Montreal

Roadwork plagues Montreal Main merchants

Another Main landmark store has closed down because of sluggish sales, as major construction work continues to strangle Montreal's storied St-Laurent boulevard.

Another Main landmark store has closed down because of sluggish sales, as major construction work continues to strangle Montreal's storied St-Laurent boulevard.

Twist Encore made its last official sale last Saturday before calling it quits, 13 years after owner Serge Bilodeau first opened his shop a few doors south of Duluth Street on the Main.

Bilodeau enjoyed a solid following of fashionistas who flocked to the hardwood-floored store where he showcased an eclectic collection of funky local designer wares and vintage clothing.

But Bilodeau couldn't weather the dramatic drop in sales that followed the start of major construction work last fall, roadworkthat has left the street a tangle of steel barricades, orange pylons and deep trenches instead of sidewalks.

Bilodeau'ssales dropped 25 per cent during last holiday season, then slipped by 50 per cent last spring and continued to flatten over the summer.

He's livid to see his livelihood swallowed up by the city's refurbishing efforts.

"It was hell for a year," he told CBC Montreal. "From all the lies the city told me, all the dust."

The experience has drained him, and Bilodeau said he's too burnt out to sue the city for damages and lost revenue.

Deadline for completion pushed back numerous times

The city has pushed back the project deadline several times and construction work has been delayed regularly because of nicked gas lines and other problems.

The delays have left the Main in a perpetual cloud of dust, with a long, ant-like line of cars snaking up the boulevard in a perpetual traffic jam.

Merchants have complained regularly about the financial hit they've taken as pedestrian traffic dwindled and on-street parking spotsdisappeared. Bilodeau said he frequently showed up at his boutique to find no plank spanning the wide trench in front of his store.

City of Montreal spokesman Darren Becker said while it's unfortunate to see businesses go under, he hopes merchants hold on until November, when he said the work should be completed.

"Once the work is finished, the end product will be so magnificent, I think it will have a spin-off effect. We're so close to the end, we're asking other merchants to be patient."

Bilodeau said he hasn't got a straight answer from city officials since they announced the work, and still doesn't believe the renovations will be done by November.

About a dozen businesses on St-Laurent Blvd. have shut down in the last year, including the burger and fries restaurant Mondo Fritz.

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