Portland is open for business. And its local merchants are in need of support from its neighbors about now.
The Pennsylvania borough just across the Delaware River from Columbia has been hit hard by a long-term detour on Route 611 in the Delaware Water Gap that is diverting traffic—and customers—away from local business.
Mayor Heather Fischer has been reaching out to the surrounding communities.
“They are not asking for a handout,” Fischer said. “Just a hand up to help them stay steady on their feet so they can all make it to the end.”
A rockslide December 6th, about two miles north of Portland on Route 611, severed the roadway, and it’s not expected to reopen until August. Merchants in the normally vibrant downtown neighborhood have seen business drop by 50% or more.
“I opened my business in Portland in 2015,” said Janet Futchko of Janet’s Jem Thrift Store. “I wanted to help people who cannot afford new items, and to help fire victims, homeless get the things they need.”
Some days she has no sales at all.
Futchko said she fully understands the need remove the rocks and to repair the highway safely.
“I couldn’t live with myself if it’s rushed, and someone dies from being crushed just to bring customers to town,” she said.
She said some help from the state could go a long way toward improving the situation. She suggested adding signage near the exit ramps from the bridge where traffic from New Jersey continues south and west into Pennsylvania, reminding motorists that Portland is open might help.
Fischer said state officials have been responsive to the concerns of Portland, including Pennsylvania Rep. Ann Flood, who Fischer said visited the borough within 24 hours of her request.
“We visited Fuhrer’s Tavern & Grill, Alexandria & Nicolay Chocolate Inc., Janet’s Jem Thrift Shoppe, and Port 2 Flavors,” Flood said in a statement. “Each of these wonderful businesses had something unique to offer.”
Joe Phalon, Contributing Writer
Joe was lured out of retirement by the opportunity to be a part of the Ridge View Echo. During a decades-long career in publishing and journalism, he has covered government on many levels from local school boards to the United States Supreme Court.
Along the way, Joe has worked at American Lawyer Magazine, The National Law Journal and The Record among other publications, and as the Press Officer of Columbia Law School. His work has been recognized with several first place awards from the Society of Professional Journalists and the New Jersey Press Association.
Being part of the Ridge View Echo brings Joe back to his roots and the kind of news coverage he loves: Telling the stories of people and local communities as well as keeping an eye on how their money is spent by their government officials.
Joe lives in Blairstown with his wife Rose, the founder of Quilting for a Cause, and their two wiener dogs. He is an artist in his spare time.