Free business counseling available to best weather streetcar construction.

November 3, 2011

By Teya Vitu


Streetcar construction will bring disruption to businesses Downtown, on 4th Avenue and at Main Gate Square.

How much or how little depends on a whole slew of variables.

The one thing Britton Dornquast doesn’t want business owners along the streetcar route to do is wait until construction is in front of their door to take action.

“Everybody will be affected differently,” said Britton Dornquast, manager of the Regional Transportation Authority’s MainStreet Business Assistance program. “There can be two businesses next to each other and one is not impacted at all and the other can lose 10, 15 or 20 percent of business.”

Businesses within one-quarter mile of the streetcar project qualify for free MainStreet consultation, which touches on business basics like planning, marketing, sales management, customer services and more. MainStreet has 500 business in its database that meet this criteria and about 60 have signed up, MainStreet can be reached at and 838-4352.

It’s essentially a crash course in Business 101, the sort of business savvy that any merchant should have anyway but which becomes especially critical when the street in front of your shop is all torn up.

“It’s  a lot of tiny little things you can implement and get involved in that can make a difference,” Dornquast said. “There are 21 different criteria that can affect you.”

First and foremost is keeping a happy face, trite as that sounds. Complaining about the city may be valid but it does not rest well with your customer base.

This goes for bosses and employees,

“Encourage staff to maintain a positive attitude. Nobody wants to do business with cranky employees,” Dornquast said. “Use positive terminology. Don’t talk about things in ways that will bring business down. Positive terminology will do more to bring business in than anything else. You vent to your manager and staff, it goes to the customer and right out the front door. I don’t want to come in and listen to you bemoan your business.”

Dornquast’s clarion call is that business don’t have to go through the streetcar construction project alone. Indeed, if you ask him for two or three things a business should do to weather the storm, Dornquast sidesteps the check list.

“One thing every business should do is take advantage of our services,” he said. “It’s free. We’ve proven we can deliver he solution to their unique situation.
The streetcar project is one of only 33 street projects for which MainStreet has provided business assistance, Dornquast’s team of business consultants come armed with all the standard business tools plus insights of what works best with real-life construction projects.

“Establish alternative strategies,” said Priscilla Fernandez, a MainStreet consultant and owner of Up Front Business Consulting. “Some of our businesses have been very creative. They deliver (product) to places they never delivered before. There are a lot of inventive, creative things you could do. Maybe there are an adjustment of hours of operation that are useful.”

MainStreet consultants tailor their services individually to each business. This involves a thorough business assessment to prioritize needs and implementing deliverables.

That can include a customer loyalty program; image packaging; product mix analysis; target customer identification; cash flow analysis; strategic marketing plan; Website review. Nearly all of it is standard business tools.

“If every business did more business with each other during the time of challenge, the impact would be severely lessened,” Fernandez said.