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‘It is having an effect on us’: Businesses on Bend’s north end say some customers can’t reach them due to Hwy. 97 project

(Update: Adding video, comments from Kefi and Trailhead Liquor owners)

BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- Some small businesses on the north end of Bend say they are feeling the negative effects of the construction of the new Highway 97 route.

Owners of Kefi and Trailhead Liquor say they've seen massive declines in their customer numbers, as many people don't know how to get to their businesses.

The new Highway 97 Bend Parkway route has been planned for two years. The idea was to divert heavy traffic from the main highway and extend Third Street as Business 97.

"There's so much confusion. Where do you get off to get to us, to get to Ulta (Beauty), to cross the street?" Kefi owner Menoula Stanitsas said Friday.

Kefi says they've seen a 25 percent loss of customers for two months now, since traffic patterns have changed

"We've gone from 160 some average people still coming into the restaurant, down to about 120 head count," Stanitsas said. "That's a significant drop, for such a small business like we are. We're a family-run operation. We had to cut down on the (worker) hours -- we're working more ourselves just to try to stay open. "

The parking lot was pretty empty Friday afternoon, which owners say is unusual compared to years past.

Angela Chisum, the owner of Trailhead Liquor, said, "Our sales have dipped, compared to other years, and compared to other stores in the area as well. And we do know that's because of, you know, traffic cluster that we're experiencing currently."

It's the busiest season for small businesses, with tourists flocking to Bend for the summer. The summer months help carry small businesses through the winter, when there are fewer customers.

"I'm just trying to buckle up and, you know, stay positive," Chisum said. "But unfortunately, it is having an effect on us. And summer is one of the busiest times for us."

The new construction has also been a problem for drivers. We reported earlier this week about the dangerous U-turns drivers were taking to avoid going to Redmond. Signs before Empire Avenue tell drivers to take Exit 135A to reach the Cascade Village Shopping Center.

The construction has been planned since 2022, but Kefi says when they signed their lease, they only knew about the construction of the overpass behind them.

In a statement shared with NewsChannel 21, ODOT said they understand the frustration from drivers and business owners, but that once construction is completed, the highway will be safer and more accessible. 

Both owners say they are hoping for better signage from ODOT to keep them from further negative impacts and potentially closing their doors.

"I'm just hoping something can happen to help," said Stanitsas.

Article Topic Follows: Business

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Isabella Warren

Isabella Warren is a multimedia journalist for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Isabellahere.


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