Polly’s benefit planned to ease construction woes

A road construction project on Payne Avenue has meant slow business for Polly’s Coffee Cove and other nearby shops. (Patrick Larkin/Review)

Since construction started on Payne Avenue in April, Ann Polachek figures her business has dwindled by roughly half.

Polly’s Coffee Cove, the quirky neighborhood coffee shop at 1382 Payne Ave., has been a quiet, steady presence in the Payne-Phalen neighborhood for eight years, but has recently hit a bit of a snag.

Construction on Payne Avenue has closed down the street in front of the shop, reducing the number of customers stopping by on their way to work in the morning, Polachek said.

The construction started at the end of April, closing down Payne Avenue between Orange Street and Wheelock Parkway.

The street is undriveable mud and dirt for the time being, and crews driving heavy machinery cruise back and forth past the shop, pushing earth.

“It’ll look nice when it’s done,” Polachek said.

But in the meantime, regulars have taken to making sure the shop will be there when construction’s done.

“It is totally destroyed in front of their little coffee shop,” said long-time regular Marilyn Melson. “We can’t just sit by and say ‘Isn’t this too bad’ and let it just go down the tubes!”

So Melson organized a fundraiser for the shop, slotted for Tuesday, June 3, from 6 to 8 p.m. at First Covenant Church, 1280 Arcade St. Activities will include a potluck supper, music by No. East Triangle, a silent auction, and massages at a rate of $1 a minute. All the proceeds will go to Polly’s, and the church is donating the space.

Melson and her husband frequent the shop, and she calls it “kind of a haven or hangout for seniors.”

With the shop open seven days a week, even on holidays, it’s a place that older folks can count on to go to.

“It’s very nice that our customers are rallying behind us,” said Polachek.

Polachek says the loss of business wouldn’t be enough to make her want to close up shop for good, but it admits the help will be very much welcomed.

“In most cases many people probably would close, but I’m not gonna close, because I haven’t tried everything under the sun,” she said. “It’s going to take a lot for me to leave.”

The Payne-Ivy Grocery store owner Neama Alsalman reports that business has dwindled due to the construction as well. The store sits just down the street from Polly’s.

“We’re surviving now,” Alsalman said. But “we were supposed to have a busy month. We usually have more business in spring and summer.”

He estimates they’ve lost between 60 and 70 percent of their business.

To add insult to injury, he said with the street in front of the shop being empty, it makes them feel more vulnerable to theft -- on Monday night, he said the store was broken into. Windows were smashed and cigarettes were stolen, he said.

Tom Stadsklev, project engineer from St. Paul Public Works, said the construction project is part of a larger street repair program, dubbed RSVP -- Residential Street Vitality Program.

He said the department has put up signs directing drivers to the businesses. The signs say “please buy local,” and list the four affected businesses, he said.

“It’d be nice just to airlift the project right in there, but we can’t do that.”

He said if things go according to schedule, the section of Payne could be driveable within a few weeks. The project should be done by the end of the summer, weather dependent, he said.

Contact Patrick Larkin at 651-748-7816 or at eastside@lillienews.com. Follow him on Twitter at @ESRPatrickLark.


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