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Detour boosts local businesses

Principal concerned about safety

News editor

Sellers of food and gas on Marion’s Main St. are reaping the benefits of increased traffic because of the U.S. 56 detour, while business at bypassed Pizza Hut surprisingly remains good.

“We’ve been fairly busy for the last month or so, and it hasn’t really changed at all,” Pizza Hut manager Danyal Hamm said. “We see different people, and we have less truck drivers in the back, but as far as impact that’s the only thing I’ve really noticed.”

Casey’s General Store and Ampride both have seen increased demand.

“We’re trying to keep up,” Casey’s manager Nicole Herzet said. “We have to have more people here during the day so we can keep the warmers full and ice bagged, so we need a little more help to keep everything running. On days we’re not normally busy like Sunday and Monday, we’re a lot busier.”

Ampride hasn’t shifted staff, but manager Laura Legg said business has picked up.

“We stay a lot busier; it’s had a nice effect,” she said. “There’s a lot of use of the restroom, but we’re selling a lot of fuel, a lot of everything.”

Legg said her clerks have become more efficient handling the influx of customers, who she said have made the job more enjoyable despite the faster pace.

“It’s a fun fast,” she said. “Strangers are really nice. It seems like more fun.”

While Gambino’s owner Judy Smith said she hadn’t noticed much impact, other restaurateurs have.

“I don’t have my numbers, but there have been a lot of strange faces coming in,” Wagon Wheel Express owner Sherry Hess said. “Keith (her husband) said ‘Maybe we should just go put the detour signs up once a month or on a holiday weekend.’”

Hess said she has customers during times of the day that used to be slow, and that demand for hamburgers and specialty sandwiches has been strong.

She may also have picked up some repeat customers because of the detour. Two men who commute daily from Emporia to McPherson stopped on the way home, Hess said, and seemed pleased to know the Wagon Wheel was there.

“They’ve driven by here day after day, but have never come into town,” she said. “See all the things you miss when you bypass a small town? It’s how you find all the best little restaurants.”

Nancy Garcia, a fry cook at Cindy’s Café, said they were “super busy” for breakfast Tuesday. Although the café officially closed at 2 p.m. Monday, they didn’t stop serving people until 3:30 p.m.

“It’s not been like a grand slam, but they just kept dribbling in and we just kept taking them,” she said.

Subway manager Chase Carlson said his staff spends more time preparing for the next day’s business.

“Our lunch has been really, really busy,” he said. “We’ve been doing much better.”

Traffic and safety

Marion Police Chief Tyler Mermis said increased traffic is about what he expected, and that eliminating the U-turn at First and Main Sts. has helped to maintain a steady flow. A sign originally placed on the street was moved to a corner to accommodate semis.

“There have been a few who’ve still made the U-turn, and they’ve gotten a friendly reminder,” he said. “We miss the U-turn, too.”

Mermis said the department has issued more speeding tickets, and speed was a concern Marion Elementary School principal Justin Wasmuth addressed with city council Monday.

Wasmuth asked for additional signs at Main and Freeborn Sts., a designated crossing site for children walking to and from school. He said traffic from the detour has made the intersection a greater danger.

“I just worry about that traffic with our kids,” he said.

Mayor Todd Heitschmidt said the suggestion would be passed along to Mermis.

Construction schedules previously released by Kansas Department of Transportation indicated detoured traffic should be re-routed to the highway before school starts.

Jerry Plett,
Lincolnville

Last modified July 9, 2015

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