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Businesses near Westview concerned about drop in sales

July 21, 2002|by SCOTT BUTKI

scottb@herald-mail.com

A new business association is being created to address financial problems West End companies are reporting because 210 families are being moved out of the Westview Homes public housing complex, which is slated for demolition.

The West End Business Owners Association will hold it first meeting within the next week, said Blaine Brodka, vice president of Merlin's Tavern Inc. at West Washington Street and Buena Vista Avenue.

The tavern, which opened in February after 15 months and $200,000 of renovation work, has seen a decrease in business generated by Westview families and their visitors since families began moving out, Brodka said.

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The tavern, which is about one block from the housing complex, has reduced the number of employees from six to four because of the impact, he said.

At least 20 businesses are being hurt because of families moving out prior to the planned demolition of Westview, said Clarence Rudisill, who is helping Brodka create the business group.

Rudisill is vice president of J&C Deli and Market. The business at the corner of Concord and Ross streets is adjacent to the complex, he said. He and his wife have run the business for about five years.

He is worried his business and others won't survive the drop in sales.

"I don't know what we are going to do," he said.

During the last three months, the store has had about a 55 percent drop in business from the same period last year, Rudisill said. Business for the first three months of the year was up 20 percent over last year.

The store has reduced its staffing from six employees to two to deal with the impact, he said.

Rudisill thinks the government should give financial help to the affected businesses. Without that help, some of the businesses might not be around when tenants move into the public housing that will replace Westview, he said.

Rudisill said he would not have spent more than $100,000 on improvements to J&C in 2000 if he knew people were going to move out of the complex.

Hagerstown Housing Authority Executive Director Ted Shankle met Wednesday with Rudisill, Brodka and representatives of other area businesses to hear their concerns.

Shankle said he plans to meet with city of Hagerstown and federal officials to determine what programs might be available to help affected businesses. Some of the businesses may be eligible for government financial assistance, he said.

The Hagerstown Housing Authority expects all of the families will be moved out of the housing complex by October. The earliest people are expected to move into the first phase of the replacement project is next summer, Shankle said.

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