LONG BEACH, MS (WLOX) - Merchants in downtown Long Beach are all smiles. That's because Jeff Davis Avenue re-opened late Friday morning following many months of construction.
The road was scheduled to officially re-open to traffic on Monday. But downtown retailers certainly aren't complaining about the early removal of the barricades, they're celebrating. They've been anxiously awaiting the street re-opening for many months.
The owner of Bankhouse Coffee was almost giddy with excitement; like someone slipped an extra shot of espresso in his morning cup.
"We've put up with a lot," Shawn Montella said.
The coffee shop owner said re-opening the street means so much to downtown retailers.
"Business. Business. Traffic. Peace of mind. Relaxation. Clean floors. You name it, I can't even tell you what it means. It's incredible," he said, almost at a loss for words.
Plenty of orange and white barrels remain and the downtown is still a construction zone, since workers must still finish the sidewalks, curbs, gutters and other finishing touches on the $6 million project.
But the return of traffic on Jeff Davis is plenty of reason to celebrate.
Bobby Magee works at the Sonic Drive In downtown.
"We've been waiting on this. Work some extra hours and make some more money," he said, smiling.
Every business on Jeff Davis has sacrificed with far fewer customers over the past several months. They welcome the return of business lost to the pains of progress.
"We're just ready for everybody to start coming down the street, seeing how great the street looks and the landscaping," said Kyle Kidd, with Lil' Rays Restaurant. "We're extremely happy. And we're ready to go."
Not only is the street re-opening welcome news for existing merchants downtown, the finished project is expected to help boost future business development in the downtown area.
Gary Ponthieux is the Ward 1 alderman in Long Beach.
"We're open for business. Developers, businesses, everybody along the gulf coast, we welcome them. We hope they come over here soon to check us out, and see all the activity going on in our great city," he said.
Merchants are anxious to show off the new streetscape.
"It's absolutely incredible. Incredible. There's nothing else I can say," said Montella.
The entire $6 million project on Jeff Davis Avenue should be finished by late spring. Construction also continues on the new Long Beach city hall downtown. That facility should be done by early this summer.