Nearly a month after Highway 154 was closed by storm damage, businesses close to the well-traveled highway are now trying to figure out how to overcome the loss of customers as people continue to get re-routed.
The shelves of El Rancho Market in Solvang are full of fresh food and produce but the aisles are missing some customers these days and the store’s owner says the Highway 154 closure may be to blame.
“We’ve just noticed a reduction in customer counts, fewer people coming by, especially during the week because their commute is 20, 30 minutes longer. Now they pass by three other stores as they come this direction through town and I think they just get frustrated and don’t buy as much,” explained El Rancho Market owner Alfred Holzheu.
To try to get some of those shoppers back, the store is having a “Highway 154 Blues” sale. It includes many everyday items priced down to $1.54 until the 154 reopens.
“So we’re cheering for it to be open sooner rather than later because we’re giving some of these things away,” Holzheu said.
This isn’t the first time a natural disaster has impacted the store.
“When we had the fires and floods in Santa Barbara there was definitely an impact there. First, people couldn’t get here because it was closed, then it was the opposite because people were evacuated and staying up here,” Holzheu said.
Down the road at Cesar’s Auto Detailing, owner Cesar Miranda says he’s been more impacted than some of his local customers have.
“I have to go all the way around the 101 (because) I live in Carpinteria, so more gas, longer time on the road,” Miranda said.
Highway 154 is scheduled to open by March 6. Caltrans says a blocked culvert is to blame for some of the highway damage.