Barstow Street construction continues

While summer may have flown by for those returning to UW-Eau Claire, local businesses on Barstow Street felt the strain of a $2 million construction project that dragged along for months until its early Aug. completion.

Kathy Tepaske manages Acoustic Café, a cornerstone business on Barstow that has been thriving for the past two decades. The café sits on the fringe of where construction occurred on the southern section of Barstow.

“We have a steady stream of regular customers mainly during lunch hours on weekdays,” Tepaske said. “A lot of people from surrounding businesses like law offices tend to make it their weekly or even daily stop.”

Tepaske said her business was especially down on weekends. Due to Acoustic Café’s convenient location, however, she acknowledges things could have been much worse.

“We consider ourselves so lucky considering our building’s side access and surrounding free parking,” Tepaske said. “I know there were a lot of businesses that were really, really hit by this … for a lot of people, particularly handicapped, you just couldn’t access some of these places.”

Billy Siegel, owner of Revival Records, has been operating his business on Barstow Street for four years as of Oct. Though his sales took a hit as a result of renovation, he said his community regulars are what kept him going — in finances and morale.

“Like any of the other business downtown, construction was definitely a factor for us this summer,” Siegel said. “I lost a lot of foot traffic but my local customers were very nice about finding their way through the mess.”

Though construction caused Barstow businesses a deal of monetary strain, they are anything but competitors. Instead, stores regulate as a collective in order to brave hardships such as this summer through community events like First Fridays.

During the first Friday of every month, many businesses downtown extend their hours to 9 p.m., and look to offer unique deals in an attempt to gather the community and stimulate sales.

Siegel said the close-knit atmosphere of downtown Eau Claire is crucial for his record store’s business.

“I do rely a lot on word of mouth … and I do just try to stay as involved with the local community as possible,” Siegel said.

Revival Records hosts sales, and occasionally a spinning wheel to hand out prizes — including free albums. Siegel said events such as First Friday will be a benefactor in the process of revamping business in the southern Barstow area.

The university is in the process of working to familiarize Eau Claire newcomers to the renovated Barstow, as well as the downtown community as a whole. A shuttle will be available for freshman students to tour the city this Friday.

Senior Jennifer Pelton, a certified nursing assistant who cared for patients in the downtown area over the summer, sees this as a healthy opportunity to decrease the disparity between university and city interaction.

“Personally, I had no idea what downtown had to offer until my junior year of college,” Pelton said. “I never made it down to see when I was new to campus…but it’s nice to think this will help introduce freshmen to downtown and help stores gain a new business crowd.”

Barstow Street is estimated to be free of construction by mid-September. During the wait, businesses such as Acoustic Café and Revival Records will look to regain their normal flow of clientele.