St. Charles business owners are ready for the upcoming closure of the westbound span of the Blanchette Bridge and are prepared for a possible impact to sales this winter.
Teresa Wapelhorst got out the Christmas decor and gifts weeks earlier than normal at her shop, Friperie, on South Main Street, just in case people don't make it back across the bridge before the end of the year.
"Really, it's weather down here rather than (construction)," that impacts the number of shoppers who come to Christmas Traditions, the annual holiday festival that spans several weeks, Wapelhorst said.
"There's other ways to get here," she said.
The City of St. Charles is anticipating a decline in sales tax and a $2 million decrease in gaming revenue next year because of the bridge closure. But Ameristar Casino officials say they expect the impact from the bridge closure to be minimal.
"We don’t think there’s going to be much impact to our guests because they’ve got a reason to come here," said Jim Franke, senior vice president and general manager of Ameristar. "We’re proud of Ameristar ... and we think people are going to continue to come here even if they got a short-term disruption."
Franke said he thinks the city was conservative when estimating a $1.9 million decrease next year in gaming funds. The city receives $1 per admission to Ameristar Casino and 2 percent of the adjusted gross revenue of the casino.
"Overall impact we think is going to be minimal because of the planning," he said.
The city has worked with MoDOT and a wayfinding committee to get directional signs put in place to direct traffic toward the major attractions in St. Charles. Business owners have access to maps and turn by turn directions to hand to customers.
The Greater St. Charles Chamber of Commerce is doing a $500 cash prize for people who turn in receipts from St. Charles and St. Peters in a "Shopping with the Saints" marketing campaign.
Ann Hazelwood, a St. Charles resident with a studio near downtown, is optimistic that the closure won't have much of an impact.
"I think it'll be fine," she said. "People are very resilient. When you want to go somewhere you aren't going to let that stop you."
Still, Carolyn Hendron, owner of Provenance Soapworks, is a little worried about it. The holiday season is her busiest time of the year, she said, and many of her customers are in St. Louis County and Illinois.
"We need to use social media to get the word out," she said. "That's our plan."
Do you think the bridge construction will impact the number of people who shop in St. Charles?