‘Monroe Street is still here’: Businesses try to attract holiday shoppers one year post-construction

At this time last year , Monroe Street looked a lot different: Orange cones lined the pavement, and construction crews were putting the finishing touches on the 10-month-long project that forced five businesses to close.

The work was long overdue, as the Monroe Street pavement was rated a 3 out of 10 in 2017, and an estimated 20,000 drivers use the road every day.

Now, the road’s been fixed, but what’s still a struggle is getting people to return to Monroe Street businesses.

Three established businesses closed during the 10 months of construction last year, and two others opened and closed during the project.

‘Monroe Street is still here’: Businesses try to attract holiday shoppers one year post-construction

With Small Businesses Saturday two weeks away, Monroe Street shops and restaurants are hoping their special deals will help them rally.

Anne Marie Maitri, the owner of Bloom Bake Street, has a more optimistic attitude heading into the holiday season. “The Monroe Street neighborhood is a special community in that we have great support from our neighborhood, but we have a wonderful draw from the universities as well as tourists visiting Madison,” said Maitri.

“Construction feels like a very distant memory. Many new businesses are arriving that are retail, restaurant and fitness. Our street is thriving.”

Maitri said that while she understands business for some has been slow, that’s the nature of sales. “It ebbs and tides,” she acknowledged. But with the holiday shopping season around the corner, she’s confident customers will return.

This year, Monroe Street is celebrating its 10th annual Small Business Saturday, which is the second major shopping event for the street’s businesses following June’s Summer Sidewalk Sale.

Even restaurants, like Everly, are participating this year.

“(Small Business Saturday) is generally geared towards retail shops, but we do have a little grab bag prize we’re giving away this year, along with the rest of Monroe Street,” said Ben Brady, general manager and co-owner of Everly. The grab bag features coupons for other businesses on Monroe.

For Brady, the camaraderie between Monroe Street businesses is one of the street’s biggest assets.

“It’s all independently-owned establishments,” Brady explained. “We have a great group of merchants here and it’s pretty close-knit. Now that we’re a year-out from construction, we’re trying our best to remind everyone that Monroe Street is still here.”

Brady said it’s difficult getting people back to the habits they had before road construction.

If you haven’t visited Monroe since construction, it continues to grow: New apartments are being added near Camp Randall, and Hotel Red is adding more rooms.

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