Back in business: Rifle hosts Business After Hours party to celebrate near completion of Third Street project |

Back in business: Rifle hosts Business After Hours party to celebrate near completion of Third Street project

Guests attend the Business After Hours event celebrating the near-completion of construction in downtown Rifle on Oct. 15.
Rich Allen/Post Independent

High-visibility barricades cordoned off Third Street in Rifle on Friday evening, just as it had for many nights dating back to March.

But as the sun set on this mid-October evening, it wasn’t an army of construction vehicles and piles of busted up concrete that occupied the space. Instead of hard hats, people were sporting baseball caps and beanies. In their hands were not jackhammers and shovels but beers.

The Western Garfield County Chamber of Commerce hosted Business After Hours to recognize the downtown shops and restaurants that got an up-close and personal look at the work being done to update downtown over the past six-plus months and is slated to continue into November. The event was originally scheduled to celebrate the completion of the project, but the band tent played on in front of the similar imagery of vehicles and orange markers down Railroad Avenue.

The original deadline for completion of Oct. 11 passed earlier in the week as plumbing, among other issues, resulted in delays. The Jeff and Phil duo played on as businesses tried to lure customers back.

“(Downtown businesses) have been dealing with a lot of things during construction,” Rifle Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Julie Van Hoek said. “There were delay issues. It’s hard to get in and out. They didn’t have sidewalks. So we just wanted to get back to business.”

The Chamber hosted live music. Businesses stayed open late. They did what they could to let customers know they were still there.

Mandy Whitt of Whitt and Co. Clothing said she felt fortunate and lucky that her shop, right on the corner of Railroad and Third, had high visibility and access early in the project. She believed her business fared better than some others.

Right outside her window, a string of arts businesses just on the other side of Railroad saw construction vehicles parked right outside their front door, their sidewalk ripped away and, on occasion, access to their business completely disrupted.

Sundee Studio owner Sundee Sydoriak walks out of the massage room at her boutique in downtown Rifle.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent

Sundee Sydoriak, owner of Sundee Studio, a hybrid boutique shop and massage parlor, shut its doors entirely for several weeks.

“I did OK because I had so many massage clients built up through the years, but my retail did nothing,” Sydoriak said. “Absolutely nothing. That’s been really, really hard and depressing. I didn’t know it was going to last quite this long, so that’s been hard.”

Sydoriak’s business operates out of a basement space. The only way in or out is a set of stairs. There are no windows showcasing the vibrant and colorful wares she exhibits, setting her behind the curve already.

When the construction ripped up her sidewalk, the passerby traffic went away, as well.

For Sundee’s neighbor, Crescent Moon Spiritual Goods, the results were similar. Owner Tamara Degler said that compared to 2020 — already a COVID-19-impacted year — revenue was down as much as 23% some months.

As of Friday night, Crescent Moon’s step up to the store’s front door remained uncompleted.

“Just getting the people walking through again will be exciting,” Degler said.

On Third Street proper, Jalisco Grill was unable to set up an outdoor patio due to the construction, a staple of restaurant dining in the pandemic era.

Owner Maria Vidrio said strong local support allowed her to keep her doors open. Vidrio launched a new restaurant, the Rifle Bar and Grill, next door on Friday night as well, opening the new era of Third Street with a new vendor.

Sundee Studio owner Sundee Sydoriak puts away products in her downtown Rifle shop.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent

All of the businesses spoken to for this story said they were in favor of the construction project and the much-needed updates to Rifle’s downtown. However, they did not expect to still be navigating parking and construction issues after Oct. 11.

Construction on Railroad Avenue is expected to be finished by mid November.

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