RICHLAND, Wash. — On top of pandemic restrictions and rising product costs, in the past two years, Southern Belle Espresso in Richland has been through a lot.
“I’m a little exhausted, and it makes me think is it even worth staying open?” Owner William Ullom said.
Then, when the Duportail Bridge opened in December 2020, Ullom said he and his baristas were excited.
“We were told it was going to generate a ton of traffic, it was going to be a great thing for the business,” Manager Natalie Hamlin said.
But, Ullom said a small part of the project, a curb that separates traffic on Duportail, turned out to be a big issue for business.
“Ever since the curb I’ve lost customers; The complaints are, the curb, the curb the curb the curb,” he said.
“We saw that we lost a lot of our regulars, and it just didn’t bring back the business we had previously,” Hamlin said they would be packed with Hanford workers early in the morning, but that hasn’t happened since the curb was installed.
Hamlin added, the curb prevents anyone from turning left off of Riverstone Street to get back onto 240. Likewise, drivers headed east on Duportail are forced to make a U-turn if they want coffee.
“They can’t get around it, they have to do crazy U-turns they have to go to the end of the bridge they have to go to that side to make U-turns; it’s a silly problem to have but it’s been detrimental,” Hamlin said.
Ullom said they’ve lost so many customers; he’s had to cut employees’ hours and work extra jobs to just get by.
“My Door Dash and Uber drivers are going down the wrong side of the road to get here to turn left because navigation is telling them to turn left, and they can’t turn left,” Ullom said he’s concerned someone will get into a wreck .
Both said they’d like to see the curb modified or removed, so they started a petition online to get the city of Richland’s attention.
However, Richland Public Works Director Pete Rogalsky said the curb is an important safety feature and the landowner should have been aware of the plans.
“It was planned that way for years; the curb is an intersection safety feature that really can’t be removed because of the number of lanes that people would have to cross and the conflicts that would be created by allowing left turns at that intersection,” Rogalsky said.
Hamlin and Ullom said they know how crucial the bridge project was for Richland but wish locally owned businesses like themselves and their neighbors, Liberty Car Wash, would’ve been taken into account.
“Thinking about my employees and their kids, their families like do I shut down or do I keep going and I’ve chose to keep going, I mean if I’ve got to work five jobs I will, I’ll continue to do what I’ve got to do to keep the place open,” he said.
Southern Belles Espresso is located at 412 Riverstone Drive in Richland.
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