Craig Beck said through email. “At this point we hope to be complete by the end of February, but that will greatly depend on the weather.”

He added Nov. 5, “Crews are working to complete work in phase three on the north side of the street. If all goes well, that work will be completed this week.”

Beck said the Broadway corridor from Redondo to Alamitos is receiving new curbs, gutters, sidewalks, street repaving and bike lanes.

“Any project of this magnitude has unavoidable impacts,” Beck said, adding the city hired a community liaison to help “problem-solve issues in the field.”

Also, the contractor worked “to reduce parking impacts by focusing on one side of the street at a time,” Beck said.

He added, “Crews have modified work schedules, stopping early (3:30) and restoring parking in the work zones. The city also has authorized Saturday work hours to shorten the overall project length.”

But Colvin said parking was not restored for her and a lot of places and for months the signs did say June 6 to Oct. 22.

Beck added there was no delay.

The project is being paid for through Measure A and transportation funding and the total estimated cost is $3 million, he said.

Meanwhile, Long Beach will sponsor a “Shop Small Broadway” marketing campaign for Nov. 17.

“This is a small way we can encourage residents to support the Broadway corridor,” he said. “This is a local campaign in advance of the national “Shop Small” event on Nov. 24.”

Colvin is relieved and thankful that work will likely be stopped by the time this article comes out. The holidays (including Halloween) comprise about 75 percent of her business for the year.

“It guides me through the rest of the year, through the slow months,” she said.

Merry’s sells multicultural men’s and women’s clothing, accessories, home accents and gifts. Colvin has had the shop in Long Beach for 12-and-a-half years. It’s open every day but Monday.

“What I do in here is a lifelong dream, which is to bring the world together, to introduce other cultures through the things that they make,” said outgoing and colorful Colvin.

Her life has been in fashion and politics.

“This has brought it together,” she said. “Everything I’ve done in my life is in this store. And I believe that once we understand each other culturally, we can stop the hate, and stop the ‘otherness,’ because then we realize, we’re all the same.”

She does not work with buyers or distributors, but partners with people that make the goods.

She offers shirts, harem pants and scarves from Nepal, tapestries from India, statues and hand-embellished jean jackets from Egypt. A section of items comes from Morocco. Pendants from a nomadic people are displayed. Some pieces come from a local bead artist. And so on.

Colvin’s favorite part of the store is a map of the world, where customers can stick a pin where their heritage comes from.

“Isn’t that cool?” she stated.

kirt@beachcomber.news

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