Construction workers were busy outside of G's Cafe in Anoka last week. But the orange cones signified a face-lift for the building, not more construction at the heart of Main Street.
"Of course we're happy" that the Main Street construction in the city's business district is finished, said Mary Gorman, owner of G's Cafe. "We're appreciative of the new look."
Although construction continues a few blocks east on Main, for many who drive through Anoka, the remaining closed lanes, torn asphalt and orange cones are merely reminders that the worst is ancient history.
The business district boasts wider sidewalks, decorative crosswalks and a smooth street that should remain pothole-free for at least a few months. Main Street is no longer a pain street.
For much of the summer, the construction project meant sidewalks were ripped apart, street lanes were closed and a maze of yellow caution tape blocked front entrances to many stores. Customers had to use back doors and side streets to frequent their favorite stores and restaurants.
A proactive "Rediscover Anoka" online campaign encouraged customers "not to be afraid of orange cones, one-lane-only signs and plywood sidewalks" during the Main Street makeover and offered daily discounts.
Sonja Boland, 65, of Andover, was among those who were undeterred by the work. She said she met friends at the Dessert Cafe on Main every other day through the most intense moments of road construction.
"You just had to maneuver a little bit," Boland said. "It wasn't that big a deal. And it's beautiful now."
Others saw an impact.
"People told me they stopped coming in," said Emily Korynta, a barista at the Avant Garden coffee shop on Main. "There were less people here during lunch while construction was going on. It did make a difference."
From 'ugly' to 'beautiful'
David Tschida, 61, a Fridley pharmacist who lives in Anoka, described his summer on Main Street in a word: "Ugly."
"The last couple of years, this street's been like a mine field, a horrible road to drive on," he said. "But this is nice. Just beautiful."
Anoka Chamber Executive Director Pete Turok and his staff heard all the complaints and are now very happy to bask in the compliments.
The street needed an overhaul, he said. The sidewalks had not been replaced in four decades and the condition of the street was a source of consternation.
"Business is coming back," Turok said. "The customers have been understanding."
Boland's take on the work: "It's almost artistic, the way they've done it."
On Saturday, the Rediscover Anoka campaign will mark the face-lift's completion with a "Grand Re-Opening of Main Street."
Paul Levy 612-673-4419