Mount Dora merchants struggle amid $4M street project



Some Mount Dora merchants say they're struggling to hang on due to a $4 million city project tearing up streets.

The city is replacing the storm drain system and sidewalks in the historic downtown. Alexander Street between Third and Fourth avenues is in rough shape.

Shopkeeper Jesse Struble is taking his inventory to an antiques show in Kentucky. Nearly everything from Struble's downtown antiques store is in a U-Haul truck.

He said he hopes his loyal customers understand.

"A nightmare. I'm now getting ready to leave to stay in an SUV for a week. It's a matter of saving my business or saving my house," Struble said.

Ever since the city started the streetscape project last May, Struble's customers are gone, he said.

"Because what I'm doing is losing money. I'm paying a couple thousand dollars a month to have a shop that I get five people a day in," Struble said.

Other shopkeepers and restaurant owners are closed on certain weekdays because there's not enough business.

City spokesperson Kelda Senior said new underground utilities and sidewalks are long overdue.

The project hit a snag last month when a flash flood washed out part of the construction zone.

The road collapsed, swallowing up some cars and a crane.

"We certainly thank our merchants for enduring this with us. The end is almost near. Oct. 1, our first phase will be done," Senior said.

Since the flood, nobody has been able to park where the hole was, and some merchants are frustrated by that, too.

"[Customers] said they'll be back when the project is over. They're hoping I'm still going to be there. I'm going to be there, no matter what," Struble said.

Struble said downtown will look great when the work is done, but he just hopes he's still in business when it is.