For over 11 years, Ken Morse has served everyone from veteran fishermen on the East End to the green tourist looking to hook his first catch.
For years, Morse, who has a degree in ecology with a focus on marine science, has run a successful business out of Tight Lines Tackle inside the Sag Harbor Yacht Yard on Bay Street. He offers not just rods, reels, tackle and lures, but education in the local fishing industry when needed.
Unfortunately, Morse hasn’t had many customers in the late fall to share his expertise with.
Since the third week in October a portion of Bay Street has been closed to traffic while ExxonMobil officials attempt to remediate a section of the roadway and village-owned grassland in an effort to clean up tainted soil that began seeping up from the ground in the summer of 2010.
As part of the remediation plan, ExxonMobil workers are removing 950-cubic-yards of fill near the intersection of Burke and Bay streets. With Bay Street closed to traffic from just past the Dockside Bar & Grill to just in front of the Loeffler building, which houses several businesses and offices, traffic from Route 114 has been routed from Bay Street to High Street and back out to Bay Street via Rysam Street.
ExxonMobil has provided signs to aid cars attempting to get around the road closure and to the other side of Bay Street when coming from Sag Harbor’s Main Street.
However, Morse says that has done little to help his business, which has floundered since Bay Street was closed.
“There is zero traffic coming our way,” said Morse on Monday.
“My last good weekend was Columbus Day, and that was right around when they were getting ready to get started,” he added.
Morse said he was working with his accountant to put together paperwork for ExxonMobil showing the decline in business this year compared to the same time in years past. He estimates business has dropped a whopping 60 to 80 percent when compared to previous years.
Project delays have led to the remediation stretching into the month of December rather than finishing up in November — a devastating blow, said Morse, as it could mean the entirety of his holiday business sales may be affected by the project.
Morse is not the only business that has been affected. Lynn Park, the owner of La Maisonette, an antiques and home furnishings store on the ground floor of the Loeffler Building, said the remediation has “definitely affected business.”
“We are a new business and depend a lot on drive-by traffic,” said Park on Sunday. “With no through traffic it has been very, very slow.”
Sag Harbor Yacht Yard owner Lou Grignon said he, too, believes businesses in the area that depend on retail sales have been hurt by the road closure. While the yacht yard is faring well, its ship store has seen a decline in business, he said.
Amy O’Donnell-Rajs, coined an “operational wizard and geeklet” at GeekHampton, also located in the Loeffler Building, said that company’s clientele — desperate for tutorials, technical support or repairs for their computers — are driven to find a way to the store regardless of a road closure.
“We have customers who will persevere,” she said.
However, O’Donnell-Rajs said that the detour has proven difficult for a lot of customers to navigate and signage informing people that businesses are operating east of the road closure would be helpful for everyone in the neighborhood.
ExxonMobil has heard that request.
On Monday, field manager for ExxonMobil Kristin Mobyed met with Morse briefly, he said, and informed him that she would pass on any information he had to ExxonMobil about his situation. Morse said he and his accountant were compiling financial records to submit to the corporation later this week.
Mobyed did agree to order new signage informing people that businesses are open east of the road closure, and changing the dates on a sign indicating the project’s length.
According to Claire Hassett of ExxonMobil’s Public and Government Affairs department, the company anticipates “completing this work before the December holidays.”
“I can tell you that we appreciate the public’s patience as we work to complete this project in the safest manner possible,” said Hassett in an email.
“Obviously, I cannot speak to how businesses have been impacted,” said Hassett in a separate phone interview. “We certainly want to work with the community to make sure any issues are addressed.”
After hearing the road closure had impacted businesses in the area, Sag Harbor Village Mayor Brian Gilbride immediately took advertisements on WLNG and The Express in an effort to help.
“I think it is important we let people know that businesses in the area of the ExxonMobil project are open for business,” he said. “I would encourage all village residents to support them at this time.”