Things are slow going with major construction work cutting Prater Way down to one lane in each direction. That's causing some headaches for commuters and businesses alike. You see the desperation on the big sign outside the Flower Bucket. It reads, "Hello, is anybody out there?" inside, the store is empty. Flowers are dying, and business is dead. Owner Kathy Langdahl told us, "It’s been horrendous for business. People do not want to drive up and down the road."
So dead, Kathy's been throwing flowers away. Deliveries she contracted for months ago end up in the dumpster. She's tried giving them away….free flowers every hour. She even goes to the park handing them out, telling us "I would just as soon give them out to the community than have to throw them away."
It all began six months ago. Over three miles of 4th Street and Prater Way, torn up from Evans in Reno to Pyramid Way in Sparks. Michael Moreno with the RTC told us they’ve been, "Undergrounding utilities, improving the sidewalks and adding transit bus stations for the Rapid service, the Lincoln Line that will be operating when this project's complete."
In the meantime, only the most diehard customers are attempting the obstacle course. At the ABC Lock and Glass shop, co-owner Marty Maher told us, "My in-shop sales are down 44% from this time last year since construction started."
You can see what they’re concerned about All the shops up and down Prater are surrounded in a sea of orange. Even the most loyal customer would be discouraged. Langdahl says, "The entrances have been hard. Basically, everybody's been avoiding the road."
A few doors down is a furniture and mattress store open for business, but with no cars in the parking lot. Inside, the huge space is without a single customer. The American Furniture and Mattress store has been there for 27 years. Manager Carlos Gomez told us, "We might go out of business. We might lose everything that we have worked for."
The RTC says hang in there. Even though the 4th and Prater project finishes next summer, most of the road work here should wrap up late this year. Moreno told us, "We anticipate completing a majority of that work along with the paving by December of this year."
But too late for some of the business owners we spoke with. Maher says, "We're going to have to possibly let some employees go and free up some money so that we can stay open and survive." Gomez told us, "I'm just hoping and praying to God that we'll be able to go though. Then the celebration comes later."
When the end of this project finally comes, Carlos and Marty know exactly how they'll celebrate the day Prater is back to its old self. Maher says, "A big bottle of champagne and hopefully business gets back up."
But Kathy says she won't be here to see that happy day. She tells me it's already too late for Sparks' 40-year old florist. Business has been down 75% all year. She'll have to close the doors, for good, telling us "It's a real reality that I probably lose the business, have to close."
The RTC and the business owners on Prater ask that you do what you can to help support these businesses while they're going through this. If you want to keep tabs on the progress of this project, we have a link below: