Mixed Reasons Given For Closing Of Nelsonville Businesses

By
Steve Robb - Athens Messenger staff reporter

Dateline
Updated Thu, Oct 31, 2013 5:02 pm

Three businesses have closed recently in Nelsonville, and two of the owners are saying the opening of the Route 33 bypass was a factor in their decision to close.

"It was 100 percent due to the bypass," said Bryan Christman, owner of Hocking River Motor Co., which moved from Nelsonville to East State Street in Athens at the end of September.

He said most of the thousands of cars per day that passed his Nelsonville location are now taking the bypass.

"They couldn't drive past my car lot without seeing those cars. It was like free advertising," he said of traffic flow before the bypass. Christman said he had been planning the move since construction of the bypass started and it became a certainty the new highway would be built.

Nelsonville is in a different situation than Lancaster, which had a Route 33 bypass open in 2005, Christman said. Lancaster has a larger population than Nelsonville, and also has a regional mall and other businesses that pull in customers from outside locations, he noted.

Christman had been at the Nelsonville location for 17 years, he said, and had also operated at the East State Street site for a few years until 2008, when the U.S. economy tanked and he consolidated back at Nelsonville.

Now, he's back at Athens.

"It's not doing the best. I'm hanging in there," Christman said.

On Sunday, the BP gasoline station in Nelsonville had its last day of operation. The business is owned by The Hartley Co. in Cambridge.

"We closed due to the drop in sales (making) it unrealistic to make a profit," said company President Doug Hartley. "The bypass was the straw that broke the camel's back."

Hartley said that since the bypass opened, gasoline sales dropped by about 40 percent.

The Hartley Co. has owned the gas station since 2001, and Hartley said there is no buyer yet.

Another Nelsonville used car dealer, Mike Tinkham, closed Tink's Automotive Center last week, but said it was not due to the bypass.

Tinkham said that for the past six months, business had been on a steady decline.

Where in past years he had sold 20-30 cars a month, it had dropped to the low teens.

"Last month was my worse month (ever)," he said.

Still, if he had stayed open, the bypass could have made things worse, Tinkham indicated.

"I don't think the bypass was going to help any," he said.

Tinkham said he will be taking a job with an Athens dealership.

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