One Victoria Street business says its business has hit “rock bottom” since the bridge over the Conestoga Parkway closed, while others say the first week of the closure wasn’t quite so bad.

The bridge will be closed for most of this year. It is being demolished and rebuilt as part of the project to build a new Highway 7 freeway between Kitchener and Guelph.

While the bridge is closed, drivers looking to get between the two ends of it face a 1.2-kilometre detour along Frederick Street.

Paul Connolly owns Natural Sound, a home theatre business located near the bridge. He says the closure has been a hot topic of conversation among his customers – but having been told vehicles will always be able to access his property, he’s not especially worried about how it will affect sales.

“I’m hoping it’s not going to be too much of a concern for us,” he says.

Across the street at Factory Shoe, Suanne Crouse says she’s seen a slight slowdown in business but hopes things will improve as the busier retail seasons of spring and summer arrive.

More noticeable has been the increase in phone calls – a few from people asking for directions, and three or four a day from people wondering if the shoe store is open at all.

“I guess they figure (if) the bridge is closed, all the businesses are closed,” Crouse says.

A different story is being told on the other side of the bridge, at KW Import and Wholesale.

“I have no idea how most businesses down Victoria are actually going to keep their doors open,” says co-owner Ingrid Szabo.

“We are barely breaking even right now.”

Szabo says the trouble for her business began in January, when the store cut its hours in an attempt to offset the minimum wage increase. She says a number of employees left the store after their hours were reduced.

“They couldn’t pay their bills, so they had to go somewhere else,” she says.

Szabo says her store is now seeing sales of $500 or less on a typical Monday, compared to $8,000 on a regular Monday last year.

The $18.7-million bridge replacement is scheduled to be complete in November.

With reporting by Heather Senoran