While waiting for George Cretekos to show up at on U.S. 19, Mario Pierluca openly hoped the Clearwater mayor didn’t miss the entrance to the parking lot.
It turns out those fears were unfounded — Cretekos, who is a native of the area, found the place just fine on the first try.
But that has not been the case with many motorists since the construction on a new overpass began in the area around the deli more than two years ago. Pierluca cites a 40 percent drop in revenue since the project began as proof that fewer people are stopping at his family's shop.
A&N Hopes to Shine Light on U.S. 19 Problems
By attending neighborhood coalition meetings, contacting elected officials and simply asking the mayor if he would care to stop by one day, he is trying to keep his business in the spotlight during these difficult times.
“After seeing him at a Neighborhood Coalition meeting … I emailed the mayor’s office and invited him to come and visit A&N,” Pierluca said. “I was shocked when I received a reply saying that he would come.”
Cretekos, the former vice mayor who took office Feb. 13, said he always tries to honor requests for his time.
“We had talked about me coming out here, and he (Mario) expressed the issues they were having down here, so I agreed to come out and check it out,” Cretekos said. “I was glad to be able to come by.”
After sharing stories about the area, Cretekos listened intently to what the family had to say about the for the business. Construction began in November 2009 and isn’t scheduled to be finished until June 2014.
Cut telephone and water lines, blocked entrances, debris and equipment strewn out front, and the fact that their strip plaza is otherwise empty were the chief concerns for the frustrated D’Elia family, which has owned the deli in the Allen’s Creek complex for more than 30 years.
The Mayor's Message for Business Owners
Although Cretekos said he couldn’t do much in the way of compensating for losses or expediting the pace of the $123 million project, he did say he believes things will get better once the project is completed.
“Once the work is finished and people get comfortable with how to drive in an area with frontage roads and access ramps, they will like it, he said. "And they will come out to support these businesses.”
The mayor specifically implored other area business owners to take action like A&N has and not remain in the shadows while necessary infrastructure improvements are taking place outside.
“People need to know where you are located," he said. "Be patient. Continue working hard and get your message out, and be vocal so people know your business is still open.”