FW bridge construction testing long-time businesses

Business hampered by construction

FORT WORTH -- It takes a lot of grit and a lot of gumption to keep a business open for more than 50 years.

"Dad would say, the straighter you keep it, the straighter it stays," said Brad Williams, as he arranged clothing at Omaha's Military Surplus, his family's long-time business. "Start with the basics, all the time.

"Customer service, customer service, customer service."

That sense of tenacity is now being tested for Williams.

"I wouldn’t call it frustrated," he said. "Tired. Worn out."

Omaha's has long survived, in part, because of its location on White Settlement, a busy road that connects downtown Fort Worth with the west side. It's a road that's been closed now since February of 2015, and will remain that way until June 2018, as crews construct one of three new bridges as part of the Trinity River Vision Project.

Williams says he had to move his family's business into the warehouse behind the original location because the construction blocked off their parking lot.

"People say, 'Do y'all know how hard you are to find?'" he said.

Now, the only way to get there is to zig-zag from the west, and Williams is finding people just aren't stopping by the way they have for 50 years.

"We’re off about 25 percent," he said of their profits compared to 2014. He's also not filling vacant positions.

Down the road at Angelo's Barbecue, another longtime business since 1958, general manager Jason George describes their White Settlement Road location like this: "It's kind of a dead end street to nowhere, right here."

He, too, said profits are down about 20 percent, especially at dinner time. George also says they've had to cut back on some employees' hours.

"There's none of the drive-by [traffic] on the way home" anymore, he said. None of the, "'Oh man there's Angelo's, let's swing in and get something quick.'"

For its part, TxDOT -- which is in charge of the construction -- says it's working hard to provide signage and as much road access as possible. A spokesman points out it's a "terrific project," with bridges that will last 100 years.

Williams said he felt he needed to go a step above. He bought $2,000 worth of signage to increase visibility for his business as best he could.

All this is not to say these businessmen don't support the project -- they do.

It's just hurting a bit along the way.

"You just have to stay positive. That’s all we can do," Williams said.

Copyright 2016 WFAA


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