Upper Kirby Construction forcing businesses to get creative

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Driving down Westheimer is always a bit stressful, but now construction is adding to the headache. (KTRK)

Driving down Westheimer is always a bit stressful, but now construction is adding to the headache. It's not just a problem for drivers, now it's putting a pinch on businesses.

Gisela Velarde's trendy clothing boutique, Lola G, sits right in the middle of Westheimer construction on Persa. Her boutique boasts modern, California-cool clothing and accessories, and she's developed a loyal clientele. Now Velarde is finding new ways to keep customers coming in.

"It's been difficult," Velarde says of the construction. "With this construction I've never really had to market, because it's all been word of mouth, so now, I've been having to think of creative ways on how to market."

Velarde says about half of her regular customers stopped shopping as often, so she went to social media to bring in fresh faces.

But for some businesses, the situation is even worse. Even 60 Degrees Mastercrafted, a well-known Houston restaurant with a famous chef, couldn't survive the construction. The restaurant posted a letter to patrons on its facebook page earlier this month. Chef Fritz Gitschner says roadwork was at least partly to blame.

Representatives from the Upper Kirby District, which is in charge of the project, say they never completely block off access to businesses, but they have run into obstacles.

"There's no doubt that the project has lagged behind, and it's had an impact," Travis Younkin of the Upper Kirby District told us.

The District has to wait until the City of Houston's roadwork is finished at Westheimer and Shepherd before they can move forward, as planned.

"It's construction and there is no way to sugar-coat it... it's not a pleasant process," Younkin said.

At the end of that process, this portion of Westheimer will be completely rebuilt, with better drainage, a smoother road, and wider sidewalks. It's an improvement Velarde hopes will help bring even more customers to Lola G.

"I just plan on staying here, hopefully for another five years," she smiles.
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