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Blacksburg businesses still open despite parking lot being blocked by construction

Published: Feb. 19, 2021 at 11:43 PM EST
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BLACKSBURG, Va. (WDBJ) - Businesses along Prices Fork Road want to remind you they’re still open. This comes after a multi-million-dollar Virginia Tech Foundation project has taken over the entire parking lot in front of them.

Driving down Prices Fork Rd., it’s hard to see, but behind the construction, the shops are still fully functional. The Next Door Bake Shop, at 460 Turner Street, is one of them and it’s been open for more than a decade.

“It’s been hard and I’m a bit nervous, I’m not going to lie, but we’re trying our best here,” social media manager and co-owner Aivey Street said.

Street and her sister Pie Charoensombutamorin have been doing their best to keep the shop running since the pandemic began last year.

“We actually never closed, even through COVID,” Charoensombutamorin said. “For the first few months we just did to-go. Everything we served in a mug or a plate now we turned into disposable.”

They said COVID has cut business in half, and now that you can’t drive right to the front door, they’re worried they’re missing out on more customers.

“As a business owner in this small town I need all the help I can get,” Street said. “We have tried and worked really hard in every way that we can and every step that we take to survive during COVID-19. When the foundation closed the parking lot, that is on top of it.”

The sisters agreed they were on board with the Virginia Tech Foundation’s project.

“I told Pie it was probably the best thing that could happen because it’s bigger than the Gilbert Street project,” Street said. “It would probably bring more people in and be good for the bake shop since we have been there for over a decade.”

Neither was expecting to lose the convenient parking spots until after they gave their support to the project.

“We were shocked for sure because we were super excited for it because we know it’s going to be great once it’s done, it’s a next step for us as well to be more exposed to more people,” Charoensombutamorin said.

Some retail spots have been added behind the building on Turner St., then about a dozen more are located around the corner down Perry in the lot to the left.

“Those helped a lot but still with the cold weather, the coffee shop, we need a little convenience that you can come in and grab; it’s tough,” Charoensombutamorin said.

The sisters are thankful to their loyal customers who continue to support them. They are hopeful to make it through this tough time.

“There’s no vaccine for a parking lot closed,” Street said. “If we can make it to that time, I think it would be great. That’s why we supported it from the beginning, we support the foundation all the way.”

The Virginia Tech Foundation released this statement about the construction project in the parking lot of the 400 Turner St. building:

The Virginia Tech Foundation is constructing a new development project in downtown Blacksburg near the Virginia Tech campus. The Gilbert Street Project consists of a new 236,000 square foot, mixed-use building with five stories and a rooftop restaurant/event space and a one-level podium parking structure to maximize on-site parking to support the retail tenants. Floors two through five will be leased to Virginia Tech to support the growth needs of the university, particularly the computer science department which will lease two floors. The rooftop venue will include a restaurant as well as event space for private functions. The first floor will consist of various retailers and restaurants.

Construction started last June and should be complete by winter 2022. The project will provide much economic stimulus to the area, including many construction jobs.

We acknowledge this project, as with all major construction projects, will lead to inconveniences and disruptions to the existing businesses that surround the construction site, including disruptions to available parking. We are working closely with our tenants to minimize these disruptions and to accommodate their parking needs, since the entire parking lot is unavailable during the construction period, and we have been working with tenants with challenges stemming from the pandemic.

We look forward to the time when the Gilbert Street Project is completed which will result in more pedestrian traffic and additional customers for our retail tenants to serve.

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