Downtown Sevierville business owners share how streetscape project, pandemic has impacted business

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SEVIERVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — A beautification project years in the making is finally coming to a close.

Business owners in downtown Sevierville took a double hit with major construction closing roads and the COVID-19 pandemic. Now with the project almost complete, they’re regaining a sense of normalcy.

Bruce Swab, general manager of Graze Burgers, says the construction coupled with the pandemic made their first year of business difficult.

“The streetscape started within three months of us opening our doors so it was kind of a hindrance on that. First off it was rough. It’s still a little rough just to navigate, but we’ve kind of gotten our new normal. So first you have the road to throw a wrench in it all, then you have the pandemic right afterwards,” Swab said.

He says the roads being closed have greatly reduced foot traffic, but he’s looking forward to seeing how everything will look once it’s finished.

The project started in May of 2019, but has had several delays due to COVID-19. It is on track to be completed by early November of 2020 at the latest.

Jessi Sexton, owner of Wanderlust Salon and Spa, heard about the project and wanted to get in on the action. She purposely moved her shop to the downtown area so that her business could grow with it.

“I actually moved to Bruce Street in October of last year because I knew there was going to be road construction and because I knew downtown was getting a facelift,” Sexton said.

But it hasn’t been easy for her. The construction has made it more difficult for customers to walk in, and the pandemic forced her to close for six weeks.

“It has proven to be a little bit of a struggle. I think we’ll get a lot more walk-in traffic when the road opens,” Sexton said.

The project is now close to completion. Officials say it could be done in eight to 12 weeks. Those in charge of the project promise an attractive, family-friendly and walkable downtown area with brand new infrastructure.

“We’ve got new stormwater, new electricity, new water, new gas line, so everything is new. So anybody who’s wanting to come and open a business in downtown Sevierville is gonna have the best of the best,” said Becky Rehorn, chief marketing officer with Vaughn and Melton consulting engineers.

She says they also want to keep the historic look and feel that residents love.

“Keeping that historical side of Sevierville so that when people come they’ve got something to talk about. You know this is Dolly’s hometown. This is her downtown. So what better way to celebrate Dolly than to say c’mon man come visit Sevierville. We’ve got a great downtown.” Rehorn said.

The project started in May 2019 but has had several delays due to COVID-19. It is on track to be completed by early November of 2020 at the latest.

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